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It’s really starting to look like Spring around here now and so it feels like time for a bit of a refresh too. Lately I’ve been drawn to lighter, brighter colours, breezy prints and simple, quality products that make a difference.

I try not to wish the seasons away but every time we emerge from Winter I can’t help but feel rejuvenated. I love the excuse to cosy up when it’s cold outside but now that the Equinox  is here I really start to feel a spring in my step again. And that means spending more time outdoors, letting the natural light into our home, updating interiors, wardrobe and lifestyle with one or two special additions as well as making plans and trying new things.

// I can’t resist the draw of yellow at the moment as well as other citrus smells and sights. This seagrass basket from Oxfam would make a great planter to brighten up the house with some fresh greenery // As the milder weather approaches, I’m on the lookout for a jacket to replace my thick winter coat. I love how each of these Kantha jackets from Toast is unique, made from recycled sari material // If, like me, you prefer your scents a little more sharp than sweet, check out the Miller Harris range of men’s fragrances, which includes the wonderful Citron Citron. //

// Faith in Nature shampoo & conditioner, is SLS and paraben free, Vegan society approved, not tested on animals and free from artificial colours and fragrances. // I love the colour of this enamel pitcher from Toast – imagine how cheerful it would look with a bunch of simple daffodils. // Pick up a copy of the latest Oh Comely magazine and treat yourself to some low-tech inspirational goodness.//
// I’d fill this lovely woven bowl with fruit each week and try to eat at least one piece a day! // I really need to step away from the hot drinks (damn you caffeine habit) and drink more water. This reusable bottle from Dopper is BPA/plasticizer/toxin free and even comes with its own drinking cup // Make a little bird house in your soul (or at least in your garden) // I love everything about this handmade terracotta salting pot right down to its little spoon, whittled from teak ////I can’t resist Marimekko prints and this cotton bag is small enough to fold away for when you need an extra carrier // Handmade using polymer clay, no two pairs of these earrings are the same // I have these plimsolls in navy but I wouldn’t mind a cream pair for summer too.//

How is your Spring shaping up?

Disclosure: sponsored post

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Vintage and second-hand finds will always have a place in my heart and while I still love the thrill of a rummage in a charity shop or car boot sale, sometimes it’s nice to have someone else do the searching. Which is why I was so pleased when a lovely new store called Gather & Stow opened just down the road from me.

Gather & Stow, on King’s Road in Harrogate sells mid-century furniture and contemporary fair trade pieces, all personally sourced by its lovely owner Ange. She finds new items every week on her buying trips around the region and has such a good eye. Not surprisingly she’s been a shopkeeper since she was twenty and her flair for retail comes across. Her stylish window displays, which are regularly updated, always stop me in my tracks on the school run. And inside is just a delight. I love the way she arranges pieces together to create areas of interest all around this small but beautiful store and shows how they can work in situ, giving customers lots of of styling inspiration.

One of the other reasons I love this shop is that it also serves good coffee. Shopping and caffeine is quite possibly my favourite combination. There’s a little cafe area towards the back where you can sit and chat with a friend, catch up with Ange (who is so lovely) or just soak up all the fab vintage finds surrounding you. There’s always something new and interesting to see and the coffee and cakes are delicious. Plus there’s free wifi and it’s dog-friendly! I might just set up there as my alternative office.

If you can’t always get through to visit Gather & Stow, it’s worth keeping an eye on the instagram page which Ange updates daily with new finds, so customers from further afield can also find out info and buy online.

Gather & Stow

180 King’s Road

Harrogate

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January can be a long, hard month, both in terms of the weather and finances. And let’s not forget frugal February, which can stretch out just as long. Spring still feels like a long way off and if you’re anything like me, you’re still trying to tighten your belt after Christmas. And yet this is the time of the year when I feel we really crave small treats to inspire and delight us and well, just get us through. So here are a few reminders of stuff you can still do when you’re on a budget.

It might help to start off by actually setting yourself a bit of a budget. While it can seem like a depressing thing to do, knowing how much money you have to play with will help you to feel more in control of your finances and prioritise funds so when you do spend on a little treat here and there, you won’t feel guilty. You could try this budget calculator if you’re not sure where to start.

