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This is the second blog of our Iceland trip, taken in late January - last week I talked about our sea-faring activitIes, while this week I am going to show you what we got up to in and around the capital, Reykjavik.

THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

No trip to Iceland would be complete without a tour of the Golden Circle, taking in the Þingvellir National Park, which, like much of Iceland, is stunningly beautiful.  Our tour bus stopped at Sprunga Opnast, with its ancient fissures caused by earthquakes opening up to relieve pressure between the two tectronic plates of Eurasia and North America.


For Game of Thrones fans, much of the filming was done in Iceland, and we spotted where the Bloody Gates were filmed, but for real GOF buffs, there is a Game of Thrones themed tour, which has brought the tourists flocking.  The pass to the impregnable Eyrie is actually found in the Þingvellir National Park.  You can see it in season four, when Brienne and the Hound engage in a bloody battle. 




Our second stop on the tour was to the boiling hot geysers and bubbling pools at Blaskogabuggo.  The temperature of the water is around 100 degrees, so we were warned not to stray off the marked track or touch the water.  

Apparently the geysers erupt around every 10 minutes, but we found the frequency was much more often than that - which was fantastic for photographs since we only had a short stop, and had to include lunch during that time.  Rumour has it the meat soup there is to die for, but I opted for leek and potato, which was delicious.

There were plenty of other tourists there at the same time as us, but it wasn't too crowded and didn't detract from the experience.  Interestingly Iceland is becoming a magnet for tourists from around the world.  There were many Brits and Americans, but also Europeans, Japanese and Chinese.  I read at the airport that if you are travelling from Europe to America with some airlines, you can stop off in Iceland with no extra air fare, which must be a bargain (though you have to pay your own transfers and hotels etc.).










The history of Iceland denotes that it was discovered by Norweigan travellers, who after setting up home and living through the first winter decided that it was too cold, so upsticked and went home, only for a second set of Norsemen to rediscover Reykjavik - which translates as "Smokey Bay " from the geothermal and hot springs activity.  However, there is evidence that Iceland was first inhabited by Irish monks, who left the island once the pagan Norsemen arrived.

The history is quite fascinating, but since we only have limited space, I won't go into who ruled or for how long, but suffice to say it still has the oldest parliament in the world, which is still sitting.

One of the highlights of the week had to be the visit to the spectacular waterfall at Gullfoss - our third stop.  The photographs of the scenery just do not do justice to the size and scale of the amazing waterfall - in fact it is probably three waterfalls in one.

I am using video here for the first time to try and illustrate the point - if you look to the right of the screen at the end of the video you will see the crowd of people on the viewing platform, and how small they are in comparison to the mighty scenery.

And if that doesn't work on your device, I have also included a photograph, but you just do not get the scale of the atmosphere, and you can't hear the rushing water!






BACK TO THE CITY

Reykjavik is like any bustling city centre - with many of the same shops and restaurants that you would like anywhere in the world - Dominoes Pizza, Subway Sandwiches and Hard Rock Cafe burgers to name a few, though there are local delicacies which we chose to ignore, some of which serve whale meat and puffins (no thank you! I prefer to see them wild and free). If you read last week's blog, our whale watching tour guides urged us to boycott these establishments and let the whales roam free in the ocean, where they belong.

We spent a morning at Hallgrimskirkja - the largest church in Iceland with its iconic tower towering some 73 metres above the city.  Iceland has a chequered religious history - firstly pagan, then Catholic, then Lutheran, before religious freedom was granted in 1874.  The Hallgrimskirkja belongs to the Evangelical-Luthernan National Church, but all religions peacefully co-exist in Iceland.  Construction of the church took from 1945 to 1986, and features a magnificent organ standing 15 metres high and weighing 25 tons. The beauty of the church is in its simplicity - no stained windows or gold artifacts, to my mind it should be all about the people and the prayers, not the gold and the pomp which exist in many churches.

Incidentally the statue to the left of the church in the picture below is of Leifur Eriksson, the first European to discover America - some 500 years before Christopher Columbus.  The statue was a gift from the US to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the parliament at Þingvellir.




We took the lift to the top of the enclosed tower, and then a few steps up to the pinnacle, which although open to the elements, was safely enclosed - since I hate heights. The views from the top were absolutely breath-taking - literally because it was such a windy day!




CATCHING UP WITH THE NATURAL HISTORY


Our final morning was spent with some gorgeous Icelandic horses with Ishestar.  They offer riding tours all year round, but since we are not riders although we love horses, we opted for a "Meet the horse" morning.  Since we were the only two on the trip, we spent much longer than the hour and a half, moving the horses from the stable to the paddock, although my daughter managed a quick trot around the indoor arena.

