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.

 

 

Last week was half term here in Manchester and so at my daughters suggestion, as she’s quite obsessed with a few Brighton vloggers, we headed south for a few days to see what all the fuss about this metropolis by the sea was?

First things first, I’ve got to mention our accommodation, which was absolutely fantastic. Right opposite the sea, a little way out of Brighton centre, opposite the Marina, but that was no bad thing, for the trade off of those sea views and the sound of seagulls every morning. We booked the apartment, which was housed in a beautiful Regency terrace, through AirBnB. We were AirBnB virgins and I was a little apprehensive as I’d heard varying stories of peoples experiences, not all good. After our 100% successful experience I’m now fully converted but think it’s still important to ask lots of questions of your host before you book, check out the area and the distance from the place you want to be and look at the reviews. Our host Alex, answered all my questions immediately, provided his phone number so that I could contact him on arrival or during our stay and was really helpful throughout.

The apartment had beautiful styling throughout, all salvaged items and layers of linens and sheepskins strewn everywhere, very clean and extremely cosy. It also had the added bonus of a private garden square, which was available to residents of the terrace only and had a secret tunnel leading to the sea front, thought to be the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.

 

 

 

Before our trip, I asked a few Instagram friends who live in Brighton for their recommendations of places to go, shop and eat and both Ellie & Co, who also writes a fabulous blog about Brighton which you can read here, & KateHillStylist were brilliant, giving me so much information between them, that was all fantastic. As I’m coeliac Kate sent me a link to a blog post by Becky Excell which listed 33 places to eat from cakes to pizza, Japanese, Mexican, Sunday Roasts, you name it, it was on the list and I would recommend anybody visiting Brighton to print off this list as well, as it was invaluable to me. In fact Brighton is the best place I’ve ever visited for it’s wide range of gluten free and vegan options. Most of the pubs and bars had gluten free craft beers and The Walrus pub on Ship Street in the town centre, even had Gluten free beer on draft, so I had my first pint in years.

First on my list of eateries to try was The Farm Tavern in Hove where we pre booked Sunday lunch before our arrival , which was lucky as this small but perfectly formed pub, was packed to the rafters, not surprisingly after sampling the food? It was probably one of the best Sunday roasts I’ve had for a long time, all gluten free, gravy, yorkshire puddings, the lot and then every pudding on the menu was also GF, sticky toffee pudding, salted caramel chocolate pudding and spiced rhubarb crumble. The staff and the atmosphere couldn’t have been friendlier. As the sun set, the lovely pink haired land lady (how very Brighton!) came round chatting to every guest and lighting candles on the tables, making sure everything was to our satisfaction, the perfect host.

Our other firm favourite establishment, which quickly became our local favourite for breakfast, was Marmalade in Kemptown. This cafe was just around the back of our apartment and we all immediately loved it on entering. It was once an old shop, that has been gently stripped back to reveal the old plaster walls, which have been left unadorned except for magazine tears of recipes which are plastered on one corner as you entered. Original Victorian tiles are laid on the floor and mismatched wooden tables and chairs, complete the salvaged style of the decor. The food is all home made and is delicious, from freshly baked bread and bagels to home made pies and sausage rolls, cakes and pastries and the best coffee. I’ve since realised that Marmalade is a bit of a Brighton institution and we were just very lucky to have had this cafe in our neighbourhood.

A quick mention as well about some of the pubs, which are everywhere. Brighton seems to have a pub culture much more than a bar culture, which I really liked, it reminded me very much of London. Our locals in Kemptown were The Thomas Kemp, beware no under 18’s are allowed in after 9.00pm unless you are dining and The Barley Mow, which serves pie and mash, gluten free choices available again obviously, this is Brighton, & they will also order you pizzas from the take away across the road Pizza Face, again GF options available and they are delivered straight to your table in brown cardboard boxes whilst you finish your game of connect 4 or scrabble!

 

On our last evening we decided to try La Choza Mexican restaurant. I can’t say that Mexcian is a real favourite of mine, it all tastes quite similar to me and it’s just the texture of the recepticles that you choose to hold your filling in that changes the meal? But it’s some where the kids wanted to eat and so we went. How wrong I was proved at La Choza, again the food was amazing, the atmosphere and the colours of this vibrant restaurant, brought a little bit of Mexico to Brighton. I guess I’ve just never had good Mexican food until now?

If your preferred choice of shopping is vintage, Brighton is the place for you. There are so many vintage clothes shops and antique emporiums that there are too many to mention but some of the ones we visited that I can recommend are listed here.

Snoopers Paradise is in North Laine and is a massive two storey building made up of different traders, selling everything and anything you could imagine. Prepare to spend a couple of hours in here.

 

The Brighton Flea Market on Upper St James Street in Kemptown is a smaller version of snoopers Paradise, again a very worthy place to visit with some great furniture. There are also regular flea markets and vintage markets, mostly over the weekend, which we unfortunately missed but worth checking out by all accounts? There are lots of individual vintage clothes shops in kemptown that we visited, too many to name but the range of goods and the prices were really cheap compared to Manchester and London.

North Laine was probably my favourite area of Brighton for shopping. It reminded me very much of Portabello Road or Camden, lots of hippy style shops, lovely independent interior shops such as the Lavender room and Abode and just a fantastic buzzy atmosphere. There’s also a really cool independent cinema called Dukes at Komedia where you can watch a film whilst sitting in a comfy sofa while you sip prosecco, how very Brighton. That’s definitely one for another visit?

On our last morning we revisited Hove which is really now an extension of Brighton and at the opposite end of the promenade to the Marina. Hove is home to one of the interior shops I’ve dreamed about visiting for longer than I can remember,  iGigi which is a masterclass in Wabasabi style or gently faded distressed furniture and objects, all beautifully visually merchandised. Upstairs is a cafe and along the road is an iGigi clothes shop. The ladies who own the shop Alex and Zoe have their own book published showcasing their style, should you not be able to make the pilgrimage to the shop. A life Less Ordinary is one of my favourite books and is available here.

Another beautiful shop in Hove which Kate recommend I visit was Florian, which at first appears to be just a florist but inside amongst the plants & flowers are strewn vintage nic nacs and pieces of beautiful furniture. Across the road from Florian is Salvage cafe, another visual delight of antique and industrial salvaged style to browse whilst you sip your beverage of choice.

Brighton now has a special place in all of our hearts and we all agreed we will definitely return. Our family is made up of myself & Mr B, our 22 year old son George and daughter Amber, who is 15 and we were all equally smitten with Brighton. There literally is something here for everyone. I think it’s one of the most diverse, interesting and exciting places I’ve visited for a long time, the people are eccentric, open minded and above all very friendly and the colourfulness of the town perfectly mirrors the personality of it’s residents. I think I’m a bit in love with Brighton!

From Hove we drove to Charleston, the home of the Bloomsbury group, which is a place I’ve wanted to visit for many many years and is only about 15 miles from Brighton. It was so amazing, that it deserves a dedicated blog post of its own which I will save for another time.