Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Christmas list: Volume 1

We've reached that time of year again when The Boy starts actually paying attention to my ramblings when we are out shopping rather than playing with his phone, which can only mean one thing: he has no clue what to get me for Christmas. 

Now, I actually think I'm easy to buy gifts for (lets face it a girl who loves fashion/reading/writing/bathing is far easier to buy for than a boy who has no hobbies to speak of other than watching TV and reading the occasional graphic novel) but The Boy doesn't seem to think so. So, for those of you out there who are facing a similar conundrum, here's my guide for gifts us girls (me in particular) would love to receive. Just in case anyone's feeling generous.*

1. You can't go wrong with Zara Vouchers
Zara's been on my radar for a while now but it's only really been in the past twelve months that I've become a true, die-hard fan. It's pretty much the only high street store that I want to buy something in every time I pay them a visit, which can't always happen due to my bank balance. More's the pity.
2. Selfridges (aka the shop that has everything)
Whilst we're on gift vouchers I thought Selfridges would be worth a mention. I can spend hours wandering around and the beauty of Selfridges is that it stocks brands at a variety of price points. H&m? Check. All Saints? Check. Chanel? Check. Pretty much a shopaholics dream store.
3. Face Paint
Make-up is quite a personal thing but as long as the colours are nothing too outrageous and the brand is good quality an eyeshadow palette, set of lip glosses or a box set is a great gift. My personal favourites are Benefit who do some nice sets, Mac and Urban Decay.

4. Books
I used to love receiving book tokens when I was younger and I still love them now - I can ALWAYS find a book to buy and spend many an afternoon wandering in Waterstones. I love the idea of a kindle (if only to lighten the load on my poor shoulder) but there's something about actually holding a brand new (or well loved) copy of a favourite tale that, well, just makes me happy.

I recommend The Passage by Justin Cronin (I already have two copies so this is not on my own personal Christmas list but I'd love some more people to talk to about it!).
5. Bath & Body products
My personal favourites are Soap and Glory, Rituals and Body Shop - pretty much anything that smells good enough to eat is fine by me, and most other girls I'm sure. There's normally some nice gift packs available at this time of year which can be great value for money, or, if you can hold of until nearer the day there's usually some fantastic discounts on offer.
6.Cold hard cash
Spring 2013 will (finally) see The Boy and I take a holiday together to New York and I CANNOT WAIT. I find that vouchers have a habit of lurking in the bottom of my handbag for months (why is it that when you have money to spend you can never find anything you want to buy?) but currency for a special trip is always greatly appreciated and can often be put towards a memorable experience or nice dinner.
7. Stocking fillers
There are many inexpensive bits and pieces out there that make great gifts, my favourites are: patterned socks (the cuter the better, there are lots on offer in Primark for mere penny's), pretty pyjamma sets (again, lots of variety at Primark), nail varnishes, and costume jewellery from Freedom at Topshop.
And there you have it. Of course there's plenty more perfect gifts out there for girls but I'll leave it at that or I'll be here all night!

* I will be posting The Christmas list: Volume 2 this week which will have gift suggestions for all the family, so watch this space.

Monday, 26 November 2012

A rainy Saturday at The Reformation

On Saturday I got up bright and early and jumped on a train to Reading to meet Mum and Dad for a day of fun in the countryside.

We had big plans to spend the day helping Uncle David clear out the house but, naturally, we stopped for a spot of lunch at the local pub, The Reformation at Gallowstree Common, where a serious log splitting competition was taking place.
Clockwise from top left: Dad enjoying the log splitting competition (I guess we know where I get my double-chin issues from, well, other than all the food that is) - The gorgeous exterior - Log splitting galore, even in the rain - Jean went for an Avocado salad with a side of fries 
Having been brought up by a Father who loves real ale I have become something of an authority on outstanding pubs of the British Isles - and the Reformation is up there with the best for me. I love a pub that provides me with a roaring fire, delicious (and well priced) food, a friendly atmosphere and that thinks outside the box. Not only could I warm up with a mulled wine but a selection of other Christmas themed drinks were available - including winter Pimms, always a firm favourite.
Clockwise from top left: My ensemble for the day (slicked back hair and a hood to keep off the rain) - Perusing the menu by firelight - The gorgeous pub sign - Nothing better than a fire when you've been stood in a wet field

Being a squeamish sort, I could only watch about ten minutes of the log splitting for fear of glimpsing someone chopping their thumb off, but I loved the idea! And being quite chilly outside I was more than happy to retire to the pub where I could curl up by the fire and enjoy a plate of food and a natter with Mum and Dad.

