Hello, hello, it’s been along time since we last spoke and I’ve missed you all!

Long story short, I migrated my blog last year from blogger to wordpress using a very well known blog template company? A year after they completed the migration for me, successfully or so I thought, a very kind insta friend Mark, https://www.instagram.com/spencercollection/ contacted me to advise me that my subscribe button wasn’t working. A whole f*****g year later! Anyhow thanks to Mark for alerting me. What followed were some long hours of  stress, almost tears of frustration and some help from techy friends,  hello KarenAnita, and it is by some small miracle, now working! So here I am back with you all and I’m so happy about it. I’ve so much to tell you and I can’t wait to get back to writing and sharing all the great things I’ve discovered lately, but for this post I’ll condense it into mini micro blogs, some of which will be expanded on another time. It’s great to be able to connect with you all again at last. How have you all been?

I personally love to read about new places to discover for days out or longer holidays, new products I might have heard of but haven’t tried, new clothes and interior shops, eateries, delis & cafes. I’m always eager for recommendations of what people are reading or listening to and so if we’re like minded, which I know we are otherwise you wouldn’t be here in the first place, then that’s what I’ll share with you in this post and the rest to follow. If you, like me, are full of curiosity about life and grabbing it and sucking out the best bits, then let’s keep connected this time. You can subscribe for regular email updates, when I’ve posted a new blog, by hitting the subscribe button. So here is my mini catch up with you all and what I’ve found & learned over the last 2-3 months.

Where have I been?

New York

Well if you follow me on instagram, which you can do here, if not already, you’ll know I went to New York for the first time in April. I won’t even attempt to tell you about it here, that deserves a blog post all of it’s own and it’s something, some of you have already requested on instagram. Let’s just say for now, we went, we saw, we fell in love!

Leek Antique Market

I love leek in Staffordshire, it a great town and is full of fantastic vintage and antique shops with a great antique market in the town square every Saturday. It’s also brilliant on it’s price points and I never come away empty handed. For a more comprehensive review on Leek you can read my previous blog post here. This time I bought this beautiful Victorian basket £10, a full size French linen flag £20 and this beautiful pussy willow in the most glorious grey colour £4.00 for the lot, cheaper than supermarket prices?

Shops

I’ve visited some amazing interiors shops since the last time we spoke. First up is a local Manchester shop:

Rose & Lee Interiors

I don’t know how I’ve missed it and why I’ve never been before,  but I was invited by my lovely friend Sarah @relovedmcr to style a piece of her beautiful up cycled furniture for the shop window. Owned by Fiona and run by her & Kate, they are a font of knowledge when it comes to all things interior, wallpaper, paint & vintage and this stylish shop has it all in bucket loads. Go to prestwich to visit, call into the beautiful florist next door and then feast a few doors down @Cuckoo

Cuckoo Prestwich

 

CollardManson

Where do I start with this shop? Again it’s quite an establishment in Sheffield but one that’s bypassed me, however, I’m delighted to have found it now. It is such a beautiful visual feast of a shop, full of dark & bohemian textiles, art work, fragrances, gifts, jewellery & clothes, each and every one of them exquisite. This cool retail  space, feels like you’re stepping momentarily into a store in Amsterdam and it’s only when you remerge from the shop that you’re transported back to Sheffield which by the way is my new favourite place and one I will be devoting an entire blog post to shortly.

 

Baileys Home

I know this is also a stalwart to interior shopping addicts and I’ve already written a blog post about Baileys back in 2012 which you can read here if you’re interested? Since then it has become one of my very favourite shopping destinations for interior objects and props for photography shoots, despite the 3 hour drive from Manchester, which says it all really? It’s also gradually and gently morphed over the years into a concept store, complete with clothes, jewellery, toiletries,household items, new and salvaged and garden nic nacs and plants, including house plants, which are a relatively new edition. Keep your eyes peeled for a new book due out in the Autumn by Sally & Mark Bailey to add to your collection.

