Posts tagged ‘Leeds’

March 25, 2014

My blog is moving!

Hello everyone.

After far too much deliberation, this week I am starting the process of converting my blog to a self-hosted WordPress.org site.

The new site will still be Margot & Barbara and you’ll still be able to find it at http://www.margot-and-barbara.com but there will be a few changes.

A new logo, for one. After realising that getting professional help in logo design and website building was going to cost me a month’s salary, I’ve opted for a DIY approach, with MASSES of help from Stephen without whom none of this would be happening. So my site will be ace, my logo will be hand-watercoloured and therefore terribly imperfect and wonky, but it’ll be all mine. As someone told me on Instagram the other day ‘integrity is magnetic’ so I’m hoping that people will appreciate the home-made quality of it! I’ll admit, I’m finding the whole thing one giant learning curve and I’m pretty terrified that I’m going to be writing into the wind with no audience at all. But I want to see if I can make this blog everything it could be and that requires change and a big old pile of bravery, so I’m going for it. Stephen did ask me how I’d feel about losing three years’ worth of writing and that made me gulp a bit, so lets hope it all goes according to plan!

The all new Margot & Barbara will be a bit more focused. I’ll have to get used to not writing about every little thought that pops into my head! I’m not going to be writing any more restaurant reviews, or Leeds event reviews, unless they’re about something I’m especially interested in. I shall leave that to the many talented Leeds-based bloggers out there.  I’m also dropping my blog-every-day plan. Let’s face it, it was never going to last, was it? So, three or four times a week will do nicely.

I’m keeping Three Good Things book reviews, and the occasional personal challenge/scanner-type post (because they’ve got fab feedback, and I enjoy writing them) and I will be doing more writing on gardens, flowers, grow-your-own and all things plant and food based and also travel and adventure posts. This shift is because of the feedback I’ve got from readers in the survey but also it ties in nicely with my own personal plans for the future.

The overall ‘green’ feel of Margot & Barbara (with the occasional glittery post for balance!) will stay and I and will be experimenting soon with making natural beauty products so I’m sure they’ll find their way into a post or two as well.  If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, you’ll find much of the same in its new home.

Later in the spring/summer will see the launch of the next phase of my changes and I’m SO excited to be getting things under way after a year of procrastination.

I really, really hope that you’ll come across and see me at my new site! Bye for now…

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March 19, 2014

Three Good Things.

Hello, and welcome to this week’s Three Good Things! It’s been a few weeks since I did my regular round-up of the small things in my life that have brought happiness to my days. Not because there isn’t any happiness going on, actually I’ve just been really busy enjoying life…

Anyway, without further ado, here we go.

One: Avoca socks

Avoca socks

I know, socks are not exactly the most thrilling of subjects. But when you’re trying to live a more minimalist lifestyle, a new pair of socks is a big deal! I only have five pairs of socks (two pairs of walking socks, one gym, two everyday) so I’ve taken my time to choose a new pair. I first saw these Avoca ones (which are designed in Ireland and made in Italy) a few months ago on a trip away to the Lake District and when the time came to buy new socks, decided to track them down, finding them in a little store in Harrogate, where I spent the day last week. More on the Harrogate trip later. Suffice to say, I love my new socks.

Two: The Grand Budapest Hotel. 

We paid our first visit to the Everyman cinema in Leeds on the opening night of Wes Anderson’s new film (which has its fabulous own website here) and it was such a great night. I loved this film so much. Aesthetically perfect, multi-layered (including being shot in three different formats to distinguish between periods), laugh-out-loud funny and overwhelmingly poignant, this is a triumphal return. As always, the whole film looks like it’s been shot through an Instagram filter, living in that parallel universe where all of Anderson’s films live. Which brings me neatly to number three…

Three: Pink.

