Building a capsule wardrobe

Ever since I read Lauren Conrad - Style, last year I've been thinking more and more about the concept of a capsule wardrobe and how I could achieve something similar.  As an ironic example of my level of excessive purchasing I have since been unable to locate said book as it is probably residing in a suitcase or under a pile of books somewhere (is there such a thing as a capsule bookshelf? I think I might need one).

Further evidence came to support this notion when I read Gala Darling's article on 'Why too many choices make us miserable', which, if you ever had one of those mornings where you're getting ready for work and you end up trying everything in your wardrobe on before declaring that you hate everything you own and hiding under a quilt, you might be inclined to agree with.  In the years prior to now (as I've mentioned several times on here) I generally adhered to a 'quantity over quality' attitude to shopping, the result of which is a wardrobe crammed to the rafters with dresses from Primark circa 2009, things that don't fit me anymore and things I've never worn.  I think we all have those things in our wardrobe that we skim past when looking for something to wear because we know they're unflattering, uncomfortable or just plain uncool.  What percentage do those items make up in your wardrobe? I'd say I'm at about 80% (or was prior to my clearout).  I recently yanked everything out of my wardrobe and pulled out five giant Ikea bags' worth of things I didn't wear.  Surprise, surprise, the things I don't wear are almost entirely Primark or H&M - things I bought because they were a bargain, or because for £3 it didn't matter that I only kind of liked them.

ah... one can dream!
// img credit: stylebakery.com
My new approach to shopping is to identify where the gaps are in my wardrobe and buy one item now and then that's good quality and will work with lots of other items.  So I'm slowly building what one might describe as a capsule wardrobe, although achieved in a way that breathes life into other loved items that need a friend they can go out with!

If you suffer from a crammed wardrobe (coathangers a little too friendly with each other? This is you) then some tips I have are, pull everything out of your wardrobe.  EVERYTHING.  Then get rid of...

  • ... anything you haven't worn in the last 12 months
  • ... anything you tell yourself you'll slim into (or worse, anything that doesn't fit you since you've lost weight, get rid of it or it might come to fit you again!)
  • ... anything you don't wear but you keep because it was expensive
  • ... anything that's unflattering (you wear it, but you don't like how you look in it)
  • ... anything that needs repairing, dry cleaning or altering 
Once you've done this you should have a good set of clothes you wear regularly and feel good in.  Then identify the gaps and only buy those essential items that will complement what you already own.  Buy for quality, not quantity.  Never buy anything you wouldn't buy if it was twice or three times the price. (My personal tip is if you preferred what you were wearing when you walked into the fitting room, don't buy what you tried on!)

I think a capsule wardrobe is personal to the person - for instance a cashmere jumper may be very chic but I rarely wear jumpers! An amazing pair of jeans I'd say is a must-own, but if you're not a trousers person I'd say it's probably a no-go and you should invest in a killer dress instead.

The things I wear endlessly that are staples of my capsule wardrobe are; pair of ballet pumps, pair of ankle boots, plain t-shirts, high waisted skirt, pair of jeans, pair of leggings, pair of skinny black trousers, blazer, shift dress, cardigans, tights and blouses.

I have a couple of gaps and things currently on my to-buy list.  These are...
  • a pair of court shoes with a low-ish heel (partly inspired by Elgin Avenue's gorgeous Kandee heels and turn ups!) for wearing during the day
  • a wool coat
  • more non t-shirt tops (sleeveless shirts, peplums and the like) for wearing to smarter occasions or dressing up jeans
  • an iconic handbag
One question I have for you is, how much does blogging and reading blogs feel at odds with the concept of a capsule wardrobe and 'less is more'? Do you think there's pressure to post about new things and keep up with new season styles (along with temptation from wishlist posts)? I think I'm going to have to get more in the habit of, when I buy new things, old things have to go, though I've never been one to clear out things as they go out of fashion.  But this is one habit I want to keep to - no more coathanger wars and reams of unworn Primark clothes for me!


A blogger's guide Bournemouth - three top lunch spots

On Friday one of my oldest friends, Charlotte, is coming to stay for the weekend from her home in the big smoke (a.k.a London).  We are both such busy little bees that it's the first time she's been able to stay since we moved in last March, and so I'm trying to put together an itinerary of my favourite things to do in the Christchurch and Bournemouth area.

In a way I'm glad that we've waited a while before she's come to stay, as over the last 18 months Tom and I have really spent a lot of time exploring local places to eat and visit.  When we moved here we didn't know anyone who lived in the local area and so it was important to me that we lay roots here by finding new favourite places, making new traditions and becoming a part of the community.  One of my favourite parts of going on holiday or for a short break is exploring a new city - I love that feeling when you're coming to the end of a trip and you feel less like a tourist and more... embedded into the city, like you know your way around.

