In our house, Wednesday is date night.  We take it in turns to choose something to do, which, due to Tom and mine's shared love of food, usually means eating out.  Last Wednesday it was Tom's turn to choose but I decided to drop a couple of mentions of Nando's into various conversations until Tom suddenly decided he had an insatiable desire for piri piri chicken.  I had a slight ulterior motive too as our nearest Nando's is at Castlepoint in Bournemouth and I fancied a mooch around the shops.  It's very rare I ever actually 'go shopping' as I do all of my shopping online, but my experience with the baggy, weirdly shaped pinafore spurred me on to decide I could do with some new clothes that I had actually ensured fit me before I purchased them.

I decided to wear my new 'Lovebirds' blouse, kindly sent to me by Sugarhill Boutique.  I wasn't sure about the colour when it arrived as I was worried it wouldn't go with my hair and skintone but luckily I think it looks quite nice (if I do say so myself!). With the addition of the jacket in the second set of photos I decided I looked a bit like a milkshake... there's just something about pastel colours that makes me dream of ice cream and cool drinks (is that weird?)  Of course my new Brit-Stitch satchel had to come for another outing too.  (Also, it was early evening by this point so apologies that the photos are a bit darker and have those weird shadows, can't always achieve that lovely early morning light!)

blouse: sugarhill boutique* £38 | necklace: ebay £1.98
jeans: american apparel easy jeans £64 | bag: brit-stitch* £70
shoes: zara [old]

On my little jaunt around the shops I picked up some jeans, a lipstick and a jumper from Topshop.  The first two I bought immediately, and then I had the jumper on my mind so decided to go back and get it.  I also bought a couple of bits from H&M and then we hotfooted it to Nando's (in the snow!) where I filled myself with a huge bowl of peri-salt chips and Perinaise sauce and halloumi (I am a bit of a weirdo in that I always order loads of sides at Nando's rather than any actual chicken).  Very, very full, we then headed home to loll around and reflect on how much we'd eaten.  Perfect date night!

A baby lovebird just popped up in my Google + feed so I thought I'd leave you with this picture since it's topical to the post.  Hello Mr Lovebird!

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Back to school

Sometimes when packages turn up at work and the ladies in the Support Office have a nose at what's arrived it generates confusion and, sometimes, amusement as to why I would order something of that nature. This happened when my Jeffrey Campbell studded heels turned up and they had clearly never seen anything like sky high heels covered in studs and spikes and I think then became slightly dubious about elements of my private life.  Yesterday when Mr Postman brought a small dress-shaped package and it was brought into the lunch-room, my exclamations of "Ooh, my pinafore has arrived", were met with some slightly unconvinced looks, with pinafores generally believed to be the attire of young schoolgirls and not 28-year-old office workers.  (They were further unconvinced when I revealed that I'd also ordered some dungarees, though not for officewear of course.  I think they think I am regressing back to being around 12-years-old).

Actually, I am slightly unconvinced by the pinafore itself as it's not really a great fit - the 'straps' keep sliding off my shoulders and the top section is really baggy.  I think if I bought another I would try one on in the shop to ensure the fit and shape are right for me (I wonder if they are more an item for non shorty-bums? Any thoughts?)

One thing I am convinced about however is my utterly beautiful new Brit Stitch satchel.  Brit Stitch are rather causing waves in the blogosphere with their luxury, leather bags and I have falled head over heels for mine.  They are truly a thing of beauty and feel much more quality than their sub-£100 price tag - immaculately crafted and available in an array of colours.  I chose a half-pint shoulder bag in 'Melon', which I thought would jazz up monochrome outfits.  Brit Stitch's own website is not quite up and running yet but their bags are available on The Hut and Kuji Shop.

I thought, as I'm clearly now embracing schoolgirl style, that you can't be a schoolgirl without a smart satchel, and so my Brit Stitch beauty had its first outing.

shirt: ebay £6.36 | pinafore dress: ebay £16.99
satchel*: brit-stitch £70 | shoes: asos [old]

Are you a fan of the pinafore dress? Or do you think that trend's best left to Ms Chung?

