Monday, 12 December 2016

Review: Tickton Grange Hotel, Beverley

A couple of months back I was lucky enough to win a competition hosted by Living North magazine. The prize, 2 nights dinner, bed and breakfast in the rather posh Dearing suite at luxury Yorkshire country house hotel, Tickton Grange, was the perfect way to spend a few days before the Mr's birthday, and a perfect pre-Christmas winter break too.

A couple of week's back we set off to Beverley, and arrived at the hotel in the early afternoon. Our first impressions were that the hotel looked beautiful from the outside, the grounds seemed vast and Tickton Grange itself was, rather than imposing, as some country house hotels can be, warm and welcoming.

From the moment we checked in, each and every member of staff was absolutely wonderful, it felt like staying at someone's home because everyone was so warm and welcoming, and in no time at all we were on our way through the cosy corridors to our amazing suite, the Dearing suite. As soon as we opened the door we were astounded with the beauty of our room.

Admittedly, the structure of the building with it's full length Georgian sash windows which allow the light to flood in, give this place a head-start in the style stakes, but add into the equation the most amazing four poster bed, beautiful decor and a grand bathroom with a monsoon shower and really, you can't get much better.

My particular favourite was the seating area of our room, with bone china cups and saucers and comfortable seating, I admit, I didn't want to leave, and it wasn't long before I was knitting away on the comfortable sofa.

In the evening, we dressed up for dinner, and as we approached the Hide restaurant we were shown by the friendly and helpful waitress to a seat by the roaring open fire in the traditionally decorated bar. From here we could order apperitifs, and choose such beautiful meals as roast duck in honey and plum sauce, followed by pumpkin panna cotta (yes, it is as good as it sounds). It was so refreshing to sit in comfort and enjoy our drinks and conversation rather than being sat at a table upon arrival and waiting there for dinner to be served. We weren't shown until our table until the food was almost ready to be served, which is far more enjoyable, I wish everywhere would do this.

I didn't really take too many photographs in the restaurant, and that speaks volumes in itself because I wanted to enjoy the experience of the exquisite surroundings, the beautiful food and the amazing service. When I say amazing service, I'm not exaggerating, from arrival until you take your coffee back by the open log fire, you have the same waiter or waitress throughout and they know everything there is to know about the food that they serve you. It's done with real ceremony, care and attention and no request is too much. Our experience in the Hide restaurant made the stay as much as the beautiful surroundings, and even if it's just a lovely place for a meal that you are looking for, then this is the place I would recommend.

Just one little picture of one of our beautifully presented starters

We were back in the restaurant during the mornings for the most beautiful freshly cooked breakfasts to order, no hot buffets here and, of course, it would have been rude for me not to sample the beautiful smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, which I'm pleased to report were cooked to fluffy perfection. Whilst we were happy to wander out to nearby Beverley or Driffield during the afternoon, it was a welcome change to spend the morning in the comfort of the bar area knitting. It was such a nice environment that I felt totally relaxed during my whole time there, and everyone, including the owner, was friendly enough to stop and chat with use at any given time.

The Hide restaurant set for breakfast

After 3 days (2 nights) at this beautiful place, we were somewhat sad to leave it behind. With its mix of wonderful service, traditional comfort and style, warmth and fantastic food it was the perfectly relaxing winter break that we needed. I was so lucky to win the competition, but I would happily pay to stay here because it was such a good experience, and if you are looking for a hotel in the Beverley area, then I cannot praise this one highly enough.

The morning view from our suite

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Craft reveal: knitted boys vintage tank top

So, I think I started this tank top in August. I hadn't knitted an actual garment before, hats, shawls etc but not an actual shaped thing that a person could wear.

I decided on a tank top because a skilled knitter friend of mine said it was a good thing to try as a first garment. I also decided that a childs size tank top would be a perfect practice run for the tank top pattern I have for the Mr.

I seem to knit far more vintage things than modern... although it's not like I have a million previous knitwear projects behind me. I'm still very much in the starter category, but I really do like recreating some of those vintage looks with my knitting (I also like to stand in charity shops and laugh at the awful photographs on the front of some of them, but that's a whole other story).

I usually like to knit in pure wool or luxury yarns, but those aren't so practical for a toddler to wear so my friend, his mummy, chose this perfect 50% merino mix in a lovely airforce blue. The result was a lovely soft knit.

I like to try one or two new techniques in each of my knitting projects and this one allowed me to do shaping, knitting on double pointed needles and ribbed cast off, something else I will be taking into my next project. I'm getting to the stage now where I can look at knitting patterns and actually think, I can possibly knit this, instead of, however will I ever even get through this knit?