These strong sturdy horses are much shorter and more squat than the horses we generally see at home, bred for their hardy survival in the harsh terrain.  The original Icelandic horses were the best horses brought by early settlers - mostly Germanic - eventually breeding to become the thoroughbreds of today.  

There are around 80,000 Icelandic horses in the country, which is quite a population for a small island with only around 330,000 inhabitants.There are no wild horses in Iceland - all are now used in the tourist industry or for pets.


And once they leave Iceland, they can never return, such are their strict conditions for the survival of their pedigree, ensuring they are pure and completely free from disease.  

Our lovely friendly guide Margaret told us that they breed thsse lovely horses for export.  Icelandic horses are in demand because unlike our horses, they have five gaits instead of the usual three of four.  Forgive us for our lack of knowledge here since we are not equestrians - but the fifth gait means a very smooth ride, so not moving up and down on horseback.  So smooth in fact that they have competitions balancing a pint of beer on the horses backs!



So that's another country ticked off my bucket list.  Sadly however, I still haven't got over the fact that we didn't see the Northern Lights.  I have to take some comfort however, that I have since read that many of the beautiful photos you see on the internet, are in fact photo-shopped!
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I had always wanted to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights, so when my daughter said she would like to go there in January for her birthday, it was an ideal opportunity to tick one more thing from my Bucket List.

Unfortunately we didn’t see the Northern Lights, for which I was gutted, but we did have a fabulous time, though to be honest it was eye-wateringly expensive. We had been warned to take snacks with us because nothing is cheap, but I was staggered at the cost of eating out.

But not to put a damper on the trip, the country is stunningly beautiful, the people are very friendly and there is plenty to do and see.

We arrived during a storm, having been told that Iceland is the third windiest country in the world – and the other two countries are uninhabitable (not sure where they are either!).  The wind was bitingly cold with driving snow which makes your eyes sting, so we abandoned all efforts at make-up during our stay there as our eyes streamed constantly with the wind.


Known as the Land of Fire and Ice, much of the tourist activities are available around water, and since our hotel was The Icelandair Marina, in Reykjavik, that’s where we started.



The hotel was lovely, very quirky with interesting artefacts scattered around the place.  The room was cosy and comfortable – despite the lack of drawer space and tea making facilities.
Stepping out into the Marina – still a working port since the economy relies heavily on fishing – we booked a whale watching tour by boat, followed by the Northern Lights sea tour for the same evening through Special Tours, though there are plenty of alternative tour companies, offering everything from fishing to puffin tours.


We had bought goose-down coats, thermal underwear, boots and gloves, woolly hats and scarves before we left home, and they were genuinely a life-saver.  However, the tour company provided one-piece suits to wear over our clothes to keep us dry at sea, which were not flattering but did the job. They even provided sea-sickness pills although fortunately the sea was quite calm so we didn't need them.



An hour or so out to sea the captain spotted a pod of dolphins frolicking in the sea, which was amazing!  The boat stopped while we watched the white beaked dolphins, including a mother and her baby diving in and out of the waves, playing and showing off. Dolphins are naturally curious and friendly creatures and it was a privilege to see them in their natural habitat.  We didn’t see any whales, but the stories we heard peaked our interest so we visited the whale museum later in the week to learn more about these majestic creatures.  


The museum was showing a documentary about Keiko the star of the “Free Willy” movies which was returned to the sea in Iceland after a lifetime in captivity.  The documentary was so moving, particularly since Keiko only lived a couple of years after he was finally set free, dying of pneumonia and probably a broken heart, since whales are sociable and live in pods.  Unfortunately, Keiko no longer belonged to a pod, and was unable to hunt food for himself, dying sick and alone in Norwegian waters, which is so very sad. The whale-watching tour company is passionate about whale conservation and urged us not to eat in any of the local restaurants which cater for tourists wanting to eat whale meat (not that we ever would!).  

But back to our first foray out to see the Aurelia Borealis. The boat is equipped with special cameras to pick up what the naked eye cannot, and although there was some geo-thermal activity, it was very faint, looking just like an ordinary cloud in the sky.  So, no spectacular activity, and a disappointing evening.  The company does offer free trips again if you are not lucky enough to see the lights, so we booked for another evening and repeated the performance, again with no luck.  The third time we booked, bad weather had set in so the trip was cancelled.  Apparently if we ever go back we can have another free trip, but I doubt we will return.


