15% off at H&M

Discount codes for H&M are always worth investigating. Right now Club members (free to join here) receive 15% off orders over £60 – all you need to do is add the coupon at check out.

I’ve bought a few things recently in their sale and there are some lovely new spring items arriving daily. Here’s my round up of what to take a look at while the offer is valid.

Firstly here are the new Spring items, though Spring seems a long way away in these temperatures! This dress is the same shape as the William Morris print dress and it has a slip with it. I wear a 16 in it to fit loosely over my chest. It’s a really beautiful cornflower blue and will be great with white Supergas in the summer.

My lovely friend Sue brought this tunic to my attention. We have similar white ones from last summer, though this navy one is definitely shorter and doesn’t have a slip so I won’t be wearing it as a dress. Size down – a medium is great on me.

These culottes are AMAZING. I bought this colour last week and have just ordered the darker denim. I have a UK 14 and they are SO stretchy and lift beautifully. I just love them. Again with white sneakers, a t-shirt and blazer they’ll be just fabulous for the spring.

There is definitely a blue theme here – blue and yellow are definitely colours to look out for this season. I’m looking forward to trying this blazer and I sized up to a 16 for a more oversized fit.

This green blazer looks lovely and I want to pair it with a white t-shirt and white jeans.

These trousers look great for transitional weather and they have elastic in the back of the waistband for comfort. H&M do some of the best ‘pull on’ trousers there are – ideal for work. They’re available in this khaki, brown or black.

Now for some sale items so don’t dilly dally as they always fly out the virtual window quickly. It was hard to choose the colour for this jumper but I ended up ordering a yellow in Large to try. All of them would be beautiful on a chilly spring day. Each is reduced from £49.99 to £30.

This red is a similar style. Reduced from £39.99 to £24.

Now how about this coat. I first saw it on Chloe and for £20 I thought it was worth a try. I LOVE it – the fit is great and the collar is great popped up.

Here I am in it today with my Grenson Nanette boots.

This red coat is a winner too – I have this in a large and it’s lovely.

So given as it’s only the start of February there should be a few things in the sale that you can take advantage of the discount on! We’ve a while before bare ankles are the norm again I think! Right I’m off to watch the Superbowl – how ironic – 18 years in Atlanta and then we get the Superbowl the year we leave!


Our new home – the living room renovation

I was in two minds about writing about our renovation projects as I’m not a DIY expert nor an interior designer. Then again, I’m not a stylist either and I’ve been writing about clothes for almost 9 years! After all the questions I’ve received on Instagram about our new home, and the projects we’ve undertaken, I decided there was enough interest to write a few blog posts to help you out, if you are considering something similar. Learn from our mistakes – though I’m delighted to say, to date, there have been few. 

We moved at the end of October and I have to say we’re thrilled with our new home. The first few weeks were challenging as I was desperate to start decorating, but we first had to get all our boxes from Atlanta out of storage. The majority of these contained clothes – which complicated matters – we had nowhere to store what we unpacked! Hence for a lot of our short term storage we made a few trips to IKEA. Malm chest of drawers are cheap, roomy and the perfect interim storage solution. I’ll share my current closet solutions in a separate blog post.

Once we had unpacked we made a plan to tackle the communal areas first, especially as we are heading towards Christmas – I wanted to be able to decorate our first tree (a £199 faux one bought here – it’s incredibly real looking!) in Leeds. We started with the living room, so at least we would have a sanctuary, or an oasis of calm, while other projects take place. Having placed our offer on the house back in July I had tried not to get too carried away with plans, just in case…however by September, with our confidence buoyed, I started to spend time on Pinterest and interior accounts on Instagram (I’ll be sharing my favourites in future posts).

I was determined to create a room that showed off the period features – the high ceilings, the incredible coving, the fireplace and the floorboards. I was also convinced that I wanted to go dark with the walls. It was met with skepticism by some, and I was nervous it would make the room too dark, but heck if it doesn’t work just paint it white right!? I’ll reiterate – I have zero experience in design – but what I lacked in design knowledge I made up for in creative vision and I began to create a Pinterest board packed with ideas.