We live in Christchurch, about ten minutes from Bournemouth.  We chose Christchurch as neither of us wanted to live in a city but we wanted the convenience of living near shops and restaurants.  Christchurch is worthy of a visit in its own right however - with its beautiful Priory, markets and harbour it's such a lovely place to spend a day.  My favourite place to eat in Christchurch is Cheese and Alfie's, which do incredible breakfasts and brunches (eggs every way you can imagine!).

As we live so close we were able to explore Christchurch on our feet, having a nose around at a slow pace. But I had to do a bit more research when it came to trying to find places to visit in Bournemouth.  It's the largest 'settlement' in Dorset, with wide reaching suburbs and lots of quirky little restaurants and cafes as well as larger clubs and bars. With so many options I wanted to hunt down the little gems, which I mainly did through chatting to people on Twitter as well as our neighbours and friends we made locally, and looking at review sites on the internet.  In the end I came up with a list of 16 places that I was desperate to go and eat at, and we've been ticking them off ever since.  My favourites have been The Kitchen Club, Crepes Farm and another one more our neck of the woods, the Harbour Restaurant at Christchurch Harbour Hotel.

original img credit: the kitchen club
original img credit: crepes farm
Also on the list for visits soon are Frieda's Tearoom, The Larderhouse and the Little Pickle Deli Cafe.

Have you ever had to move to a new town? How did you explore? Or, if you live near me, where are the places I must visit?


A little catchup

I was thinking earlier that it'd been a little while since I did a sort of 'update' post and since those are the ones I often enjoy reading on other people's blogs (read: I am a nosy Nina) I thought I'd let you know what's going on in Planet Rosie.  Here are some snaps for your viewing pleasure.

Yesterday I went to the Solent Hotel and Spa in Whiteley (Hampshire) for a spa day with my Mum [photo 4].  I bought her the voucher from Wahanda and of course I couldn't expect her to go on her own so I bought a voucher for myself too (I know, so generous!).  We were treated to use of the spa facilities and a two course lunch (I had chicken with butternut squash risotto and it was divine).  In complete contrast to my previous spa review we were treated like royalty and given the super fluffy robes I expected at the other spa as well as tea and biscuits on tap (it's the small things!) It was such a relaxing time and I had a manicure whilst my Mum had a facial before lounging in the relaxation room and catching up on all my magazine reading.  I am loving all of the Christmas issues of magazines lately and literally devoured every page of the latest issue of The Simple Things, I've never known a magazine make me feel so warm and fuzzy!

On Saturday night we went out to celebrate my friend Fleur finally getting her Visa approved to move to America and marry her lovely fiancé.  I will be sad to see her go but I'm super excited for her (and to see photos of the wedding!) We went out in Southampton and I wore a lovely studded peplum from Boohoo [£15] and some wet look leggings [photo 12]. I am having a bit of a leggings and trousers moment at the moment so felt much more comfortable (and warm!) in that than in a dress.  I brought a balloon from one of the bars back home with me and Bodhi didn't quite know what to make of it!

My excitement for Christmas is growing exponentially and I had a bit of a splurge on Christmas pajamas in Primark; my favourite being my reindeer onesie in 5! Around this time of year I practically go into hibernation and it's all about coming home from work, getting changed into fleece-y pajamas or a onesie and my big fleece-y slipper boots and just generally being cosy! Talking of Christmas, this morning I was getting ready for work and happily singing 'Holly Jolly Christmas' when a voice bellowed from downstairs (it was Tom, not some random stranger in my house) - "NOT YET".  So I stopped singing but then listened to the Michael Bublé Christmas album on the way to work just to feel Christmassy again! My friend told me recently about a tradition in their house where they have a big sack of presents worth £1ish each at their house and then over Christmas anyone who wins a board game, game of cards, game of Wii bowling etc gets to pick something out of the lucky dip of presents - HOW fun does that sound? I'm making everyone coming to my parents' house for Christmas bring three wrapped gifts of a £1ish value to contribute to the sack, so I'll be raiding Poundland for mine! I also made a big Dotcomgiftshop order on Sunday and found some £1 goodies in their special offers section that might make their way into the sack!

I still have lots of Christmas presents to think about though - I always love to get personalised presents so I've been having a good look at Luxury Engraved Gifts - love the idea of an engraved perfume atomiser!

On a final note, those little treats in photo 11 are my favourite new shoes, some ankle boots from One Step.  They are certainly keeping my feet dry amidst this incessant rain (anyone else considering building an ark?) plus I feel like a cool little pirate in them which is never a bad thing...


