Thursday, 28 September 2017

Shop Small

Shop independent small business

Shop independent
Small businesses need our support

I love being part of an online community, and even more so being part of a huge group of creators, makers and artists. A lot of us creative people usually have a little side hobby – whether that is a blog, a focus on making an Instagram grid the best it can be or even running an online shop. Heck, some makers actually run their business full time! I’m part of quite a few facebook groups that are great for creative advice (I particularly recommend Etsy UK Sellers Social Group and UK Freelance Creatives), and I also suggest taking part in Twitter chats if you’re after some creative inspiration. Blogtacular, Hashtag Authentic and the Cbloggers hashtags are great places to start.

It was during one of these twitter chats that I discovered the Just A Card campaign. If you’ve not heard of this initiative, let me share their mission statement. The idea is to support independent shops, galleries, artists and designers by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small, even ‘just’ a card are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses. I am fully on board with their values and ideas – anyone that supports small businesses are a huge winner in my book!

The thing is, and I’m pretty sure I speak for most of us, I love what I do. Most of the time, our passion and drive to create is the only thing that keeps us going anyway! It’s not just the kerching sound that drives us forward, because the truth is, I’d do it all anyway, whether I was trying to make money or not. I can’t imagine a day that goes by without putting pen to paper. It may not be a masterpiece, usually it’s just a doodle in my sketchbook or a quick decorated note to a work friend, but it’s still something.

It’s so important to support creative and independent businesses – there is SO much wonderful creativity out there! I don’t want to see us all have the same art on our walls, identical bracelets and matching greetings card decorating our houses! How boring would that be? The fact that there is so much choice is amazing – I don’t see other businesses as competition. I think it’s wonderful that there is so much choice and something that can suit everyone’s tastes. My prints may be a bit twee, but you’ll be sure to find something else on Etsy. Maybe you love quotes and hand drawn paintings, in which case, you’d be my perfect customer!

Behind every small biz will be a hardworking entrepreneur trying to share their passion and add a smile on someone’s face. It’s true what they say; every purchase (no matter how big or small) makes us do a happy dance! It means the absolute world to me when I get the email saying someone has bought something from my Etsy shop. The thought of a print being on display in someone else’s home is incredible to me! The knowledge that my art on a greetings card will be on top of a mantelpiece and sending well wishes to whomever receives it is what I do this for. I just want to create things that make people smile and the more sales I make, the more I think of the happiness that’s being spread around.

With that in mind, Just A Card promotes the purchase of just that. Whether you want to make a bigger purchase and stock up on all your Christmas presents early, or if you’d just like an extra special card to send to a friend, buying ‘just a card’ makes all the difference. And it doesn’t just have to be a card, either (though it works well for print based businesses like mine). It works for buying any smaller item in any shop – either online or in the little independent shop trying to make ends meet next to the bigger brands in the high street. If we all bought one thing, it would make a huge difference and I really encourage everyone to do so. A purchase here or there is a great way to support the creative scene. It puts a smile on your face, and someone else’s. It’s a wonderful feeling! Let's pledge to shop independent this Christmas and support small indie makers. A small purchase can make a big difference and let's face it, the world would be a very boring, samey place without 'em!

I'll be back with a few of my favourite small businesses in a blogpost soon, but if you have a favourite, please share them in the comments below!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

a guide to bath

a guide to bath
Back at the beginning of July, Graham and I went away to Bath for a few days as part of my birthday celebrations. Though it was a very fleeting visit, being the planner I am, I made sure we had plenty of choice in terms of activities and eateries. My friend Mandie asked me for some recommendations recently as she’s also planning a trip, and it made me realise just how much I had to share.

I put a tweet out before I visited and received a wealth of knowledge from people who know Bath a lot better than I do – so if you’re planning a trip soon, this post has you covered.

the pump room bath restaurant

Where to eat

Let’s start with my favourite part! Being a total foodie, a lot of my trips tend to revolve around food, and Bath was no different. I’d been to Bath very briefly back in MAY for a hen do and had a delicious thai meal, so heading back there with Graham was top of my list. It’s not a one off in Bath, though, as I’ve since found out there are a few restaurants around the South – but Koh Thai Tapas was a big hit for us.

For a special breakfast, we booked The Pump Rooms. Recommended to me by my friend Mo, it’s set in the most gorgeous Georgian room and overlooks the Roman Baths! It felt extremely fancy and we were well looked after. Though we went for breakfast (and I tried maple bacon pancakes for the first time!), they also do lunch or afternoon tea and booking is advised. It felt very luxurious and high-end, within a pristine setting and impressive chandeliers, as well as housing the grand water fountain that supposedly contains curative water. Friends warned me not to drink this though, so do so at your own risk of ill health rather than miraculous medical cures!