Clockwise from top left: The main event - Famous friends - My first mulled wine of the year - Mum went for Grilled chicken with gnocchi
Clockwise from top left:Log splitting in the rain - I went for a burger, delish - All signs point to The Reformation - Wrapped up against the cold
We'll be visiting my Uncle quite a lot over the coming months so I'm looking forward to spending many more lazy lunchtimes in The Reformation with my family - probably working our way through the food and drinks menu.
If you're in Berkshire and are looking for somewhere to stop for lunch or dinner, or even just a drink by the fire in a welcoming setting be sure to check out The Reformation - all details can be found here.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

My week in photos 13

Now, those of you who read My week in photos 12 will remember that I had big ideas about starting my return to healthy eating and, although these pictures may tell a somewhat different story, by and large this week has leaned far more towards bikini than fat suit. That's not to say there haven't been some fantastical meals on the menu, as you'll see below.

The weekend in Somerset saw many a meal out (and delicious meal in) but most of those calories have been counterbalanced by lots of healthy dinners during the week - it may be winter but it's salads all the way in the L&F household.

Here's some snapshots of life for me this week.
Clockwise from top left: Some LK Bennett beauties I fell in love with at Kilver Court - A Saturday steak dinner with family (The Boy's and mine) with plenty of laughs over a Malibu and coke (or five) - Sampling some craft beers back in London with the Boy - Hitting our favourite chinese restaurant in Chinatown with Zsa Zsa. You see what I mean about the eating?
 Clockwise from top left: Some Eat frozen yoghurt at Topshop Oxford Circus to get me through a day of working in store - Pink sky over Somerset - An exciting invite - The skyline of my morning commute - A selection of amazing pies at the Raven of Bath, well recommended - A Whistles treat - Super healthy salad for dinner - Discounts galore, this particular one made me think of the Hobbettes

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The little black jacket

A couple of weeks back I was lucky enough to be able to make the most of a rare free Friday when I had nothing pressing to do and take the opportunity to take in a spot of culture at one of my favourite London art venues, the Saatchi Gallery

Being a short walk from the flat, the Kings Road is always a fun day out, the people-watching alone can keep me entertained for hours, it's well worth a visit if you're in London.

The reason for my visit was to check out Chanel's The Little Black Jacket Exhibition dedicated to Karl Lagerfeld's latest book. The idea behind the book is to revist the traditional styling of Chanel, with a wide variety of "friends of Chanel" being showcased with their own styled interpretation of the Chanel classic - here are some of my favourite images from the collection.
Sadly the exhibition was only in London for a couple of weeks but to see more of the amazing images you can pick up the book (the perfect Christmas gift for any fashionista) or find out more about the exhibition here.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Children of the revolution

Although it was my first week at my new job, I took Friday off for a prearranged double whammy family gathering in Somerset.

The Wells carnival is a favourite event for The Boy and I (having not missed one in three years) and this year it was time for my parents to finally see what all the fuss was about.

After a jam packed day in London on Thursday (nine store visits and a trip to the DC) we hopped on a coach (the pro list for getting a car is growing longer by the day) and headed for Hampshire for a one night stay in Titchfield with my parents. Goats cheese salad (alas no picture, I was too hungry) and wine awaited us, followed by an inevitable nap on the sofa for me. I love being home, surrounded my my family and our wonderful, clutter filled house.

Friday dawned with an early morning dentist appointment for me before we set off for Shepton Mallet. We took a lunchtime pitstop at Street where I picked up a cheeky Whistles treat and indulged in a Toffee Nut Hot Chocolate (non-coffee drinkers out there, believe me this is amazing) and arrived at The Boy's parents around 4ish. Just in time for cottage pie and a natter before the action began.

The carnival over the past few years has been notorious for bad weather and this year was no different. Thick fog made driving conditions pretty interesting and halfway through the procession the rain began to fall. But nothing could put a dampener on our enthusiasm and we remained steadfast in the market square to watch the floats go by. Some of my personal favourites featured polar bears, a Disney theme, snow machines, "Children of the revolution", a rather creepy Christmas tale, and of course, middle-aged men dressed as women - basically it was right up my street.