Next on my bucket list was the Blue Lagoon, a natural geo-thermal pool at Grindavikurbaer, and one of the 25 wonders of the world.  The tour companies have a system of sending a mini-bus to collect you from your hotel and then taking you to the bus terminus to collect the tour bus, which was largely efficient, if a bit of a faff!

We booked a 4.00pm slot on an executive package, which included free drinks, queue jumping (the place was very busy), robes and slippers and a dining reservation (more of the latter later!)

The pool is a gorgeous shade of milky turquoise, and was as warm as a hot bath.  Visitors could take advantage of two separate face masks – the first one was silica and the second was algae – both of which left our skin feeling super soft and lovely to touch! Again be warned about the price – you can buy the mask in the shop, but at around £200 for a tube, it was super-expensive.

Everything in Iceland is dependent on the weather, and our visit coincided with an icy wind, so it was nice to slip beneath the water to keep warm.  It was surprising to see people with pints of beer walking through the water, but we opted for healthy smoothies and took shelter out of the wind to drink them, since we didn’t fancy manoeuvring round the rocks in case we spilled them.

After a hot shower we ventured to the restaurant and again were staggered at the cost of a meal – which started at around £100 each, so we opted for a salad in a plastic tub, with a packet of crisps and a small bar of chocolate, it was almost a bargain at £60!






I think you get the picture about prices, so I won’t mention them again, just take a credit card and  plenty of Krona if you visit!  

Next week I will be letting you know about our more land-based activities, which includes around Reykjavik town, the Golden Circle, and a morning with Icelandic horses!

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Hello - Anne C here, and this week we have a post which is just a little different.  Rather than writing about our own dressing style and favourite travels, I am writing about trends for the summer.

As a freelance PR and writer (albeit semi-retired now), I still have a couple of clients, one of whom is no stranger to our blog, and that is Liz Devine-Wright, owner of the gorgeous Simply Devine Hatshop in Tadcaster, between Leeds and York, where I'm often to be found updating their website, changing the window displays, writing press releases, organising photo-shoots, placing ads, updating social media and generally helping Liz. Regular readers of our blog will have seen us doing our own shoots in her shop while looking for inspiration for weddings we have attended.

Last year was a momentous one for Liz, who has been a retailer for the past 14 years, but to expand her business, she decided to design a new range of hats, hatinators and fascinators herself, and take them to the trade - basically cutting out the middle-man. She still runs her physical and online shop though, so still open to the public.

For months we worked on the launch, photographing, cataloguing, pricing and preparing for the launch last summer at Moda 2017 - one of the largest wholesale fashion buying events in the country.

Many years ago as a young reporter, I wanted to be a fashion writer, but fate took me in another direction - mainly into technology - but I always had a keen interest in clothes, as you know from our blog.  So I was delighted to work on the Simply Devine stand at Moda, and took some time browsing around and looking at the colours and trends for spring/summer.



The good news is that colours are vibrant - there are still lots of lime greens, yellows, pinks and bright reds, (good news for me!) but next year will see a lot of black and white mono vibes as well as the every-popular navy (good news for Anne H!)







There are still lots of asymmetric shapes for casual clothing, and fluid poncho/capes in the knitwear section, but not so much of the cold shoulders from what I could see. Sports wear was mainly dark colours with bright contrasting edging in lime green or shocking pink. Styles haven't really changed too much, but tartan looks to be making a come-back, while feminine frills and flounces are very much still in vogue.






Formal wear tended to stay safe with lots of creams, vanillas, peaches, pale pinks and baby blue - this year adding a touch of lilac, while evening wear, surprisingly tended towards darker shades in jewel colours - jade, teal, magenta, burgundy, purple, cobalt blue, and of course, black.



Prom dresses are now big business.  It seems our American cousins have imported yet another tradition over the pond.  There were stunning creations featuring crinolines over shorts, bralet tops with long skirts, beautiful bejewelled gowns, and completely over-the-top princess dresses.






Jewellery trends were towards the metallic style for the coming year - mostly silver jewellery - both chunky and slim varieties rather than heavily coloured stones.

Of course we were there selling hats to boutiques and hat shop owners, and the colours are mainly in line with the colour palettes of summer-wear for next season too, though our showpiece feathered hatinator was rainbow colours and attracted the most attention (and fortunately some sales too!)



Browsing the show from a trade perspective was a completely new experience for me.  The show follows fashion weeks from major couture designers, so they're the ones who largely determine what colours will be in vogue for the coming year.  