I should point out that this post isn’t about finding major cost savings but more about the little things you can do when you’re watching the pennies. Hope it helps!

1) Go on a winter picnic in the park with a flask. I love the bright, crisp weather we can often get at this time of year and the fresh air and winter sun will do you good. Forage some pretty seed heads or grasses while you’re out and about, which will look lovely in a vase and cost nothing. Look out for faded hydrangeas and pampas grass.

2) While it’s tempting to head out for a hearty roast dinner at the weekend, we’ve been trying not to eat out this month. Instead, we’ve been taking the dog for a walk and then heading to the pub for a bowl of chips and a drink. That way we feel like we’ve still had a treat and an outing without breaking the bank. It helps if you have something tasty waiting for you in the oven or slow cooker when you get back.

3) Shop your own wardrobe. It’s a cliche but true. This is a great time to reorganise your clothes and recycle/donate unwanted items. Or you could try selling them on eBay to make a bit of extra cash. If you really need or fancy something new, try charity shops for a bargain or organise a clothes swap party amongst friends.

4) Make a bee-line for your local art galleries, museums or subsidised visitor attractions. These are a vital, free resource and visitors are life blood them to them. Plus, you might actually learn something!

5) If you have a birthday coming up, request a membership to the RHS or National Trust as a present and enjoy free days out for the rest of the year. They are the gift that keeps on giving and there are so many places to enjoy all year round.

6) If you’d rather stay in and snuggle – I don’t blame you, my instinct to hibernate right now is strong – try a free 30 day trial of a streaming service like Netflix, Now TV or Amazon Prime. I love going to the cinema but it can be expensive so instead enjoy unlimited access to hundreds of films, TV shows or documentaries free of charge. Just remember to cancel your agreement if you don’t wish to subscribe once your trial is up.

7) One of the treats I find hard to give up is my regular coffee fix, especially if I’m not working from home. Take advantage of discounts, freebies and loyalty schemes available from your favourite providers. If you’re an 02 member, download the Priorities app which has regular free coffee offers at Nero’s as well as other great deals. Alternatively, look out for incentives at local indies. One of mine offers cheaper coffee before 9am or a reduced price for those using an eco cup. Every little saving helps!

8) Try to create a home spa with simple affordable treats, which will stop you hankering for a mini-break or expensive beauty products / treatments at this time of year. Have a look at this post for more ideas.

9) Use your local library. I can’t stress this one enough. Support libraries, they are such an important part of the community and I have used them at every age and stage of my life. Also: free books, papers, films and music – what are you waiting for?

10) Finally, if in doubt, just window shop. Trying is often just as good as buying. Sometimes all we need to do is satisfy our curiosity for the new, especially at this time of year when we crave colour, distraction, inspiration and novelty. And then, perhaps later on when you’ve saved up a bit, you can afford that special item that still tempts you. You will probably appreciate it far more than the cheap, disposable, quick-fix you bought on a whim.

Disclosure: collaborative post

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If you’re looking for a bit of winter cheer, check out the seasonal dining and interiors on offer at the Ivy Harrogate.

Any excuse to cheer up January is welcome by me and my local Ivy restaurant has come up with a few tempting reasons to visit over the last season. I love the way they have transformed their heated outdoor terrace into a winter botanical garden, with the help of local florist Helen James and Slingsby gin. The place is a proper treat, complete with lanterns, candles, winter foliage, fairy lights and cosy rugs. And look at that gorgeous fire place!

A couple of months ago, me and the mister were invited to try the special Halloween menu and since it was my birthday it seemed like the perfect excuse for a treat. The Ivy is always coming up with seasonal ideas to tempt guests and the Halloween menu was a great mix of fun, playful and delicious. After enjoying a spiced martini at the bar, we started the meal with Grave-lax and Blood Orange plus Tombstone Tartare, followed by Roasted Pumpkin and Tuna steak through the Heart! It might sound a little gimmicky but the presentation was lovely and everything tasted great. It was nice to put a little twist on the usual birthday dinner, and though Greig and I didn’t go in for full fancy dress, various members of staff were sporting some fab Halloween costumes.