I blame Wes Anderson for this. Ever since watching the above film, I’ve been obsessed with the colour pink. Not since Kay Thompson*  sang ‘Think Pink’ in Audrey Hepburn’s ‘Funny Face’ has the colour worked its magic through a film so much. The Grand Budapst Hotel in its heyday is a giant, frothy, towering fondant fancy of a hotel, and it is now all I can do not to paint my whole flat pink. Add to that the blossom trees near our flat that are teetering on the brink of exploding into confetti petals, and I’m totally sold that pink is my colour of spring.

So, those are my Three Good Things this week, what are yours? Do share…

*PS Kay Thompson is probably more famous for writing the ‘Eloise’ illustrated books about a small girl living in the Plaza in New York. They are all utterly fabulous and charming and you should read them. 

February 19, 2014

Three Good Things: learning something new.

Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of Three Good Things!

Sweaty Betty

One.

I’ve wanted to try a yoga class for such a long time but never plucked up the courage to take myself to a class, until I discovered Yoga Kula, a yoga centre really close to home. They offer a free trial class, which seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. I joined a level one Hatha class and I loved it. I’ve since returned for a second class and I’m doing a workshop on Friday night. So it’s safe to say that I’m hooked on yoga. The lovely folk at Sweaty Betty were handing out goodies at my first class, which is where the products in the photo above comes from. I’m going to put the water bottle on my bike–the colour ensures it’ll be seen when I’m on the road!

Watercolour box

Two.

I’ve not done any watercolour painting since I was at school, but I really love the time I spend doing art and craft activities with the kids and I’ve had a real yearning to try some more myself. Thanks to my boyfriend for the watercolour set above, I now have the chance to try! I’ll try to pluck up the courage to share some of my work over on Instagram.

Flow International

Three.

I finally got my hands on Flow InternationalHurray! Although it’s described as a magazine for paper lovers—and indeed it is — I was really drawn to the strap line at the top: Simplify your life, Feel Connected, Life Mindfully, Spoil Yourself. That sounds like my kind of life…

What are the little things that have been making you smile this week? Do share your Three Good Things with me…

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February 18, 2014

The Leeds Minimalist Group.

On October 21st, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus aka The Minimalists, will be arriving in Leeds as part of their international ‘Everything That Remains’  book tour, and in anticipation of that, a local group has been established to welcome them to our fair city but also for us to chat about minimalism and provide some support to each other. Our esteemed leader, Wendy, describes the meetings as ‘probably the most fun, enlightening and interesting experience of your life…’ And so I went along to the first gathering with high expectations!

Thankfully, Wendy is completely brilliant, and so that first meeting was held in a pub and not only was there beer, but there was also free food. There is basically nothing better at bringing people together than food and beer so the chat flowed freely as we all introduced ourselves and talked about our backgrounds and why we were interested in minimalism. Everyone had their story to tell and it was a fascinating and truly fun evening.

Now, long term readers of this blog will know these things about me:

1 — Habitually, I’m a collector. From Blythe dolls to vintage Penguin paperbacks, I have always loved a good collection. I blame my antique dealing parents for that!

2 – Despite this, I’m on an unexpected journey—because of big changes in my life— towards a minimalist lifestyle.

For me, having a collection that you love and have meaning for you isn’t the same as Keeping Up with the Jones’ — a competitive fast-track to debt and anxiety. Mindless spending on stuff is where my problem lies and, as I’ve been more mindful about where I spend my money, that has, in turn, reduced my level of possessions. From shopping locally, to operating my ‘one in, one out’ paperback book collection, I am making lots of changes which are having a beneficial effect on my stress levels and my bank balance. I may even be sending those Penguin books off to the charity shop…

I may never reach the levels of minimalism as my boyfriend, who has 100 items that will all fit into one bag (if you exclude his bike), but I do have very few possessions now and a genuine interest in continuing the journey towards reducing them even more. Fewer things means more head-space, I’ve found.  Plus, by getting rid of all the clutter, the possessions I want to keep have the space to shine. For me, simplicity and minimalism is fast becoming a route to happiness.