Clearly hat colours have to mirror the colours which mothers of the brides and bridegrooms will be wearing during the year, and fortunately for Simply Devine, their sinemay and crin supplier (the stuff hats and fascinators are made from) can offer 30 different colours, so there will be something for everyone.

The names at the show were often brands I had never heard of, so it was interesting to see who buys them - from independent boutiques to specialist shops to department stores - wholesalers such as Ginger Toby to White Vanilla, Veromia to more  well-known names such as James Lakeland, Isabella and John Charles. There are no links as these are mostly wholesalers so you need a login to view.

* With apologies that some of the catwalk photographs are a little blurred - obviously the models were not static and my camera isn't a professional one.
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The colour pink has long been one of Anne C's favourite colours and she can often be seen wearing various outfits in different shades of pink, in complete contrast to Anne H's mono palette.  But we think our respective tastes are rubbing off on each other, as Anne H has gone for a beautiful new coat in ....pink!


It is from Jigsaw and is their double faced coat  which comes in three colours -  this beautiful soft 'sugar pink',  a very dark grey called 'gravel' and a vivid 'fuscia' pink.  Its relaxed fit and single button fastening make it an easy piece to dress up or wear with jeans and Anne feels it will be a great addition to her Spring wardrobe, she just hopes she doesn't get it dirty too quickly! She particularly loves the giant patch pockets and the really soft 80% wool/20% polyester fabric.   She has accessorised with a lovely dusky pink modal scarf, also from Jigsaw, which is currently available in the sale for £40. Her jeans are from John Lewis and were a sale purchase from the DL1961 range, which makes a change from her normal choice of 7 for All Mankind.  They are the Coco straight leg which normally retail at £180 but was reduced to below £60.  Sadly, no longer available to purchase in the sale but they are still available to purchase in a different wash of denim.  She loves the comfy fit and it is the length to wear with both boots and flats.  Her boots are also from John Lewis and are the Miss KG Spider boot which she also purchased in the sale and are also still available to buy.



Anne C's new coat is a lightweight boiled wool coat and was a gift from a friend, and is from Masai - which is a brand she likes and has several pieces - although you do have to choose carefully as some of their designs are a bit frumpy.  It is a versatile style which is great for slipping when you're popping out in the car and don't want anything too bulky.  There are no buttons or zips so probably no use when the weather is inclement, although the bamboo safety pin would probably hold it together on a windy day! The coat was bought in the sales just before Christmas, and cost £60, but is no longer available.


She has teamed the coat with wine coloured jeggings and some fun heeled boots in the same colour - complete with cute pom-poms - both a bargain from Primark.  Anne has often said how she is an impulse buyer and will buy from just about any shop - enjoying mixing her bargain buys with more classic quality brands.

She has completed her look with a classic grey sweater from Phase Eight and  Barbican handbag from Fiorelli (which is a also previous season though only bought in January from TK Maxx.



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We hope it's not too late to talk about some of our Christmas gifts, since we have both had such a busy time in recent weeks, we have struggled to schedule time to do our photo shoots!  Plus the weather in Yorkshire has been pretty miserable, though fortunately not as bad as in some parts of the UK and the USA.


Anne C is delighted with her Dune tote bag in a lovely shade of deep peach which was a gift from her daughter.  She is wearing it with plain black since it creates a fabulous pop of colour against the dark background.



Her black duster coat is from Canadian brand Joseph Ribkoff - of which she has a few pieces - and her black studded leggings are unknown, while her boots are from Faith a couple of years ago.  Her orange sweater ( just peaking out) was from H&M.

She can't even remember where the scarf came from, but she has similar ones in about half a dozen colours - she has a bit of a thing for scarves and probably has more than a hundred!



Anne H waas thrilled with this gift from her daughter, a fabulous soft cashmere jumper from The White Company.  She loves a simple elegant swing top that can be put on over a pair of jeans and particularly favours cashmere as it is so much warmer and cosier than wool.  You just have to get used to hand washing to ensure it keeps its shape and texture.  The White Company does cashmere so well and at an accessible price point, although never something you would class as a bargain price as that is just not what cashmere is about. This jumper is no longer available, but they do have a very similar one in a lovely porcelain tone that is still available to buy at £169.



The scarf, also a gift from her daughter, is from Jigsaw called their oversized typo modal scarf and is one that is back by popular demand.  In a lovely dusky pink tone with black and grey it will go with loads of outfits and is lightweight, so easy to wear as an accessory to dress a piece up rather than to just be practical and keep you warm. This item is still available and is in the sale at £40.