It was around this time that Farrow & Ball released their new colours. These included Peaen Black – an incredibly deep purple that reflects the colour of hymn books. I was smitten, but again cautious – it’s called ‘black’ for a reason! Also I didn’t want to pay Farrow & Ball prices but I fortuitously discovered Seagulls Paint right here in Leeds. They will match any colour and they repurpose paint – great for my pocket and the environment! Then it all began to fall into place. I found this rug on Wayfair.co.uk which I immediately clung to as an anchor for the entire room – it ended up providing the colour palette of jewel tones – golds, teals, purples and pinks. 

Wayfair Darcia rug

This is the image that inspired the room.

Living room inspiration

Initially I was going to select sofas from Loaf.com – they’re simply stunning, but with 2 dogs and 2 children practicality/value-for-money played a part in our final decision and we chose three sofas from Made.com. We’re thrilled with them. I got a little nervous as I read some poor reviews – but upset customers tend to shout loudest – and our experience with Made.com has been fabulous. We’re still waiting on one more sofa to be delivered next week, but we’re already planning to order this bed there in the New Year.

Our sofa choices are the Claudia Love Seat in Antique Gold:

Made.com Claudia loveseat

The Arianna three seater in graphite grey:

Made.com Arianna sofa

The Sofia three seater sofa in plush asphalt velvet :

Made.com Sofia sofa

I absolutely love them and delivery was as scheduled. To continue with the jewel tone colour palette I ordered a bunch of cushions from H&M Home – they’re cheap, colourful and perfect! Contrary to what my Husband says, you can never have too many cushions! To appease him we went with his choice of coffee table from Habitat – the Orrico in rose gold – it’s currently 30% off here too!! 

Habitat Orrico coffee table

I should mention that before we installed the furniture we decided to sand the floors ourselves! They were VERY dark and with dark walls we wanted a lighter floor – blog post to follow on my tips and suggestions for sanding and finishing floors – in the meantime read our friends’ post here at Fresh Start Living – they gave me the confidence to give it a go. We found it so straightforward that we’re doing the dining room floor this week.

We also fitted our own ceiling rose and new light! Having seen Alex (The Frugality) with hers I decided we should tackle it – what did we have to lose? As long as we follow safety precautions and turn the mains electricity off we’ll be fine right!? And we were! It’s so rewarding to do it yourself!

Our ceiling rose is from The Plasterwarestore, and our light is the Dexter Sputnik light from Marks & Spencer. Again I think the installation of these requires a separate blog post to follow.

So here we go! Here’s the before photo from the estate agent listing.

And here are the after photos. We’re still missing artwork, some of which I’ve ordered on Etsy.co.uk, and a mirror for above the fireplace. I highly recommend Homesense for accents like coffee tables, planters, foot stools and decor – it’s my favourite store right now!

Marks and Spencer Dexter Sputnik light
Made.com Arianna sofa
Claudia loveseat Made.com
Farrow and Ball Peaen Black
Wayfair.co.uk Darcia rug, Habitat Orrico coffee table

Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions – it can be quite nerve wracking making expensive decisions and trying DIY tasks! I assure you – the two of us can manage it – you can too!


Not Little Black Dress, but the Long Black Dress. The dress from the William Morris x H&M collaboration has reminded me how useful a dress can be. Wear it during the day with a chunky sweater and sneakers, or in the evening with ankle or knee length boots and a leather jacket. So versatile and I get to play out my inner Kate Bush.

Given we’re galloping at high speed towards party season I am considering two long black dresses that will allow me to sing Wuthering Heights at the top of my voice, while wearing a deep berry lipstick. Both are from Marks and Spencer.

The first is a Limited Edition dress that is similar in style, though far dressier to the instafamous go-faster stripe dress.