If you have any interest in minimalism at all, or even a curiosity to see what a group of people who get together to talk about this looks like, please do come along to the next gathering. I promise you that it’ll be fun, you’ll be made really welcome and you may come away with a desire to join in with us!

The next gathering will take place in The Tetley Bar and Kitchen. The gallery is open until 8pm if you wish to visit before the meetup starts. Entrance is free.

Date: Thursday 6th March

Time: From 8pm

Location: The Tetley Bar and Kitchen, The Tetley, Hunslet Road, Leeds LS10 1JQ

Hope to see you there…

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February 17, 2014

How to make friends.

On my recent blogging course, during a discussion about networking, the discussion turned to making friends. In that context, we were talking about making friends with other bloggers —I’m going to write about that next week, but I’m also interested in making friends more generally.

But it’s hard to make friends as an adult, isn’t it?

As the school gate, I have two friends. Many of the other parents will nod a ‘hello’ but that’s as far as the relationships go. We attend the same meetings, parties and sports days but are merely acquaintances because of biology. Giving birth to a child at the same time does not automatically create friendships, I never found. I suspect much of this is because instead of going to antenatal class, I gave birth ten weeks’ early and so never had the chance to meet other prospective parents and make those early connections. Still, the two friends I do have, I made because we discovered that we have other things in common alongside children. A love of wine, for a start. And the same sense of humour. So although I’ve never made lots of friends through school, the ones I have are fab. Even though they keep bugging me to take up ceroc dancing…

My long term friends, from college and work, are scattered around the country— actually, the globe. We make plans to meet, but they’re often scuppered by poorly children, other responsibilities, work commitments. These are the friends I’ve had forever. You probably have some too. They’re the ones who know all about your first kiss, or who held your hair back when you were sick after one too many drinks at college. The ones you were with when you tried to tape the songs from the Top 40 without getting any of the DJ speaking on (showing my age, there) and pored over the latest issue of Smash Hits with.  The friends who you don’t need to see for months, but as soon as you catch up, it’s like you were never apart. Although those bonds are strong, the length of time between meetings leaves for huge gaps of time to be lonely in.

So, the answer has to be finding new friends. Not to replace those long term friendships but to add to them. More friends! These ones are the folk you can get the chance to grab a coffee with, or go to evening classes together, because they’re local. These friends are the ones who will stop you feeling lonely on a day-to-day basis. And possibly, one day, you’ll have known them forever too…

Here’s how I am finding friends:

1: Twitter. Leeds is a wonderful city in which to find people through Twitter. If you’re in Leeds, you should be following @peopleofLeeds, a rotation curation account. I’ve met some of my closest ‘tribe’ through Twitter; people who I consider to be some of the closest friends I’ll ever have the good fortune to have, plus a good number of other people who are less close, but lots of fun. I know that in many cases, we’ll never meet in real life, but they’re still true friendships. However, plucking up the courage to ask someone if they fancy meeting up for coffee has led to some genuine ‘real life’ friendships, so I’d tell you to go for it. Just make sure you arrange to meet somewhere public for the first time. 

2: Blogging. Through blogging, I’ve met some wonderful people, both locally and further afield. Getting invitations to events means I have to be brave and often turn up alone. A glass of wine or two later, I’m hopefully chatting to someone who may continue to be a friendly face. This year, I’m hoping to get to a blogging conference or two and meet some people that I’ve chatted to online for a while. I’m going to write more about blogging friendships next Monday.

3: Trying something new. By trying new things, even if they’re a challenge, I start to feel better about myself. Which, in turn, makes me happy. Happy people attract other people, I’m sure. And if all else fails, at least I’ve tried something different and so I’m living a fuller life.

4: Following my own interests, goals, desires and dreams. Sometimes, people come to you when you’re not actively looking for them. By following my own interests, I go to events, take courses, and join online and offline gatherings. Being in a place surrounded by people with the same passion as you, you’re very likely to be able to strike up a conversation, which sometimes leads to longer term friendships. Do what you love and the friends will come.