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Topsail Tennis

Now it's much lighter in the mornings it means that I don't have to cram outfit posts into a few hours at the weekend - which never quite works anyway as the weekend is usually the time I'm most likely found in the three Js - jeans, jumpers or jogging bottoms (or 'jamas!) Some of my most, what I would describe as 'blogworthy' outfits are those which I wear to work, so it's nice to be able to have a bit of morning light and a boyfriend with a spare few minutes to take some snaps so I can share them.

This is my Monday outfit.  I was actually feeling pretty chuffed that it was Monday as you can tell from all the grinning.  I'm working on a project I'm really enjoying at work at the moment, plus my lovely friend Kate works Monday - Wednesday so I always have something to look forward to on a Monday morning.  I bought this Vero Moda tennis dress in the ASOS sale last year - it was one of those times when you buy something quite summer-y in the most summer sale and then feel sad that you can't wear it for another year.  Then I wondered a few months ago what it would look like with a shirt or long-sleeved top underneath and voila, I think it looks okay, yes? I feel a bit like a nautical tennis player (hence the blog post title...) I apologise now that I can't fund your shopping addictions as a lot of the bits I'm wearing are old, however I have noticed that the suede wedge boots I'm wearing are only £22 on Spartoo which is a bit of a Billy Bargain if I say so myself.

// necklace: ebay | £1.59 // shirt dress: vero moda [old] // breton top: h&m [old]
bag: m&s [old] // shoes: ankle boots by stylist click | £22.74

I'm carrying on in my efforts to be a propah fashion bloggah and neatly align all my photos and take a few more 'detail' photos of my outfits so that's why this post looks a little different than normal.  I do really enjoy doing outfit posts so these will continue, probably a couple of times a week, for the foreseeable future.  I hope you like them too, people of the interweb!

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Photowall wall murals

It was definitely a dose of serendipity when Best British Bloggers contacted me about their campaign with Photowall.  At the time, Tom and I were struggling with what to do with our 'big, blank wall' in the living room and had gathered enough wallpaper samples to probably wallpaper the entire room (albeit in tiny little squares).  We'd put a lot of effort into trying to make the lounge feel homely, but no matter what we did, it always seemed a little 'unfinished'.  On the left when you walk into the room, another sofa sits in a little alcove under the stairs and we have framed pictures hanging on the wall, but on the right... is a big blank wall.  It definitely needed a bit of something.  A bit of love.

Tom and I couldn't quite agree on wallpaper, or even on a theme for the room.  We both knew we wanted it to be colourful, but I wanted to make it all 'mid century retro' and he wasn't sure (hence the huge pile of wallpaper samples).  So it was a bit of an answer to a prayer when Best British Bloggers got in touch about Photowall. Photowall offer printed wall murals and have some utterly stunning designs.  They have an amazing range of Scandinavian themed and nature inspired murals and I was excited at the prospect of bringing some Spring colour into our room to combat the dreary weather outside.  We finally settled on this rather bold design by Maxalot Gallery, took our measurements and waited eagerly.  Within only a few days (which is amazing considering it is all custom cut to your measurements), our mural arrived, and Tom and I mixed up some wallpaper paste and got hanging.  The amazing thing is, because they custom cut all the 'drops' to fit your wall, you don't need to do any cutting, you just cover the wall in paste and stick.  I've made that sound quite simple, when in reality it took about five hours, but the result is simply... breathtaking (I hope you agree!)

Before I continue, I have to credit Tom for his excellent 'lining up' skills which make the pattern totally faultless (I could only be trusted with being 'Chief Paster').  With the furniture back in the room it looks simply stunning and I think it really complements our existing colour scheme.

I honestly could not be more thrilled with how it's turned out.  I would even venture to say that these photos don't even do it justice.  It's such a unique, bold, statement and quite unlike anything I've ever seen before.  I am hugely grateful to Photowall for creating this for me and allowing me to totally transform my living room.