As you can see the desserts were pretty special too and we washed it all down with wine and coffee, of course. Aside from the fact it was my birthday and there was a bit of a party atmosphere in town, I always find a visit to the Ivy feels like an event because the interiors are so special. And if you were to wrap up warm and snuggle up with a drink in the garden, you couldn’t help but chase away the January blues I reckon. The terrace has that real indoors outdoors feel and is a great extension of the dining area.

Who knows, you might even be lucky enough to get a few fluttering flakes of snow and you’d feel like you were in a real winter wonderland!

Disclosure: Our meal was complimentary, as part of this review. All views are my own, as always.

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As 2018 draws to a close, I thought it was a good time to try and count my blessings and review a bit of the good stuff. I’m also resurrecting my neglected Happy Lists, which I haven’t written for over a year. I’ll try to do better in 2019 but for now, here are some of the things I’ve been liking and loving lately.

Outfit details: Coat & shirt: Boden (old) / Cords: Toast (current season) / Boots: c/o Jones the Bootmaker / Bag: Primark (old)

Well it’s a cliche I know but I’m going to say it anyway. I’m enjoying winter. Actually, the cold crisp days are better than the soggy ones but I’ll take any opportunity for wearing my favourite coats and boots. 

I’ve just finished the autumn term of my MA in creative writing at York St John university. Next year I will be writing my dissertation, the final component, and then it’s graduation time. Gosh, how can two years go so quickly? As a little update on that score, I’m now working on a second manuscript (I wrote a novel last year but I think that was just a practise run). This one however feels a little different and I’m quietly hopeful it *might* see the light of day eventually. Who knows, but it’s been a great learning curve and to be able to say that I’ve written not one but two novels is a real achievement for me.

Starting a new part time job. I recently became a part of the team at my local branch of Toast in Harrogate and I’m loving it. It’s a real privilege to be working for such a fab brand and with such a great bunch of people. And, after years of freelance, I finally get a work’s Xmas do – hoorah!

Rediscovering my love of charity shopping, especially for home and interiors finds. Recently I thrifted a handmade ceramic candle stick holder and a large woven straw tray that’s made a great centrepiece for the kitchen table.

Watching:

At the cinema – On Chesil Beach, The Little Stranger, Bohemian Rhapsody, Fantastic Beasts – the Crimes of Grindelwald

On TV – Mrs Wilson, Strictly (have lately rekindled my love of this show), Lego Masters (my daughter loves it and wants to go on the next series!).

Reading:

I should really devote a whole post to this but here’s what I’ve been reading over autumn / winter (not including MA texts) – 

An Unremarkable Body by Elisa Lodato, How to be Human by Paula Cocozza, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller and Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase.

Wearing:

These beautiful leather ankle boots, which were a gift from Jones the Bootmaker. I’ve been on the hunt for something like this for a while, with the look of a brogue that work well with cropped trousers and dresses. These have a handy side-zip so they’re quick to pull on and off and felt incredibly comfy from the start so I didn’t have to break them in.

Listening:

New podcast finds include How to Fail with Elizabeth Day, Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year and Toast’s newly-launched series which profiles different creatives from artists and writers to musicians and gardeners. Search them up on the Apple podcast app or however you listen/subscribe.

Taking all the baths, now that winter is really here again and finding lovely new things to pamper myself with. My latest discovery is Kate Humble’s new range, in particular her Rose & Frankincense Bath Honey. You can pick it up at Waitrose when you’re doing the food shop. 

Becoming a dog owner. A couple of months ago, we finally took the leap and got a Westie pup (another lifelong dream of mine). Wilfred (Wilf for short) has turned our world upside down but it’s all worth it. I’m not sure our two cats, Maggie & Talulah, are quite so keen but the kids are besotted and so am I – he’s basically my fourth child and I’m not ashamed to admit it!

Remembering how delicious mince pies are. I’m off to meet the bestie for our traditional festive treat at Betty’s tomorrow and I can’t wait for one of their mulled wines and mince pies – they’re so good.

On that note, I’ll leave it there and take this opportunity to wish you all compliments of the season and a very happy new year.

Bye for now,

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If you still haven’t got your xmas shopping sorted yet (raises hand) then here’s a bit of handy inspiration. I’ve rounded up a few of my favourite things (bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens very nearly made the cut) so you should have some ideas for the whole family. 

