Since a new Next store opened up the road from me, I’ve spent many a happy evening browsing the racks to bulk out my wardrobe – and my kitchen! Next have some great on trend knits this year – I especially love these three! And who could resist a cute doggo?!
I am loving all the Boston terrier / pug merchandise around at the moment (pro-tip, upwards ears are usually Boston terriers or French Bulldogs, downwards ears are pugs. I would like a French Bulldog please, Santa!). I *had* to snap up this adorable J. Crew x Net-A-Porter Breton top in the Regent Street store when I saw it!
Check out those sequins!
I’ve found myself in London a lot recently for work, and luckily I’ve had plenty of time to window shop, too. My favourite place is rapidly becoming Regent Street, followed by a detour for Fortnums and a dash up to Bond Street.
Shopping in designer stores is very much a case of look and don’t touch for me – which makes things pretty easy on the wallet. Still, I’m not quite sure how I managed to walk away from an embroidered kitten with a levitating crown…
I’ve also resoled two of my favourite pairs of shoes – my kitty flats from Charlotte Olympia and my rose gold Ferragamo flats. If you take your shoes into most designers they’ll send them off to be repaired for you – I prefer to go through the brands I purchased from to make sure everything goes smoothly, but it can be a huge hassle to get back into London to pick them up again!
Charlotte Olympia is fairly reasonable (£25) and quick – and they will even pop your shoes in a canvas tote bag as well! Plus, you get to look at their gorgeous shoes while you’re there… try to resist if you can! (But how can you?!)
Meanwhile, Ferragamo is far more expensive (£45 for a resole of my admittedly abused flats!) and takes a lot longer, because apparently they ship them all to Italy to have them repaired by one woman… (The sales assistant could have course been a bit off the mark here…)
I’m hoping that the new soles last me a loooong while – but to be honest, I’ve worn these non-stop for months, so it’s worth it. (A note, though – I had my patent flats soled as soon as I purchased them and it was just £25. Maybe cheaper as they hadn’t been worn yet – and rubber soles are much more durable than leather. If you’re going to wear your flats daily I’d always recommend getting them soled right away!)
One of my favourite Christmas traditions is to pick up new decorations every year, especially ones that have a meaning or mark an occasion. My husband and I picked these up from Liberty’s Christmas floor when we visited during my birthday weekend – I love the fact that they accidentally matched even though we bought them separately!
Of course, while you’re in Liberty’s, you’re obliged to look at their gorgeous fabrics – and if you’re me, curse yourself for never really learning how to sew properly! I’d love to whip these up into something amazing, but sadly I have no talent in that department!
Another place I love to visit in London is Abeno Too, just by Leicester Square. It’s a tiny Japanese restaurant with tabletop cooking as a speciality. Okonomiyaki is the main dish, but you can get noodles and pancakes and even seasonal dishes like this gorgeous aubergine starter. If you’ve never tried okonomiyaki you have to go – it’s one of my favourite Japanese dishes and it’s so delicious! It’s a savoury batter heavy with cabbage and topped with a sauce that tastes a little bit like HP (but not exactly – I hate HP Sauce but I love this! It’s quite similar to tonkatsu sauce if you’ve tried that before), plus Japanese mayonnaise and seaweed and bonito flakes. It’s cooked in front of you on the hotplate, and it’s a fun and enjoyable meal out!
And, finally, these are the accessories I’ve been wearing non-stop! My Canadian tartan scarf from eBay, my past season Givenchy SVG 773 sunglasses, my Monica Vinader siren earrings that I got for this birthday just gone, my vintage Japanese pearl necklace my parents got me for my 30th birthday, and my beloved Hermès enamel bracelet. Believe it not, this is rapidly becoming one of my best value items if you break it down to cost per wear – it’s been on my wrist non-stop since I got it!
I love October because it’s got all my favourite things – Halloween, the start of autumn… and my birthday! This year I went to an escape room in my home town before a meal at Mango Thai Tapas – the escape room honestly wasn’t that brilliant, but it did inspire me to try out my own!
My husband got me a beautiful pair of Monica Vinader earrings – as seen on the Duchess of Cambridge (naturally!). They’re my first pair of MV earrings and I absolutely love them – the packaging is gorgeous! (You can find the earrings online here.)