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Deskfest Challenge | Five breakfasts

For many, many reasons, the Alpro #deskfest challenge was something I immediately connected with, and I was following and contributing to it before I was actually asked to get involved.  The basic premise is that you share your breakfasts via the hashtag #deskfest on instagram and twitter, and hopefully pick up some of your own inspiration for some yummy Alpro themed, healthy breakfasts.

I am a massive fan of breakfast.  A few months ago I stopped having rushed breakfasts at my desk at work and made a promise to myself to get up 15 minutes earlier and prepare a healthy, filling breakfast to enjoy at home. Prior to this I'd often find myself picking at things throughout the morning because of having either no breakfast or a half-hearted one (sorry Belvita but I cannot survive several hours on a biscuit) and so this resolution made a huge difference to my mornings.  At that time we'd recently moved our kitchen table from the conservatory into the lounge and I've now come to cherish those moments in the morning - flicking through magazines, watching the news or just enjoying the silence and having a moment to relax and reflect before the day begins.

To add to this, I own a beautiful book called 'A Year of Mornings' that I routinely flick through for creative inspiration.  It is the product of a project between two ladies who live 3191 miles apart in America and contributed to a joint blog for a year where they documented images from before 10am.  It's a really lovely book and at the time I so wanted to start my own project of morning photographs, though I never really found the time.  So the #deskfest campaign ticks several boxes for me; my love of breakfast and of the moments that surround it, and my passion for capturing those moments (I know what you're thinking, how has she managed to write three paragraphs about taking photos of her breakfast...)

So it was a resounding yes from me when Alpro asked me to get involved with #deskfest.  I was also already a big fan of their products but they kindly sent me a selection from their range in a cute little coolbox.  Here are some of my #deskfest creations...

Bacon roll and smoothie
// bacon roll, and smoothie made with frozen banana and strawberry,
alpro almond milk and alpro vanilla pouring yoghurt
Pancake, yoghurt and blueberries
// pancakes with blueberries and alpro vanilla pouring yoghurt, mug of green tea
Bacon roll for Alpro Deskfest
// bacon roll, mug of green tea and alpro vanilla pouring yoghurt
with porridge oats, flaxseed, strawberries and blueberries
Bacon roll and yoghurt
// as above
Pancakes and berries
// pancakes with salted caramel spread, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries,
alpro vanilla pouring yoghurt and a mug of green tea

Breakfast Rosti
// breakfast rosti, recipe from smitten kitchen, and banana and strawberry smoothie
with alpro pouring yoghurt (plain) and alpro almond milk
Smitten Kitchen Breakfast Rosti
// as above

All of my #deskfests are super easy to make, and whilst they vary in healthiness they all contain a good dose of fruit, some plant powered soya and most importantly, will keep you full until lunchtime! Smoothies are a great way to start the day and something you can easily transport to work - I buy packets of frozen fruit from Sainsbury's (they even do a 'smoothie mix'), bung them in the blender with some yoghurt or milk (Almond or Hazelnut Soya Milk is a dream in smoothies) and you're good to go.

Alpro are giving away a weekend for 2 in New York for the best #deskfest entry, as well as 1000 Alpro KeepCups so get hashtagging your brekkies for a chance to win.  There's more information, and a feed of #deskfests on their site.

Now, who wants to come to mine for breakfast this week?

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One last time in the old neighbourhood

I don't want to start this post by being a negative Nancy but I feel like this outfit definitely looked better in the flesh. Or maybe it's my hair as I definitely need my roots doing and probably a good chop.  And brush.  Okay let's move on before I decline to post this at all!  I had to take the photos inside today as the weather is just too horrific outside but I quite like how they've come out actually, the light is nice in our bedroom and I know I'm lucky to have a fashion blogger's dream - a big white wall you can use for outfit photos! 

Tom came back late on Friday night from two weeks away on training courses so we planned a nice relaxing day together yesterday.  We had a yummy breakfast of pancakes and lots of fruit (as part of my #deskfest challenge which I'll be telling you all about tomorrow) and then went on to the spa for a swim and a good long lounge in the hydrotherapy pool.  When we got back from the spa we got changed and headed out for a late lunch and this was my outfit.  (Shortly afterwards I consumed baked brie, a wild boar and chorizo burger and an ice cream flavour cupcake and then needed a two hour nap).