Uniqlo Heattech review

I am self-confessed cold person.  I am almost always cold and my perfect afternoon would be being snug in a blanket, by a log fire with mulled wine or hot chocolate.  Sensing a theme? Tom is a 'hot person' (though he would claim that his temperature gauge is normal and I am just broken) so our life at home is a constant game of opening windows, closing windows, turning down the heating, cranking up the heating etc.
On those annoying occasions where I have to leave the confines of my home my tactic is layering.  But sometimes, swathed in jumpers, hoodies, coats and scarves, you tend to feel a little bit more Michelin Man than winter chic.

For this reason, I've always been curious about Uniqlo's Heattech range.  The range claims to keep you toasty by producing heat from moisture evaporating from your body, which air pockets then store in the fibre of the clothes to keep the warmth on your body, meaning you don't need to wear endless layers.  The science sounds good, but 'does it really work?' I wondered.  So when I was sent a Press Pack about the Heattech range, complete with a long-sleeved Heattech top and leggings, I was so excited to try them out.

The first thing I noticed is that they're refreshingly, well... fashionable for clothes that are so functional. I was expecting almost like thermals, or long-johns - something that would be hidden under other clothes, but instead they simply feel like good quality, well-made basics that you wouldn't want to hide away.  Aside from what I would call the 'basics' range in plain colours, Uniqlo have gone even further and developed ranges of accessories, loungewear and even jeans with the pioneering fabric.  Here are some of my favourites...

uniqlo heattech

I'm definitely snapping up the 'lounge cardigan' - bottom left - it looks so cosy and is a snip at £19.90.  It also comes in a wine colour which is so lovely I think it would have to make a trip out of the house rather than just being for lazy afternoons at home.

If you still were unconvinced that fashionable and functional do not possible bedfellows make then have a peek at the Orla Kiely collection - Heattech turtle necks in gorgeous Orla Kiely prints will be available from early next month.

But back to my original question, does it work? The answer for me would be a resounding yes.  I tried the long sleeved top first and wore it under a jumper for a dog walk.  I could feel that my core was much warmer than it would have been if I'd layered up with two other t-shirts or tops.  I then wore it running under a thin running top and if anything I was too warm!  I've been wearing the leggings under jogging bottoms for early morning dog walks and they definitely do the trick.

I was a massive fan of Uniqlo anyway but I can wholeheartedly recommend the Heattech range - it's got everything from items to cosy up in at home to clothes to throw on for a shopping trip or walk to ensure you stay warm.

I should probably add that Uniqlo sent me some codes for some of my readers to snap up some Heattech goodies from the Oxford Street store but I am useless and got the closing date wrong, so I hope you spotted that offer on Katie or Mel's blogs instead! I can promise however that it is well worth spending some of your pennies on, and I think the accessories would make perfect stocking fillers too!

Are you a warm or a cold person? Have you ever tried the Heattech range?


Currently wishing for

My Thursday night ended up being consumed with the ASOS/Yourvine challenges (basically, challenges that you do online to get rewards) and my fast fingers and a lot of encouragement from Sarah mean that I netted some vouchers and some discount codes - suhweet! Since then I've obviously been doing even more online window shopping on ASOS making wishlists, hunting down the perfect Christmas party dress and planning some little presents for others (heavily weighted towards the first two I'm afraid, oops!) Here's what's top of my list...
Rare sequin collar dress: £72
I have been loving all the sequin bandeau dresses around but I sometimes feel a bit exposed in a bandeau dress, plus there's the awkwardness of a bra strap poking through or something poking out! I adore this dress as an alternative, I think it's so sophisticated and unique.

ASOS bandeau dress: £30
Yes, yes I know... despite what I just said I just can't get this dress out of my head - I love the sweetheart neckline and ric rac waistband.  It feels quite summer-y but I think with some heels, a clutch and a jacket it would still be worthy of a winter night out.

ASOS midi dress - £42
Isn't this dress just gorgeous? I love the length and the print is swans - who doesn't need a swan print in their life? Definitely snapping this up.

River Island onesie - £30
After a while of looking at dresses my mind inevitably wanders to comfort and this onesie is perfect for some lazy time. It has zebras on it! Enough said.

Any Rosie wishlist would not be complete without some shoes. I've been eyeing up lots of ankle boots over the last week or so; I tend to wear dresses and tights or skinny trousers for work at the moment and I'm searching for a really nice pair of ankle boots to protect me from the elements - ballet flats aren't really cutting it! These are all Spartoo; my favourite are the third (from Blink at Spartoo) which I believe the lovely Sarah (second mention in one post, you can tell I love her!) has?