Her jeans are from John Lewis and are the Coco straight leg from the DL1961 range. These were something she gifted to herself having bought in the sale (we love doing that!).  They are no longer available in the sale but can be purchased in a different denim wash at the full price of £180... a bit steep for jeans but they are really comfy and easy to wear and will form a mainstay in her wardrobe.


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We have been promising ourselves a good rummage through our wardrobes to see what is lurking in the far corners.  Mostly to clear some things out and pass onto charity, but once you start this weighty task it is amazing what you find and then start wondering what it looks like on now having not worn it for years  It proved to be quite an interesting task and here are some of the more favoured items that are now back on hangers and ready to be worn again.

Anne C's deep red chiffon blouse is probably ten years old, so she can't remember where she bought it - but she last wore it to a reception at the British Amabassador's residence in Brussels in 2008 with a delegation of British business women (in another life!)  - see picture below and check out the glossy hairstyle too!



For the latest picture she has teamed with her usual black crepe trousers - she hasn't kept any old ones - and accessorised with red earrings and matching necklace which were a gift last Christmas from her daughter, bought in H&M. The retro boots are pull on glittery stretch fabric and were a recent purchase from Primark, although her original 60s/70s pull on boots were black vinyl.



Anne H's first outfit is a real oldie.   The cardigan is an LK Bennett design that was purchased probably 15 years ago.  Not something that she has been trying on for a while as it really didn't fit, but since losing weight on Weight Watchers she thought it was worth a try. Not a bad fit either and would definitely work with a camisole underneath and unbuttoned.  It is a silk mix material with a lovely satin trim so is a really nice piece to dress up an outfit with.


The skirt is from a brand called OSKA and is actually a little big for her now, but the tulip shape is really flattering and teamed with some old boots pull on from M & S this makes a smart outfit which would be office ready - not that she needs to be office ready any more!  OSKA do some lovely structural design pieces that suit all shapes and sizes so always worth a look see.



Anne has fallen back in love with this two-piece camisole and bolero combination in a bronze silk fabric.  It was originally a three-piece suit bought from a boutique in Harrogate, but the skirt no longer fitted, so she got rid of it, which is a big mistake as she has since lost weight and it would have been perfect.  She even wore this to her husband's Christmas party, so it's definitely back in the wardrobe again.


Her fabulous bronze and black statement necklace is from Bizermani which she bought in Santorini last year, and is a good match to the tops. The faithful black trousers make another appearance with the sparkly boots.



This fabulous black trouser suit is from the designer Amanda Wakeley and was purchased in a sale 20 years ago.  With power shoulders now coming back into fashion it has proved a good one to hold onto.  Even the wide leg trousers don't look too old fashioned now.  It is beautifully made as you would expect from a designer of this calibre and has a fabulous gold silk lining in the jacket which adds that extra element of glamour.


She has teamed with a striking black necklace from Uterque - only 2- 3 years old, so not a back of the closet item.  But the pewter toned silk top has been lurking about for at least 5 years.  It is from The White Company and is the flattering length that Anne favours. However as it is a satin finish the light catches it and she feels it can make her look a bit too busty.  Nice problem to have, I know.  The gold bangle she is wearing is from the fair trade designers Raven & Lily and was a Christmas present just last year.


Anne C's final outfit may not make the wardrobe edit, even though it is a suit which she loves and has worn over and over as it is so versatile - but it is now two sizes too big, and it's a wonder the trousers didn't fall down during our shoot. The jacket too now hangs off her shoulders, so unless she can find a talented seamstress who can take it in without losing its shape, then it may well end up on eBay or the charity shop.


This is a three-piece crepe suite by Chesca, with a camisole, trousers and beautiful jacket edged with satin detail in taupe. It has served Anne well through many a charity event, corporate dinner and nights at the theatre.

She has a few items from Chesca which are always generously cut and are in sizes from UK 14-32. However, because she is short, the sleeves and trouser legs are often too long - it would be great if they did a "petite" range in slightly bigger sizes which didn't just inflate every measurement.



Staying with the Amanda Wakeley wool crepe trousers,  Anne has added a black velvet tunic top from Madeleine Hamilton with a statement pendant necklace.  Velvet is such a glorious material for colour (even black) as it gives such depth of colour and a luxurious texture. A really elegant look and one she will definitely be showcasing again.



Incidentally, since the Sound Leisure juke box created a conversation on Instagram this week  - it was a gift from Anne C to her husband for his 40th birthday - exactly 27 years ago this week! It plays real old 45 singles and contain's mostly her selection from the 50s, 60s and 70s - she was a great record collector! The juke box is a copy of a Wurlitzer and still takes old 10p and £1 coins for 3 or 5 selections!
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We are harking back to the festive period for a quick look this week at what we wore over Christmas and New Year.