How do you make new friends? I’d love to chat about this with you all…

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February 13, 2014

George & Joseph cheesemongers, Leeds.

It’s safe to say that avoiding supermarkets is a lot easier if you have brilliant local alternatives. Specialist shops might mean that you need to go from place to place rather than buying everything from under one roof, but the pleasure you can take from buying your food from someone who really knows their stuff turns food shopping from being a chore to a delight.

In North Leeds, one such shop is George & Joseph, a cheesemongers in Chapel Allerton. Tucked away down Regent Street in LS7, this little gem specialises in Yorkshire cheese and warm welcomes. I’ve been in a few times now, and always come away with gorgeous wax paper-wrapped cheese which we’ve thoroughly enjoyed. There’s something for all palates ranging from soft, mild goat cheese to strong blue cheeses as well as the crackers, chutneys and platters you need to serve your cheese on.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Fleming

Photo courtesy of Stephen Fleming

The first time we visited, Stephen the friendly owner of George & Joseph recommended the Old Winchester cheese which has become a firm favourite. It’s not a Yorkshire cheese—it’s from Lyburn cheese makers in the New Forest— but its firm, almost crunchy texture and strong nutty, Parmesan-esque flavour have got me firmly hooked. It’s genuinely my favourite cheese of all time. And that’s not a thing I say lightly.  Also, the cheese is made with a vegetarian rennet, which means its great for those looking for an Italian style hard cheese without the animal rennet that Parmesan always contains.

I’m thinking that a George & Joseph themed cheese tasting evening might be round the corner. Although don’t expect me to share the Old Winchester…

Do you have great local stores near you? Are there any other places in Leeds I should try too? Let me know!

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Margot and Barbara is changing! I’d really appreciate your feedback. Click HERE to take part. Thank you 🙂

January 30, 2014

Restaurant review: COSMO, Leeds.

As I promised in my Shiny New Blogging Timetable Thursday will now include ‘going out in Leeds’ posts and so here’s the first of them.

The new COSMO restaurant on Boar Lane in Leeds is an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant. I know what images might spring to mind when I say that, because they appeared in my mind too. However, COSMO is a lot more impressive than I was expecting. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the overall impression of the venue is one that’s bright, clean and nicely designed. The wavy wooden ceiling was a well-designed detail and I really liked the wall of booths along the back. You’re not prepared for the size and bustle of the place when you first walk into the small, street-level entrance. On descending to restaurant level it feels more like a street market than a restaurant; there are several places where you can choose to have food cooked freshly for you and there’s lots of people walking around, browsing the array of food on offer.

COSMO restaurant Leeds

Image courtesy of COSMO

When we arrived for our special bloggers’ evening, the place was packed, with the diners ranging from couples on a night out to groups of people who’d arrived straight from work. A birthday party was taking place in one corner, complete with candle-festooned cake and singing. People were clearly enjoying the experience and the attentive staff were making sure that the place was kept tidy, despite the fact that people could have plate after plate of food!

What’s great about COSMO is that it addresses two big problems when eating out. Firstly, my terrible ordering indecision. I approach a menu like it’s my last supper. Every time. With a buffet, I’m free to choose a little of this, and a little of that without impunity. Excellent. The second  positive about COSMO is that everyone can find something they’ll enjoy. Global influences from sashimi, via pizza, curry and stir fry all the way back to British roast beef, mean there’s something to suit everyone’s taste. Which makes it the perfect place to take a big group of people. Add the dessert wall to that mixture and you’ve got a recipe for success.