October is also the start of the party season for me – from here on in it’s three months of birthdays, celebrations and family meals. It can be difficult to find something sophisticated and low-effort to keep your guests happy in the time between when they arrive and the start of the festivities, so I was really excited when The Fish Society offered me some sturgeon pâté to try! It’s so handy to keep in the cupboard and bring out as a canapé! I heaped it on crackers with a slice of lemon, and Alastair Blair, founder of The Fish Society suggests serving it on Melba toast with a sliver of dried tomato – or for a luxury touch, some grains of caviar! Find the pâté here and the caviar here – and check out their gift section too for some great ideas for Christmas!
I’ve been spending a few days in London recently, mooning around Jo Malone counters and wishing I could nab one of those gorgeous advent calendars… But, they cost £280 and are sold out – my credit card breathes a sigh of relief!
I’m also still thrilled about the Halloween afternoon tea at Lancaster London – they have regular themed teas throughout the year so don’t worry if you missed out! Find them here (you won’t regret it – the head chef, Ben Purton – is a genius!)
Another tradition at this time of year is to head to Fortnum & Mason to check out their glorious Christmas room… I have to get some of the themed felt decorations; there are so many gorgeous London ones I just need. I mean, how can you resist?!
Hygge is the buzz word of 2016 – or at least, it is in my house. I say it all the time, at any opportunity, because I have no real idea how to pronounce it and it’s funny to say it out loud. Hygge basically means a sense of cosiness and happiness, a state of mind conjured up by warm socks, hot cocoa, and a wood fire.
So, when my friends invited me on a camping trip, I thought it would be the perfect time to do a post about hygge, and how you can invoke its spirit in the great outdoors!
First of all, you will need a tent. I had some great advice picking a tent, and found a cheap two-man one for £45 (the item is the Eurohike Tay Deluxe Two Man Tent). The best tents have an interior sleeping area that’s seperate from the rest, which reduces the amount of condensation inside. They also have a small porch area to store your items – and believe me, you need a stupid amount of stuff to go camping, even by my standards.
If you’re going with experienced campers, you probably won’t need a lot of other stuff, but if you’re camping alone, or for any length of time, you’ll probably want to invest in a tent you can stand up inside, because if the weather is bad you’ll be hunched inside your tent like Gollum otherwise…
The best part about camping, of course, is the nighttime firepit. We had a portable Weber and coals, but if the camp site lets you, you’ll want to break out the log-fuelled fire for sure. Sticks and marshmallows are a must, and copious amounts of cider is optional, but recommended.
Lighting is really difficult at night in a campsite. You’ll want to bring as many lanterns, fairy lights and head torches as you can find. Fairy lights with battery packs are so awesome for brightening up a camp site – and as an added bonus, you can use it to find your way back to your tent after a midnight toilet break!
Trust me to claim that a pair of Charlotte Olympias are essential campsite necessities, but bringing flip-flops is the best tip I got. You’ll be showering in a central block, and drying yourself and walking back and forward from your tent is so much easier with flip-flops!
You’ll probably notice in my tent picture at the top that I have a lot of blankets and throws. This is my best hygge tip, after ‘bring fairy lights’. I’ve got a blanket scarf from Joules (the Heyford, check them out here) which was a perfect dual purpose item – worn around the neck or over the knees, it was a great way to keep toasty! I also had some red checkered throws from Next, as well as a tartan picnic blanket, which makes a perfect carpet for the foyer of the tent. These small touches go a long way to making the experience as cosy as possible!
We went camping in the New Forest, one of my favourite places, and somewhere I wish I could spend a lot more time. On the Saturday, we went to the Otter and Owl Sanctuary, which was huge, full of awesome animals, and even had a giant adventure playground that adults were allowed in! (Seriously, it was probably the part I enjoyed the most!)
The campsite we ended up at was Ashurst. I definitely recommend it for some amazing views like this one! It’s pretty central in the New Forest, making it handy for loads of great days out.
And if you’re in the New Forest, I definitely recommend you visit Burley. It’s got a great history of witches and magical activity, and a couple of lovely themed magical gift shops. It’s also got a New Forest Cider shop, where they produce their own cider, as well as sell a variety of great local products, and there’s even a cafe!