The second dress is also available in a beautiful purple print. I just love this and the v-neck is super flattering for a busty lass like me. Eve has it and looks lovely in it here.

I’ll report back once I’ve tried them with these sock boots which will give a really neat, flattering line at the ankle to contrast with the drapey fabric of the dresses.

Getting ready for my first UK winter in years!

I have no flipping idea how we have already got to October 2018. Having said that, selling our house back in May in Atlanta, seems a lifetime ago. I feel fortunate that I’ve had no real pangs of regret or remorse. If anything I’ve often found myself feeling quite giddy about being here in Leeds…you know like when Strictly is on, or when discovering Gogglebox, or when realizing that buying coats is now an essential and not a complete waste of time and money!

I do realize that Wednesday is bringing temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius…but if we ignore that little blip the coming weeks are bringing lower temperatures and darker evenings. Yes! It makes me so happy!

I’ve only just started to fully appreciate having all the big stores on my doorstep here in Leeds. H&M have always been a firm favorite but actually having one local, with stock in that I want to try is a bonus!

This coat is fabulous – totally on trend, fun, stylish and warm – and just £69.

Their puffa/padded coats are always great value and come in great colors. This plum one is beautiful.

I just love this faux fur coat – it’s so elegant and stylish.

I’m embarrassed to say, though you won’t be surprised, that I have ordered this padded coat in all three colours, with the intention of returning my two least favorite. Darn it – I can’t decide. They are GREAT coats and such welcome bright alternatives. I sized up for an oversized, slouchier look but if you want your regular fit they are TTS. Codes 6Autumn will get you £6 off when you spend over £60, 10Autumn will get you £10 off when you spend over £80, 15Autumn will get you £15 off when you spend over £100 and 20Autumn will give you £20 off when you spend over £150.

There are so many great coats to choose from and I have to be cognizant that I am moving house again very soon – fingers crossed! My husband will have a fit when he sees how much winter wear I’ve been squirreling away! I’ll be back with more soon! 

Finally here I am today – I’m about to head off this evening to a networking event – so I better choose a coat!

Jumper – Zara / Boots – H&M / Jeans – Mother Denim (on sale at The Outnet)


How do you measure happiness? Do we actually know when we’re happy and appreciate it? Do we know when we’re unhappy and make changes to rectify it? 

I’ve always considered myself a happy person. Yes I have been depressed in the past, but I have still found moments of happiness in those brief periods. My baseline of ‘normal’ fluctuates occasionally – so those moments of happiness are sometimes more subdued or less frequent. The changes I’ve made to my lifestyle over the past 3 months (moving to England, and basically doing more, resulting in living healthier) have recently made me think a lot about happiness. I know for sure that I feel wonderfully happy at the moment – and being a scientist I like to understand cause and effect. The thing is, the year before we moved I didn’t feel depressed or particularly unhappy. I just knew something wasn’t right, and something needed to change. Or put another way – there was potential for greater happiness in my life, and who wants to miss out on a chance to be super happy!?

This feeling, was just that – a feeling, an intangible, an unknown. I took a huge risk in selling up and moving my family around the world based on an emotion – a desire to be happier. Writing that makes be shudder a little – wtf was I thinking? – More to the point my husband and children all went along with it without question! Does that mean we were guided by this ‘universal energy’, or similar, that I keep reading about in my ‘how to be a better person’ books? I’ll probably never know, but I have learned that if I trust my instinct and apply a little effort, I normally land in the right place. I have countless examples over my lifetime from deciding where to go to University, to changing careers to facilitate my relocation. I don’t remember doing any of these consciously – but something guided me in the right direction!

