Friday, 29 April 2016


You’ve heard all about us in our previous posts, but this week we’re going to do something a little different and tell you about another sensational baby boomer – our friend Gillian, who in her late 50s, jumped off the corporate ladder and left her successful senior HR position within a major food company, to set up her own business as the owner of a sewing school.

Gillian said: “I had reached the stage in my career where I had achieved what I wanted to, so waved goodbye to the corporate world and started to do something which was more personally satisfying.

“Many women are working longer than previous generations and I wanted to spend the remaining time I have at work doing something I really love – after all they say if you find a job you enjoy doing, you’ll never have to work another day!”

So with a couple of sewing machines, but a lifetime interest in sewing and fashion, she launched the Yorkshire School of Sewing.

It has to be said that she already had qualifications in fashion and design from a previous flirtation with teaching her craft, but this time she wanted to create a satisfying and profitable career. As well as her own private school, she teaches at a local authority college.

Her school teaches everything from starting at the very beginning through to working with more advanced couture garments, as well as designing and pattern drafting.

Gillian who lives close to us in Yorkshire said: “I love making beautiful garments using all the wonderful fabrics and trims around today.

“I like to help and advise people with their creative ideas and turn them into reality, ensuring the "fit" for them is perfect and the finish is polished and professional." 


So successful is the business that she has now finding herself working harder than ever.  “Since programmes such as the Sewing Bee were on television, it seems to have sparked an interest in women making their own clothes again.  Most of us learned basic sewing at school, and it was normal to make our own clothes when we were younger in the 1960s and 70s, but now that we are all coming up to retirement, we have more time on or hands and are able to go back and brush up on our skills and start sewing again - something we loved to do.

“The story I hear so often from my customers is that they cannot find clothes which fit them well and look good, particularly now most of us find that our body shape has changed.  We are all different shapes and sizes and yet the clothes in the shops are geared to a one-size-fits-all mentality – and that usually means small. 


"I teach my customers how to make garments which fit them perfectly and will work with them so that every dress and pair of trousers or jacket they make is for them.  Particular problems are usually around the bodice area, necklines and sleeves."

She takes no more than five customers a day – often less if it is something slightly more complicated – so that she can give each individual customer quality time and attention. She will also work with customers own garment disasters which they can bring along for her to show them the error of their ways.

Final word from Gillian is that you're never too old to fulfil your ambition - even if it means starting a new business and learning new skills in later life.  You just need determination and belief in what you do.


Wednesday, 27 April 2016


The pretty spa town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, famous for its healing waters and the Great Yorkshire Show is one of our regular haunts.

We are frequent visitors to Harrogate (Anne H also used to live here once upon a time) and often find ourselves in the town – for shopping, meeting friends for lunch or coffee, and even on business.

Harrogate rose to fame  in the 1500s  after its waters, which contain iron, sulphur and common salt, became famous for its healing powers.  Known as 'The English Spa' in the Georgian era, wealthy visitors flocked to the town to take advantage of the waters and green spaces which include the Valley Gardens and the 200 acre Stray that wrap round the town. Today there is still a Turkish Bath and spa in the town offering traditional treatments from a dip in the plunge pool to reiki and reflexology.

As a result there are a large number of hotels and B&Bs in the town, and during the latter part of the 20th century the local council built a huge conference centre which now attracts a large number of conferences from art and crafts to political and corporate meetings. 

The Great Yorkshire Show ground on the outskirts of the town houses the annual agricultural show, but the ground is also used year-round with a number of specialist shows and fairs.

Shopping in Harrogate is a delight, with many small independent shops in addition to well-known high street names. Hoopers is the department store in Harrogate, a small chain with just three other department stores in what they term quintessential English towns - including Tunbridge Wells, Torquay, and Wilmslow.

There are also cute Victorian arcades and small squares tucked away off the main road with small local shops selling unusual gifts and crafts.  Mr C just managed to sneak into the photo below (on the left).

Harrogate also has a number of independent specialist stores, including antiques, vintage and specialist shops.  Waitrose is the supermarket of choice in the town centre, and there is also the largest M&S Food store we have ever seen, situated just outside the town centre.