1 // 2 // 3 // 4

Are you being good and ticking things off your Christmas shopping list or is your mind wandering to presents for yourself like mine is? :)


Joules tweed coat

One of the things I'm most grateful that I've been able to do through blogging is work with brands I genuinely love. Although I enjoy the excitement of discovering new brands, both through reading blogs and being contacted by them direct, it really is special to have an email drop into your inbox from a company you already know and love. It feels good to make that connection and know that when you write up the post you are talking from the bottom of your heart about a brand or product you really would (and have) spent your own money on.

Joules are one of those such brands for me.  More than anything I love their brand identity and everything they stand for.  For me, Joules is wellies for splashing in puddles in or pulling on before muddy dog walks, dresses and cardigans for summer barbecues and jumpers for pulling on whilst eating fish and chips on a bench by the seaside. Gilets for chasing chickens around the garden in, padded jackets for donning before heading off to a market and pajamas for snuggling in front of a fire with a large mug of hot chocolate.  I love their chip fork labels threaded into the clothes tags, their floral prints and their utterly gorgeous homewares (who could ever drag themselves out of bed if it looked like this?)

Joules jacket
joules tweed jacket: £89*
Joules jacket

Joules recently got in contact with me and very generously asked if I'd like to try one of their coats.  I picked this tweed jacket as I thought it would be perfect for wearing on walks and that I wouldn't feel out of place if the walk then ended up in a country pub for lunch (which of course it inevitably does!) It's such a gorgeous jacket 'in the flesh' and feels much like it woukd be much more expensive than it is, the quality is amazing.  I took it for a little trip out with the dog and Tom's parents last weekend in Brockenhurst and it kept the cold out and of course fared well in the pub afterwards! I do love Autumnal days like that and I know my new jacket is going to be coming on many similar trips with me! Thankyou to Joules for being so generous.

Welly boots

Ooh, just seen that Joules have 25% off until 25 November with the code PRESENT - go and treat yourself!


Bloggers Breakast | Our Living Room, Bournemouth

Going out for breakfast just seems like the perfect way to start a weekend day; a bustling café, the smell of coffee brewing, hot, buttered toast, a pot of steaming tea and a newspaper or good conversation (if there are pancakes, well, even better).  Some weeks ago myself, Emma (The Style Box) and Hannah (Bailey Cakes) scribbled a date in our diaries and arranged a very civilised, mini blogger's breakfast at Our Living Room in Bournemouth for this Saturday, which I spent lots of time looking forward to, as what could be better than a  morning of gossips and good food!

// outfit is a remix of lots of current favourites, with the addition of my new Primark menswear bobble hat!

shirt: new look [old] | necklace: kukee £1.50
jeans: jamie topshop jeans [old]
brogues: new look [old]
sequin parka: ebay £40 | bag: hurley [old]

hat: primark mens
When Hannah and I arrived we saw Emma had bagsied us a table and was nursing a big pot of tea.  We quickly perused the menu - French toast, pancakes, popcorn granola and all sorts of other delicious treats... and then all ordered pancakes!  I ordered pancakes with Oreo and chocolate sauce, except when they brought it over they said they didn't have any chocolate sauce so it was just pancakes and biscuits really - still yummy (and very naughty!)

me and emma
hannah's photo of a photo
The Living Room's coffee lounge is lovely, very cosy with lots of vintage furniture and a wonderful menu.  I had such a lovely morning; was really nice to get to know Emma and to be able to have a proper catch up with Hannah outside of our slogging it at the gym!

When I moved to Christchurch it was to be halfway between mine and Tom's jobs (then in Weymouth and Southampton, now we both work round the corner!) so we really didn't know anyone locally at all.  I feel so lucky to have struck up friendships through blogging that make me feel a bit less lonely in what is still quite a new town to me!  It helps that we all love our food and everyone seems more than willing to help me on my quest to tick off eating at all the local restaurants and cafés I'm dying to try!

Ooh, one more thing whilst I'm on the subject of food, if you're a local food lover too I received a press release last week that might interest people - the new West Quay Southampton dining area is launching on Thursday (22nd) and on the day there'll be lots of menu samples, offers and cookery demonstrations from Aldo Zilli.  The new dining area is going to have a diner, Wagamamas and Pizza Express, which I think is awesome for Southampton!

Do you enjoy going out for breakfast? Or, do you have any recommendations for awesome eateries in Hampshire/Dorset which I need to add to my list? Let me know!


Christmas gifts for foodies

I think we'd all agree that one of the best things about Christmas is the food.  Be it the mountainous Christmas dinner, the treats in your Christmas stocking (mint Matchmakers, obviously) or all the mini party foods that start appearing in the freezer sections this time of year, Christmas for me is always a time to eat lots of yummy things.  Luckily most people I know feel the same and so I've been thinking of a few food-related presents, both handmade and shop-bought that I could treat people with this year.

