Sunday, 8 December 2019

15 Things they really should teach you at school

I was on a recent spa break with a friend (we had a lovely time and lots of laughter but I would not recommend The Celtic Manor Spa in Wales!) and we were chatting about those annoying things that you have to deal with in life as an adult but that no one ever told you about!  So instead of teaching kids algebra and how to dissect a rat.. why not teach:

1. The house buying and selling process.  What stamp duty and land searches are and how to fill in all the various forms.  And how to make an offer.

2. How to make conversation in social situations.

3. How and why to save money.

4. That you have to remove hair from plug holes.  And how to not puke up when you're doing it.

5. About the menopause as well as about periods.

6. What the hell GAP insurance is.

7. How to bleed a radiator.  

8. How to get your boiler restarted.  

9. How to clean out hair bands and bobby pins stuck in a washing machine filter (and how to get to the filter).

10. How to decorate.  Properly.  What different brushes you'll need and why there are different grades of sandpaper.

11. Basic car maintenance, including how to change the clock.

12. How to use a drill.

13. How to know when you need new tyres and where you're meant to put the 20p to measure the thread depth.

14.  How to make a lasagne, roast and a victoria sponge.  Because no one has ever made nor wanted to eat a fruit cobbler.

15.  Make up application lessons.  Because we can all learn this. Although to be fair the young girls now seem to have this sorted!



Sunday, 1 December 2019

Leather trousers (faux and real) to replace the LBD for party season

I'm not going to any Christmas parties this year, and honestly I'm not upset about it but if I were.. I'd definitely be wearing some faux leather trousers.  As is currently all the rage.  These smarter than jeans, grown up chic, cool trousers look as good with heels as they do dressed down with trainers and a big baggy jumper.

There are a 101 varieties out in the shops at the mo and I'm preferring the looser fit ones.  Think a paperbag/tracksuit bottom style, worn with a fitted silk(y) shirt or sparkly thin knit jumper and you will look effortlessly on trend (but comfy as).

Back in the day, when I was 18 and had moved to London for a stint, I got myself a Miss Selfridge store card.  It was my down falling.  But let me say that when I fell down, I did it in a pair of real leather trousers!  Those beauties were my everything for nights out.  Cost per wear was in the minus figures, I literally lived in them.  So I would also recommend a real leather pair if you find the right fit for you, because they are a timeless investment.

Here are my high street picks of the faux leather trews out there at the moment.  (Word of advice - you will need to try on a lot to get the right length, fit and feel but time well spent I reckon when you find "the one").

From ASOS:
Object leather straight trousers £180.
ASOS Design tapered leather look trousers £30.
ASOS Design leather look twist waist trousers £35.

From Zara:
 Faux leather slouchy trousers £25.99.
Faux leather trousers with belt £29.99.

 Brown texture high waist trousers £35.99.
Leather crop trousers £139.99.

Marks and Spencer (these are my favourites):
Leather cropped trousers £199.

Leather straight leg trousers £195.

John Lewis:
Mint Velvet faux leather joggers £69.

Another advantage to the leather look trouser - they're wipe clean!


Sunday, 24 November 2019

5 Independent brands that'll make you look like the most conscious present buyer

It's that time of year again.  Christmas present buying desperation time.  And I say desperation because as wonderful as it is to have family and friends that you've known for a very long time, you do tend to run out of ideas for what to buy them.  For me it gets trickier every year to come up with gifts that are unique and individual.  It's all too easy to nip in to Next, M&S and Boots and grab the first gift set that you come across.

But there's nothing like buying someone special a gift that they are delighted with and say "I love it, I've not seen anything like this".  They feel special and so do you.  I live for those rare times you give a gift and you've got it spot on, and it's a genuine surprise.

I've got 5 independent UK brands that I've either bought from myself or I follow and really like their ethic and wares.
I bought the natural coloured leather handled personalised Jute Bag for my daughter's 21st.  She loves a shopper style bag and has many in her car boot for shopping.  This one is such good quality and sturdy.  Although it's only £30, I got it when there was 20% off and currently for Black Friday deals there is 30% off everything until 2 December.

Tillyanna is a family run business based in the Monmouthshire hills in Wales.  They sell bags, all manner of accessories and stationery.