If we assume our level of happiness is unlimited why would we limit ourselves to our current level of happiness, especially when I’m certain happiness and health are correlated? It’s great to say ‘I’m happy’ – but what if we could increase our happiness and be happier!? I’m not suggesting we all take risks as monumental as my own, but why not take a few smaller ones? That class you wanted to take, or that new career you’ve been hankering for? A couple of friends have recently embarked on their v2.0 by beginning new careers in their late 40s, and this has got me thinking about what is next for me? How do I further increase my happiness quotient? Better to say oops, than never to try, right? My track record tells me it’s unlikely to be an oops.

What I’ve been buying since moving to Leeds.

We’ve been here two months now. We’ve been across the Pennines, traveled to the Cotswolds, watched a cricket game, and just last night we went to the Proms at Castle Howard. We are certainly making the most of being back in the UK that’s for sure. 

As for what I have been buying, well I guess the big purchases have distracted me from more trivial purchases – a couple of cars and a house can do that! That’s not to say we haven’t enjoyed some shopping trips! Leeds is a real treasure trove for shopping. The centre is clustered around the Briggate pedestrian area, which acts as an anchor for other shopping areas. It’s so easy to navigate between the Kirkgate Market, The Corn Exchange (pictured above), the Victoria Quarter and the newer Trinity shopping centre. We’re so lucky that many of the older buildings, like the market and Corn Exchange have been preserved – they’re a fabulous contrast to the new John Lewis housed in Victoria Gate. 

Animal print

You can’t escape the influx of animal print this season and one of my new favorite stores is New Look. They’ve been around years and I remember buying a very special suede mini skirt there, that I wore in the early 90s. It’s disposable fashion, and priced accordingly, so I do take care not to buy impulsively. Living out of my capsule wardrobe for a couple of months has highlighted the ease of having fewer decisions to make. Less most definitely is more.

New Look dress – keeps popping back in stock in various sizes

This dress is fabulous. It’s a wrap dress so really easy to wear and I wear a black cami under it for modesty. It’s quite often sold out, but pops back in stock often. It’s perfect for today with sandals or in the cooler months with black boots and a leather jacket.

New Look trousers

These trousers are waiting to be worn. I’m thinking a plain white t-shirt and white sneakers will be just the ticket. At just £17.99 they’re a real outfit maker. Wear later in the season with an oversize black knit or sweatshirt.

Marks & Spencer animal print jumper

I had a Marks & Spencer 20% off voucher for my birthday and I honestly tried to use it for the kids’ school uniform, but uniform was excluded from my offer…so I bought this jumper for myself. I bought it in a extra large for an oversized slouchy fit with skinny jeans. I saw it coming down the escalator and couldn’t leave without it!

AllSaints sale

I make no secret of my love for AllSaints and it’s wonderful having access to a store again here in Leeds, not to mention their concession in John Lewis. I do try and buy only in the sale as they are by no means cheap, but my AllSaints pieces are the items I go back to time and again, and several of their pieces made it to my capsule wardrobe as I knew I wouldn’t tire of wearing them while we moved.

This is the time of year to buy – the sale is on and now with an extra 20% off.

The Hawley oversized shearling jacket

This jacket is a real investment piece – something that will age beautifully and be a real work horse every winter. At £454 it’s still not cheap – but darned cheaper than it’s original £998! AllSaints cannot be beaten, in my humble opinion, when it comes to leather jackets.

The Balfern suede jacket

This grey Balfern suede jacket may be completely impractical, but there is no denying it’s beauty.


Finally, just when I thought I had all the boots a girl can need, albeit currently in storage (hence my justification), these arrived on the Zara site.

Zara cowboy boots

I wore them last night to Castle Howard. The quality is fabulous for Zara, and the leather is beautifully distressed.

Zara Snakeskin cowboy boots

These snakeskin cowboy boots are stunning. If you have wide calves you may need to wear them slouched – but under long prairie (yes back to the 80s again) skirts or dresses they look amazing.

Has it only been 2 weeks!?

Really I feel like we’ve been here a month already! Where do I begin? Well as as the song goes…let’s start at the very beginning…of the journey.

