Friday, 23 December 2011

The First Snow of Winter (Well Kind Of)

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

Living in one of the coldest most Northerly parts of England, it’s not unusual to find myself buried under several feet of snow at this time of year. Not that I mind at all, snow at Christmastime always makes me feel even more festive and cosy, but unfortunately apart from a freak blizzard a week or so ago we haven’t any snow at all this year. So while it looks like 2011 might not be a white Christmas I thought I’d share some photos I took last year when most of the country was snowbound for nearly a month!

...just like the ones I used to know

Thanks for reading! Have a great Christmas everyone

Sunday, 23 October 2011

35 Years of Warehouse + Save 25% Off Your Online Order!

My Warehouse Wish List
Metal Bow Narrow Alice Band
Peter Pan Jumper
Silk Bird Print Dress 
Diamond Oversize Bag
Triple Lock Purse

Warehouse appeared on the British highstreet 35 years ago when it opened its first store in London in 1976 with the aim of making fashion accessible to all. I’ve always found Warehouse great for quality fashion staples as well as the occasional stand-out piece. A few years ago a large portion of my wardrobe came from them, however I’ve found recently their sizing has grown increasingly erratic and the stores can be a little drab and uninspiring.

I was tempted back to Warehouse when I saw a 25% off promotion advertised in the November edition of Elle magazine. The Warehouse website is well laid out with clothes grouped into clearly defined categories as well as by trend and occasion. True to form their basics were great –just as simple and chic as I remembered. I was also really impressed by the way they’ve updated their collections with a lot of more adventurous fashion pieces. The website showcased an absolutely stunning range of dresses from casual day dresses to elegant evening dresses to fun party dresses -perfect for the festive season!

Soon I had compiled a lengthy wish list of items. I narrowed it down to a few pieces and added them to my basket. I was disappointed that half way through the checkout I was told several of them weren’t available and were removed from the order. Because I spent over £75 I qualified for free next day delivery (normally £4.99), so I had my parcel before lunch time the very next day- an unexpected bonus! Everything was really well packaged, either neatly folded in individual bags or delivered hanging with a plastic cover. I was impressed that even the belt buckle on a skirt I ordered had been carefully wrapped in tissue paper.  

The appearance and quality of the two dresses and skirt I ordered was excellent, fabrics felt luxurious and hung beautifully and little finishing touches like brass buttons or exposed zips were lovely, but once again inconsistent sizing let the clothes down. One dress, a stunning pale pink lace shift –very Jackie O!- fit snuggly, yet the silk bird print dress I had ordered in the same size totally hung off me, leaving me unsure whether to risk alterations or simply return, a shame as I absolutely loved everything I ordered.

If you want to try Warehouse out for yourself use the promotional code BIRTHDAY3 online at  to receive 25% off until 13th November 2011. To claim the discount in store look for the voucher in the November issue of Elle magazine.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Affordable Art: Wall Canvases

Next 'Paris' Photo Canvas

There’s no better way to introduce personality into your interior spaces than by adding some amazing art. While original pieces can be incredibly expensive running into hundreds or even thousands of pounds, the growing popularity of wall canvases mean great artwork is now accessible to everyone. A modern alternative to traditional framed pictures, wall canvases usually feature a print of an original painting, photograph or abstract design printed onto canvas and stretched over a lightweight wooden framework- not a gilt frame in sight. I love how canvases can completely transform a room, they can complement and harmonise with your décor or stand out and make a bold statement, and best of all they can be bought from as little as £8 on the highstreet. Next, Matalan and TK Maxx all do a great selection of reasonably priced canvases so you can afford to experiment.

I picked up the gorgeous ‘Paris’ modified photo canvas above at a Next Clearance outlet (you can find a complete list of all the Clearance outlets in the UK here) a few days ago for the bargain price of £10. It adds a pop of colour to a plain wall and the golden beige tones –amazingly for an impulse purchase!- tie in perfectly with the rest of the décor. By hanging it directly above the bed it draws attention to it and creates a real focal point in the room. I’ve chosen some of my favourite canvases available in stores now below:

Next 'Stolen Kiss' Canvas £60

I absolutely adore this hand finished canvas from Next. On its own or in a horizontal grouping of three or four similar prints, this would lend a grown up sophistication to any room. It looks great against a plain oatmeal coloured background. Buy it here.