We actually spent Christmas Day together with our respective families and Anne H's blogger daughter Lizzy came home to Yorkshire, having moved to London earlier in the year, so it was great for our girls to also spend time together too.



Anne H is wearing a bargain from one of her favourite catalogue/online retailers Madeleine. In pure silk and a fabulous, flattering length which will also work perfectly as a cover up in the summer months.  This top was on a discount code so she got at a really good price of around £110 but it is currently at £159.95, however she recommends registering with them as they often have flash sales and discount codes and the quality of their clothing is very good.




We seemed to spend this Christmas going shopping for Christmas presents and then getting something for ourselves too - a real "one for you and one for me" mentality which is really not good, but this top was a bargain from Phase Eight.   It is one of those tunic tops that they do oh so well and is a really easy item to dress up or down  The design is called Meg it has a curved longer drop hem at the back and is made of a viscose/wool/nylon mix, currently at £45 in the sale and also available in bright red.  She has added Pandora necklaces and bracelets for a bit of Christmas glam.




And here we both are as we spent Christmas Day together with our families. Anne H's top is from Jigsaw and was a gift from her daughter for Christmas.  It is their Crocus drape stitch blouse and comes in a variety of colours at £90.  It has some beautiful cuff detailing and is such a simple yet elegant piece.
She has teamed with black trousers that she has had for a while from MaxMara and some suede boots from Kurt Geiger.


Anne C's outfit is a very festive red sweater trimmed with super soft swansdown around the neck and was bought from an independent boutique in Knutsford, where she recently attended a "Red hair Red dress" event in aid of the charity "Gift of a Wedding" as one of her good friends is a trustee.  They provide everything needed for couples who want to get married, if one or both of them is terminally ill.


Anne has teamed her Christmas sweater with heavy plain black crepe trousers which are from Florence and Fred at Tesco, but are exceptionally good quality for a supermarket brand.  Normally they are thin fabric which do not hang well, but having looked for new ones recently, these are still so much better quality than she has found even in more expensive shops.


Anne has accessorised with ballet flats from Schuh, bought a while ago.  Her watch, from Reclaimed Vintage was a bargain buy at £30 from Asos, while the red earrings (which has a matching necklace) was a Christmas gift from daughter Louise bought in H&M (and which she also has in black).


And here we are playing with another Christmas present - a selfie stick!  Something we have been needing for a while.  We needed a bit of tuition from the girls but think there will be no stopping us now.




For the last day of Christmas entertaining Anne H wore another Phase Eight sale purchase in this long line burgundy knitted polo shirt inspired tunic called Geovana which is still available at £55.   She has teamed with a feather design necklace from Pandora and wide legged flared jeans from MiH with boots from Uterque that she has had for a couple of years.   The gold bangle was another Christmas gift from her daughter which she purchased while in New York from the fair trade designers Raven & Lily -  She did very well, didn't she?


And finally - Anne C's new year outfit was a bit off the wall for her! Her red lace top has a dipped hemline and came from Emphasize - a "travelling shop" which exhibits at shows up and down the country, although the lovely owner does have an actual shop in Romford.

She has teamed it with easy to wear black leggings and has accessorised with a red cocktail ring, and dramatic pompom earrings which were another Christmas gift from her daughter.


Happy New Year!
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It's that time of year again when we trawl through some of our outtakes and share the less flattering and often interesting photographs we've taken....  odd facial expressions and awkward poses abound! They're not very flattering, but sometimes you have to laugh at yourself, so it's a good thing we don't take ourselves too seriously. Hope you enjoy.
I think we are doing our version of the caped crusader here!  


Nothing beats facial expressions like these.  Not our best for sure.



Yep, feet still there and  what snazzy boots too. 
Oooohhh steps! Careful now.

What on earth has she found in the bottom of that handbag??!!

Lovely smile Anne 

I think she needs her glasses.  (This was the outfit one of our readers said made her look like a dinner lady!)

Let's get shake, rattle and rolling.

No, you can't pick them 

The ultimate fly catcher

Definitely the one to avoid on the bus.

I'd like to teach the world to sing.


Not like that, like this.
.
Daphne, don't leave me.

Not what I meant by smile please.

Nasty smell or what?



We would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and happy and peaceful New Year.  We won't be posting again until January when we will lots of new content to share.