This year, more than any other, I’ve been thinking really carefully about where I buy my gifts and do my shopping. I still love the high street but am selective about which retailers I support and I’m trying to shop more with independent stores who already source their products with care. So, there are a range of things here from Waterstones (not Amazon!), indies like The Future Kept, luxury home gifts and smaller stocking fillers from the likes of Oliver Bonas, Toast and Oxfam. Hope you find something that fits the bill.

Roberts Radio: Soho Home / Watermelon & Magnolia soap with dish: Oliver Bonas / The Lost Words: Waterstones / Sami slippers: Plumo / Roam camera bag: The Future Kept / Grey fishbone wool throw: Oxfam /

/ Handwoven seagrass basket: Oxfam / My kind of person mug: Anthropologie / Set of 4 wooden egg dishes: Toast / Rippling waves earrings: &OtherStories / Birch colour block socks: The Future kept / Houndstooth plaid wool scarf: &OtherStories /

 / Set of 3 mini hand creams: Oliver Bonas / Sala wall hanging: Plumo / Multi check pyjamas: Toast / Embossed leather iPhone case: &OtherStories / Ceramic spice spoon: The Future Kept /

/ Anorak magazine subscription / Monogram journal: Anthropologie / Forest ladybird brooch: Oliver Bonas / Deershed Festival tickets / Spiros ecoffee cup: Oxfam /

Happy shopping!

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post. All picks are my own.

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We headed over to Manchester the other weekend to try some festive food, check out the Christmas markets and bask in the glow of some twinkly lights.

Whether you live north or south, I think Manchester is a great place to visit for a weekend if you fancy trying a city that has a real identity of its own. With an enviable music culture and a cool, urban edge, Manchester also has a history and charm to it that draws on its heritage as a great industrial city. And Manchester folk, while fiercely proud of their individuality are warm, friendly and eager to share their city with everyone. As well as a fab range of shops, bars, restaurants and music venues there are also some great hotels in Manchester, so you can make a proper weekend of it.

Since we’re not too far away, we popped over the pennines to shake things up a bit and spend some time in a great city with the kids. We started off in the northern quarter (the best place for cheap parking as well as a host of independents) and tried to find somewhere nice for a bite to eat. I wanted to take the kids to one of my favourites like Fig & Sparrow or Evelyn’s but we misjudged the fact that on a Sunday lunchtime you probably need to book ahead for a family of five like ours. Any other time, they are gorgeous spaces with great interiors and food to match. I like Fress, which has a contemporary Art Deco feel or you could also try Pot, Kettle, Black in Barton Arcade (a beautiful example of Victorian architecture in itself) for all day brunch and good coffee, nestling side by side with a beautiful Italian deli, a hipster barber shop (it was open on a Sunday afternoon!) and even a pop-up bar called Glogg selling a range of different mulled wines and prosecco.

In the end we plumped for a family-friendly feed at Zizzi’s on Piccadilly which still had a lovely festive atmosphere but also the space to accommodate us. Having fuelled up with pizza and pasta (and  bit of fizz for me), dusk was just starting to settle on the city and it was the perfect time to wander down to the Christmas markets around St Anne’s Square where the lights were really starting to twinkle.

I always think Christmas markets are a great way to get you in the festive mood and ease you gently towards full on ho-ho-ho mode, which I hope to have achieved within a week or two. I’m always excited by the array of continental foods and can’t help treating myself to a little paper cornet of caramelised cashews which I know I can get any time of year but just taste right in December. The kids were also wide-eyed at all the sweets and toffee apples, chocolate covered marshmallows and sweet-smelling crepes – perfect if you’ve saved room for pudding! We were talked into buying them a metre of flavoured liquorice (don’t ask) but it kept them all quiet on the cosy nighttime drive home. And, well, twinkly lights. You can’t beat ’em can you?

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post. Hotels.com gifted us spending money to enjoy our day in Manchester, but all views are my own, as always.

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Furniture retailer Arlo & Jacob has opened its first showroom in the north, and it’s in Harrogate. I went along for a look and some serious sofa-lounging.