COSMO restaurant Leeds

Image courtesy of COSMO

Of the food I tried, I particularly enjoyed the Chinese dumplings and the freshly cooked teriyaki salmon. There was a decent vegetarian selection too, which I largely chose from, as my diet is mostly veggie or pescetarian.  The paneer tikka was very tasty! I do think that the fresh food stations are where the difference between COSMO and many other all-you-can-eat places lies. It’s reducing the likelihood of all the food sitting there for ages —and I noticed that the staff were paying lots of attention to changing food over, covering it up and generally ensuring that it was all as clean, fresh and tidy as it could be.The chocolate pudding I finished with was pleasant and covering marshmallows in chocolate from the fountain was lots of fun!

So, is COSMO fine dining? No. But it’s great at what it does. Which is provide a giant range of food to suit every audience in an enjoyable setting. And I already know my children would love it…

With thanks to COSMO for the evening.

January 26, 2014

Photo of my week #2

Friday night was the opening celebration of the third Leeds Print Festival, where I bumped into  Nick, my letterpress tutor and then enjoyed making this:

Leeds Print Festival letterpress

January 22, 2014

Three Good Things: January film edition

This week’s Three Good Things has a distinctly cinematic theme to it. January is the perfect time for film. It’s cold and gloomy outside, and the prospect of snuggling up on the sofa to watch an old favourite has much appeal. I’m also a huge fan of the cinema, so we often venture out into the cold to watch new releases on the big screen.

If Christmas and the summer holidays are reserved for giant super-hero blockbusters, then January is the worthy month; all the serious award heavy-hitters are arriving on the big screen around this time. The Golden Globes have passed and the Oscar nomination list has just been announced. My plan is to watch all the nominated films this year, and I’ve made a good start already.

One.

Hyde Park Picture House.

We’re so lucky to have this beautiful cinema in Leeds, and we recently saw American Hustle there (part of our Oscar nomination list) which was good. Not amazing. But good. Jennifer Lawrence is superb, in my opinion and the source of most of the humour in the film. I’m hoping to spend a lot more time in Hyde Park Picture House this year…

Hyde Park Picture House

Photo credit: @man_with_bag, who also bought my ticket!

Two.

Making an appearance for the first time on Three Good Things – YouTube. Because Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s Golden Globes 2014 hosting is perfect.

Three.

The third Good Thing this week is my joy to have found a fellow film lover to share my life with. As I mentioned, we’re working our way through the Oscar nominated films. Christmas was fun with Frozen and Despicable Me 2 (Best Animated Feature, so they count!)  and of the Best Picture nominations we’ve seen Gravity, Captain Phillips, American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave so far.  Of these, if I was to choose Best Picture it would be 12 Years a Slave. It’s a harrowing, important and beautifully acted film, with many incredible characters and a haunting score. In his Top 5 films of the week, Mark Kermode put 12 Years a Slave in all five positions. Whether it deserves that hype is another matter, but if there’s one film you should see in January, it’s this one.

What are your Three Good Things this week? What do you think will take Best Picture at the Oscars this year? And do you have any film recommendations for me to curl up on the sofa in front of? 

January 17, 2014

Matt Sewell Print.

As we continue the journey of making our new flat feel like home, we’ve started creating and buying art and craft pieces that feel like ‘us’. My proudly made letterpress work hangs in the sitting room, together with a new print from Matt Sewell.

I had the very good fortune to meet Matt at a book launch and signing in Colours May Vary  last year, where he signed a copy of Our Garden Birds for me to give to my mum for Christmas. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have bought one for myself as it was definitely a gift I handed over begrudgingly!

Anyway, back then, I was painfully coveting one of his giclée bird prints for our home. Since we’ve moved into this flat we’ve both become avid bird watchers. I’m going to write about this a bit more in the coming weeks but suffice to say, I’m a little surprised by how important these little birds have become to us over such a short period of time.

This month, the prints were back in stock and in a rare ‘sod it’ moment, I went ahead and bought a blue tit print. We have many little blue tits dancing on the branches outside our home and so it felt like a very fitting choice. Needless to say, my collector’s mentality now wants a row of prints along the wall but for the moment this little guy will do very nicely indeed.

Matt Sewell print

Have you bought or made any new things for your home this month? I’d love to know…