Boston Tea Party, down on Kingsmead Square has come highly commended by a few others, and looks like the perfect place for a cuppa and a slice of cake. Though if you’re after something street, Sally Lunn’s buns is infamous for its sweet brioche bun. It’s tucked away up a side street (North Parade) and was extremely busy when we visited, so I’m yet to try one for myself.

My friend Emma recommended a couple of places in Kingsmead Sq including Society Cafe and Swoon Gelato – gelato is my weakness but unfortunately we ran out of time! If you fancy pizza, Dough or The Oven come highly recommended, too.

Places to visit in Bath

2. What to do

Let’s start with the obvious ones, and the places that were recommended to me multiple times. You can’t go to Bath and not see the Abbey – whether you go inside for a tour or not, it’s impossible to miss and a stunning church.

The Roman Baths are an extremely popular tourist attraction and no doubt one you’ve heard of! Steeped in history, the baths are very well preserved and grand, housing various artefacts found on site. The baths are open air and below street level, with impressive columns and a great insight into the Roman era.

As you head north, through the shopping streets - I was surprised at just how much retail space there is – not just the main high street but also a large shopping area to the right of you) you’ll find The Jane Austen Centre on gay Street. It’s a small museum but a must if you’re a fan, and there’s also a Regency tearoom housed here, too.

where to visit in bath

The Royal Crescent is also infamous – a row of terraced houses in a sweeping crescent overlooking the green opposite. It’s very impressive with the columns and curves, and if you’d like to see an authentic representation of how it used to look back in the 18th Century, No. 1 Royal Crescent is a museum you should explore.

I think the land opposite the crescent is a great place for a picnic, and I particularly loved the walking back down Royal Avenue to the main town being surrounded by beautiful flowers and woodland. There’s a Georgian Garden here and Adventure Golf, so plenty to explore. Next to Royal Avenue is The Circus – another impressive layout of Georgian architecture. In Latin, the name translates to ring or circle – which is exactly what you’ll find because no matter where you enter, you’ll be greeted with a classical facade right in front of you. Again, there’s a green space in the centre though it gets busy and there are quite a few tour groups that congregate here.

The Royal Crescent Bath

Harriet (who lives in Bath) recommended a few areas that are out of the immediate town centre and perfect for seeing other parts of Bath, but still easily within walking distance. Head to Walcot Street for the independent shops, and walk down Great Pulteney Street to find Sydney Gardens, tucked behind the Holburne Museum. There’s plenty of green space here to spend a chilled afternoon, and having the Canal running through it makes it a picturesque spot.

My final recommendation for activities is another spot that often comes up in conversation if you mention Bath, the famous Thermae Bath Spa. Extremely popular and one of the city’s main attractions, the hot spa water is fed from Bath’s hot springs, with five floors. It’s glass walls inside is a stark contrast to the historic beginnings, and contains a huge amount of activities, including indoor and outdoor pools, spa treatments and steam rooms. When I visited on the hen do, the queue was out of the door and you can’t book spa sessions (only treatments or if you’re in a large group), but we booked the Cross Bath, just over the street. We had our own private pool and it was perfect – totally shut off from the busy streets outside and in our own little world.

uk art lifestyle blog

4. Shops

Like I mentioned above, there is a HUGE amount of shops in Bath so plenty of opportunity for some retail therapy. I loved how a lot of the shops are housed in Bath stone so the exterior doesn’t look like every other high street. For books, head to Mr B’s Book Emporium on John Street – I could have spent a long time here as it was such a charming place packed to the rafters with beautiful books.

I didn’t manage to make it to Minerva Art Supplies, but did visit Rostra Art Gallery on George Street. It had one of my favourite artists showing there, Charlotte Farmer, as well as a good selection of contemporary art. It’s only small but it was lovely perusing the work of local artists and seeing a gallery doing so well.