What I’ve learned & listened to

After meeting Kayte Ferris of Simpleandseason last year on another workshop, I decided she was just the right sort of knowledgeable person to help me visualise a long held dream of creating a business of my own? Ok I know I am my own business, being a self employed stylist, but I’d like to eventually take that a step further and have a physical business. A place I could style my own way, sell the sort of things I look for for my home & work, host workshops & events. We already own a property we bought a few years ago, so this isn’t a complete pipe dream and as the years pass and our financial outgoings get less, the end of the term of our mortgage is now in sight and our two children are growing up and getting more independent & self sufficient, i’d like this dream to become a reality. After spending a day with Kayte on one of her workshops, together with some other equally inspiring women, writers, makers, photographers, potters, I feel like I can see a clearing in the woods and a chink of light shining through stronger and brighter than ever before. If you are considering branching out on your own, I highly recommend  going on one of Kayte workshops, her advice and knowledge of marketing are invaluable.

I’ve also been listening to lots of podcasts, many which are informative, some just entertaining and some a mixture of both. I love Hashtag Authentic by MeandOrla, The HighLow by Dolly Alderton & Pandora Sykes and Table Manners with Jessie Ware and her fabulous mum Lenny. Also new to me this week, which I’ve been enjoying is Fearne Cotton’s podcast Happy Place, where she talk to friends and people she admires about life and it’s highs and lows and how they cope with those moments?There are none here that are new and you may have heard of them already but if you haven’t or are new to podcasts, they are all very worth a listen.

I also recommend Dollys fantastic book, which any girl or woman with a pulse can relate to “Everything I Know about Love” is a book about growing up, friendships and ultimately love and what that looks like in all its guises. I’ve also recently been gifted for my birthday by friends and family Accidental Icon by Iris Apfel and Corrugated iron Buildings, both stonking good reads I’m sure!

What I’ve been buying

As the weather has been so damn awful in the UK until very recently I’ve been wearing my winter wardrobe since october to April however,I’ve now realised that it looks like we might be having a summer after all and I’ve discovered I haven’t got a stitch to wear, spoken like a true Northerner. I haven’t actually bought anything summery yet apart from a lovely little straw clutch bag from çhttp://www.baileyshome.com but when I do I shall be visiting the following:

Object Style

My favourite go to Manchester shop for 100% minimalist linen clothing and a warm & friendly welcome from shop owners Rachael & Alex Otterwell.

Beaumont Organic

I briefly scoured the rails last time I was in Manchester about 2 weeks ago and it’s safe to say I want one of everything they have at the moment. The stock is sourced and bought with ethical values in mind but style is never a compromise and everything is colour co-ordinated on rails to make it all so easy for us.

 

Collard Manson

Enough said above. I WANT IT ALL!

Veja Trainers

Ethical, well designed,Any colour please!

*UPDATE, I’VE JUST ORDERED A PAIR WITH 10% DISCOUNT FROM LA REDOUTE*

My money has been mainly spent recently on cosmetics, the only safe bet with the long long winter? Current favourites that I can recommend are Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood glow, does what it says on the tin, even for mature skins. I have it, it works brilliantly whilst diffusing wrinkles slightly. Milk Make up which is currently only available in the US. Did I say I’d been to New York???  Seriously it’s brilliant. Developed by Manchester girl done good, Zanna Roberts Rassi, it is due to roll out in the UK any time soon. It’s perfect for hand luggage as everything comes in solid sticks, moisturiser, cleaners, the lot. Just Brilliant! Also if you love watching beauty editor Sali Hughes in the bathroom series, theres a great episode of her interviewing Zanna in her bathroom which I loved.

I’ve also been very kindly gifted some organic advanced skin care and sun protection from a company called Madara, which couldn’t have come at a better time after the last two beautiful sunny weekends. The factor 30 age defying sun protector for the face, is slightly tinted and with a slight sheen so is perfect for that minimalist make up look while on holiday and I love the age defence day cream moisturiser which claims to  support natural dermal collagen and repair skin structure. It is a mighty claim but this is no word of a lie, it makes my skin feel tighter and more toned on application. I’m not a beauty blogger and I haven’t been paid to say this, I have only been gifted these items and if I didn’t think they were worth buying, I would say so but I’m seriously impressed and as a bit of a product junkie theres not much that I’m usually impressed with?