I love making up little hampers or jars of treats at Christmas and I've already been nosing around for gourmet foodie bits to fill them with.  One of the best ways to find little bits for these is at your local farm shop, farmers' market or at a Christmas food fair.  I'll be going to the New Forest Christmas Fair on 8-9 December and I'll bet there's something like that going on where you live - have a look in local papers, noticeboards or council websites for ideas.

If you prefer to pick up foodie bits online you'll obviously want to pick things that will travel well and keep until Christmas, so consider jams, chutneys, ales and ciders, chocolate and sweets or teas and coffees etc.  Here are some ideas...

sugar and twine
img credit: sugar and twine

Quick tip;
Gourmet Britain also have a whole listings section on their website for mail order/online gourmet food companies.

I have been bookmarking lots of recipes over the last couple of weeks in anticipation of whipping up some treats for my own homemade hampers.  We have a lot of onions and beetroots from the garden so lots of people will be receiving chutneys! Here are my favourite recipes;

baked camembert kit
img credit: bbc good food (recipe below)

Savoury Christmas hamper recipes

Christmas clementine chutney
Beetroot and orange chutney
Red onion marmalade
Sweet chilli jam
Baked camembert kit
English Ale mustard

Sweet Christmas hamper recipes

Mincemeat Christmas trees
Chocolate truffle egg box
Baileys and white chocolate fudge
Blackberry gin
Panforte (Italian Christmas cake)
Mulled wine

Quick tip;
BBC Good Food have collections of recipes for hampers - such as a collection of recipes for a chocoholics hamper, a spice lover's hamper etc.

Quick tip;
Lakeland have a section dedicated to jars, moulds, bags, ribbons and all sorts of other lovely ways to make and present homemade gifts.

Quick tip;
Your hamper doesn't necessarily need to be... a hamper! I've bought a vintage wine box from eBay to fill with gourmet food goodies as a present for someone ;)

Just a few more ideas for gifts for the food lovers in your life...

gifts for food lovers

1. Camembert Baker Dish - John Lewis - £16.49
2. Fork Magazine - One Year Subscription - £18
7. Oils Dip Set - Heals - £15

Hopefully you've found lots of inspiration there for all of the food lovers in your life! I know I'm feeling pretty hungry, and pretty excited about Christmas right about now!


Investment piece Christmas list and ASOS challenges and rewards

When I look back on Christmasses from when I was younger I always feel overwhelmed with the feeling of how lucky I was, and how generous my parents were (and are).  I will always remember the excitement of the weight of a pillowcase full of presents pressing down on my toes at the end of my bed, furiously tearing off reams of wrapping paper and then coming down to more presents lit by fairy lights under the tree and the joy of integrating new things into my collection of toys and belongings - with much loved items making way for new favourites.  I've mentioned before that my attitude to buying in the past has always been quantity over quality; preferring to own three Primark dresses rather than one Topshop dress for example, and that has always been replicated in Christmas lists - as I grew up my parents always wanted to buy me one special item at Christmas; a lovely watch or piece of jewellery for example, but my seemingly greedy nature meant that I could never give up on the ecstasy of mounds of stocking filler-esque presents to make way for one or two more quality, investment gifts.  This year I yet again filled my Amazon wishlist with books, slippers, pajamas etc when my Mum again raised the suggestion of buying me something that would be a really treasured present, rather than things I buy myself every month.  Since I've been working hard at my recent attempts to 'buy less, buy better' I've also been making a mental list of 'investment pieces' I feel I should own, and ones I feel I should spend out on and treasure the quality of for years to come - much like the lovely Becky's investment piece wishlist - and it occured to me to pop a couple of these on my Christmas list in case I really have been a good girl this year.  I can see how pleasurable it would be for her, or Tom to buy me the Michael Kors watch I've been putting £1 coins in a pot for months to save up for, for example, instead of a few Lush bath bombs, books and DVDs.  And I can see how amazing it would be for me (and how incredibly lucky I would feel) to be able to look down at, or put on something I feel amazing in and remember Christmas 2012 when it was given to me.

I feel like I'm sounding like a right Veruca Salt in this post and I really don't want it to come across that way. Above everything I treasure Christmas for the time I get to spend with friends and family, and the majority of my excitement comes from giving presents rather than receiving them.  I do feel so lucky that my parents and boyfriend are thinking of things to buy me that I'll treasure, and believe me, it comes out of their kindness and generosity rather than either of them having a bulging bank balance!