I'm really pleased with it and more importantly so is my friend and her little boy. The next project will be another vintage knit, this time for me. I can't believe the progress I've made in little more than a year.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Books: The Elephant in the Mirror - Annette Earl

During this final month of the year I always like to start thinking about what goals I would like to set myself for the year ahead. I’m a bit hit and miss with goal setting, sometimes I’m great, set really clear goals and smash them, other times I’m a bit flaky. I’m not going to beat myself up over it, I’m only human.
I’ve been a bit unclear recently as to what goals I might want to set for 2017, what I really need to focus my attention on over the next year, so when I was given the opportunity to review ‘The Elephant in the Mirror’ by Annette Earl, I jumped at the chance. Annette Earl is a qualified life coach (we all could do with one of those from time to time), and this book promises to help you to “…take charge of your life…” and to facilitate you in “Designing your future and then making it happen”
Photo taken from

I’m the first to admit that I do love a self-help book. My reading pile is currently a patchwork of mindfulness and enlightenment books, and I’ve already shared my little podcast addiction in previous posts. The difference I found with this book is that it seemed more interactive, that is, there are a lot of exercises to do in the book as well as an excellent website (where you can download the exercises if you don’t want to deface the book) to support you through the process.
The book focuses initially on your relationships with others, your environment, your self perception, career and money and trying to unearth exactly what is the elephant in your mirror (or the areas which need addressing that you may ordinarily ignore). Earl talks about confidence and, importantly, authenticity and asks some very direct questions which aren’t always the easiest to answer, after all, as she points out throughout her writing, life is lived just outside your comfort zone. Working through the exercises you begin to reveal the hidden, and maybe not so hidden elements of your life that aren’t serving you well, but importantly there’s a strong theme of self acceptance running throughout the book too, it’s not about becoming perfect (what is perfect anyway?) but about not being afraid to ask yourself the right questions about life, love, money, career, home, work and everything in between.
Earl is very keen to arm you with the tools you need in order to focus your attentions, and as she points out:
“…in some way, you are already the person you want to be. It’s just that you are constantly distracted by all the things you tell yourself you’re not.”
Wise words, I think, I’m often distracted by all the things that Instagram and Pinterest tell me I’m not too!
Having worked on discovering your ‘Elephant’ Earl then goes on to talk you through an ‘Authentic Elephant Action Plan’ and it’s this bit in particular which will inform the goals that I make for the year ahead. For my part, I did some of the exercises, but I didn’t throw myself wholeheartedly into them. As I progressed, however, I realised the importance of completing a good deal of the exercises, and actually, I fully intend to revisit this book AND the exercises during the coming month so that my 2017 goals are clear, well thought out and bring me a step closer to my life aims and values. I’m always happier if I’m working towards some goal and this book is definitely going to help me to concentrate my efforts.

If you too are about to embark on your annual (or more frequent) goal setting mission, ir even if you just want to take stock of where you are right now, then I would seriously recommend this book as something to aid you in that activity. It's a really useful tool, and definitely makes you ask those questions that you would otherwise ignore.
The Elephant in the Mirror is available here on Amazon and between 1st - 3rd December you can download it to your kindle for free. What are you waiting for?

Disclaimer - this book was provided to me free of charge for the purposes of this review

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Autumn comforts

As much as I like to complain about the cold, the rain, the frost and the fog, not to mention the biting North-Easterly winds that roll in off the North Sea from time to time, Autumn is without a doubt my favourite time of year. The golden light and the changing colours all around and that lovely fresh feeling in the air. At this time of year, I also seem to become more ‘homely’ if that makes sense. I want to make, craft and bake. I want to protect myself from the cold outside and enjoy simple pleasures such as a piping cup of hot chocolate, or tipple of Brandy to warm me up.

Beautiful Autumnal walks at local places are some of my favourite things to do

So, whilst it’s been a bit quiet (again) here on the blog, some of the things I’ve been indulging in have included knitting lots of little coffee cup cosies for me and my friends; the takeaway cups where I
work are really poorly insulated which means constantly burned fingers. I knitted one for me, and then it spiralled out of control and suddenly I’ve been running them up left, right and centre. It’s fine
though, they are the perfect train project since I can start one on the morning commute and finish it on the evening commute.