Finally I’m looking forward to seeing the gloriously talented Maxine Peake this week in a Happy Days, a play by Samuel Beckett at The Royal Exchange Theatre and I’m also hoping to catch her in her new film Funny cow, which I’ve heard great things about. Apparently its based on the life of comedienne Marti Caine, who I remember watching as a kid, which gives my age way slightly, but she was very funny, ground breaking for her time and Maxine portrays her in the way only someone of Maxines talents could, I hear?

I also went to see the Vivenne Westwood film, Punk, Icon, Activist a few months ago which was all kinds of brilliant. She’s as mad as a box of frocks, in a superbly eccentric British way, but insanely talented and you get a real insight into her life now, her relationship with her husband Andreas and her previous relationship with her ex husband Malcolm McLaren. A fascinating and insightful documentary, it’s such a shame Dame Vivienne and her son ben have both denounced it.It really is a tribute to 40 years at the top of her game?

So that’s me done. All caught up with my news. Its like one of those tedious round robin letters you get at Christmas but hopefully a lot more informative? I’m looking forward to fleshing out some of the mini posts I’ve just mentioned to be more insightful and hopefully useful? Thanks for sticking with me those of you that have and to anyone new to the blog, thank you for reading and if you want to leave me any comments I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

Just the other day I was driving my daughter and her friend Molly back from school when Molly declared that my car smelt like water! “But you can’t smell water Molly?” I said. “I can smell anything” said Molly. She wasn’t wrong as it happened, earlier that day I’d been to the garden centre to pick up some plants and although they were no longer in the car, Molly could clearly smell the fresh ozone scent of the fauna.

It got me thinking, maybe Molly could be a nose? You know those clever people that work for fragrance houses that have the most incredible talent for sniffing out the perfect fragrances and oils that when mixed together become the greater sum of their parts?

I think I would have liked to have been a nose, if I’d have been aware of such a role, as I have always had,from a very young age, an obsession with perfume.

Finding these grainy photos of Le Labo in Paris on my camera roll recently got me thinking where all this obsession,no pun intended, started? It was my cousin Susan who was the foundation of it. Susan, 10 years older than me, dated George Best at the height of his career in the 1970’s when he played for Manchester united. She was glamorous and beautiful and smelt amazing. I vividly remember her arriving at my parents Christmas party, with another older boyfriend, George was onto pastures new as he was want. They pulled up in his red soft top sports car, both wearing matching white trouser suits, it was the heady days of Saturday Night fever craze? She had a bubble cut perm and the most incredible fragrance wafting behind her as she entered the room. I still don’t know to this day what it was but I instantly promoted her to goddess status and from that moment on my love affair with fragrance began.

My tastes have changed over the years from Charlie by Revlon to quite quickly graduating to Miss Dior without missing a heartbeat. My nose became sophisticated long before the rest of me did and my friends all knew me as the girl who wore perfume nobody else had heard of? As snobby as it now sounds, as soon as somebody within my group of friends or colleagues started wearing the same fragrance as me, I moved onto something else. Ok I admit I was/am a perfume snob!

Eventually over time I realised my favourite smells were woody, earthy scents, possibly connected to the fact that I am an earth sign or even more possibly inspired by my husbands love of warm earthy fragrances. He has worn Comme De Garcon 2 for years, which always reminds me of old books, incense and churches, it is amazing. My nose is also hyper sensitive to anything too sweet and heady, which also dictates my choices. In the 1980’s I literally couldn’t be in the same room as a person wearing Diors Poison as it would immediately trigger a migraine and make me feel physically nauseous.

I remember when I had our children, an elderly midwife telling me that the best thing you can do when trying to comfort a crying baby is to wrap a piece of your clothing around their mattress and then place the sheet over the top for safety. The smell on your clothes can then be smelt by your child for instant calm. It worked wonders and my son, now 22, still wears my dressing gown when hung over for comfort, you know I’m in serious trouble for this right, but I’m underlining the point, and my daughter sprays her clothes with Jil Sander Eve or Molecule One when she’s missing me. Coincidentally or maybe not, my daughters name is Amber, one of the most heady & seductive fragrances, under pinning many of my favourite scents?