If I were treating myself, I'd get the personalised denim shopper bag (above) £40.  I just wish I had a cooler name to go on the front!
I discovered Angel Rocks when I attended one of their 3 day yoga retreats earlier this year (blog post) and treated myself to a message bangle and necklace.

Selling bags, accessories and gorgeous jewellery, this rock chic brand set up by Phillippa is something a bit different to your stacks of Monica Vinader etc.

The message bands are a great, affordable gift at £29 and come in silver or rose gold.  I've got the rose gold love heart band, with "rock star" message on the inside (because that's what I am in my own head).
And this is the Choose Joy silver necklace I have (£69):
And if I was treating myself, I mean buying a gift for someone, I think this Punk Rock mixed metal necklace (£75) is so cool.
Based in Birmingham, Disco Kids is run by a couple who have a background in the music industry and produce original designs inspired by music on clothing and prints.

As 2020 will be my 50th year, I have to get my year of birth on a sweatshirt surely?! (£38)
And everyone loves a good print (A4 size £10)
Loads of children's clothing as well.  I really like this kids sweatshirt (£26).
A Tribe Well Dressed (
I came across this brand on Instagram and what really got my interest, aside from the unique personalised handmade letters on the clothing, is Lindsay offers an "upcycle your own jacket" service.  You can send in your old denim or utility jacket and Lindsay will sew on a letter of your choice with added stars or lightening bolt.  For just £25! Every letter is made by hand, so no two designs are the same.  You'll have a truly personalised jacket.

Make Skincare offer luxurious skin and body care creams and oils, all made by hand in a barn in Somerset and all ingredients are sourced from an ethical supplier.

The Face Treat box at £35 includes a Face Glow facial oil, a day cream, an eye cream and lip balm.
Or as a stocking filler or gift for a friend, the smaller sizes in the Hand, Face and Feet set are great travel sizes. £18.
Let's all broaden our horizons and tastes and support independent brands who are more ethical, sustainable and working really hard to bring us some really special offerings.


Sunday, 17 November 2019

4 Winter Survival picks - fashion and beauty

I do love winter.  A time to wrap up in lots of layers, thick jumpers, turn on the heating, shut out the world and light all the candles.  There's always lots of good TV on come winter and as well as the early dark nights, icy temperatures and almost constant rain, it's a great excuse to stay indoors - warm and dry.

But as much as I'd love to hibernate for 4 months, life means I have to venture out, to work and of course try and get some daylight!  There are 4 things that are going to help me survive the winter, by keeping cozy warm and adding some glow to my winter lack lustre skin.
Dr Renaud Rose Plumping Volumising Cream (gifted) 
For those of us that need a richer moisturiser in winter, that is targeted towards mature skin and helps to restore volume, this rose scented cream is lovely.  Although it is a rich cream, it sinks in quickly and leaves no stickiness.  I've been applying this twice daily for a few weeks now and it really has left my skin feeling so much softer and less textured than before.  The rose scent is present but it's not overpowering and I find quite pleasant.  Available here.
Marks and Spencer Rosie for Autograph Radiance Highlighter £8.75
I've been adding a few drops of this liquid highlighter from the Rosie for Autograph range to my foundation.  I like to do this to add a subtle glow as I've found the Beauty Pie foundation I've started using is not as luminous as my Fenty foundation of choice.  And not wanting to waste the Beauty Pie foundation, I've been adding a few drops of this highlighter on to a brush with the foundation.  They mix together and then give the foundation a bit more depth, and not so flat.  And of course you can dot and blend a few drops on to the top of cheekbones.
ASOS Design (wide fit) August Biker Boots £28.00
I hadn't thought I would need new boots this year.  Last year I bought some flat black multi buckled boots from Raid (ASOS).  Wore them probably 5 times.  Went to put them on recently and there was a split right across both soles.  So bad was the split (and I have no idea how this occurred) a shoe mender said they were not repairable.
Hence these new boots.  Now granted, I would have liked to have gone for some leather boots.  Ones which will not split after 5 wears and would last me many, many years.  But as I'm madly saving up for an upcoming holiday, I just couldn't afford that sort of spend.  These biker boots from ASOS are not leather but were only £28.00.  They're wide fit so really comfortable and look good with skinny jeans.  I haven't tried yet but think with a certain style of midi dress/skirt, would also look good.
Tesco F&F Thermal Cami £7.00
If you feel the cold or work in a chilly office/working environment (and I'm not just talking about the atmosphere!), you'll probably already be used to the life changing magic of a thermal vest.  Wearing a thermal vest is like having someone wrap their warm arms around you all day (but in a non irritating way).  A thin layer that locks in your own body heat, a vest will keep you snug and warm and is a life saving barrier from itchy jumpers.
I've recently come across this pretty thermal camisole vest from Tesco.  The material is so soft to the touch.  The lace around the V neck line and shoulders also looks nice peeping out from underneath a jumper or cardigan.  The hemline also has the same lace trim all around, so you could wear it untucked.