There is a huge choice of restaurants, cafes and bars.  Obviously we love Betty’s Cafe – where the waitresses are properly trained before they are allowed near customers, and wear delightful black dresses with white frilly aprons and caps.  The food is traditional English and their afternoon and cream teas are just to die for.  They also have a fabulous shop with tasty treats (the Fat Rascals are just amazing) and the very good news is that they also have a mail-order service. Be warned however, that the queues are very long at peak times and in the tourist season. If learning specialist cookery techniques is more your thing, then Betty's Cookery School offers a wonderfully decadent selection of cookery courses.

So if you don’t have the patience to wait for a table at Betty's, there are a number of excellent restaurants and bars:

The Drum and Monkey is a fabulous seafood restaurant, which has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment.  The menu changes daily and offers up freshly caught and delivered seafood from whatever has been caught the day before.  If you are looking for a menu created by an award winning chef, then head for Van Zeller in the Montpellier Quarter, an intimate restaurant serving lunch or dinner, where the tasting menu is to die for.  For the more relaxed vibe head to William and Victoria, winner of Yorkshire Life's Restaurant of the Year in 2015, where you have a choice of downstairs wine bar/bistro or upstairs restaurant.  

There’s also Weeton’s – another independent premium store which started life as a farm shop.  They specialise in high quality premium meat supplied by local farmers, but this has diversified into a true food destination allowing customers to shop for delicacies, dine on the rich fresh produce or enjoy a coffee in the presence of food experts. 

Staying with the fresh produce cafes, if you’re in the car, nip to Fodder, which is right next to the Yorkshire showground.  They too have a small food store specialising in fresh local meats, fruit, vetegables and produce, alongside a cafe serving simple but wholesome food.

We love the menu at the Hotel duVin, a boutique hotel featuring a French Bistro theme. It is part of a national chain, but a great place to meet friends for coffee and isn’t too crowded for lunch. It is also a great place to base yourself for a weekend stay.  

Alternatively you could try Studley Hotel for a more intimate environment.  With only 28 bedrooms the Studley is a true "town hotel".  If you prefer to cater for yourself then over the road from the Studley is Rasmus Living luxury serviced apartments for a true home from home experience.  Both of these are close to the gates into the Grade II listed Valley Gardens which includes beautiful historic buildings, walks and cafe.  

There are also the usual coffee shops, but we love the Bean and Bud which serves gorgeous coffee, a choice of teas with delicious sandwiches and home-made cakes and pastries, but it is slightly out of the main shopping thoroughfare in Commercial Street.  It's worth a stroll to find it however, as you will pass The Cheeseboard – a fabulous deli specialising in – wait for it – Cheese!  The Cheeseboard has become one of the finest cheese stores in the UK with more than 200 cheeses, including one called The Stinking Bishop!  

If you are on Oxford Street, where Harrogate Theatre is located,  then make sure to visit Baltzersen's for a Scandi inspired dining experience, with some fabulous open sandwiches and amazing cinnamon buns.

Then there are the bars/restaurants.  We love Banyan and The Pit – both owned by Arc Inspirations based in Leeds, which is fast growing its brand across the north.  They also serve cocktails – from the traditional mojitos and daiquiris to our favourite lemon cheesecake cocktail (it sounds awful but it is quite delicious!) and Cosmopolitans.

Another great thing about Harrogate is its close proximity to other great places to see in Yorkshire. The beautiful historic city of York is just 20 miles away, while the Yorkshire Dales National Park is also close by, but since Harrogate has a great rail service, it's just as easy to jump on a train.


Friday, 22 April 2016


Anne H here reporting from a very recent trip to Tropea.

Tropea, Calabria
View of the Monastery and Piazza del Cannone
Situated in Southern Italy in the region of Calabria, Tropea is a seaside resort popular with Northern Italians but which is still relatively unknown to the English - largely because the only direct flight is from London Stansted going into Lamezia, which is about an hour by car from Tropea.  

Located on the stretch of coastline known as the 'Coast of the Gods' Tropea rises as if hewn from the dramatic cliffs themselves. The medieval town overlooks the monastery of Santa Maria dell'Isola, which is sited on what was once an island, and the volcano of Stromboli, which on a clear day can be seen puffing away on the horizon.  There are plenty of tourist boats from the port out to the volcano and the Aeolian Islands, and an evening trip to Stromboli is well worth the visit. 