Matalan 'London Bus' Canvas £8

This grey scale/colour photo of a London bus has a real 1960s/70s vibe to it that is really fun, Hang it by itself or with other retro prints on a wall in a bold clashing colour for an instant talking point. Buy it here for only £8.

Next 'Aloe Vera' Glitter Printed Canvas £50

I love this stunning Aloe vera print from Next. It would make an elegant focal point in a bedroom. Hanging it on a wall painted in a soft grey from the same colour pallet looks really expensive and chic. Available here.

Matalan 'Ocean Horizon' Canvas £8

It's relaxing just looking at this gorgeous Ocean Horizon seascape! It makes me think of New England beach huts and days by the seaside. It would tie in perfectly with a nautical style scheme and soft blue or white walls. Click here to buy.

Matalan 'Vintage Flower' Canvases £8 each

This Vintage Flower print from Matalan looks so girly and feminine. It would be perfect in a bedroom or a relaxing lounge against a pretty pastel backdrop like this soft lilac which echoes the deeper purple in the photo. The symmetrical pairing gives it a really neat, prim feel. Available here. 

Thanks for reading, hope I've inspired you to try out some wall art!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Amazing Ojon Offer! Trade in 1 Get 2 Free

Ojon Damage Reverse Collection

Luxury haircare brand Ojon are giving away a full-sized set of their patented Damage Reverse shampoo and conditioner in exchange for an empty bottle of your usual shampoo. To take part simply take your empty bottle -of any brand- to the Ojon concession at your nearest John Lewis on this Thursday, 29th September. For a list of participating John Lewis stores check the Ojon website here. Offer valid while supplies last, no purchase necessary. Only one set per customer.   

For those of you not familiar with the brand, Ojon's range of Damage Reverse products use oil extracted from the nuts of the fragrant Ojon tree combined with Wheat proteins, Brazilian Buriti Oil and Murumuru Butter to penetrate and hydrate the hair cuticle, sealing in moisture and helping to strengthen and restore body, bounce and shine to even the most damaged hair. Don't miss this unique opportunity to treat yourself to this luxurious shampoo and conditioner for free.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Birthday Pressies

Birthday Pressies

It was my birthday a few days ago and I just wanted to show off some of the gorgeous gifts I got from friends and family. I was so overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity and I absolutely love all of my presents.

So thank you so much everyone who bought me a pressie, sent a card or flowers or called or texted to wish me happy birthday, this post is for you!  

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Get 20% Discount at Debenhams!

Debenhams is fast becoming one of my favourite places to shop, not just because it has concessions from top high street stores like Warehouse and Topshop but also because it boasts some amazing diffusion ranges from designers like Jasper Conran, Betty Jackson, Matthew Williamson and Henry Holland. The collections always strike a great balance between fashion and wearabilty, cleverly interpreting the trends without following them slavishly.

All this week the Daily Mail are printing exclusive 20% discount vouchers to use in store, however you can also use the code PJ8P to claim 20% off (use the code PZ3P to earn 10% off beauty, fragrance, furniture and selected electricals) your order at The code is valid until 25th September and cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer, for full terms and conditions please see the Daily Mail.

With the new collections hitting stores now, I’ve picked out my favourite pieces for autumn ’11.

Warehouse beige piped detail belted mac £85

I love this classic trench from Warehouse, the colour will go with anything and the piping detailing and pleating on the back is gorgeous. Click here to buy.

Betty Jackson Black zip detail cowl neck dress £65

This mustard dress is beautifully draped, giving it a relaxed but still feminine fit. The colour is perfect for autumn. Click here to buy. 

Faith tan 'Carol' platform shoes £58

I literally need these shoes in my wardrobe now! The t-bar, the chunky heel and the woven sole give them a real retro vibe that I absolutely love. Click here to buy.

Butterfly by Matthew Williamson mixed vintage gold bracelet £15

A really pretty bracelet that looks much more expensive than it is. Click here to buy.