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We have started a new tradition - every year we try and visit a Christmas-themed venue to get us into the Christmas spirit, and hopefully give us some new decorating and food ideas after living through more than 60 Christmases!

This year we ventured to Harewood House, between Leeds and Harrogate, home of the Lascelles family, and built between 1759-71 by Edwin Lascelles, the first baron of Harewood, from monies made from the family plantation in the West Indies.

Harewood House nestles in beautiful Yorkshire countryside, with rolling hills and a village - which used to house all the estate workers (and still does to some extent) - bearing its name.

Today the house is owned by a charitable trust, but the family owns the land, has the right to live in the house, and is currently the home of the eighth Earl of Harewood, David Lascelles and his family. The estate is multi-use, housing farms, a conservation programme, privately owned houses, a pub, a girls school, and is even home to the fictitious village of Beckindale/Emmerdale from the famous ITV soap.

The house is open daily to the public and as well as the birdhouse and the gardens - which were designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown. There are also a number of walks, talks and special events, including major concerts, throughout the year.


Our visit was on a bitterly cold day, and although the sun shone for a short time, it was so cold it made our eyes water!


So for the day, Anne H was wearing a Harris Tweed coat from COS which is a steal from her daughter's wardrobe, yet again.  It is a few years old but is such a  timeless classic and has a fabulous blue lining.  She is wearing a cashmere turtle neck from La Redoute which she really rates for their cashmere, particularly as they often have discount codes or flash sales so they are reasonably priced too.  It is currently available for £71.20 and is well worth the spend.

Anne C is wearing a wool coat with faux fur collar bought a couple of  years ago, (similar one here, though there are currently plenty of fur collars in the shops to accessorise any coats) with grey skinny jeans, both from George at Asda (she loves a bargain).  Her grey sweater was bought at Covet in Ilkley, while the pale grey boots with diamante heel are a new purchase from River Island.  The handbag - which fortunately matches the boots perfectly, is an old one from Per Una at Marks and Spencer, so no longer available.



Anne H has on new black jeans from 7 For All Mankind in their Rozie design bought in the sales and boots from the Miss KG range at Kurt Geiger which are the Spider design, a really comfortable suede boot with low heel.  They are so comfy she has got them in tan as well and is now tempted by the grey!  She is also wearing a locket necklace from Pandora.


Into the House..
So into the house - the theme running through the Victorian Christmas was that of a family who had just left the room.... with decorations designed by Michael Howells, set designer of the recent television series "Victoria", so it's no surprise that much of the series was filmed at Harewood. The house itself is quite small by stately home standards, but the internal decorations have been finished to a high standard, though hardly lavish as at Castle Howard, although we loved the beautiful chandeliers which adorned many of the rooms, and the specially woven carpets. Maybe this is in keeping with the austerity of the Victorian era.




The Spanish library was cosy and surprisingly warm for such a large room, and was designed as if the family had been writing their Christmas cards and making paper chain decorations.  The lovely old books added warmth and gave the room a lived-in feeling.  Interestingly the original carpet had worn away in places so a new carpet had been specially commissioned in recent years to match the original and then cleverly slotted into place.  It was a perfect match pattern-wise, though of course, the colours were brighter.
Further details on the library can be found here.




The beautiful gallery, (which Anne C once had the pleasure of being invited to dinner there in her previous corporate role)  houses a fine collection of art work and paintings, and also features what appear to be lavish festoon velvet curtains with gold tassels, but the very friendly and knowledgeable guide surprised us by telling us that they were in fact designed by Chippendale and are actually made from carved wood, though the tassels are real.

Thomas Chippendale was a locally-born cabinet-maker who became world-renowned and hailed from just a few miles up the road in Otley. Much of the furniture at Harewood was made by Chippendale, and later by his son, Thomas the younger, who carried on his father's tradition and took over his workshop.




The room also features four enormous mirrors which were made in France and had to be shipped over and then brought to Yorkshire over land - bearing in mind that the roads were not as they are today, and there was no heavy lifting gear - so a fabulous feat in itself to get them to Harewood in one piece.

Further historical details are available here.



The fabulous dining room looked as if the family has just eaten their Christmas dinner and gone off for a walk in the grounds to blow away the cobwebs. A recurring theme for the house is how many times it has been remodelled - with the original fireplaces or doorways being removed, replaced or re-positioned into different rooms, ceilings altered, taken down, or repainted.