Tropea, Calabria
Tropea viewed from the Marina

Stromboli, Italy
The old centre of Tropea has a delightful slightly faded feel and abounds with Palazzos with massive doors that open into beautiful courtyards, winding cobbled streets and hidden squares, many with restaurants.  Traces of the old town fortifications are still apparent including the canon in the Piazza Del Cannone where you can enjoy a lovely gelato before tackling the steps down to the beach.   For a greater understanding of the history of Tropea, a visit to the museum which is next to the Duomo, the Norman cathedral, is well worth making. 

Tropea, Calabria
One of Tropea's many cobbled streets

Tropea, Calabria
Doorway to a Palazzo 

Take the steps down to the beaches, which are some of the best in Southern Italy, where you can choose from free beaches where you can just claim your patch of sand to establishments that charge for sun loungers and umbrellas but have the added facilities of a restaurant and bar.  Our favourite is Calypso who serve the most amazing fish dishes and spaghetti aglio e olio, served with local Calabrian wine which is just fabulous.  A perfect day is spent sunbathing in the morning, having a great lunch and then a bit more sunbathing and a swim before tackling the 200+ steps back up into the town. 

Tropea, Calabria
The best beaches in Southern Italy 


You are simply spoilt for choice  for somewhere to eat, and pretty much every taste and budget is catered for. Most restaurants have outdoor seating areas and are often tucked away in the maze of streets or on the small piazzas.   The more expensive ones tend to overlook the sea, but you really don't have to spend the earth to enjoy fabulous home cooked Italian food.  

Here are a few of our favourites, giving you a range of styles and cost.  Starting with Le Volpi e L'Uva an Osteria (osteria serve simple meals with local produce) where I would firmly recommend the spicy pasta dish, Nduja Fileja, preceded by the cipolla omelette made with Tropean red onions which are the sweetest onions anywhere in the world.  

Tropea, Calabria

For the absolutely best pizza selection then it has to be Vecchio Forno Pizzeria which has the most amazing pizza oven.  They have outdoor and indoor seated areas and are super affordable. They also do takeaway orders.

Tropea, Calabria

For a true ristorante, (full service)  dining experience then Nino e Marchello and Genius Loci can't been beaten.  Nino is at the end of the Corso and Genius has the benefit of a fabulous view of the sea and the monastery, and is situated near the Piazza de Cannone.   And just a quick mention of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele which is the wide street in the centro storico (centre) that leads down to a viewing area overlooking the sea and monastery.  Buy yourselves a lovely cocktail at Max's bar or in the Caffe del Corso during any weekend evening and watch the locals in their finery on their passeggiata - people watching at its best as it is often accompanied by a bridal party filming their special day.  A true Italian experience not to be missed. 

Tropea, Calabria

Tropea, Calabria
The Corso 

Tropea, Calabria

If you are looking for a lighter snack or lunch then Pizzeria da Titino has fabulous caprese salads, arancini (stuffed rice balls) and pizzas. 

Tropea, Calabria


I have been travelling to Tropea for a number of years as I have family who live there and depending on the length of stay have either rented an apartment or stayed in a B&B.  On my most recent trip I stayed at the B&B Portercole which is run by a lovely young couple, with the added bonus that they speak English.  The rooms are all really well appointed and the location is perfect.  

Tropea, Calabria

Another favourite is the  Residenza il Barone which combines spacious suites with a lovely roof terrace featuring stunning views, where breakfast and early evening drinks are served. If you want advice about hotels or the apartment rentals just contact me via the comments box - there are so many places I  just don't have room to mention them all here.


It wouldn't be right to ignore wardrobe completely.  The two pictures immediately below were taken when Anne C and I were last in Tropea together 18 months ago, so outfits are not from recent seasons and no longer available.

Over 60 fashion

Over 60s fashion

In the picture below I am shown with my brother-in-law Luigi who is in his eighties and an absolute inspiration to all who meet him.  We are in a courtyard of what was a convent but has now been beautifully converted into apartments.

Over 60s fashion


Calabrian food


And finally, back to our stomachs!  Tropea has some delicacies that are particularly worthy of a mention. Top of the list is the amazing ice cream - our favourite is from Caffe del Corso.  And if you go to Toninos, also on the Corso, you can even try Gelato alla cipolla di tropea - yes, onion ice cream! But I did say those onions are sweet and it is not as bad as you might think.