So those are my 4 winter survival picks to see you through the worst that this time of year can through at us.  Bring it on.



Sunday, 10 November 2019

Mend don't Spend

First up, I have to make it really clear that I am no seamstress.  I can't knit, crochet and recently gave up a cross stitching kit because it was too hard for me.  But, along with Oxbow lakes - the only other thing I remember from school is how to thread a sewing machine.  Weird isn't it what you retain from all those years at school.  Granted it would have been helpful to retain how to work out percentages but as long as I can work out what 20% off (ASOS and M&S) is, I'm all good!

I've had this cute mini sewing machine from John Lewis for about 12 years and have only recently used it.  If you do know your way around a Singer, this is not the machine for you.  But for me, who just wants to occasionally hem a trouser, it's fine.

Recently I needed to have a few pairs of old work trousers taken in.  I was going to find an alteration service but I had 5 pairs and knew the cost was going to rack up, so I went on You Tube and found a couple of videos on how to take in trousers.  And it's really quite easy (you do need a sewing machine).  And ok my "alterations" are quite rudimentary but hey, it's only me who's going to see the dodgy stitching.  I'm really chuffed as I've rejuvenated several pairs of work trousers for the cost of one reel of cotton.

I've also reignited 2 dresses which were a bit sack like.  This smock dress from Matalan was just too shapeless.  All I did to this was pull in the sides and hand stitch the middle bit together.  What this has done is give some shape to the dress and a bit of interest as (inadvertently) my stitch work created a pleat.

Close up.
And this straight column dress from Next needed some interest.  This was a last minute alteration - I was going out to a friend's 40th party, had the dress on and just wasn't feeling it.  So without taking it off, I grabbed and twisted a handful of the material and stitched it together.  I really like how this came out.
Grab and sew..
Two things that have really made my alteration service easier are a seam ripper and plastic hair bands.  I used the seam ripper to unpick 2 pockets on a silky Zara pyjama shirt.  I bought it ages ago in the sale and just couldn't wear it, because of the pockets.  It didn't look right worn out but because of the pockets I couldn't tuck it in.  Now I've taken the pockets off with my seam ripper, I can now wear it french tucked in.  Voila.
And plastic hair bands?  I use these to tie up the base of a T-shirt and then with the t-shirt ponytail, tuck it up and under.  You can also do this with thin jumpers and tops.  Honestly this little trick really changes the look of t-shirts.
Other ways to fall in love with your once loved fashion pieces:

  • change the buttons.  Etsy do some cute eye catching buttons.  
  • add a silky scarf as a belt.
  • dye it another colour.
  • use iron on patches.  I got some from H&M and ironed a tiger patch on to an old denim jacket.
There are lots of ways to change up your wardrobe without buying new.  It saves money and you'll feel like your own fashion designer!


Sunday, 3 November 2019

Get your coat love, you've pulled

I love coats as much as I love Cadbury's Whole Nut (has anyone tried the bag of Whole Nut bites - you must!).  Coats keep you warm, wrapped up in coziness, dry from the rain and can hide a bad outfit.  There are all manner of coats and I love them all - parkas, rain macs, trenches, faux fur, puffer, duffel coats and my current favourite.. a pea coat.

A true pea coat is normally navy, characterized by a short length, broad lapels, double breasted  front, often with large wooden, metal or plastic buttons, and vertical or slash pockets and originally worn by sailors.  This shorter but warm coat is perfect for autumn when you don't need or want the bulk of a longer coat and it can be worn more like a jacket.  And come winter and especially if you're a tube commuter, a pea coat with a big scarf will keep you snug as a bug on your walk outside of the tube and then remove your scarf to cool down whilst pressed up against your fellow passengers underground.