I've been nosing around ASOS the last couple of days trying to collate a wishlist of investment items - capsule wardrobe items if you will - and one of the things I've been dreaming of is a good quality winter coat.  Here are my favourites...

1. French Connection - £120 // 2. Mango - £109.99
3. ASOS - £100 // 4. (large photo) 4. Sessun Sissi - £235
5. ASOS - £35 // 6. ASOS £100
And of course what sort of blogger would I be if I wasn't lusting after a Michael Kors Rose Gold watch?  Here is the one I've been saving for...

Rose Gold Chronograph watch - £199


I actually also received an email yesterday with some exciting news regarding ASOS that I wanted to share with you all.  They've teamed up with Yourvine, which is a platform that invites people to complete challenges in order to receive rewards, and there's loads of challenges coming up in conjunction with ASOS that mean you could get things like discounts off your next ASOS shop (25% and 30%), gift vouchers or Premier membership.  The challenges (centred around the hashtag #bestnightever) are things like taking a picture of your favourite party outfit, creating your perfect party outfit using ASOS’s fashion finder or pulling together a wishlist for your 3 favourite people. I've already signed up and I'm really excited for the launch next Wednesday (21st), especially since the challenges I've seen so far are things I love doing to while away time on the internet anyway! If you want to get involved you just need to sign up at Yourvine and they'll send details of the challenges when it's launched. I still haven't quite got away from my scrimping ways and so a 30% discount would certainly take a dent out of some out my wishlist items (and the list of presents I have for other people, yes I will be doing that too rather than just daydreaming about my own presents!)


A dress for all seasons

Transitional dressing is always a tricky one with the unpredictable temperatures. Surely we’re all still holding out just a teensy bit of hope that we might trade in the inevitable damp and darkness for just a few extra days of brisk but sunshiny weather as a recompense for that less than satisfactory summer. The autumn and winter months don’t mean it is time to entirely pack away all your dresses. In fact, many dresses can easily take you into the colder months in style. You’ll find that high street shops are definitely stocking up on winter dresses online and in store. Should you want to do a bit of window shopping from the comfort and warmth of home, check out Oasis’ current range of dresses online.

Need a bit of inspiration? This stylish Metallic Jacquard Skater Dress (pictured) ticks all the right boxes for transitional dressing. One can imagine this dress looking amazing with opaque tights. It can be dressed up or down with the right layers and accessories, and neither a classy cardigan nor winter jacket would look out of place. The shape is great as well, with an ultra flattering belted waist. Above all, it is perfectly on trend with the fabric’s rich baroque feel and feminine keyhole cutout on the back. 

As you compile your autumn/winter dresses wish list beyond the dress above, here a few things to keep in mind when it comes to shopping for appropriate autumnal dresses online:

1. Consider layering.

A simple shape lends itself to being worn with accessories, rendering it a more versatile purchase. Autumn and winter is all about layering and warm, chunky cardigans, snoods and scarves are great for wrapping up warm and looking cool. Tights too are a girl’s best friend for keeping cosy, so don’t be afraid of mini dresses this season.

2. Allow for Christmas Feasting

Clever ladies love the A-line. Flared skirts are always flattering and can hide all manner of holiday sins, so you can tuck into that impending holiday feast-guilt free in a flirty skater dress. Also, accessorising your dress with a thick belt can nip in your waist and emphasise enviable hourglass curves.

3. Pick Your Fabric Wisely

While breezy chiffon and light linen may have been perfect for summer, you’ll obviously want to pick something a bit more substantial for the cooler season. Wools and knitted dresses will help keep out the winter wind.


Handmade Christmas | Presenting presents

You might well remember that last year I did a series of posts on handmade Christmas, where I showed you my efforts at making handmade presents for friends and family, along with lots of brown paper, ribbon and personalised gift tags.  I know that it's still six weeks until Christmas Eve and for a lot of people that's too early to be thinking about Christmas, but I tend to start thinking about it now for three reasons - firstly I like to spread the cost of Christmas presents and paraphernalia across two months to make it easier financially, secondly I like to avoid the stress of last minute panics about presents, and thirdly, I LOVE CHRISTMAS and can't help getting excited!

You might remember my post recently about feeling a bit disheartened about my lack of craftiness and aptitude for sewing, and for this reason I'll be concentrating more on handmade treats that don't require needle and thread, including making more teacup candles (I use kits from here) and kitchen treats for food hampers such as fudge, peppermint bark, chutneys, jams and biscuits.

The one thing I enjoy over everything every year however is anything paper-based; from making Christmas cards, to personalised gift tags, to brown paper packages tied up with string (and ribbon!)  You may remember that I personalised my gift tags last year by ordering business cards from Vistaprint and then holepunching them and threading them with ribbon.