If you are looking for delicacies to take home start with the peperoncino a chilli pepper which can be purchased in flakes.  Parmesan cheese is cheaper here but don't ignore the other less familiar names such as pecorino and grana padano.  Olive Oil is also worth stowing in your bag and is better purchased in town than at the airport.  

There are some lovely shops selling local pottery with unusual designs.  Coral jewellery is also a big feature of the town and most of the shops have amazing displays in their windows.

I can't recommend  enough this hidden gem that is Tropea, and always take pleasure in introducing new people to it and it's wonderful people.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016


Anne C here.

We love meeting other sensational baby boomers, and during the course of my work I recently met the most incredible woman who four years ago sold up her London flat to move north – and set up her own business- at the age of 81! Now 85, the vivacious Brenda Deane is pouring her heart and soul into the venture.

To say she has transformed her life in the past two years would be a complete understatement.  After a 50 year career as an staid accountant, in Brenda’s own words: “I wore dowdy skirts and I was frumpy;” she has completely reinvented herself.

As a volunteer at St Paul’s Cathedral she met another like-minded volunteer, Graham Way, who has since become her business partner.  With a shared interest in interior design, together they transformed Brenda’s home and subsequently earned commissions from Brenda’s neighbours living in The Barbican, igniting a passion for home interiors. 

Graham already had many years experience in the perfumery industry, having worked in, among other companies, Penhaligon’s London, so it wasn’t a step too far to set up in business together when they created “A Life with a View” selling beautifully crafted candles with amazing fragrances designed by master perfumers using notes of chamomile, lily, lilac, almond, orange precious woods and spiced notes.  The company has further fragrances, including a rose and a lily, due to be introduced as the business is expanded.


Each of the fragrances are matched to a different view of the world – The Loft inspired by trendy New York living, The Cottage, inspired by the English countryside, The Gite inspired by the flowers of Provence and The Villa inspired by the exotic scents of Italy. Each conjures up the perfect view, the perfect idea, ‘A View of …’ whatever you desire.


Each of these heavenly fragrances was created by an expert “nose” – a world-renowned professional perfumer who can distinguish each fragrance top note, middle note and base note in an instant. Brenda tells me there are fewer “noses” in the world than there are astronauts – so exclusive is the world of fine fragrance!


But Graham’s friendship and knowledge extends much further than that! For years her own favourite fragrance was L`Interdit  meaning “Forbidden” – which Givenchy originally created exclusively for Audrey Hepburn - until Graham tactfully told her it didn't suit her because skin changes as one gets older, so she needed to change her choice of perfume.

Now Brenda’s own knowledge of perfumes is increasing, she is able to make her own choices on fragrance.  “I’ve also learned that of the 1200 or so fragrances launched every year, only about 5% or so have any kind of longevity and chance of survival.”

She has also transformed – with Graham’s help – her appearance.  “I had a full head of bushy hair, which I have now cut shorter and professionally styled; I have ditched the frumpy clothes in favour of a more tailored look with trousers and fitted shirts, which is much more appropriate for the business.”

Her crisp white shirt is from T. M. Lewin, complete with cuff links bought in Venice some years ago, trousers and belt from Marks & Spencer, necklace is Accessorize and earrings also from Venice.

The next step for Brenda is to re-design the packaging and appearance of her brand; she is also looking for a third partner with experience in the high end luxury market to inject extra cash and fresh ideas into the business.

Meanwhile this 85 year old is full of energy, with a new lease of life, and has made a whole new set of friends in Manchester, joining in the private members club in the Media City community where she now lives, and has joined a number of women’s  business networking organisation who have also offered business advice as well as friendship.

She still has friends in London, and she travels back regularly to catch up with them and to have her hair done. “I’m so lucky that I now have a wide circle of friends.  I would never have thought that I would uproot myself to the other end of the country – but it’s the best thing I ever did!”

Friday, 15 April 2016


All we can say this week is WOW! We are showing you some amazing standout hats in fabulous rainbow colours to go with any outfit - whether you are a mother of the bride or groom, a guest at a wedding or christening/naming cermony, or spending a day at Royal Ascot (but beware of their very strict rules on hats!)