Betty Jackson Black orange square turnlock bag £65

This satchel-style bag by Betty Jackson is made from 100% quality leather and will inject a real pop of colour into any autumn wardrobe. Click here to buy.

Phase Eight caramel printed tie blouse £65

This blouse is so light and pretty, it would work perfectly with either your favourite skinny jeans, palazzo pants or a chic pencil skirt. Click here to buy.

J by Jasper Conran dark blue boot cut jeans £45

Dark wash jeans are always flattering and the slightly flared shape channels this season’s ‘70s trend. Click here to buy.

Barratts taupe mid high boot with block heel £66

Everyone needs a pair of great boots for winter and with their round toe, chunky heel and tan faux-leather upper I don’t think you can go wrong with these. Click here to buy.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

When in Rome…

St. Peter's Basilica
Rome is a beautiful, vibrant city where the sacred meets the secular and the ancient rubs shoulders with the classical and the modern. It’s an eclectic mix that gives the city a unique buzz all of its own. Occupying just a few square kilometres central Rome is compact and easily navigable on foot or via the city’s public transport network. Hop on one of the intercity buses and buy your ticket from the coin operated machine on board, a single journey costs a euro or for 4 you can buy unlimited travel for an entire day. The buses run every few minutes but are usually hugely overcrowded with standing room only, I found the newly modernised (not to mention air conditioned) metro system much quieter and easier to use. There are stations all over the city and all of the major tourist attractions have a metro stop nearby. 

Rome's Metro network
Because there is so much to see in Rome –I once heard it referred to as ‘the world’s largest open air museum’- it’s essential to plan carefully if you want to see everything. The big attractions can get incredibly busy so you can save time as well as money by buying multi-tickets in advance. The Roma Pass for example gives you free admission to two museums or archaeological sites of your choice plus reduced priced tickets to any of the others in the city. It lasts for three days and comes in at 25, it also entitles you to use the public transport network free of charge for each of the three days. Best of all –and worth the price on its own in my opinion- you don’t have to wait in line at any of the attractions. 

For many people the ruins of the Coloseum, the Vatican, the great works of art speak for themselves, however I really recommend paying a little extra and hiring a good English-speaking guide to give you the background information necessary to understand and situate Rome’s great monuments in context.

A Roman street
As well as sightseeing, Rome is renowned for its shopping. At the heart of the shopping district there are several streets of high-end luxury and designer stores –all of which were showcasing their autumn collections, I cannot describe how weird it is to be looking at fur coats in the middle of August when the temperature is in excess of 35 degrees! If you find designer boutiques a little intimidating Rome boasts a wealth of more middle-of-the-road chain stores that have either virtually disappeared from Britain’s high streets or else aren’t well established in the UK yet like Benetton, Sisley and my personal fave, shoe heaven Aldo. There’s also the ever popular Zara and H&M along with some Italian chains like Stefanel and Le Group. The fashion may be very grown-up and serious but the Italians do have a taste for the kitsch and the retro, the city is crammed with amazing quirky boutiques selling unusual homewares –think Alessi but on a grander scale.

After the hustle and bustle of central Rome, visiting one of Rome’s parks is the perfect way to relax. I went to the Villa Borghese Gardens, Rome’s second largest park encompassing 148 acres of winding footpaths, statues, fountains, a lake and several museums. If you’re feeling adventurous it also has a zoo and places to hire roller blades, segways and bikes. 

A fountain in the Villa Borghese Gardens
Having failed to persuade my traveling companion to hire a Vespa in Rome, she did eventually relent and agree to rent bikes to explore the park. Prices start from around 5 per hour for basic bike hire increasing to 12 for an entire day. You usually need to leave photo ID as a deposit, I didn’t have any with me, fortunately I managed to convince the man running the rentals to accept a credit card instead but if you don’t feel like risking your passport or your bank account(!), I recommend carrying some form of photo ID with you, even if it’s just a library card.