Whilst wearing suits for interviewing and delivering training last week I got a bit attached to the idea of a crisp, white shirt - I think that paired with a statement necklace it looks so chic.  I gave in and bought this bouclĂ© biker jacket from boohoo boutique a couple of weeks ago and I thought it might look good paired with a shirt and jeans for its first wear.  I am in love with the jacket and so glad I bit the bullet and bought it, even if Tom did say I looked like Michael Jackson.

bouclĂ© jacket: boohoo £40 | shirt: ebay [old]
jeans: cheap monday [old] | shoe boots: boohoo [old]
necklace: ebay £7.64
I know that a lot of people like a neat layout where all the photos are the same orientation so I thought I'd try the same today but I'm not sure how much you need giant photos of my face or me looking slightly moody.  This is what happens when I try and be down with the cool kids eh? Oh well! Hope you're all having lovely weekends so far where you are.

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Cheer up shoes wishlist

I am currently gazing out my home office window at a very dim and dismal view; rain running down the window, slate grey skies, a partially flooded driveway and trees swaying in what I know is a particularly arctic wind.  A few weeks ago there were positive signs that Spring was on its way - tulips poking out of my windowbox, bouts of warm sunshine, daffodils, the smell of cut grass.... and then something changed.  Somehow we seemed to regress back to the depths of winter.  The flood plains across the road that had started to dry out are now filling with water again and my morning dog walks have dropped back into minus temperatures.  I actually feel like this morning though as I know a lot of you have snow!  Sound the klaxon, I need some emergency shoegazing, and I need it fast.  And I need some bright colours to get me out of this funk.  Enter, my 'cheer up shoes wishlist'....

1. grave dancer creeper, iron fist, £46.99 - okay, so I know these are well into the 'ugly shoes' category and that pink glitter creepers with a zombie face emblazoned on them may not a match made in heaven make... but there is just something about them! 

2. sandals, lola ramona, £114 - super girly and mega cute I can imagine wearing these with a pastel skater dress and feeling like a princess...

3. lady dragon westwoods, melissa, £119 - I have been dreaming of these swoon-worthy shoes for quite some time, the only thing that stops me biting the bullet is the fear that they'd be crazy uncomfy - anyone know?

4. authentic pink, vans shoes, £65.99 - I'm having a bit of a coral/pink moment at the moment and I love the brown laces and bright colour of these classic Vans.

5. mylady shoe, fornarina, £110 - I have a feeling these would be perfect with turned up jeans and a vest when the warm weather finally arrives.  Love how colourful and dreamy they are!

6. ballerinas, maloles, £154 - although quite pricey for ballerinas I just can't get these out of my head.  Would never usually put yellow and baby blue together but these just look so perfect!

7. lady dragon westwoods, melissa, £138 - okay, so maybe this list didn't need two pairs of lady dragons but I can't get enough of the pastel pink and that big bow, I love!

8. court shoes, schutz, £114 - for me these are summer in a shoe - that gorgeous coral colour would look amazing with tanned feet (keep dreaming!)

Are you eyeing up summer-y shoes or are you firmly sticking with winter wear for the moment?

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[Post contains links to Spartoo. I do regular work with Spartoo for which I receive credits to their site.]

The importance of being leather

It took me a long time to realise that cheap shoes and cheap handbags are a false economy.  I remember a few years ago wearing some tan Primark loafers to a friend's house, and on the way home the heavens opened and my shoes literally fell apart at the seams.  What are you supposed to do when that happens?  Still, I would buy their plain black pumps for £3 and replace them every few months as the sole parted from the shoe, the rain washed the colour away or the insole resembled something that should come with a Government Health Warning.  Not besides the cost of constantly replacing poor quality shoes, disposable fashion is bad for the environment and bad for the workers involved in producing it.  Now, I know that some people don't feel that leather is ethical, or don't feel it's right for them if they, say, don't eat meat, but these days I only buy leather shoes and handbags.  Whilst I do enjoy the thrill of going into a cheaper shop, like Primark, and coming out with ten items for £30, I have learned through experience that that thrill does not last long, and that the enjoyment of a quality, well-made item outlasts that initial buzz of a big haul.