I buy my rolls of brown paper from Ikea, though you can also get brown kraft paper from craft stores, the Post Office, eBay, anywhere really! I've also picked up this roll from Matalan, I love the idea of mixing classic brown paper with a printed design.

Here are some more ideas for decorating your gifts this Christmas...(as always, links are below the images).

1. I love the idea of giving Christmas decorations as gifts as it's something someone can treasure and remember for years to come.  This year I'm going to thread some decorations through ribbon and attach them to the front of presents - love these pine cone decorations in particular // Lisa Angel -- £3.00

2. Washi tape that looks like Christmas cross stitch? Yes please! // Papermash -- £3.75

3. I think these ivy post it notes, also Papermash, would look perfect as labels for presents. // Papermash -- £5.99

4. This pack of four festive themed tapes would be perfect for decorating or even as a present for a crafty type // Kiki's Boutique -- £4.95

5. No Christmas wrapping is complete without red and white bakers' twine // Papermash -- £4.50

6. I always love a bit of East of India at Christmas, as items 8-10 show! These luggage tags in particular are lovely! // Daisy Park -- £3.60

7. Sass and Belle pom poms, perfect for jazzing up or edging gift wrap or other crafty projects // Corvette Silo -- £3.30

8. More East of India - some gorgeous Merry Christmas ribbon! // Daisy Park -- £3.00

9. Another wooden decoration that could be attached to a present and hung for the whole year (yes, it's East of India again!) // Daisy Park -- £1.50

10. I love this East of India Merry Christmas tape - even the least crafty of all of us could make a present look lovely with brown paper and this Christmas tape! // Corvette Silo -- £3.00

Just looking at all of those ideas is making me feel all festive, I need to snap some up myself! Have you started thinking about Christmas or do you prefer to wait until December to start thinking about presents (and what you might wrap them in!)?  I will try and space out my Christmas posts for all you non 'Christmas in November' types, promise.


Review | Virgin Experience Day | Spa Pamper Day

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Virgin Experience Days to see if I wanted to review an experience days for the blog.  There were a couple of different options but I knew straight away that I fancied trying a spa day. I've been so busy lately that the idea of taking a few hours out to relax and unwind just seemed heavenly.

The service from Virgin Experience Days themselves was really good.  I chose the Pamper Day and Champagne Lunch For Two which normally retails at £49 (the website says it's reduced from £98) and the vouchers came quickly in a nice cardboard sleeve that could be given as a gift.  We had a choice of hotels and spas and we chose one in Bournemouth, the ">Hallmark Hotel, as it was the closest to us.  Again, it was booked easily with a quick phonecall.

I didn't know what to expect from the day itself because I've never been to a spa day before, so I can't compare the day to others I've been to.  My expectation was to feel relaxed, and, to an extent, pampered.  I guess I imagined fluffy robes, slippers, dim lights and calming music but maybe that's just what spas are like in the movies! If you've been to a spa day please do share your experiences in the comments as I'd be really interested to hear what others are like.

We arrived just before 11 and booked our lunch for 1pm.  We were shown the facilities, which included an aromatherapy cave, steam room, sauna, pool, relaxation lounge and jacuzzi.  There was also another indoor pool upstairs but that had separate changing rooms and I didn't fancy getting undressed twice (or walking through reception in my bikini!) so we just stayed downstairs.  I was surprised by how small the spa area was; you could only really splash around or sit in the pool, you couldn't do lengths or anything and I'd say you'd only comfortably fit 8-10 people in there.

We were given a couple of towels and then we tried the amenities.  The steam room was quite nice but there was a mosaic theme and quite a few of the tiles had come loose.  Actually that was a bit of a running theme throughout the spa if I'm honest; there were lots of loose/missing tiles and it all looked a little tired and in need of some TLC.  The sauna was also nice but again, when more than 3-4 people were in there it was a bit cramped.  I didn't really understand the point of the aromatherapy cave, it didn't smell particularly nice and there was a big hole in the middle of the floor where so many floor tiles were missing.  The final room we went in was the relaxation room, which was just some sun loungers, magazines and a water feature.  There were some girls in there reading magazines, I wish I'd thought to bring one as that probably would have been quite a nice place to relax.

Amusingly for us, after we'd done all of this we looked at Tom's watch and it was only half 11! We had no idea what we were going to do for the next hour and a half until lunch.  In the end we just splashed around in the pool and sat in the steam room until it was time for lunch.  I heard some women in the changing room talking about treatments but I have no idea what they do there; it wasn't mentioned to us on the phone or when we arrived and I didn't see any treatment rooms.  The changing rooms were tiny with two tiny cubicles so I had to queue to get changed.  We were shown upstairs to the bar and were served a glass of champagne which was really nice.  The restaurant for lunch was just actually the bar area for the hotel and was quite busy with guests.  We were allowed to choose anything from the lunch menu which ranged from £5 sandwiches to £10 main meals.  I went for a club sandwich and Tom had a steak sandwich.