Arlo & Jacob is one of the places to go if you love beautiful sofas and chairs upholstered in sumptuous fabrics. And although you can shop the whole range online, let’s be honest, a sofa purchase is one of those decisions you need to make in the flesh. You want to have a lounge, a lie-down, a bounce and a grope. And if you want to have a coffee and a leisurely chat while you peruse the library of more than 120 house fabrics, you can do that here as well. Which is why I’m very glad that Arlo & Jacob chose Harrogate as the venue for its third showroom (in addition to London and Bristol) making it a shopping destination for the north of England.

The new showroom features over seventy products from Arlo & Jacob’s existing collections, while also introducing a new member of the sofa family, ‘Bertie’, a modern, multifunctional and modular range that features six different sizes and shapes. One of the things I really like about this British family-run company, which launched in 2015 and is named after the founder’s two sons, is that its range is wholly designed in-house and handmade using traditional methods in the UK, from its factory in Long Eaton.

In fact I loved the fabrics so much I took a few swatches away with me just so I could fondle them in my handbag from time to time!

Arlo & Jacob

25-26 West Park, Harrogate, HG1 1BG

www.arloandjacob.com

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If first impressions count then the hallway is probably the most important room in the house. Which is why we’ve been trying to give ours a bit of a revamp recently.

Last weekend we finally got around to starting a little home project we’ve been wanting to try for ages now. It’s nothing ground-breaking, we just wanted to create a gallery wall of pictures and prints on our hall staircase. We have a lot of white wall space in our hall and on the stairs, which not only attracts scratches and grubby hand prints from the kids but is also crying out for a bit of personality.

With a bit of curation and decision-making (me) and some hammering of thumb nails (Greig) we managed to put up a little montage of about seven pieces; an eclectic mix of mis-matched frames and memories which immediately makes me smile when I head up or down stairs. As usual, I wonder why it took us so long to get around to doing it when just a bit of time and effort makes a big difference.

It’s still a work in progress but now that we’ve made a start I think it will be easier to add the odd piece here and there and I hope that the display will eventually grow to stretch the length and breadth of the stairs. The kids have been surprisingly appreciative of it too and hopefully they’ll use the bannister now rather than scuffing the wall!

Anyway, I’ll try to get a few photographs of said wall to share at some point but in the meantime, I’ve been updating my Pinterest with a few more ideas on how we can refresh this area of the house and make it work for a busy family of five.

1. When it comes to the floor, I’d recommend laminate flooring for a hallway – I just think it’s easier to keep clean than carpet, especially in an area that experiences such wear and tear and you can always warm it up with rugs/runners.

2. Make the stairs a feature. If you don’t have carpet or want to rip out the existing one, you could try painting the wooden treads. I love the green used below. You could try something playful like a rainbow of alternating colours or a cool monochrome look like this fab staircase makeover by Grillo Designs.

3. An easy and affordable way to brighten up your hall is with a friendly doormat or welcoming signage.

4. Try painting the interior-facing side of your front door as an alternative way to add colour and make a statement.

TRY THESE IDEAS ON FOR SIZE…

details:

/ Hello coat rack, Block Design / Berber style wool hall runner, La RedoutePinnig coat rack, Ikea /  Ercol love seat, Heals / Bronze storage baskets, Matalan / Sejet doormat, Ikea / Let’s Stay Home print, Etsy /

5. The gallery wall is not a new idea but as I mentioned earlier, it’s still a decorative feature that many of us are still attempting. As ever, the eclectic ‘thrown together’ look is my favourite. Look out for a variety of different types of frame in charity shops and the rest is up to you; postcards, prints, embroidery, kids’ artwork. If you’re not sure how to tackle the logistics, check out this brilliant how-to post by Lisa Dawson. Her hallway is superb!

6. Try using paint to divide the wall and create a dado rail effect with hooks; perfect for coats, bags and hats.

7. Another easy and cheap tip is to create a cloakroom area with a simple bench (or shelf attached to the wall) and use woven baskets to keep shoes, umbrellas and accessories easy to hand but tidied away

8. And finally I love the idea of using your hall as another place for a bookshelf. Top with plants and a few bowls for keys, post and knick-knacks.

images via my here

Disclosure: collaborative post

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