I’ve also started turning my attentions to cooking. I guess this is twofold though, not just about the weather, but also about wanting to maintain a healthy diet through the tough winter months. I’m not a huge eater of bread, it’s not something I crave, but I do like a nice rustic loaf from time to time, so I took it upon myself to try out baking an Irish soda bread loaf. I was pleased with the results, although I think that I didn’t work it enough which resulted in quite a crumbly loaf, but that’s a lesson learned for the next time. It did make quite delicious prawn cocktail sandwiches for work the next day.

Pleasing results for my first soda bread

I have a few more knitting projects lined up, including finishing a tank top that I started months ago, and starting a knitted waistcoat for myself. I’ve also been pondering some sewing projects after
discovering a bolt of fabric that I had forgotten about, in a cupboard.

With Christmas fast approaching, I wonder if there are any small gifts I could make for people too? A handmade gift is always more precious, isn’t it?

It would be nice if I could hold on to this homely feeling throughout the year. I don’t know why it only holds prominence in Autumn. Maybe that should be part of my life manifesto for next year, to value the simple things, invest in comfort and try to create (bake, knit, sew, cross stitch) each and every day. Is it too early to be thinking of resolutions?

Now I'm going to spend the rest of my Sunday watching Strictly, and knitting. I hope you all have a great week.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Starting the Holistic Journey

Life is a funny thing. It seems to be a journey where you lose yourself to later rediscover yourself, having grown and developed a new true and authentic self along the way. No denying, we are all influenced by our surroundings, the messages we receive as we are bombarded by media day in day out, and the people who we allow to be in our lives. It's easy to get caught up in all of these messages and influences.

Recently, I’ve been paying more attention to some of the holistic lifestyle interests that I had a good many years ago, some even before I was married, which have over the years become diluted, or lost in the maelstrom of everyday existence. I feel like I’m learning again, finding my way around the knowledge I once had but that which has become stale and stagnant from a lack of attention.

I used to be passionate about Aromatherapy, and even took an introductory Aromatherapy and Massage course about 10 years ago. I still have the original book that I bought for that study, which has proved invaluable over the years, but last week I made a concerted effort to revisit my favourite website for buying essential oils, and to stock up, not just on the basics that I believe are core to any aromatherapists’ first aid kit, but a few extras to treat some specific conditions too. It felt so good to receive the package filled with glass bottles full of fragrant wonder, and to start blending again, adding different oils to my daily skincare routine too, treating both my skin and my mind.

In the interests of continuously growing and learning, I also enrolled onto a distance learning course in a subject that I have always had more than a passing interest in, crystal healing. I’ve had more than one person raise an eyebrow when I’ve told them I’m doing this, but I don't care what the thoughts of others are, this is about me and about what I want to do. I have long held the belief that the energies contained within crystals can be used for our own health and wellbeing, and it’s fascinating learning about the chakras, colour association, crystal vibrations and so on.

More books that I’ve unearthed from my dusty shelves have been my herbal books, and I’m putting together a shopping list of some basic herbs that I want to start using. I think if I had my time again, I probably would have trained as a herbalist. I find it fascinating and I do believe that nature provides us with many of the materials to heal our bodies and minds, if only we are open to looking.

There are areas that I’m still working on too, these interests will always be a growth experience, and I look to develop in other areas too. I still dabble with yoga, I’d like this to develop to more than dabbling, and meditation is something I have an interest in too. I find podcasts to be a wealth of
useful thought and my particular current favourite is The Awakened Goddess Show with Angela Wilkinson, which is strong on empowering women in all areas of their life. It was after listening to a recent episode of this that I became aware of how out of touch with our own nature women have
become. This has subsequently led to a few books appearing on my Amazon wishlist that I’m really looking forward to finding the time to read.

It sounds like a lot doesn’t it? The whole point with taking a more holistic approach to life, however, is to use as many of the tools available to us as possible and treating the whole mind, body and spirit, not just one malaise. Despite having all of these interests before, I still feel like I’m taking the first steps on a new journey. I’m sure that I will pick some interests up and drop others, but I have this desperate need to reconnect with my interests, and with the world around me.

I feel better for taking the decision and starting the journey, already.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Review: Bivouac at Swinton

A few weeks ago we went to meet up with our friends in the Dales, at Bivouac.

When I first moved to Yorkshire, I lived fairly near to Bivouac, which is a pretty funky glamping site and part of the Swinton estate. Populated with welcoming looking Yurts and just a short distance from the walk to Druid's Temple, the site has a lovely rustic style cafe/bar on site too, and this is where we were meeting up.