It’s no surprise then that for my 50th birthday one of my oldest & dearest friends, gave me euros to spend in Paris, which is how I found myself in Le Labo, in le Marais, having some Vetiver blended by a gorgeous afro haired girl called Audrey. How do I still remember her name? Le Labo type a message onto the perfume label for you, detailing who blended your perfume and a special message such as who very kindly and lovingly gifted it to you so you remember forever.

This post isn’t sponsored. All the words and opinions are my own. It just sparked a memory triggered by Molly in the car and I thought i’d share it with you all. What are your favourite fragrances and do you have one that instantly reminds you of somebody? x

At the beginning of a new year there is always much talk about the key interior trends that we can expect to see flooding our High Street stores and independent shops. Not every trend appeals to each and every one of us and I for one, won’t be rushing out to buy anything purple any time soon, but one trend that has emerged and is tipped to be huge this year which I already love, is Wabi-Sabi style.

If you’re anything like me, which by the very fact that you’re reading this blog, suggests you are, you will be fully signed up to the addiction that is Instagram and might already be familiar with the term Wabi-sabi, which has been trending on social media for a couple of years now.One of the influencers I first started following that lives with this aesthetic was Owl_Emma, whose feed is absolutely beautiful and full of wabi-wabi images. As with all niche trends they eventually gain momentum until the leading retailers pick up on it and the trend becomes mainstream.

What exactly does Wabi-sabi mean, you might well be asking yourself. Well it’s a Japanese term, that translates as the acceptance of imperfection, an appreciation of the imperfect and the embracing of life. The aesthetic qualities it focuses on are weathered, worn or rusted elements, all the type of gently faded and time worn objects that are generally hand made and that you would find at an antique or salvage fair. If you have the time to look for these sort of items  you will find some wonderful gems that might be overlooked by those in pursuit of perfection. Hand turned wonky wooden bowls and spoons, hand blown glass, complete with imperfect bubbles and rusted wire work. Hand washed vintage linens and mirrors with glass foxed after years hung against damp victorian walls, are all to be found at antique and salvage fairs. A calendar of events run by Arthur Swallow fairs can be found here and the first one of this year is being held at Lincoln show ground next week.

If however, it is a style that you love but you are short on time, there are some new and mass produced items with this same artisan, imperfect look available on the High Street and through small independent shops. It might seem like a contradiction in terms to the Wabi-sabi ethos to shop this way, but if readily available suits your lifestyle better, then that is why retailers offer up these collections, it generally suits most consumers to shop this way.

Two of my favourite independent retailers, have specialised in this artisan look for years and their shops are full of beautiful tactile products.

Moth in Didsbury Manchester, is an interiors obsessives institution now and the go to shop for anything with that lovely simple and pure aesthetic. They don’t unfortunately have an online shop, although it is in the making, but regular stock is posted on their instagram feed and you can always ring and order anything you might have seen on there, for home delivery.

Another beautiful shop, which is no secret to anybody familiar with this style, is iGigi in Hove, which I eventually got to visit during my trip to Brighton in October. There is an online shop and the owners also have a book available, A Life Less Ordinary, which focuses on their natural style and ability to create beautiful interiors and vignettes using wabi-sabi style items collected from around the world.

Here are some of the lovely items that have caught my eye recently, all readily available and mostly inexpensive.