So, are you going to bring a bit of hygge into your next camping trip? Don’t forget your flip-flops and blanket scarves!
By now, no one is really interested in my observations about whether it’s nearly autumn, or actually autumn, so I’ll move onto my current obsession: nesting and getting myself slightly organised for the upcoming festive period – we got birthdays, Halloween, Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year to come in the space of just three months!
Part of getting organised means getting myself stocked up on some time-saving, super delicious meals. I got sent some Good Hemp Pure Protein Powder, C/O www.goodhempfood.com, and it’s so handy in the mornings for a quick, healthy breakfast. It’s 117 calories a scoop, and it’s vegan too. (Plus gluten-free, dairy-free, lactose-free, soya-free, whey-free, and kosher!) You can add it to your usual smoothie for a protein boost (it contains all 20 amino acids, including the 9 essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce ourselves), or build a simple vanilla shake by adding some vanilla essence in along with water. My favourite way to drink it at the moment is as a chocolate banana shake – one scoop of Good Hemp, a frozen banana, a cup of milk, and a teaspoon of cocoa powder, blended. It tastes so bad for you, but it’s not – my favourite kind of breakfast!
I’ve also been trying to use up my Spicery BBQ kits, cooking an insane amount of food while I can still use my Weber. Well, I can use it all year round, but my friends aren’t so tolerant of sitting in a freezing cold garden while I hunch over some ribs. I can’t recommend The Spicery enough – everyone who has tried their kits thinks they’re amazing. Head to http://www.thespicery.com/ for their ranges. These guys are good.
All year round, I like to make lists – recipes, shopping lists, places to go, things to try, stuff to pack… I bought this Kate Spade notebook and am gradually filling it up! And all this note taking is thirsty work, so my Nespresso machine is going full-tilt. Is it wrong to admit my favourite is the caramel flavour? I know, I’m not a real coffee snob…
I’ve also become obsessed with making pom-poms, and turning them into wreaths. Here’s my snowball-themed Christmas one! I’m working on a black and orange Halloween themed one now… I just need to figure out how to actually attach them to my front door. And, because I’m crazy, I’m seriously wondering if I should buy a new front door just so I can hammer a nail into it…
This week I discovered some old treasures, including this sailing medal that my great grandfather was awarded from a sailing club that still exists today – we drive past it all the time! My family’s history is very much tied up with shipping thanks to our location on the coast, and it’s nice to get these reminders every now and then!
I got a long-awaited delivery in the form of MAC’s collaboration with Star Trek! I picked up two beautiful eyeshadows (the gleaming, olive Bird of Prey and the glittering peachy To Boldly Go), as well as Highly Illogical, a shimmering golden highlighter. I absolutely love all of them, and I’m pretty proud of the fact I managed to snap up items that I didn’t already have loads of duplicates of… Seriously, I don’t need any more browns, golds or nudes…
I’ve still been keeping on with Louise Parker’s Lean for Life – which, would you believe it, also includes a fit fry up, pictured above? Carbs are at a low for this plan, but you can still have a nice piece of wholemeal toast in the mornings! Seriously tasty!
In order to store all of my pesky bags of nuts and seeds, I invested in some Luminarc jam pots, which double nicely as storage jars! No more scattered bags and spilled seeds everywhere for me. You can find these pretty easily on eBay and Amazon – I definitely recommend them for gorgeous, handy storage!
As summer starts to draw to a close, I’ve been enjoying some fresh salads while I’m still in the mood. I enjoyed Louise Parker’s watermelon and feta one, but not sure I’d bother with the pinenuts next time…
The food on the plan is so indulgent you’ll not feel like you’re on a diet. Your wallet might notice the difference though – pistachios, prosciutto, nectarines, pomegranate – this is definitely not budget bites. But if you’re spending the money on a takeaway already, you might as well put it to good use buying super high quality ingredients instead, right…?
At Christmas, my lovely sister in law gave my husband and me a voucher to use for The Shard, one of London’s most distinctive skyscrapers, and the tallest building in the EU. Situated along the South Bank, it was a great opportunity to go out and enjoy the sights – including gawping at the exterior of The Globe, an amazing sight for an English graduate!
Once inside The Shard, you’ll have a couple of stories of great views, plus some bars and a little digital sightseeing guide, which gives you some of the history of the views of London you can see. It was amazing to get the context of some of the buildings and areas you can see, and if you love London I’d definitely recommend visiting!