I've always thought there was a bit of a... gap in the market almost, for handbags that feel expensive and are awesome quality but that aren't 'designer'.  Designer handbags are all well and good but I can't really justify spending £500 - £1000 on a bag, so I found myself wondering recently, where are all the £50-£100 handbags?  The ones that won't fall apart after a few months but that won't break the bank.  After a bit of nosing around, I've made a list of my picks of 'mid-range' bags...
J by Jasper Conran | £79.20
I love a good 'structured' bag and this one ticks a lot of boxes for me - classic and sturdy (plus I'm a sucker for a tan bag!)
betty jackson black | £79.20

Soft leather, monochrome, and it has a TASSLE.  Need I say more?
betty jackson black | £69.30
My definite favourite of the three, definitely bookmarking this for a future purchase.  I love how unique it is  and it definitely satisfies my habit for bags so big you can fit the kitchen sink in.

What are your handbag buying habits?

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The Dolly dress

When packing to go to Norbury Manor the first thing I knew was going in my suitcase was this beautiful denim shirt dress from Sugarhill Boutique.  I've been a huge fan of the brand for some time and I love how unique their designs are, with beautiful little details that really make them stand out from other brands.  Their Spring/Summer collection is a thing of beauty, with milkshake, lighthouse and flamingo prints, pastel colours and items inspired by 50's Americana (so up my street).

This dress has been nicknamed the 'Dolly dress' as it's their take on vintage Texan style.  The star print and lace detail are utterly beautiful - I wish I'd photographed the back as it also features a cutout, open back with more lace trimming.

cosmic shirt dress outfit post
dress: sugarhill boutique, £58* |  leggings: h&m [old]
necklace: ji ji kiki £10 | flat shoes: house of harlow shoes at spartoo, £232
shirt dress outfit postcosmic shirt dress outfit post

Have you spotted my manatee necklace? I featured it on my blog a few weeks ago as I fell in love with it, and on the Saturday night at dinner at Norbury Manor Alex had bought and wrapped a present for everyone attending and this was what she bought me! I was so utterly touched at what a thoughtful and kind thing to do it was - even Bodhi got a present (some dog treats which he has since consumed all of!)

Have you ever bought anything from Sugarhill Boutique? If not I suggest you hotfoot it to their website and prepare to be wowed!

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Spotlight on: Boux Avenue

I've posted several times about my frustrations in shopping for bras for bigger busted ladies so I won't labour the point any more, except to say that I love finding new companies that sell feminine, affordable underwear for us D+ers.  When I was about 16 or 17 I remember that the only places I could buy bras was Marks and Spencers, and even then they felt very expensive for my 'part-time job at a supermarket' wage.  I was really excited when I first heard about Boux Avenue and have made frequent visits to their website (and had a nose in their Bath store) ever since.

Here are a few of my current favourites, I think I might treat myself on payday as a girl can never have too much pretty underwear! Number two is my favourite, swoon!

[1] [2] [3] [4]

I was recently sent an interview with Design Director at Boux Avenue, Debby Duckett, and I thought I'd post it here as I found it an interesting read (this isn't a sponsored post, I'm just a fan of the brand so I thought it was worth a share).

Hello! Firstly, tell us about your background at Boux Avenue.

I have been here since day one. Theo, Enda (operations director) and I created the idea of Boux Avenue whilst travelling to and from Paris and New York. Boux Avenue was born out of our love of lingerie, nightwear, swimwear and all things romantic.

How would you describe your latest collection in three words?
Fun, flirty and fresh!

What are the lingerie trends for the year ahead?
Floral prints are key for SS13, along with aqua and blues. Jewel tones will be huge for the autumn and winter months of 2013.

