Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Luxury and comfort at High Barn Cottages, Yorkshire

Can you spot our owl?

There can't be many self-catering cottages in the UK where, from the comfort of the living room or bedroom, you can watch an owl webcam via the television. In High Barn Cottages you can do precisely this. All five cottages are linked up to the webcam to watch the resident barn owl slumber in its nest during the day and occasionally fly off for food at night or meticulously preen its feathers.

How did I find this special property?
I had been searching on the internet for the perfect coastal cottage, somewhere on the east coast, for a short Easter break. I was hoping the holy grail of self-catered accommodation would reveal itself. By chance, whilst browsing online, my subscription copy of Coast magazine landed on the doorstep.

I first came across this magazine when we were staying in Northumberland last summer. Remember our gorgeous little flat in Seahouses? Coast magazine was provided for guests in the apartment and I spent so many hours drooling over driftwood and sand, I thought I'd get a monthly fix.

In April's issue they had a feature on a weekend in Bridlington, suggesting places to visit in and around this pretty seaside town on the Yorkshire coast. The author had stayed in High Barn Cottages and although there was only a very small image of the property, I took it as a sign. A quick look on Google and it was just what I had been looking for: a two-bedroom, two-bathroom stylish and comfortable barn conversion.

Their website was wonderful - 360 degree views of each of the five cottages, floor plans, oodles of useful information about the area and it was easy to see which dates were available. Why can't all holiday accommodation sites be like this?

After much deliberation I chose The Granary, a property on two floors and I booked it online. The owners, John and Angela Foster, were delightful to deal with: they came to the rescue when we had to delay our break for a couple of days because of family illness, changing our booking with no fuss.

The cottages are located just outside Bridlington. Surrounded by fields and trees, they are secluded and peaceful, but only minutes from the bustling seaside in one direction and the scenic Bempton Cliffs in the other.  Accessed from the road using a keycard at the gate, the cottages are secure, with ample parking. Each cottage has its own patio area with garden furniture at the rear, and a bench and low table at the front.

High Barn Cottages:
The Owl House, The Granary, The Spinney, The Hayloft and The Cake House
The owners, as the fourth generation to farm the land here, are committed to their role as guardians of the land and buildings for the future. The cottages are extremely eco-friendly: there is a wind turbine in the fields which is the source for the heating and collected rainwater is used for the washing machines and loos.

Our cottage, The Granary, has a large comfortable living/dining room with two squashy cream sofas, a wood-burning stove and a good-size dining table. The kitchen has a gloriously vibrant colour palette with vivid red worktops. The two bedrooms are spacious with high ceilings, both using features from the original barns to create unique living spaces. There are two chic en-suite bathrooms - one with a bath, one with a shower. Both bed and bath linen are top quality.

The Granary interior

The owners have given much thought to make the property luxurious and yet a real home from home. Underfloor heating and chic rugs downstairs keep the stone floors deliciously warm; a hamper is provided including home-made apple juice, chocolate and muesli; there's a bookcase full of reading material and free dependable WiFi. I loved the fresh daffodils on the table, the paintings on the wall (particularly the Ian Mitchell prints of Yorkshire) and the cheerful ornaments which give the cottage that personal touch.

Some of the little touches in The Granary to create a homely feel.

Is it suitable for children?
I would say children are welcome but the pond in the grounds makes it less than ideal for very little ones. Two of the cottages are single-storey and these are a good choice for those with mobility difficulties. Our family dynamics - two adults with two chilled-out teens, was a perfect match for High Barn Cottages. It's certainly a place in which you can kick back and relax. Just look at the feature window in the main bedroom.

How about this for a window and a view from the bed? 

I'll tell you more about our stay in Yorkshire in due course but our Saturday night's entertainment consisted of a fabulous meal at Suppattra Thai in Bridlington, recommended by other guests as well as our hosts. We returned home, opened a bottle of wine, and took our usual positions on the sofas. A quick peek at the owl cam was necessary, a ritual we had settled into during our four-night stay..

It soon became apparent that our little owl was a female and she was having a much more action-packed Saturday night than we were. Seconds after we switched on, a visitor flew into the nest to join his mate. It's a wonder the poor male wasn't put off his stride by the cheers and whoops from four very enthusiastic voyeurs sitting in a room just a short distance away.

The Verdict?
There was an overwhelming chorus of approval from the whole family. But don't just take our word for it. The accommodation is a finalist in the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2015 in the self-catering category, having already won several awards over the last few years within Yorkshire itself. I'm not at all surprised.


Friday, 17 April 2015

Fond memories of Jackie magazine

"I'm scared! Mind if I hold onto you?"

A suggestion from the Jackie Annual 1980 on small talk worth trying on a boy in the cinema. The article was titled 'Boy Calendar - where they'll be - what they'll be wearing - and how to catch them.' Apparently boys at that time could be found fishing, watching football and jogging with suitable openers being "Are those really maggots?" "Why is that one dressed in black?" and "You're not Brendan Foster's brother, are you?"

We may cringe at this now and despair of encouraging girls to attract boys by appearing needy or dim, but at the time the Jackie magazine was a trail-blazer for the young teenage girl market. I adored the magazine and nothing could prise it from my grasp when it dropped through the letter box every week as I hurriedly turned to the Cathy and Claire problem page.

The magazine, offering fashion tips, beauty secrets and comic-strip stories, was published between 1964 and 1993 but was probably in its heyday in the 70s. Looking back at my old 1980 annual I realise how tame and innocent it all was. It's full of silly quizzes and articles about boys. 'Catch him if you can', 'Could you light his fire?' and 'Are you a dating disaster?'