After a day in Rome you’re sure to work up an appetite and luckily the food is delicious. As well as the traditional pizza and pasta dishes you would expect, there are lots of meat and seafood options. There are so many restaurants, cafes and bistros in central Rome you’re spoiled for choice, although prices are expensive and portions are usually quite small.  This holds true even if you buy food from street vendors, where a soft drink will set you back €3 or €4 and a slice of pizza around 5. I found the best way to eat well on a budget was to have a light lunch, perhaps half of a shared pizza or a panini, and to eat dinner early as many restaurants introduce more expensive dinner menus at evening. Rome is famous for its gelato, a delicious Italian ice-cream, and true to form there are gelaterias on virtually every corner. Prices usually start from €2 or €3 for a single scoop going up to €10 or more for a really lavish multi-flavour sundae. You pay more to sit and eat in gelaterias so you can save by enjoying your gelato standing up! Nearly as delicious as gelato are the flavoured crushed ice drinks. I particularly liked the lemon, which was so refreshing after a hard day sight-seeing.

We stayed at the well-appointed Hotel Capannelle, which is approximately three kilometres from central Rome. Although this meant a 25-30min bus journey into the city each day, thanks to the out-of-town location the hotel is a lot more spacious than its city centre equivalents and even boasts its own pool –a rare luxury for a Rome hotel. Ultimately wherever you stay Rome is an amazing city unlike any other, and one you definitely cannot afford to miss. 

Keep scrolling for more photos...

The Hotel Capannelle
Hotel Room
The Trevi Fountain
The Roman Forum

The Vatican Museum
One of the ornate ceilings in the Vatican Museum
View over the city
Bernini's 'Sinking Ship' Fountain
Jelly Babies in the Park
The Colosseum
The Colosseum
The Spanish Steps
A street performer
Fountain of the Naiads
Lemon Slush

Saturday, 10 September 2011

How (Not) to Travel

It’s been a while since I’ve had a holiday so I was   pretty excited when I set off last Monday for what promised to be ten days of fun, sun and sightseeing in one of the world’s most exciting cities, Rome. My case was packed -I’d even made a colour-coded list of what to pack- my travelling clothes were carefully laid out and my alarm was set for 5am. The only problem, I discovered, with being so prepared is that you get complacent. Having made it to the terminal in plenty of time, leisurely checked my bags in, mulled over whether the navy or the black Longchamp tote was the better buy and sampled a number of different airport cuisines (if you ever find yourself in Heathrow Terminal 5, I highly recommend Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food) I realised too late that my flight had nearly finished boarding and the departure gate was 20 minutes away. Despite an all-out dash my traveling companion and I missed the flight. What unfolded over the next six hours was a nightmare of epic proportions, eventually we were put on the reserve list for a 7am flight the next morning. Tom Hanks may have made living in a terminal look like fun but when you’re actually faced with the prospect of spending the night on those hard plastic chairs equipped only with your BA emergency overnight pack (where apparently the best one-size-fits-all T-shirt is a 3XL) the idea starts to lose its appeal a little. Fortunately we made the morning flight and as an unexpected bonus found we’d been upgraded to BA Club (read: first/business) class. And what did I learn from all this? Well aside from the obvious about improving my time management skills, quite a bit actually…

Travel Outifts
 Indigo Skinny Jeans, Miss Selfridge
White Cami/Vest, Warehouse (similar)
Short Sleeved Jacket, River Island
Patterned Floral Scarf, Jane Norman
Heart Pendant, Accessorize (similar)
Tan Cone-Heel Courts, Head Over Heels by Dune (similar)
'Kala' Tote Bag, Ri2k (similar)

Lemon Cardigan, Hollister (similar)
Gold Ballet Pumps, Topshop (similar)

1) I usually travel in comfortable but smart basics, that can be dressed up or down with the help of a couple of simple accessories that I carry in my hand luggage. Having the extra pieces with me meant I could switch items and feel like I was wearing a clean and fresh outfit the second day. Even if your travel plans go completely smoothly this is still a good idea for one very simple reason: free upgrades! Airlines are often left with spare seats in first or business class when passengers fail to make early flights. If you arrive at check-in looking smart and presentable and ask politely you stand every chance of scoring a free upgrade, once you’re on board you can swap your accessories for more comfortable cosy ones. 