You can find out more about the Somerset Carnivals here, or watch my video below for the kind of thing you can expect. It's important to remember that in most parts of the country these husbands/fathers/brothers would spend their evenings sat in front of the TV, not customising what is essentially a tractor and trailer and learning a dance routine. 

One word: Amazing.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

It's always darkest before the dawn

As most of you may know, the past week marked a turning point in my life: I started my new job.

I love Hobbs but the past few months have been far from happy ones for me and I had come to the conclusion long ago that maybe it was time for a change. Luckily for me, one of my favourite brands, All Saints, were looking for an Assistant Store Planner and wanted little old me for the role. It's still early days but so far I'm loving it, the people are great and the role has reignited my passion for branch merchandising which Caroline (my old manager, now friend) started all those years ago.

No longer am I working in the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, instead I'm based in the heart of east London. Which is bound to be good for my bank balance (and my sanity), as no longer will I be tempted by bargain basement stores, or have to battle though the shoppers they attract on my nightly commute. I'm really enjoying exploring the area and spent my day off last Monday taking a look around. Here's what I've found so far.

 Rough Trade - a perfect spot to while away my lunch break.

 Beyond Retro - a vintage mecca for me to explore, the only thing missing was Zsa Zsa and Rebeccs to keep me focussed (and away from the leopard print).

I can already sense that the bagel shops are going to become my weakness - this salt beef, pickle and mustard bad boy will definitely be happening again.

Unexpected graffiti has long been a favourite spot of mine - now there's almost up-to-the-minute artworks being created right on my doorstep.

The advertising for Margiela with H&M was really innovative and once I'd spotted one I couldn't help but find more - I hope to see more exciting retail innovations going on in the area.

We finished the afternoon in The Craft Beer Co (somewhere I know The Boy is anxious to get back to) which I loved as it reminded me of some of the many, many, pubs I've been to with Dad over the years.

What are your highlights and recommendations for East London?

Sunday, 11 November 2012

My week in photos 12

The past week has mostly revolved around eating - and the wrong kind of eating at that. The many parties, leaving dos and the wedding that we attended have left my waistline bursting at the seams. Something must be done. Therefore I have decided to embark on what some may call a detox but I prefer to call junk-food-cold-turkey. Christmas is coming and I am certainly on my way to getting fat, so before the season of finger food buffets and tins of chocolates arrives it will be fruit and veg all the way, for a while at least.

Here's what I've been getting up to (and eating) over the past week or so.

 Clockwise from top left: Christmas is coming! Picking up a festive snack at M&S - Delicious wedding cupcakes, to keep us going on the train - Make up for Grandad's birthday - A midweek cookie run to help us through the afternoon - My gorgeous girls, Annie, Bateson and Mary Anne - Picked up a copy of Time Out for Father - Dreaming of some vintage wheels - A blustery Sunday afternoon stroll along the seafront

 Clockwise from top left:The Great-Grandchildren help Grandad with his candles - I know it's blurry but it pretty much sums up the night - A note from the lovely Hannah - An amazing cake for an emotional last day at work - A random Thursday could only end with sequinned gloves and dancing - One last lunch with Clara and Rebecca *sob* - Me and the wonderful Gunilla - Ma and Pa in their finest

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Look of the day: black stripe, yellow paint

For my Grandad's ninetieth birthday party at my family home on the south coast last weekend I wore one of my latest purchases, and a favourite one at that. 

I picked up this little acid yellow number on one of my early morning runs to Primarni and when I saw it on the rails I literally could not believe how cute it was! Neither could the girls at work, particularly as it looked so close to a Whistles number some of them have had their eye on. I'm informed that leather trims are still going to be acceptable come Spring so hopefully I'll be able to get more than a few wears out of it in both cooler and warmer weather.

 Dress: Primark
Blazer: H&M
Belt: Primark
Tights: Primark (Super Cosy - literally, life changing)
Boots: New Look

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A Brit abroad

One thing I've learned this year is that friendship certainly is a weird and wonderful thing. 