References to where you should go with your date for 'private moments' hinted that these activities should be chaste as they included going to the local library or taking a round trip on a country bus.

Jackie told me the way to a man's heart was through his stomach though I'd like to know how many young boys were treated to the enticing recipe of chicken with jacket potato and frozen peas - with grapefruit for starters and cheese and biscuits for dessert.

Celebrities were still fêted: no change there. The 'wanted men' in 1979/80 were Rod Stewart, Mark Hamill, Leif Garrett and Bob Geldof.

There's a wonderful article about gauging personality by looking at the shape of your thumb. Apparently my pointed thumb indicates that I don't like giving away much about myself but am a sympathetic listener.

I was always a sucker for horoscopes though I didn't heed their advice as I married the one star sign, Aries, I was warned to stay away from.

Teenage girls today must have a wealth of information at their disposal to help them through those difficult years but I don't suppose it's any easier. They might have the internet to scour for advice but the dating game will always be challenging, although at least now they can chat to boyfriends on a mobile phone rather than have to stand in the hall trying to whisper into the landline phone as members of the family wander past.

I'll leave you with this gem from Jackie 1980, so representative of the day. A light-hearted piece on 'You know it's time to leave the party when...' suggests 'your lurex boob tube is unravelling at the rate of 3 inches every ten minutes.'

This article originally appeared in the Lincolnshire Free Press in the Trish Takes Five column. Due to a glitch it didn't appear online so I thought I would share it here instead.


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

CanvasPop turns my photo into a piece of art

I love taking photos, especially on holiday, but I've never thought they were good enough to enlarge and become a piece of art. Until now.

Remember our trip to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne last summer and my arty photo of the upturned herring boats? I was quite proud of that, despite it being taken with my trusty click and point compact, and happily posted it on my blog. I assumed it would remain there, languishing online, until I maybe got round to printing a small 6" x 4" photograph of it sometime in the future.

Then I received an offer from CanvasPop. Would I like to try out their canvas prints? They would be happy to supply a 16" x 20" canvas of my choice for me to review.

I knew instantly that my herring boats shot would be worth a try so emailed the file to CanvasPop. They made some helpful suggestions - a 16" x 24" would suit the image better and, as I dithered with the choice of wrap (the edge bit!) - black, white or photo - they came up with a great solution. So as not to lose some of the image, they would create a 'mirror' image on the side, without losing any of the front picture.

In less than two weeks, all the way from the United States, my canvas print has arrived and it has far exceeded my expectations. It looks like a very upmarket, stylish artwork.

16 x 24 inch canvas print from CanvasPop

Hanging on the wall in the living room - art by me!

The quality of the canvas is excellent because the company use the highest quality materials which are designed to last over 100 years without fading. To make life easier, they provide free digital proofs so you know what you're getting and, when it does arrive, it is ready to hang - they even provide a hook and nail.

CanvasPop are committed to excellent customer service so if you need help or inspiration, there is someone there to guide you through the myriad of choices so you can turn even Instagram shots into works of art.

My print would have cost £55 but if you would like to try CanvasPop for yourself, they are giving away a 35% discount off your order with the code MUMSGONETO35, valid for the next two months, ending early June 2015. The discount is available for all readers in the UK, US and Canada.

Hand-crafted and hand-stretched in the US, the canvas prints provided by CanvasPop come with a 100% 'Love it' guarantee for life.

I love it. 100%.


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Step away from the computer!

I am sitting at the computer trying very hard to ensure my posture is correct. For the last few weeks I have been suffering from a trapped/pinched/displaced/blummin' painful nerve in my spine which has caused pain in my left shoulder and arm. For a while I just took painkillers and used a hot water bottle but it began to get worse. Sitting in a normal chair was the killer - shooting pains down my shoulder blade and arm. Sleeping wasn't fun either as I could only lie on my back.

Last week I visited Dougie's partner at the surgery for him to agree with Dougie's diagnosis and, although it was likely to get better with time and some anti-inflammatories, I booked myself some physiotherapy. Had a great session with a fabulous Irish girl, Sinéad, who agreed with everyone else and got to work on my neck and arm. Returning home with some exercises and tips on how to sit properly at my desk, I am gradually improving.

The computer is the main culprit, I think. I have a habit of slouching while I'm thinking of what to write. It doesn't help we have an extra keyboard placed in front of the laptop as I spilled orange juice all over the original one. I tend to push my neck forward to read the type as the screen is that bit further away. We keep promising ourselves a new laptop - this has forced us to get a move on and purchase one.

The iPad isn't much better as I hold it in my left hand when browsing on the sofa, with my head flopped forward. Dougie tells me I am on the iPad far too much anyway - grazing usually - so am now trying to ration both computer and tablet time..it's tough.

This post is now going on too long as my arm is sore again (cue the violins) so I will finish here and just point you towards the last three columns I've written for the paper - and that was a struggle. I ended up dictating the last one to a very patient husband.

The ten tell-tale signs that you have an empty nest - six months in, how I'm coping with Rory being at university. Do you have any more to add?

A parent's view of World Book Day - like it or loathe it, World Book Day costumes can prove to be a headache. But isn't Rory sweet?

The name's Burgess...Trish Burgess - my take on the news that MI5 are recruiting spies via Mumsnet as middle-aged mothers apparently have the aptitude for the job (one of my favourite column pieces, if I do say so myself!)