As our final days in Atlanta drew to a close, we had a yard sale and gave everything away that we didn’t sell. It’s ridiculous what you can collect over 18 years…and of course nothing electrical could come with us, it’s just not worth all the adaptors! We also finalized the sale of the house which was ridiculously stressful. In the US the buyer pays for a full inspection, and can negotiate fixes etc. even the most irrelevant things like ensuring the sprinklers ‘work properly’. Well that’s all open to interpretation of course, so we had lots language to edit in our contract. Yup pretty stressful! The good news on the house is it all closed last week, so we are now ready to begin our search for our new home, with intensity, here in Leeds.

The flight itself was easy – we were even upgraded! Thanks to my husband’s meticulous planning the dogs were boarded and collected as planned, and we jumped in a rental car to Leeds! It was pretty weird to say the least, driving across the M62 to a city we’d never lived in before! Our rental house is fine. Small, but big enough for temporary accommodation, and best of all just moments away from Roundhay Park, allowing us regular runs and walks around the lake.

Hugh has already started school – in fact he started 3 days after we arrived! It’s a lovely small local school which he adores, especially as he can walk himself to and from school, thus gaining the independence we had promised him. Poor Poppy has had to do tests for streaming, as we didn’t have SAT scores for her. She starts on Wednesday this week and has already taught herself to tie her tie with YouTube videos. She’s made friends there too – a lovely Australian girl showed her around, so it’s great that they can both be the ‘foreigners’ together! Most importantly for Poppy she has a cheer team. She’s tried out for the various levels and made her presence known.

I’ve not stopped eating since we arrived and joked the other evening that I felt a little bit ‘This Country’ in my sweats, eating fish and chips watching the World Cup. Kerry would be proud.

As we’re settling in I’ll be posting more regularly again. For now thanks for tuning in. We love our new life so far, and are happy to report no regrets.

A week today.

I cannot believe we are here – June 4th, meaning a week today we will be flying to our new home in Leeds. I’m tired – emotionally and physically. Not surprisingly I’m not sleeping well. We’re all happy and excited but every day there is a milestone. Last week we had the inspection for our house sale here, yesterday we had our yard sale, today the appraisal, tomorrow there are other things we need to check off the list. It’s kind of eerie – I’m sitting in an almost empty house – with just mattresses for us to sleep on this week. It’s like being a student again but with more stress!

My Mum and Dad are kindly heading to Leeds tomorrow to receive our IKEA delivery for our rental, and let the cable guy in so we’re ready for the World Cup! I’m so thankful to have people there who can help while we manage the loose ends on this side of the Atlantic.

The dogs’ crates for flying have arrived, though that process is still incredibly stressful as we have to make sure paperwork is in order so that they are accepted as freight on Monday, and then allowed through customs on arrival in Manchester on Tuesday. Our dogs are both 60-80lbs, so the crates are enormous and that means we need to rent a truck from Manchester to Leeds that will hold the 4 of us and luggage, plus the dogs in their crates! The logistics are crazy!

The good news is we may have school places for the children. Leeds has an over subscription problem right now – too many children for too few places. In order to secure places for Poppy and Hugh we might have to send them to school for the rest of the UK school year, which they aren’t going to be happy about as their school year here ended last week! I’m not going to win any Mum of the Year awards for that am I – especially as I told them they will have a lovely long summer? On the positive side it means they can acclimatize quickly and meet new friends before the UK summer holidays start. I’ve got a hard sell on my hands.

So as I say I’m tired, and it’s not surprising, but at least last week we got to have a lovely last hurrah in NYC with my Father in Law and Brother in Law’s family. It was wonderful to see them over here, and great for Poppy and Hugh to hang out with their cousins. It was reassuring how well they all got on as I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of them over the summer down in London!


The beginning of the end!

That is how it is starting to feel anyway! The beginning of the end of our time in Atlanta. It feels quite daunting to be a quarter of the way through April, knowing we only have 6 weeks left of the school year, and therefore 6 weeks left of needing to be here in Atlanta. Once the end of May arrives we could be on a flight.