It comes in all shapes and sizes, is often found in the most unexpected places and is sometimes not at all what it seems. Since I've started to take blogging seriously (in the sense that I now make sure I don't go months without posting) I've found that the unexpected surprise of a comment on a blog post is a welcome bonus and they've often led me to other like minded people, or blogging friends as I call them, usually with fascinating blogs to discover. 

One of these people is Mimi Finerty.

All images by Mimi Finerty

Now to tell the truth, Mimi and I went to university together in Southampton a few years back but we never knew each other that well. Sure, we were polite when we bumped into each other and may even have gossiped in a corner on occasion (usually at the expensive of our long suffering Fashion History lecturer) but we didn't have each other numbers and, had it not been for blogging, our friendship might have ended right there and then, as the drudgery of everyday life led our worlds in different directions.

Since we finished university Mimi returned briefly to her family home in London before making the brave step of upping sticks and moving to Cyprus with her long term boyfriend to start a new life in a warmer climate.

All images by Mimi Finerty

Two years have passed and I must say I love reading about how things are going for Mimi, her Boy and their gorgeous four legged friend. 

If anything it makes me a tad jealous. As I write this whilst on the bus, sat in traffic (as usual) in the London drizzle it does make me consider how different things could be on foreign shores. Mimi certainly looks to be having a fantastic time.

All images by Mimi Finerty

I look forward not only to a new blog post from Mimi on her inspirational blog, but even a comment from Mimi on one of my own posts puts a smile on my face. Even my Dad (my blogs number one fan) knows all about Mimi and is always keen to hear how she's getting on, after he spotted her kind words on my blog. "Who's Mimi?" he said, and I went on to explain that she's my part-blogger, part-real-life friend who's on her own adventure the other side of the sea.

Mimi is taking part in the Expats Blog Writing Competition October 2012 - if you fancy supporting Mimi, then check out her entry "Life on a Sunshine Island" here.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Wedding number 5: Sweets for my sweet

On Thursday night The Boy and I escaped the madness of London and headed west to Somerset to go to our final wedding of the year, that of Tony and Nicola, in Clevedon on Friday.
Clockwise from top left: The happy couple - The gorgeous church - There are no words - The newlyweds travel in style

Tony and The Boy have been friends for years and it was really nice that we could both go along and share in their special day.

On Friday morning, as we nipped along the motorway crammed into Michael's sister's car, I was more than a little apprehensive. Dressing for a winter wedding is tricky enough but with storm clouds overhead there was more than a possible chance rain could stop play. Or at least ruin my shoes. Luckily, although it was drizzling when we arrived at the picturesque St Andrews church, by the time the service was over the sun had made an appearance just in time for photos (although it was still freezing). The reception was just down the road at the gorgeous Clevedon Hall, an amazing venue that used to be a school. It really took my breath away and was not at all what I was expecting.
Clockwise from top left: The gorgeous Clevedon Hall - Cheers to the future - The sweetie room - Gemma and Brad

Both Tony and Nicola are teachers and although there were few children in attendance you could really see the couple's sense of fun in the many surprises and treats that greeted guests throughout the day. There was a Sweets room we were encouraged to help ourselves to a cone full of our favourite childhood sweets, a play doh competition for guests to create their own sculpture of the day (mine won most original idea, naturally) and even a quiz to take part in over dinner. Even the wedding favours were bottles of Tony's favourite sauce, Heinz tomato ketchup.
Clockwise from top left: My ensemble of choice for wedding number 5 - The Groom, The Boy and his friends, don't they scrub up well! - Cute wedding favours - The gorgeous cake - Would you like ketchup with that? - The Bride and Groom - Beautiful blooms - The happy couple

The day was truly wonderful and it was nice to get to spend some time getting to know some of the people The Boy holds dear. 

I've only ever met Tony and Nicola a handful of times but in his speech Tony mentioned a story about when he and Nicola were exploring London and helped rescue some baby ducklings from a drain and it was at this point that it became clear that these two really are my kind of people.
 Clockwise from top left: Greek Meze - Priddy lamb and chedder mash - Ketchup on everything, no really - Anyone for cheese? - The play doh competition got very competitive - The first dance - My competition entry - Belgian waffle with ice cream, delicious!

Congratulations Tony and Nicola, wishing you every happiness for your lives together.
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