I paired my super comfy rose gold Ferragamo flats with my Lulu Guinness bag, and brought my lovely blue Ray-Ban aviators – the perfect sunglasses to shield your eyes and give you great views!
Of course, one of the best accessories was a G&T – Fever-Tree had a pop-up bar and I absolutely had to celebrate the sunny skies with a tasty tonic and London gin!
Everywhere you looked there was an incredible mixture of modern buildings and history – here’s a view taking in some of the newest and distinctive buildings in London, along with The Monument to the Great Fire of London, which you can just about make out poking from behind the white flower above. I actually climbed all the way to the top this year, and it had great views – although not as spectacular as The Shard!
If you’re heading to London, make this one of your first visits, so you can get a bird’s eye view of the city, and start to understand some of its rich and amazing history!
Before we trekked up the tower, we stopped at Brixton to try Baba G’s lamb burger – named as one of Timeout’s best burgers in London. It was definitely delicious – topped with an onion bhaji and filled with spice and flavour, and accompanied with spicy fries loaded with mango and mint sauce. Delicious!
As the weather starts to get slightly cooler, I’m digging out my cardigans and knits ready for autumn. I love adding big chunky brooches to them, and my Chanel brooch from my birthday last year is my favourite!
I also couldn’t resist adding a little more to my jewellery collection in the form of a new pair of Links of London earrings…
And, I even got some post through from Chanel, including this adorable little card!
I was also sent this amazing new lipshade C/O Charlotte Tilbury. The new Hot Lips range is incredible; a series of fantastic colours inspired by incredible women and pop culture icons. I plumped for Secret Salma, which is a rich pinky red.
Just like many of CT’s colours, I was initially worried it was a bit too strong for me, but when I applied it, the colour looked amazing (if I do say so myself!). Check out the whole range here (http://www.charlottetilbury.com/uk/new-hot-lips-lipstick) and let me know which one you would pick!
(Also featuring my Links of London earrings – the Hope Eggs! I snagged these with a discount, so it wasn’t quite as painful as it could have been…)
For our last end of summer holidays hurrah, the husband and I headed off the The Chilworth Arms for a Sunday roast of epic proportions. I’d never been there before but it was fabulous, and I’d definitely go there again, especially if it was for a special occasion.
I had a gorgeous chicken liver parfait – more crostini next time, though, please!
That was followed by a hefty helping of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, with lashings of gravy and my own pot of horseradish sauce
Finally, as I was in full-on glutton mode, I went for the cheeseboard for afters. I’ve always wanted to have a cheeseboard instead of dessert, but every time I’m too full. This time I was still too full but I had most of it to go! The best touch here were the gorgeous mini-figs drenched in syrup. They went wonderfully with the cheese – a fantastic selection. Try it if you’re ever visiting! They have some great Christmas and New Year menus. https://www.chilwortharms.co.uk/.
This week, we stuck a pin on a map and ended up going for a walk near Cranbourne – I’d never heard of the area before, but it’s well worth a visit! We found a walk online and gave up halfway through – it was hot, overgrown, full of insects and flies, and seriously boring, traipsing along hedgerow-lined tractor paths with no view of anything except the hills ahead. But the village and the garden centre on the outskirts were gorgeous!
We even found a garden where they were giving away produce, including this beautiful beef tomato and some fresh peas. Yes, thank you!
I have a bit of a thing about gorgeous front doors (funny, because mine is actually pretty unimpressive), so whenever I go anywhere I have to take a snap at some of the pretty ones I see!
Anyway, I’d definitely recommend a little trip to Cranbourne, if only for the little garden centre or the pretty pubs and restaurants located there!
I’ve also been continuing with Louise Parker’s Lean for Life – which led me to a stunning realisation… Microwave poached eggs are actually the easiest way to make them! I used this recipe, which is as follows: crack one egg into a mug half full of water, then microwave it on high for one minute. Then, you just empty the water out and drain the egg on a paper towel, before transferring to your plate. Crazy simple!
There have been no end of salads here since the kitchen was pretty much out of order – I was dying to try this pommy Cobb salad from the recipe book and it was gorgeous. Good job the weather suits cold food!