The pea coat is your versatile friend as well.  Smart enough to be a work coat yet completing your weekend jeans, jumper and trainers or boots combo.

A couple of months ago I bought the Topshop Slouch coat (£65).  Ok, it's not a true pea coat design but it's a relaxed ode to the pea.
And look at it in yellow..
Other pea (style) coats that I've found..
This camel beauty from M&S (£79), they also do it in a pea coat traditional navy.
For snuggliness, this pea coat style coat from New Look (£37.49)
And if you want a shorter length pea coat, look at this absolute stunner from Scotch & Soda (£63).  This look would fab with wide leg jeans.
And from Mango (£79.99) this buttoned wool coat.  Brighten this up with bright patterned scarf.
And if you fancy splashing the cash.. from & Other Stories this double breasted boucle coat (£175)
And here's me showing off the Topshop coat

It should also be noted that you can comfortably drive whilst wearing this coat, it doesn't bunch up or take up excessive seat space.  This coat isn't lined and that did initially put me off but in Autumn you don't really need a lined coat, or do as I do and wear a vest and thick jumper underneath.



Sunday, 27 October 2019

Travel review - Valldemossa, Mallorca

The nights are getting darker very quickly at the moment and probably the main thing on most of our minds is impending Christmas.  But once that is done and dusted, and we've then endured many months of darkness, greyness, coldness and wetness.. thoughts will turn to where to holiday next year.

I've got a suggestion for you, and to be honest I really wanted to keep this to myself because this is a total gem but I like you and this is a total recommendation that I have to share with you!  Valldemossa is a traditional Spanish town in the Tramuntana Mountains on the island of Mallorca.  A 20 minute taxi ride from Palma airport, the drive up in to the mountains are breath taking and you start to get tantalising glimpses of the pretty town which is located on the hillside.  The above picture was taken on our arrival and I promise the sun came out shortly after.

If you love authentic, traditional Spanish culture, you will not be disappointed with Valldemossa.  We were there for a week at the end of July and were lucky to experience the Festes de la Beata, a festival to honour the Saint Catalina Thomas.  On the evening of the festival lots of the young children dressed in traditional outfits and the highlight of the evening was when the children rode through the cobbled streets on horse drawn carriages, decorated with flowers.  I'm not sure why but the children had buckets of small sweets which they threw out to spectators.  My little nephew loved that.

What struck me about Valldemossa is not just the architectural beauty of the buildings and the obvious love and care that residents take over their town (on nearly every street corner are rolls of free dog poo bags and bins) but there is absolutely no rubbish at all.  This has to be one of the cleanest places I've ever been to.
The streets were decorated with streamer bunting for the festival and even that didn't make the place look tacky!

Our family group stayed in a large Air B&B villa, which was really nice with a great pool and in a quiet area but only a short walk into the quiet town.

Even though Valldemossa is a traditional rural town in the mountains, so not what I would call an obvious tourist spot, on some afternoons we did see quite a few visitors who were obviously on a sight seeing tour of the area in the Tramuntana mountains but there wasn't hoards of them.  

And the choice of restaurants is really good.  For a small town, there are a surprising number of really nice places to eat - we had some great food.  Oh and if you do visit, you must try a Coca de Patata - a sweet cake made of boiled potatoes. Doesn't make sense does it.  But trust me, try one.  With a coffee is best apparently.  Or a full fat coke if you're me!

Valldemossa is quite high up in the mountains so a trip to the beach will take nerves of steel for whoever is driving the hire care (numerous hair pin bends) or if you do as we did, and take the air conditioned bus to Port de Soller (a beautiful beach which you can happily spend all day on), sit at the front of the bus.  Or make sure you take a sandcastle bucket that you're not planning on keeping!
Half of our party very bravely went for a half day hike up the mountains and their pictures were stunning.  Although even though I quite like a hike, this sounded too tough for me, and it was high up and I do not do heights.  But there are lots of hike trails from the town so I'm sure there would be a hike for all abilities.
I would happily go back to this beautiful little town again and really hope to next year, either for a longer 10 days or as Palma airport is only a 2ish hour flight from London, a weekend jaunt is completely do-able.  


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