  1.  Calm House Collection – Next
  2. Linen Throw – Trouva
  3. Slouchy Hickory Striped Linen bag – Object Style
  4. Artisan bowls – Tiger
  5. Hand Made Wooden Spoons – Butlers Emporium
  6. Bundle of linen sheets – LinenstudioRG
  7. Lene Bjerre crockery – Rose & Grey
  8. Wabi-sabi Welcome book – Trouva
  9. Wooden bowl – Garden Trading

 

 

 

Firstly before I continue with my first blog of the year, let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy new year and I hope it’s an excellent one for you, filled with lots of happy moments and memories made! If you’re reading this post, we’re probably old friends by now, after all it’s been 7 years since I wrote my first blog post! Perhaps we’re new acquaintances through Instagram and are on the cusp of finding out more about each other? What ever your reason for reading this, thank you so much for taking the time to pop over x

I love New year, as I love new starts generally. Fresh pages in a new yearly planner, plotting and planning goals and intentions for the year ahead always fills me with such enthusiasm and positivity. I’m not going to ramble on too much about resolutions, a word I don’t really relate to. I prefer to use the word intentions, a constant thought throughout the year, that I can continue to remind myself of rather than something that I can beat myself up about if I fail miserably?

My lovely 2018 planner gifted to me by Hello Day Planner

This year i’ve decided that my intention for 2018, is to discover more about myself and improve my strengths. I am going to fill my year with as many skill workshops as I can possibly do, obviously time and money will play a part, but I have found them so enriching in the past, that I intend to pursue more of the same in 2018.

Mindfulness is a much over used word in recent years, but it is a very useful skill to have and has been instilled in me over 2o years of practising yoga. It’s a skill that I pull on when I go off track, which is often. I don’t mean I turn to the dark side to battle my demons, I just mean when I get that inner voice that tells me I’m not as good at what I do as other people are, everything will turn to shit and I’ll be found out for being a fraud etc etc. Most of you know what I mean, I know you do, but last year as well as my constant yoga practice, I took steps to overcome these negative feelings and embarked on a one day workshop with Sas Petherick, a wonderful warm and wise life coach. I got so much out of the day with her and all the other wonderful people present. It was a day which really reinforced in me that I am worthy of all I have achieved and so much more, if I put my mind to it, that it has started me on a road to more self improvement.

Where all the magic happened on Sas Petherick’s Write Yourself Home course, Sara Taskers lovely house, a room with a view.

So this year has started with me signing up to Instagram Guru, Sara Tasker @meandorla #gloomandglow online instagram photography course. I’ve been playing around on instagram for about 3 years now and have greatly admired so much of Sara’s work and the other amazing photographers and influencers on there. I’ve dabbled with using a dslr and have made improvement slowly, but I’ve never really managed to take the sort of shots that I’m drawn to and I’m hoping ,with Sara’s guidance, that I’ll get a lot more inspiration from her and the network of other students. If nothing more, I’m just really enjoying having a reason and the excuse to get my camera out and experiment and my instagram following has gone up, so somethings improving?

Sara’s course has got me up & out bright and early capturing the #gloomandglow of winter

In February I’m going on a one day course to learn more about flatlay photography. This is something again that I have experimented with and that I enjoy, but I’m hoping to learn more about the photography element rather than the styling element from Jane who runs the course. There’s also an element of curiosity into how the course and the day will unfold. I have been asked recently if I would be interested in running a styling for flatlay course and as much as I was flattered and it is something I would consider, I don’t feel I understand enough about the technique and how to put together the content for such a course just yet. I’m hoping this one day course with will give me the courage to consider doing something similar this year?

A flatlay I created for my Instagram feed

The third course I’m signed up to is with the lovely Kayte Ferris, who I was lucky enough to meet at Sas’s write yourself Home course in October. Kayte is running a series of courses this year called Out of The Woods when she will help guide creatives onto a straight and narrow path of focus for their business’s. As an interiors stylist and a creative I have so many other ideas for potential business’s? I have a building that I own and I have a desire to truly work for myself eventually, dance to my own tune and be the architect of my own vision but I don’t know how to do it or more importantly I think I do but fear is stopping me. I’m hoping with Kayte’s skills as a global marketer, she can guide me to world domination! 🙂

Anyway that’s the first 6 months of my year sorted, what about you? Any plans for self enlightenment, self improvement, world domination?

Let me know, the kettles on & I would love to hear from you x

All words and photos are my own. This is not a sponsored post.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend one of Artsynibs brush lettering/modern Calligraphy workshops for beginners.