The designs for Boux Avenue are very vibrant and colourful. Does this reflect your home?
I think each of our bras has a personality, be it fun, flirty, sexy or sultry. I like to think each of the rooms in my house has a different personality and I love my bedroom, in particular a gorgeous mirrored dressing table I found in a little junk shop in the Cotswolds.

Who is your style inspiration?
We design for our customers, they are our inspiration. Every season we have pieces that are reminiscent of vintage eras with soft colour pallets, pretty prints and classic shapes. We take inspiration from romantic colours, sensual fabrics and luxury trims.

What are some common misconceptions about lingerie?
That you only need one good bra! Why have one when you can have a wardrobe full of high-quality, brilliantly fitting bras in all colours of the rainbow? Its good to have everyday bras, but Boux Avenue also offers gorgeous boudoir-ready pieces which still maintain the perfect fit but add a little sexy something to a lingerie collection.

Who would you love to style?
When I walk down the street and see a woman slouched over due to a poorly fitting bra, I feel I want to help - to offer advice on the benefits of a bra that fits really well! I would love to style the 80 per cent of women out there that are wearing the wrong bra size and are suffering as a consequence. A well fitted lingerie set works wonders, not just for your posture but for your confidence too!

What advice would you give to an inspiring lingerie designer?
Gaining experience in different sectors of the lingerie or fashion industry is key; you never know what sort of information you are going to pick up- the smallest thing could prove itself to be of relevance in years to come. I got where I am today with continuous hard work and an absolute passion for what I do.

[Interview credit: Time4Sleep]

Have you ever bought anything from Boux Avenue?

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Norbury Manor blogger takeover

This weekend, in a Grade I listed house in rural Derbyshire, 12 bloggers and a small dog got together to eat cake, drink wine, play Articulate, watch movies and explore the beautiful house and its surroundings.  Is there a collective noun for bloggers? A pose of bloggers, perhaps? (God bless whomever invented the self-timer - even Bodhi joined in on the photo fun!)

Organised by the lovely Alex at Odd Socks and Pretty Frocks, it really was an utterly wonderful weekend.  The lack of phone signal and internet was slightly alarming at first but turned out to be exactly what I needed.

It was really nice both to see some awesome ladies I now count as friends, and to meet some new faces. We initially descended on nearby Ashbourne on the Saturday for lunch and hellos, then convoying on to the country house in the afternoon.  After some issues locating the house which culminated in Sarah and Sarah having to lead a search party to find me and bring me back to the house, we all arrived, and the wonderful bakers of the party unpacked some rather exciting sweet treats - Victoria Sponge Cake, sticky toffee pudding, chocolate cake, super slutty brownies, lemon drizzle and peanut butter bars.  Things were about to get a little bit yummy (and remained that way for the rest of the weekend).


After the excitement of cake we all had a good explore of the house.  It was like nowhere I'd ever even visited before let alone stayed - wood panelling, open fires, stained glass windows and utterly beautiful surroundings.  The house just went on forever, with countless bedrooms, bathrooms and drawing rooms.  Chloe and I were staying in the 'snug', a cute little room with bookshelves, window seats and a huge fire.


The garden even had a little mini 'maze' which you could frequently see Bodhi's tail bobbing around! He loved being out in the fresh air and getting lots of attention and cuddles!


Aside from a walk in the countryside on the Sunday we spent a lot of time in the house eating, drinking and chatting and it was an utterly blissful weekend.  On our walk we did have the pleasure of meeting these two chaps who I'm reliable informed are alpacas (hence why they were ignoring my cries of 'hello llamas!)


I can't say I relished the four hour drive home and I've been pretty exhausted ever since (eating that much cake really takes it out of you!) but Bodhi and I had an awesome time and owe a huge thanks to Alex for organising it and Chloe for doing the food shop and making sure our bellies were full, not to mention the impressive feat of cooking a roast dinner for 12 people!

Derby Blogger Weekend

Have you ever stayed in a National Trust cottage? You can find out more about Norbury Manor here.

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