And that tomato got put to good use too, on an antipasti platter! A simple selection of cured meat, artichoke hearts, mozzarella, olives and spinach makes a great dinner or lunch – another hit from Louise Parker’s book!
When it comes to keeping up my step count, I must confess, I don’t just go walking in the woods and through fields – I’m partial to a bit of shopping (how did you guess?!) and a trek around Gunwharf Quays was a lovely way to get to my step count in the evening. And I couldn’t resist snapping these gorgeous salt and pepper shakers, below – what a beautiful rainbow!
I’m determined to catch up to myself, but for a few weeks, you’re going to have to bear with me while I go over my backlog of favourites of the week posts!
After my lovely holiday I landed right back in the thick of things – a deadline, a new eating plan, and kitchen walls that were streaming water everywhere thanks to a leak that had sprung up from upstairs. Thankfully that seems to be sorted now, but for almost two weeks, I couldn’t cook anything in my kitchen! Luckily, I’d just started Louise Parker’s Lean For Life, and so I was ready to dive into a world of delicious salads…
Lean for Life has a few basic ideas central to the plan. First of all, don’t call it a diet. (Sorry!). Secondly, exercise should consist of at least 10,000 steps a day plus at least 20 minutes of strength and toning / body weight exercises a day, six days a week. Thirdly, that you should ditch low quality carbs (potatoes, white rice, etc) and ramp up your intake of protein. There are a few other aspects to it, of course, but those are the main ideas I’ve taken away so far!
I’ve been surviving on the odd meal made on my outdoor gas stove (which was originally bought to make okonomiyaki!), like the delicious frittata above (finished with a blow torch!), and many rotisserie chickens (CostCo do the best tasting and best value for money version, unsurprisingly!).
The Best Bistro Salad is one of my favourites – peas, gem lettuce, chicken, and baked prosciutto, amongst other things…
I’m also a huge fan of the Super Cherry Bircher, which includes a sour cherry concentrate, yogurt and oatbran. Lots of breakfast recipes consist of a basic base of oatbran and yogurt, which you mix together overnight, usually with some stevia and vanilla paste to sweeten. It’s a great idea, especially if you’re not keen on the texture of oats or granola.
It’s also been a great excuse to eat some of the fruit I adore but never usually buy – figs and cherries! And, I’ve purchased a new set of storage containers just for all the nuts I’ve had to buy too!
I also experimented with making my own gravlax, thanks to The Guardian’s recipe. It turned out really well, but I’m all gravlax’d out now… I don’t think I can eat any more for a long while… (I made A LOT.)
I also went blackberry picking with my family, to get some fruit to eat and freeze. Unless I freeze it right away, I usually end up leaving the blackberries in the fridge to go bad – an absolutely terrible habit I need to break right away! I also really want to make some kind of blackberry liqueur for Christmas, but I need to find the motivation from somewhere… Did you know that blackberry season only lasts until the end of September in the UK? Supposedly, as soon as the clock strikes midnight and we get to October, the devil rushes out to wee on the berries and make them sour. The more you know!
I’ve also fallen in love with Superlife’s Mrs Green Mix – what a lifesaver! I adore Natural Blender because the recipes come with superfood supplements, and I wondered if there was a hassle-free way of replicating this for my own recipes. Superlife have blended together a variety of incredible supplements just for women, to make sure that every smoothie or juice you add it to is as packed full of goodness as possible. They sent me a couple of sachets to try, and I’m so impressed. The taste isn’t completely undetectable, but the crazy long list in this blend makes it well worth adding in. (I’d say it lends a deeper, earthy taste which is actually pretty pleasant if you add the right fruits and vegetables.) Pick up the blend from their site here, for £12.61 (and check out the rest of the range, and the discount options if you buy in bulk!).
Finally, to compensate for all the fries and takeaways I’ve been skipping, I’ve also treating myself to some beautiful flowers from Bloom & Wild (the Harper is pictured above) and Bloomon, which is a really exciting and cool company. Check out their range here, and with my referral link you can get a free vase! Each delivery they provide a new and exciting arrangement of flowers in small, medium or large sizes, and the first one I received was super cool!
Channelling Louise Parker’s beautiful lifestyle certainly has its perks… pretty flowers, beautiful plates of healthy food, and a good start to my weight loss. Hurrah!