Emma also recommended Grace & Ted if you like designer goods – but without the designer price tag! It’s an independent store run by a Mother and Daughter - a perfect place to find something special.

mr bs book emporium

5. Where to stay and park

For parking, we had no trouble finding a space in Avon Street. There are also long stay car parks on Manvers St and Charlotte St, which are to the north of the city. We stayed at this lovely Airbnb that was a quick drive from the city centre, self-contained and very comfortable. There is a Travelodge in the heart of the city which we would usually choose, but parking isn’t included and it was cheaper to go with Airbnb. Tony was a great host with excellent communication.

sally lunns bath guide uk blog

I told you I had lots to share! Sadly we were only there for a day and a half but there are plenty of recommendations here for a longer trip! Bath is so charming and I love the historic feel of it – the bath stone gives a warmth to the city and I adored the architecture. It certainly helped that the sun was shining for us but I’ve no doubt it’s just as lovely in the rain. Have you got any cities in the UK that you have a soft spot for?

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Resolution update

2017 resolution update

We’re well over half way through the year now which is crazy, and I thought I’d write an update on the resolutions I shared back in January. I know it’s cliché to say (and even more of a cliché to say it’s cliché!) but seriously, I don’t know where this year is going! 2017 is flying by but it’s been good to me so far.

I always think it’s a good idea to take stock and look at what’s happened, where things are going and amend anything that’s changed priority. It’s not a bad thing if some resolutions haven’t been achieved yet - sometimes it’s a case of reminding yourself of your goals or remembering why you set them in the first place.
When you write resolution posts you have great intentions to keep up with it all, but I’ll be honest here and say they’ve not really been in the forefront of my mind. I’ve certainly not been thinking ‘I need to focus on this, this month’, or even consciously looked back at my goals at any point until now. Though I think it’s a good idea (especially as someone who is so forgetful) to write them down in your diary or planner each month, I think deciding goals at the start of the year has subconsciously been with me anyway.

I use a one word concept for my resolutions, and this year I chose 'Focus'. Focus is quite broad, but it works in so many different aspects. It’s one of the reasons why I like the concept of having one word for a year, because it applies to so many things but doesn’t feel like I’ve got a never-ending goal list to tick off.

on ME

I wanted to focus on ‘me’, Though in recent months I’ve fallen back into the habit of taking on too many things and feeling a little burnt out trying to please everyone and do everything, I am feeling so much better than I was in 2016. This time last year I was extremely stressed, anxious and depressed. I’ve changed jobs, which was a huge factor, did CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and worked my way out of it. Writing it out like that makes it seem trivial and quick but, of course, it wasn’t. Though the first few months were rough, I’m feeling so much better and a lot more positive. It certainly feels like I’ve made a momentous turning point, anyway.

I’ve focused on a goal that I’ve had for years and years, and that was to open my online shop. You can read more about that in this post, but I love creating and I am really enjoying the feedback I get from everyone who orders. The idea that my art will be displayed in someone else’s home just makes me so happy and gives me even more motivation to continue doing this and growing my product range. More on this in the goal below.

On my body

Focusing on my body and exercising has had its peaks and troughs! There were a good few weeks where I cycled every day – doing hill reps and seeing progress. Annoyingly, I didn’t keep this up and to be honest, I don’t have the motivation to start again either. One element of fitness that I have kept up are my weekly Pilates classes. Though it’s not cardio and isn’t helping me to lose weight, it’s excellent for correcting my posture and stretching my muscles. I adore Pilates and recommend it to anyone – it’s actually a surprising workout considering how slow and small the movements are but, done correctly, can make a big difference. One thing I’d like to improve on is doing it more at home – ideally every evening, as the progress and improvement would be a lot greater if I did it more than once a week!

on my illustration

I wanted to focus on my illustration and I’m really happy that this one is probably the best of the lot! Like I said above, I opened my online shop in June and it really pushed me to create more. I’m still illustrating and sharing bits and pieces on Instagram as well, which is another area I’ve spoken about on the blog, in this post here. Each month, I’m challenging myself to launch new products in my store, whether that’s a whole new product or a new card design. On top of everything else (I’m also taking on more commissions as well being creative in my day job as a graphic designer) I’m quite pleased with how things are going. Of course I’m always needing more time, and I do wish I could stay at home and create full time, but for now, I think I’m doing well. Becoming freelance will be a goal for next year!!

on my online presence

This is an extra goal I’d like to add in for the rest of 2017. After attending Blogtacular in June (a prize for designing their notebooks – you can see the other fantastic entries here), it’s made me realise how much more I want to do. I wrote a lot of notes and came away with a lot of ideas, but due to the lack of time I mentioned before, I’ve been plodding along doing the bare minimum. I’d really like to push myself more and utilise as much time as I can to create useful content for my audience. A lot of the time I can feel overwhelmend by all the things I expect myself to do, but I really do think that this push will pay off in the long run. I just need to use my spare time better and make time for these things (instead of wasting the hour before bed where I just scroll through social media!)