Image is the property of

Made from a selection of small buildings, and with acres of estate land behind it, it has that true rural, away from it all feel and whilst I've never actually spent a night in one of the yurts, I reckon it would be a lovely wild setting. I've often seen the tails of smoke coming out from the log burning stoves that each yurt has and wishing I was in one.

Swinton Bivouac Masham

The cafe/bar itself is cosy and inviting, with mismatched brightly painted furnishings and a great mezzanine area to sit and watch the world go by from. My only real area of complaint for this beautiful spot is that the menu itself is fairly limited, I would have liked to have seen more rustic British dishes like stews and broths, but c'est la vie, there was still enough to choose from.

That aside, the burger that I did have was very enjoyable, and there is a great range of drinks including Fentinmans and a great range of coffees too. If I was going now I think I would be sampling one of their tasty and luxurious hot chocolates.

It was a very relaxing and jovial environment with a buzz about it and made the perfect setting for a lovely afternoon spent catching up with friends. Who knows, maybe some day I will get a chance to sample one of those yurts.
Yorkshire lifestyle blogger

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Images of Robin Hood's Bay, Yorkshire

I love Robin Hood's Bay. It's a mere half hour drive from me, and it's the perfect little place to go to just drink tea, eat cake and enjoy the quieter pace of life. Yesterday, I spent a perfect Autumn day there, and it doesn't really need words, so I'll share my images with you of walks around the winding cobbled streets and the windswept beach.

A perfectly relaxing way to spend the weekend.

Robin Hood's Bay Yorkshire

Travel blogger, Yorkshire

Photography blogger Yorkshire

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Happy Birthday to .... Me!!!

So, today marks me being another year older, another year wiser, and another year surer of who I am! I know that some people dread birthdays, I love them, I like to reflect on where I am in life and how I'm feeling. This time around, I've been making like the Queen and celebrating since Thursday. Well, it only happens but once a year, so why not make the most of it. The first stop on my 4 days of birthday partying was actually one of my birthday presents from the Mr. a night at the opera. I love classical music, but I had never been to the opera before, and Carmen, what a choice.

It was absolutely phenomenal, I enjoyed it so much and even got to wear one of my other birthday presents, a vintage Japanese Kimono. I'm totally in love with this Kimono, if I could, I would wear this every day. I don't think anyone would be surprised at my turning up at the office in a Kimono, but I don't rate the practicality of getting on and off trains in it! 

Friday evening I went out for a meal in York with friends. We went to Turtle Bay, which is gorgeous West Indian food, and my friends spoiled me with a beautiful Lapis and Sugilite bracelet and some fantastic stationary. I had a lovely time, arriving home on the second but last train just a little bit tipsy. 

Then, last night, I finally got to eat at the Copper Horse in Seamer, which I have been saying I will do for a long time. We had our table booked for 8pm, and I started with one of their beautiful Espresso Martini's. It's funny, I'm not such a big cocktail drinker any more, but if I know that somewhere will prepare a fresh cocktail with quality ingredients, then it's an indulgence that I look forward to. The Copper Horse is one of those places, and the cocktail didn't disappoint. 

Espresso Martini and vintage handbag

I love the decor at the Copper Horse, it has various higgledy piggledy dining areas and perfect lighting which creates an intimate feel. The whole place is a shrine to vintage stage and screen, and even the ladies has giant pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor in them. It was the perfect setting for my little birthday meal. 

The copper horse seamer

Once we'd ordered, we were served complimentary fresh bread with amazing homemade garlic butter, and then the main courses arrived. My Salmon fillet was cooked to perfection and the potatoes were absolutely beautiful. There was just a perfect amount too, I was happily full by the end of it. 

The Mr. had a gorgeous looking vegetarian feast of leek, potato and cheese bake, which was presented so beautifully. Neither of us could contemplate a dessert, but the lovely laid back atmosphere of the pub meant that we didn't have to rush off either. 