Wedding hats

Earlier this week we showed off photographs of our day with specialist milliner Liz Wright at Simply Devine Hats in Tadcaster, Yorkshire, focusing on just having fun and trying on different hats.

This is the second and final blog on hats, but there was just so many and in different styles that we wanted to show you everything - but no more hats after this!

Liz is an expert with an incredible eye for what suits us.  First thing to bear in mind is our colouring. Anne C is a natural brunette (though she has a little help these days to keep it that way), while Anne H had fair hair which has turned to a pale salt and pepper shade.  We took along a couple of outfits to play around with, and that would certainly determine what colour hat to wear.

Special occasion hats
Liz's first advice to Anne H was to remove the cream jacket and add a dark coat with a brighter hat as there was just too little colour going on at the upper part of her, which can be draining.  By wearing a brighter colour, it gave more depth and created a healthier look.  I saw the look of horror on Anne's face as Liz chose a bright hot pink hat with self-coloured band and feather quills, but she was pleasantly surprised with how good it actually looked on her. The cost of this is £299.

Brightly coloured hats

Anne C had previously visited Simply Devine and had already spotted this huge black and off white hatinator, and had been itching to try it on. With incredible stitching detailing, this little number sits on a black satin band, and worked well with a simple black dress, lifting it so it didn't look dowdy. Trimmed with black and off-white detail and edged with the same colour, the black feather quills gave this  piece a touch of added drama, and costs £285.

Race day hat

Special occasion hats

Wearing her cream and navy vintage Valentino jacket, Anne H needed a complete contrast, so Liz chose a dark navy fascinator trimmed with a delicate net veil but with a dramatic feather to give height. This one is priced at £149.


Mother of the bride hats

Always one for the touch of the dramatic, Anne C opted for this gorgeously opulent red poppy couture hat with black feather trimming (Anne H wore the white version in an earlier post), and teamed it with a red satin evening clutch bag to pull the whole outfit together. The hat retails at £360, while the majority of the silk clutch bags are in the region of £25-£31.99.

Race day hats

Simply Devine has a small collection of dresses, and chose this pale grey spotted dress - which does have a matching jacket - for Anne H to try on.  She teamed it with a dramatic black and white hat, lavishly decorated with pearls, feathers and flowers, and priced at £275.

Wedding hat

Wearing one of her favourite Barbie pink shades, this sparkly lace print number is vaguely reminiscent of a coolie hat, and sits on a pink satin band and is trimmed with feather quills and a statement flower and costs £285.  Liz has teamed with a beautifully matched pink jewelled evening clutch bag.

Race day hats
Anne H then tried a cute navy fascinator to match her navy dress (the pearls are vintage), which Liz positioned perfectly to show off her face. This inexpensive fascinator is just £91.

Dramatic hat
Ever the drama Queen, this creation must surely be the most over the top hatinator in the entire shop!  This particular version is in a beautiful shade of pale peach, but it is also stocked in black, orange, red and blue, and also comes in two different sizes - this one being the larger of the two. Very definitely a statement piece, reflected in the price of £420.

Another little pink number below for Anne H - this one a small saucer-shaped hatinator in a bright pink shade trimmed with a lovely pink flower and costs £140.

Special occasion hat

The shocking pink silk hatinator worn by Anne C is one of her favourite shades, and prettily trimmed with pink silk, feathers and black quills costing £240, but Anne thought it too small to balance out her curvier shape.

Wedding hat

And finally, Anne H also said no to this lightweight fascinator, with large decorative bow and flower, and retailing at £140, which she felt was just too over the top for her more subdued tastes.

Dramatic hat

Final advice from Liz is that you really do get what you pay for.  While high street stores are probably cheaper, most of them will be mass manufactured in China and the material is very see-through, while Liz's hats are all chosen specifically by her and are quality pieces using more substantial materials which are made to last.  Liz  offers a bespoke service and can also supply specific shades and match flowers and accessories to the hat so that it will match your outfit exactly. And if you are mother of the bride - you really don't want to turn up in the same hat as one of the guests!

So now I'm spoilt for choice and want them all - anyone want to hire a wedding guest????
© Sensational Baby Boomers

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