How are your resolutions going? Let me know in the comments and hopefully this will give us a boost to achieve everything we hoped for back in January!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Terry's Chocolate Orange Recipes

terrys chocolate orange chocolate orange recipes

Father’s Day is quite literally around the corner and, if you need a last minute gift or some delicious treats for the day, these recipes are the perfect solution. Terry’s chocolate oranges have always been a big hit though I do admit to thinking it was more of a Christmas affair. Obviously not so, as I found plenty stocked in Tesco and I’m very happy to say we can eat them all year round.

I’m sharing two recipes today that can be made with Terry’s Chocolate Orange - both simple and perfect for a special occasion. The first is the great Rocky Road, and the second, an easy Millionaire's Shortbread.

I made these a couple of weeks ago as a ‘test run’ and can confirm they are both easy to make and absolutely delicious. They look really impressive too, and after taking them into work they were completely devoured within a couple of hours. If that’s not a thumbs up, I don’t know what is!


Rocky road is one of my staple bakes - every family occasion must include my rocky road for desert - otherwise I’m in trouble! This is my usual recipe (adapted from Nigella) with the addition of the chocolate orange - which just makes it all the more decadent. The method is simple and involves a lot of chocolate. Melt the chocolate with the golden syrup and butter. It’s important to let this cool once it’s all combined, otherwise the chocolate pieces in the next step will just melt into it.

Crush up the digestive biscuits and add to the mix, along with raisins and mini marshmallows. Chop up the white and dark chocolate into small pieces (or you use chocolate chips), along with the Terrys Chocolate orange. I chopped up about 3/4 of a whole ball. This recipe is so adaptable so you can add anything you like here - including cherries, mixed fruit, nuts, or even more chocolate orange - whatever is your dad’s favourite!

Finally, pop it in the fridge to set. When you’re ready to serve (or present!), dust it with icing sugar and chop into bars.


I was a little nervous for the shortbread recipe - I usually stick to my tried and tested baking repertoire, but this sounded so delicious I had to try it. I was so surprised by how easy it was - making shortbread and a ‘cheats’ caramel was not difficult at all and easy for the most in-experienced baker.

Start by making the shortbread. Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan) and combine the butter and flour together. The recipe calls for a food processor, but I just used my stand mixer. Once it looks like breadcrumbs, add in the orange zest and sugar and mix again. Take the dough out and work it with your hands to form a ball.

Flatten the dough into a disk, and then place into a lined square tin - you'll want one with relatively high sides so I just used a brownie tin. Use your fingers and push the dough all the way to the edges - it's very malleable so you can push and squish from other areas until it's all even.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Set it aside and leave it in the tin. While that's cooling, it's time to make the cheats caramel. It's not as fiddly as proper caramel, with no thermometers in sight, but it will need your attention as it needs to be stirred constantly. In a saucepan, combine the tin of condensed milk with the golden syrup, butter and sugar. Once it comes to a boil, turn down the heat so it's a simmer. Keep stirring so it doesn't burn, until it becomes a golden brown colour, which will take about ten minutes. Take it off the heat and transfer it to a heatproof bowl to cool and thicken slightly.

By now, your shortbread will have cooled so pour the caramel on top. It's an easy recipe but does require cooling time, as you'll now need to wait for the caramel to set slightly. I put mine in the fridge which worked well, and then started with the third and final layer.

Break apart and melt two and a half of the chocolate oranges. You can do this in a bain-marie but I just used the microwave for ease. After about ten minutes of the shortbread and caramel cooling in the fridge, you'll be able to pour the melted chocolate on top. Use the remaining chocolate segments to decorate the top and then pop it back in the fridge.

Once set, it’s ready to cut up into slices and eat! When presenting homemade edible gifts, I like to present them in a tin, with either tissue paper or just greaseproof paper on the bottom. It also means they’re air tight so will last a good few days. If you make these recipes, I’d love to see a photo! I’d also be interested to know which is your favourite, and which one went down the best with your Dad :) Send me a tweet on Twitter or pop a comment down below. Happy baking!

easy millionaires shortbread
uk blog recipe
rocky road recipe

Rocky Road:
125g soft
300g chocolate
3 tbsp golden syrup
150g digestive biscuits
100g mini marshmallows
100g white chocolate
100g dark chocolate
1 Terry’s chocolate orange
Icing sugar for dusting

135g butter
175g plain flour
55g sugar
1 orange, zested

379g can Condensed Milk
75ml golden syrup
150g butter
100g sugar
3 Terry’s Chocolate Oranges