We have stuck a pin in the calendar and are working back from an ETA in Leeds of the week of June 11th. We needed to at least plan on a departure date, as the dogs have to go through a time sensitive process of vaccinations and paperwork. We also needed to find a house to rent that would allow pets. That search, although stressful, was thankfully brief. Although Leeds has an abundance of rental properties, given it’s three universities, there is a dearth of landlords who welcome pets. We were lucky, thanks to the help of friends in Leeds, to find a home that will welcome our dogs, and give us a 6 month lease while we search for a home to buy.

So while it’s exciting that we now have a place to land, we’ve recently had numerous poignant ‘lasts’ – our last Spring break, our last Masters tournament in the same time zone, our last Easter in the US. I’ve tried to conceal their significance to me from my children – I don’t want to keep saying ‘this is our last…’. Interestingly though, instead of a fear of leaving, I have more concerns about adapting to our new home. Will I still love the UK as much as ever? Will I constantly compare things with here? Will we be accepted? Will the children make friends?

Poppy and Hugh continued to be buoyed by the thought of an extra month of summer holiday, their biggest concerns right now appear to be being penalized at school for US spelling, and ‘English money’, and how to convert from dollars to pounds and vice versa…Dave and I, while not challenged by currency conversions, are suddenly confronted with dealing with Celsius, grammes and kilograms! This move once again reminding me how two countries, sharing the same language, can be poles apart on so many other things!

The decision

It’s made! We’ve decided! After weighing up all the pros and cons, and countless sleepless nights we have decided it’s time to move to the UK!! We’re starting our next adventure. Now we’ve decided I’m actually incredibly excited! The children are at peace with it too – Hugh is excited, and Poppy is thrilled about some things, and fearful of others – but the promise of being able to design, decorate and furnish their rooms appears to be keeping them happy at the moment. Poppy is also compiling a list of ‘weekend break destinations in Europe’ – she has wanderlust and is obviously her father’s daughter.

I won’t lie – I still get palpitations and freak out moments where I’m asking myself ‘what the fuck are we doing?’, but they are fewer and fewer as time passes. Last night I cried with frustration, questioning if we should have done it sooner? If we should be doing it at all? How I’m disappointed that I don’t feel anything is keeping me here in Atlanta. The strangest emotion is that I actually feel a little resentful towards Atlanta for not giving me anything to keep me here after 18 years. I guess I had hoped to feel more sad about leaving, which ironically makes me feel sad that I don’t. You following me? I’ve had messages from people asking ‘are you really going? Don’t go! We’ll miss you!’ — but where were these people when I was looking for inclusion, and to feel part of a tribe here? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried to take friendships further with the offer of lunch, dinner or a coffee — then it was tumbleweed. Hey maybe it’s me? Too late to change now! Once again I’m reminded how lucky I am to have such a supportive husband who gets it all, even when I’m struggling to articulate it all. I’m hoping the bitterness is just a side effect of stress and that it will pass with time.

My head is spinning 1000mph and until I’m sitting on that plane I doubt it will slow down. To be honest it won’t feel real until we’re forced into action when our house is sold. With any luck that will coincide with the end of the school year here in May. Until then we’ll be continuing our conversations with the children and encouraging questions so they have all the reassurance they need. Dave and I will have consistency too – we’re so fortunate to be able to work wherever we need to and I’m so grateful for understanding business partners.

After countless searches, research and surveys on instagram we’ve identified Leeds as our top spot. Key factors for this choice include

— well connected with London

— close to Manchester airport

— we can live within walking distance of the city center while having access to parks and great schools

— it’s close to the countryside

— easy to reach friends and family

We will rent to start with which will be challenging with 2 big dogs, but smart too. If the stars align we’ll sell quickly, move, and identify our ideal pad quickly so we can nurture those roots and get them replanted quickly.