As a stylist within the creative industry, I’ve always been a little embarrassed of my handwriting, it’s almost as though I’ve had arrested development in that area of my life and my hand writing hasn’t really progressed much since I left junior school! It’s often a requirement of my job that I write with a flourish and I’ve been asked to adorn blackboards for TV Commercials and film a live Christmas video of me setting a table for the event & my infantile hand writing skills, have in these circumstances, brought me out in hives. I have learnt clever strategies to help me out which have even involved a projector & no I’m not even joking, but when Joyce asked me if I’d like to attend her calligraphy workshop I was all over it.

What I thought I would learn in 3 hours clearly was a big mis judgement on my behalf, Joyce has been practising this art for many years and is highly skilled, but it was amazing what techniques I did pick up in the short time that we had.

The classes are held in Form Lifestyle store which is a beautiful new interior and gift store in Manchesters Northern Quarter. They are kept quite small in numbers of attendees so that Joyce can be on hand to help each individual as much or as little as is needed. We were given an introduction to some of the techniques we would need to get the most out of our session, such as to keep quite fluid and relaxed in our writing arm and to take things very slowly and not rush and most importantly to breathe, which is easier said than done when you are concentrating deeply, but important to remember so that all the other rules fall into place.

 

Form Lifestyle Store

Each of us was given an instruction manual and special paper on which we could practice the different pressures to apply to the pens, which sounds easier than it is and then we were let loose on the alphabet which is broken down into similar styles of letters. We were given two different pens, one which is similar to a felt tip pen but specifically for brush lettering and the other which is slightly more difficult to use for a beginner can be dipped into an ink pot or metallic paints and used in a more traditional type of calligraphy writing. I hope I’m getting this all correct but if you attend one of Joyce’s courses all will be made much clearer? Before starting her own series of workshops, Joyce was a school teacher and has the patience and skills to pass on her knowledge in a simple and effective way.

These photographs were taken at the event by @thepublishedimage all others are my own

At the end of the three hours, which went so quickly as we were having so much fun, we all felt as though we had definitely learned the basics of modern brush lettering and had the elemental skills to take away and practice more. As well as our instruction manual and spare paper, we were given the two pens I’ve just mentioned and a pot of walnut ink to take home and Joyce also kindly provided us with cupcakes and prosecco or tea and coffee throughout the session.

If you struggle to buy a certain person in your life a gift at Christmas, because we all have those people in our lives, that seemingly have everything right, a workshop to attend and learn a new skill, is a wonderful present and something to look forward to in the new year.

Future dates for Artsynibs workshops can be found on Form Lifestyle website here.

As well as modern calligraphy and brush lettering, there are plant workshops from GeoFleur and linen printing workshops from ren London, dates yet to be confirmed.

Beaumont Organic also in the Northern Quarter of Manchester run a series of workshops from their beautiful  three storey shop. One of my favourites which I intend to go to next year is a macrame workshop run by the lovely Sam from Pretty Little Knots. You can see the range of workshops including Sams here.

Lever Street in Manchester is home to The Ministry of Craft where you can learn anything crafty from dress making, to linocut printing, lampshade making or knitting.

Agapanthus another one of my favourite shops, for vintage treasure hunting, have a lovely space upstairs in their store where they run regular chalk paint workshops where you can learn to transform an old piece of unloved furniture back to something that looks like it’s been brought back from a French Brocante.

If photography is your thing or you know somebody that would like to improve their skills with their dslr or bridge camera and learn some food styling tips along the way,  workshops are held at the Wilmslow home of food stylist Nikki Bewell with technical camera tuition taught by Jane Burkinshaw of love your lens. Available dates throughout 2018 can be found here.

photo credited to Nikki Bewell

&  finally if you still have time to squeeze a wreath making workshop in before Christmas, there are several in and around the Manchester area. First up is on 6/12/17 at Rose & Grey Interiors in Altrincham, hosted and taught by Chloe Robinson Designs who has a beautiful flower stall at Altrincham Market.

Farrow & Ball on Deansgate in Manchester are hosting a Christmas wreath and crafting workshop at their store on 9/12/17, with the hugely talented David from Frog flowers. Tickets are available throughout the shop.