The staff were so friendly and it's a venue that I would definitely return to another time. 

vintage style blogger

Today, which is my actual birthday, but after the excitement of the past few days it's been a fairly understated affair. I did open my wonderful presents though which included a gorgeous new leather handbag (as you all know, I am a total handbag addict), a beautiful Dior compact mirror to add to my vast compact collection, and some other delightful gifts. It's been an absolute perfect birthday and if my year ahead is as good as this birthday has been then it will be a very happy year. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A Cultural City Break in Edinburgh, Scotland

A Crisp Edinburgh Morning

Well, that was most definitely a quiet spot in blogging, yes? Truth be told, I was planning to go away on holiday, and then I was on holiday, and then I was having a massive clearout and listing tons of my belongings on eBay. Seriously, it takes forever to list stuff on eBay, and I’ve not even got half of it listed yet. That explains why, however, there’s been nothing but white noise on this here blog. Of course, you don’t want to hear my excuses though, you want to hear about my holiday shenanigans, right?
Last Wednesday the Mr. and I boarded a train North to Edinburgh. I love Edinburgh, I don’t know whether it’s the fact that it’s less rushed, the people are friendlier or just the proliferation of tweed and tartan that makes me think it’s the best capital city in the UK. Anyway, having been promised a late summer heatwave, we arrived in suitably summery attire to be faced with thick fog, cold and drizzle.

The only option, of course, was to drag the Mr. reluctantly around Harvey Nics, Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Michael Kors! Well…. It was warm and dry in there.

Once we had checked in to our hotel, which was centrally located on Queen’s street, we wandered back out for a meander, stopping off in the amusingly named, but beautifully welcoming, Dirty Dicks. This pub was delightfully dark inside, with an array of nik naks and things all illuminated by gentle candlelight. It was fantastic, and I would highly recommend it if you’re visiting the city.

Dirty Dick's Edinburgh travel blogger

After stopping long enough to enjoy a pizza we returned back towards our hotel, stopping off and spending a few hours in the comfy leather chairs at a bar that had been recommended to us by an acquaintance of mine, 99 Hanover. It was a very relaxing way to end the day, before retiring for a well deserved sleep.
We had already decided before coming on the trip that we would fill it with as much culture as we could stomach, and so on the morning of day 2, after enjoying what can only be described as a hearty and good value Weatherspoons breakfast, we were off to the portraits exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. It was a real eclectic mix of self portraits, and whilst I couldn’t deny the talent displayed by artists such as Rembrandt, I was particularly struck by the presentation of selfie’s by Ai Wei Wei, they demonstrated how much social and political commentary can be achieved by one small self portrait on a social media site.
After drawing our own self portraits (I apologise for mine, I can’t draw), we visited the photographic exhibition, and then were surprised to discover we had spent ALL morning in the gallery.

We spent the afternoon perusing the old town, where I mostly drooled over beautiful tweed suits, and tartan skirts because frankly, I do love a bit of tweed and tartan. After a lovely meal at Viva Mexico, and a couple of hours respite back at the hotel, it was back out to the Royal Mile and to a bar called Whiski to enjoy Irish Coffee (yeah I know, in Scotland) and live traditional Scottish music.

British Travel Blogger
Mmmm, Irish Coffee
Day 3, and we were off to the palace to see the Queen’s dresses, but en route we got distracted by another photographic exhibition, this time at the Scottish Parliament. The Harry Benson exhibition was seriously impressive and spanned his whole career, with images of everything from the assassination of JFK, through to portraits of popular figures such as the Beatles, this guy was prolific and seriously impressive.

The Mr. enjoying the Harry Benson exhibition
Over at the palace of Holyroodhouse (where we weren’t allowed to take photographs inside) it was impressive to see some of the rooms that the Queen actually uses today to meet with VIPs, she obviously didn't know I was coming since she wasn't in residence (chortle). A few things struck me about the palace, how threadbare some of the rugs were, and how grand some of the chandeliers are. Such a juxtaposition. The exhibition of the Queen’s dresses though were the real reason I was there, and they did not disappoint. Amazing 1950s gowns with tiny waists and handsewn beads by some of Britain’s best vintage designers was truly breathtaking, oh, and more tartan and tweed of course.

Dress by Lindy Bop, Shoes Clarks, Jacket Gap
Keeping with the Royal theme, we walked to the other end of the Royal Mile to visit the Castle. Overlooking Edinburgh on a high extinct volcano, this is the perfect spot for views of the city and beyond and we were blessed with a fabulously clear day to see it all.

Inside the castle was as impressive as outside, with grand paintings, great halls and all around grandeur.

Edinburgh Castle

After taking a drink in the Kenilworth, which holds special memories of being the pub we drank at on the night of our wedding, we spent the rest of the evening back in the Old Town enjoying yet more Scottish music at the Doric.
A selfie in the pub where we celebrated our wedding years ago

On our final morning, we took in the permanent collection at the Scottish National Gallery, before wandering around Princes street gardens in the sunshine. The train journey home was a long one, but we were filled with fantastic memories of a wonderful break in an amazing city and I know that I won’t leave it so long next time before visiting again.

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