Welcome to a new feature I’m imaginatively calling ‘Favourites This Week’ – a place to talk about the fun stuff I’ve been getting up to, new products I’ve been sent to try, and other miscellaneous things that won’t fit anywhere else!
For my first trick, I’d like to take you on a mini tour of my holiday at the beginning of August, when my husband and I went oop north to celebrate our wedding anniversary in Blackpool, Manchester and the Yorkshire Dales!
Whitworths very kindly sent me a week’s worth of these delicious fruity treats, and I have to say, they’re absolutely fantastic. I’ve been tucking them into my pockets and bags and taking them out during our long walks – they’re just the thing for a bit of energy when you need it. (They’re also fabulous with a cup of tea… Just sayin’.) You can buy Whitworths Shots in most major supermarkets, and they come in a huge range of flavours. My favourites were toffee and pecan, and tropical coconut!
By the way, did you notice that handsome lil bag up top, posed precariously on the floor of Blackpool Tower? My new favourite bag, an anniversary gift from my husband – a dark blue Edie crossbody from Lulu Guinness. (I knew I had to have it when the lovely Briony of A Girl, A Style mentioned there was a sale on!)
(Not only did my husband buy me a bag, but he also arranged for rose petals in our bedroom, the softy!)
I *love* the metal lip clasp on this baby – you can pick up similar designs still at Lulu Guinness, although the Edie has now been replaced by the Zoe crossbody and the Gertie tote.
During the week, I have to say, the trusty combo of sunnies and umbrella proved to be an essential addition the Edie – I purchased a tiny umbrella as well from Lulu Guinness, and it’s the perfect size to keep stowed away in case of rain. Check out the whole range here, there are some gorgeous ones! (My current favourite is the black and red Bloomsbury stripe!) And, I have to give a shout-out to my new Ray-Ban aviators. I never thought I was cool enough to pull them off, but one advantage of being in my 30s is that now I don’t care whether I look cool or not…
If you visit Blackpool, my recommendations are: afternoon tea in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, drinks on the seafront at the Beach House Bistro (above), and fish and chips with a cup of tea near the Prom (I recommend The Sea Fish and Chips Restaurant, 1 Foxhall Lane, right by Madam Tussauds!)
Anyway, onto Manchester! For the remainder of the week we stayed in Airbnb places (use my code linked here and get £25 off, and I will too!). It was so much cheaper than a hotel and a lot more convenient as well! I have two awesome restaurant reviews to share with you soon, but until then, here’s a preview:
Apart from two incredible restaurants, we spent a lot of time hanging around outside the set of Coronation Street, meeting famous people (one of whom knew who we were and seemed really pleased to see us. What a great actor!), and walking. Lots of walking. Oh, and this…
…But that’s a story for another day…
The part of the trip where I really got involved was when we got to the Yorkshire Dales! We stayed in an adorable cottage with a loft bedroom, with absolutely no phone signal or wifi whatsoever. We made it out alive, but just barely. Luckily, the cottage was absolutely gorgeous!
On the first day, we went to Ingleton Waterfalls, a private trail set up when you can view around nine waterfalls (honestly, what defines where one waterfall starts and another ends? This is a question that now haunts me) along a four and a half mile loop. (Current costs are £6 per person. Trust me when I say you can make a day of this very easily.)
This was a definite wake-up call that I’m nowhere near as fit as I should be, because I was nearly dead by the time we got to the top. It’s hard work, okay…
There’s also a cute tradition of pressing coins into trees and logs, which dates back to the 1700s in the North of England, and Scotland. There are some amazing examples right at the start of the trail here. I pressed my tuppence in and now I want my wish, please!
The following day was our final one of the trip, and we went to visit the Wensleydale Creamery – a heaven made of cheese and dairy products. We attended a demonstration of cheesemaking, looked around the museum and giftshop, tasted a LOAD of cheese, and had a delicious lunch in the cafe.
If you visit, promise me you’ll try their famous Wensleydale and ginger cheesecake – I’ve been dreaming of eating this again since my mother-in-law made us some one Christmas! I bought a huge wedge to bring back and make my own – it’s currently sitting in the freezer, waiting patiently for my birthday!
That was my week… what about yours?