Because I'd been slightly disappointed with the spa itself I really wanted the lunch to be amazing but it just wasn't.  Tom asked for his steak to be medium-rare and it was more like well done and my club sandwich was just a chicken breast, a rasher of super crispy bacon and then some lettuce and tomato; no sauce or flavour or anything? I left half of mine as it was really tough and tasteless.

I was hesitant about posting this review as Virgin Experience Days were so kind in asking me to review the experience and I'm really appreciative we were given this opportunity, and it's completely not their fault that the hotel was disappointing.  But I feel as though I have to review it as if I'd paid the £49 in order to be able to recommend it or not, and I have to say that if I had I might have been a little disappointed (I certainly don't think there's any way they could charge the £98 it's reduced from).  What I would say is that my parents have used Virgin Experience Days in the past and have always had good experiences - they're quite a regular Christmas present in our family!  I'd have no hesitation in recommending them though I don't know if I would recommend going to the Hallmark Hotel (Bournemouth).  There was a sign outside saying that monthly membership (which includes spa access) is £25 so you could use the amenities for a month for what you pay each, which somehow makes it feel a bit less 'indulgent'!  I think if I stayed there as a guest it would be amenities that I'd enjoy using if I was there, but in my opinion I don't think it's special enough to offer as an 'experience day' for non guests.  The other hotels offered in that particular deal look absolutely amazing (there is a castle on there, and some of them sound like they're in amazing locations) so my feeling is that the deal itself offered by Virgin is a good one, but I'd give this particular hotel a swerve.

I was thinking about booking a spa break for both of us in the New Year but now I'm not so sure as maybe I've 'overegged the pudding' in my head in terms of what I think a spa day is like and I don't want to be disappointed again! Do share with me your experiences as I'd love to hear if you've been on a spa day or another experience day similar.


Lymington, easy jeans and gold postboxes

My boyfriend Tom has been away for the last week and came home last night, so today was just spent enjoying some quality time together.  I have actually felt quite stressed for the last few days, I used to absolutely love living on my own but it's a bit different when you have a dog and live in a house rather than a little flat.  I have no idea how single Mums or people with caring responsibilities do it, just keeping on top of the cleaning and tidying and getting up early to walk Bodhi in the mornings has knackered me out this week!

Saying that, I did take on some extra work this week.  Tom's bugbear in our house has always been the hall, which fills up with mountains of shoes and piles of unopened post.  With the help of my Mum on Wednesday we made a trip to Ikea, bought and built a wooden cabinet and now the shoes are neatly tidied away.  Of course I had to pick up some nautical knick-knacks to add to the newly tidy hall...

I was so excited for him to come home and see it, and luckily he loved it!

Today we went to Lymington, just to walk the dog and mooch around the shops.  Obligatory on the way out the door outfit photo...

cardigan: uniqlo, £19.90 | blouse: orla kiely for uniqlo, £19.90
jeans: american apparel easy jeans: bought in america | brogues: new look [old]
This was my first outing for my American Apparel Easy Jeans since I bought them in America, and to be honest it wasn't a great day for them! I found a strange green mark on the knee that must have been there when I bought them, and then Bodhi jumped up at me several times and covered them with muddy footprints so they're now off to the washing machine.  You can't stay mad at him for long though....

As well as walking around the harbour, the market was on in Lymington and I had a good nose around some of the little shops too.  Ooh and I saw my first gold postbox, there because sailing Gold medallist Ben Ainslie lives in Lymington.

Of course no trip to Lymington would be complete without a nose in Kiki's Boutique, my favourite of shops ever.  I usually visit the Christchurch one as that's nearer to where I live but I thought I'd have a quick look and ended up buying a Christmas present for someone who shall remain nameless! Their gift selection is amazing this year and you might find a little code if you scroll to the bottom of this page!

Kiki's Boutique
I also had a quick look in another little gift shop, Lulu's.  Don't you just wish this was your bedroom?

I am eating very healthily at the moment but today is my 'treat day' where I eat whatever I want so we also popped to M&S so I could gorge myself on Percy Pigs in the car on the way home!

I hope you've all had as lovely Saturdays as me - this evening has involved a Christmas jumper, takeaway pizza and mulled cider and we're now settling down for movies and X Factor (even though I am not enjoying this series at all!)

By the way, have you entered my £100 Fat Face gift voucher competition yet? There's only been 7 entries so far so the odds are in your favour!