The house was designed by architects John Carr and Robert Adam.  Carr was born in Yorkshire, and much of his work can still be seen in other parts of the county.  He never moved to London, figuring there was plenty of money to be earned up north!  Robert Adam specialised in interiors - and also found time to establish his business and be a Member of Parliament for Kinrossshire. 

An extension to the original house was built in the 19th century after Henrietta Seabright, wife of the 3rd Earl of Harewood, Henry Lascelles, gave birth to 13 children - because she found the house too small.

The family is very close to our own royal family, with Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood and daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, being married to Henry Lascelles, the sixth Earl of Harewood and grandmother to the current Earl - who is 57th in line to the throne.

Below stairs

Below stairs, an army of servants ran the household like a military operation.  This part appealed to Anne C whose own paternal grandmother was "in service" in the early part of the 20th century, though unfortunately she did not live to relate tales of life downstairs.


During our tour of the house, the kitchen was prepared as it would have been for a sumptuous dinner with catering for the family and their guests. There were even recipe cards of the prepared Victorian dishes for visitors to take away, which we thought was a nice touch.

There were separate rooms for the pastry chef, a lovely sunny room for the housekeeper, copies of uniforms for the staff ( which visitors can try on) and several cupboards and shelves for the hundreds of glasses, plates and cooking utensils.

The battered copper pans - obviously much used - hung from hooks in the spacious kitchen, while a huge black range which would have housed a roaring fire and several ovens took up a whole wall.  Again Anne remembers her maternal grandmother cooking on a much smaller range back in the 1950s - the focal point of the one room in which she lived in her tiny back-to-back terrace (complete with outside lavvy) in Leeds .


Outside
Harewood is also famous for its lovely bird gardens and conservation - but these are best visited during the warmer months  - it is always a pleasure to see the flamingos and some of the birds of prey, but only when the weather is better. We did however, take a peek at the penguin enclosure since it was next to the outdoor cafe.  Families with younger children should also visit the Christmas experience with Santa which are at specific times and are almost fully booked before Christmas.  This however, will incur an extra cost.



If we have a tiny grumble about our morning out - it was quite expensive at £16 each for probably an hour in the house, and the catering facilities were rather inadequate.  There was an obviously temporary shop and cafe in the house, while the Courtyard cafeteria near the bird garden was extremely busy so we couldn't get a table, and we had to sit outside in the freezing (though sunny) weather to drink our coffee - forcing us to gulp it down as quickly as we could.  There were outside tables in the courtyard at the other side of the cafeteria with available blankets - clearly they know it can get very chilly, but this was in the shaded part of the building, so even colder, and sadly not an outside portable heater in sight.

Worth a visit - yes if you make a full day of it with the family and take in the talks, workshops, trails, quizzes and demonstrations, but if you just want to look around the house and stay inside - not so much.



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We thought we would showcase some of our favourite tops to wear with jeans when looking to be a bit dressier, whether for a family gathering or going out for dinner.  Now that we are no longer working in an office we relish not having to 'dress up' in corporate wear and both of us would class jeans as our key wardrobe staple.   


Anne H's favourite shop is COS and it is her go-to store for tops that have a little design styling to them, often with a structural feel that really adds something to an outfit for day into evening wear.  What is lovely is combining this structure with a soft baby pink tone as in this lovely asymmetric top.  In 100% cotton, it hangs beautifully and is still available online in navy and green at £49.  It is teamed with her favourite 7 for All Mankind jeans and velvet boots from TopShop both of which were purchased in a previous season.  





Anne C is wearing straight legged jeans from Florence and Fred at Tesco - as she has previously said, she is only 5'2" tall so doesn't need specialist long jeans as the other Anne does, and these are as comfortable and hard-wearing as more expensive jeans she has owned in the past.


She has teamed with a crisp cotton blouse with sheer panel from ASOS, which she has had for a while and which is no longer available, though they have a great collection of white shirts here.  It washes and wears so well, and always looks fresh.  Although she loves wearing bright colours, there is nothing better than a crisp white shirt or blouse for a classic look.


Her mock crock low heeled boots are from Faith a couple of years ago  (similar ones from River Island here) which are just so comfortable, and she has accessorised with classic pearl earrings and a long gemstone necklace borrowed from the other Anne!



Next up from Anne H is this flowing long line shirt from COS which she has in three colours as she loves it so much.  Here it is in the dark blue but she also has in the bright cobalt blue and black. She loves its soft shape and finds it really easy to dress up or down.


To add a bit of glamour she is wearing with a pearl lariat style necklace that was from The White Company a number of years ago and some silver bangles from Pandora.
Jeans and boots are as per the previous outfit and glasses are from MiuMiu.


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