Ri2k 'Kala'
2) I always take a generously sized bag as hand luggage. At the very least I need something big enough to hold my travel documents, money, keys, cardigan/jacket, a book or two and my toiletries. I have a great lightweight roomy bag by Tripp that slots neatly on top of my suitcase, if I don’t need something quite so large I have a Ri2k handbag in a great neutral shade that is perfect for travelling with. On the rare occasion I don’t need to check in any hold baggage, I have a large cream Fiorelli tote that is much easier to man-handle into overhead lockers than trolley cases. There are no fixed dimensions for hand luggage so make sure you check your airline’s guidelines before you travel.   

A travel wallet is a must
3) There are now restrictions in place worldwide on carrying liquids in hand luggage. Any gels, creams or pastes now need to be in containers no more than 100ml and presented in a re-sealable clear plastic bag. I wear contact lenses so I always make sure I have a travel sized cleaning solution with me and a spare case. I also carry my favourite make-up products in my hand luggage so I have them there in case I need to touch up. If you’re being uber prepared, you might also want to include some of your shower gel and shampoo decanted into small bottles. I’ve found this is much cheaper- and environmentally friendly since you can refill them- than buying travel-sized products.

4) Travel wallets are great for keeping all your documents, passport and foreign currency together and organised. I picked up mine really cheaply a couple of years ago and I always use it whenever I travel.

5) Finally for the ultimate in comfort and luxury I recommend investing in a Cushtie travel pillow, available from Firebox here. Tiny foam beads make these incredibly soft and mouldable- inflatable pillows simply do not compare. Lugging your over-sized pastel-hued cushion around the airport will annoy you immensely, there’s no getting away from that, but it’s more than worth it if you have a night flight. Because these cushions are so soft if you’re lucky you may be able to squash it into your hand luggage.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

DIY Shabby Chic French Memo Board

French Inspired Memo Board

I’m always writing little notes and reminders to myself, so my desk is typically drowning in post-it notes. I’ve thought about buying a memo board in the past but they’re usually so stark and boring, I finally decided I could make something that was just as functional but a lot more aesthetically pleasing myself. I love shabby chic style so a French memo board was the perfect choice.     

What I used
What I used 

- 16 x 12 MDF board
- Wadding
- Fabric
- Ribbon
- Buttons
- Peg clips
- Mounting tape
- PVA Fabric glue
- Scissors
- Pinking shears
- Tape measure
- Dress maker’s pencil/tailor’s chalk

What I Did

1) Rose-print fabric
1) I chose this gorgeous vintage rose print fabric and found pretty East of India ribbon to match. I found these cute miniature peg clips in a craft shop –they’re perfect for attaching little notes to the finished memo board.

2) Next I had a board cut to size –thank you Dad! I used MDF although an old noticeboard or pinboard would work just as well. I asked for the corners to be mitred for a more professional finish.

3) I cut a piece of the wadding to fit and fixed it to the board with a little fabric glue.

3) The board and wadding cut to size

4) When the glue was dry I laid the board upside down on the fabric and carefully cut around it, leaving a 2.5’’ margin.

I used pinking shears to avoid the fabric fraying although if you don’t have these to hand regular scissors are fine too. As I can’t cut a straight line to save my life I used a dressmaker’s pencil to lightly mark where I had to cut the fabric.

5) I began to fold the fabric over the board, starting with the corners. Instead of using a staple gun I used strong mounting tape, fixing it to the board first and then pulling the fabric taut and sticking it down. 

         4) Cutting the fabric                                                            5) Fixing it in place with adhesive tape
6) Positioning the ribbon

6) Now the tricky part- positioning the ribbon. I found it easiest to fix the two diagonal pieces running across the board in place first. Through trial and error I decided how far apart I wanted the rest of the ribbon to be spaced, then using the diagonals as a guide, I measured a couple of points to check they were all running parallel before fixing them with the mounting tape.

7) I sewed a button onto each of the crossing points.

8) Finally I fixed a length of ribbon to the back to hand the board up. Et viola! C’est fini.

7) Ready to sew on the buttons                                             8) The finished board with ribbon for hanging
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