Monday, 18 May 2015

Instagram Book Reviews

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I have started doing mini book reviews in instagram, which I am really enjoying as a way to keep track of everything I am reading, and start a few bookish discussions over there too! This is what I have read so far this year. Follow me @whereisharriet.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel took me about three months to finish but it was worth it! Telling the story of Henry VIII's divorce from Katherine of Arragon, marriage to Anne Boleyn and split from Rome, I loved all the political wheeling and dealing, and Thomas Cromwell makes an excellent (anti)hero. I was never sure of his motivations the whole way through, keeping me on my toes and engrossed in the story, despite the fact it is such a familiar tale.

Saga v1 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I Finished Saga v1 while staying in Bristol a few weekends ago. First graphic novel I've read in a while, and v dark but v good. Think Romeo and Juliet on the run with a baby, in Space. Will definitely be looking out the next volume. 

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of A Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. I really enjoyed this book. Somewhat reminiscent of Forrest Gump, but really light, funny and clever. It feels like a whodunnit but you are in on the con. Definitely want to see the movie now to compare. 

White Truffles in Winter by N M Kelby. Telling the story of the life of a famous chef and his wife across the late 19th and early 20th century, I thought I would fall in love with this book. Alas although a perfectly fine read I just wasn't crazy about it. The descriptions of the food were amazing and the best bit, but I didn't care about the characters enough to get invested.

The ship of Brides by JoJo Moyes. After two slightly more hard going books some chic lit! I think the genre gets a bad rep as this book was a really well researched page turner. Set on a ship transporting Australian women married to British servicemen to the UK after WWII, it draws you in with the characters, but I was also fascinated by this part of history which I knew nothing about.

Engleby by Sebastian Faulks was our latest book club book and caused very strong reactions. The story of a working class boy who wins a place at a prestigious university in the 70s, this was very dark but amusing. We were completely split between those who liked him and those who hated him. I found him and the first person narrative very unsettling but compelling, as I tried to piece together the truth from his unreliable narrative.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

A picture of the week

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Aaaah doesn't that look good?

Possibly to you it looks like a perfectly boring and ordinary fence, and a pile of dirt, but to me it is a thing of beauty. If you rewind back to August last year, the garden looked like this with a lot of junk which we gradually removed, and an old and decrepit fence which had seen better days a long time ago. Over the winter the fence situation got a lot worse, and eventually the majority of it was lying in our garden, and we were seeing rather more of our neighbours than either of us really wanted through the gaps!

Fences are difficult things, because even if you get on with your neighbours as we do, you are still having to make a decision about something both of you will have to look at for the next 20 years, not to mention decide who pays. Our house deeds were amazingly unhelpful, as it said the right fence was owned by us, the back was unknown, and was completely silent on the left fence. Meanwhile our left hand neighbours' deeds said that all their fences were shared, so we ended up with responsibility for 2.5 fences.

I took the path of least resistance and paid up, so our left hand fence was built by our neighbour, and we paid half, and then this weekend James' brother, dad and cousin came down and built the other two sides, boarding the right hand side on our neighbours' side so they got the nice bit to look at. 

The result is we have three completely different fences in the garden, and paid for the vast majority of it, but hopefully kept happy neighbours all round. Looking at them now I do sort of wish they matched a bit more, but ultimately I think once we have some plants and furniture, and maybe paint them all one colour, I won't really notice the fence itself. 

It is making me want to make steps towards actually finishing the garden though, which has been low down my priority list until the fence became impossible to ignore. The plan is to tile over the concrete, and have some big planters, maybe a few climbers up the fence, and a couple of deck chairs. Low maintenance and maximum enjoyment.

Step one is to talk my dad into helping me move the debris to the tip though!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Eltham Palace

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On Sunday James and I spent the day pottering around Eltham Palace. As a south-east London girl born and bred with two parents obsessed with Art Deco, I have been a few times before, but James has never been and was interested in taking a look.

It was originally a 14th century manor house, and was where Henry VIII and his siblings grew up, but thanks to an amazing restoration job by English Heritage and approximately a million films which have shot here since, it is now best known for its amazing Art Deco interior. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was fine to take photos in the house as long as the flash was off, so I could capture the amazing entryway and gold bathroom (cue heart eyes emoji!) The gardens are beautiful too, and on a slightly warmer day would have been perfect for a picnic. 

Every so often they also have an Art Deco fair on in the great hall, which is usually way out of my price range but brilliant eye candy. I definitely recommend a visit if you are in South East London and looking for things to do.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Living Room Tour

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Remember over a year ago when I posted my living room mood board? Well a very long time later I finally got around to taking some photos of how the living room is looking now. I have a pretty haphazard approach to decorating, and most of the rooms in our house are part done. I always think 'I'll take pictures after I've finished' but on the basis that probably won't happen until we come to move out, I decided to just get on with it.

We live in a Victorian terraced house, which originally had 2 rooms upstairs and 2 downstairs. Sometime in the 80s or 90s the two rooms downstairs were knocked together, and an extension for the kitchen and bathroom was added on the back. This left us with a massive living room, which we used the photographed side as a proper living room, and the other half, which is very much not photo ready, as a study/cat stuff room.

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You've probably seen most bits in the living room before. The sofa is the Ikea Karlstad with dark grey covers and the metal feet which are available separately. The custard cream cushion is from Nikki McWilliams and the grey cushions are from House of Fraser. The quilt was from M&S a long time ago and has travelled with me for a long time!

Most everything else is vintage. I've talked about my Eames chair before, bought at auction by my dad, and the midcentury tv stand from ebay. I still need to do something about all the cables. The coffee table is also vintage from an auction, and the chest in the window is the perfect cat perch and I've had it since I was a child. It now holds spare bedlinen and duvets.

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The picture above the sofa is one you may remember from the blog. I had it printed and framed by eframe, and I am so happy with how it came out. They offered me the option to try their printing and framing service for free a few months ago, and I was so happy with the outcome I have gone back and purchased more with my own money. The mirror over the fireplace I got from a vintage shop in Crystal Palace, and my parents hate it but everyone my age loves it - go figure. 

On the fireplace are assorted bits and bobs - a box inherited from my great grandmother, a ton of candles, wedding invites and thank yous, the rosewood elephant from my trip to India last year and two Japanese mugs which I got as a thank you for organising a Martial Arts seminar in University. Quite the eclectic mix!

There are a few more things I'd like to get sorted in the living room - I really need to do something about all the random cables, and I'd like to get a lamp or two, as the only light at the moment is one rubbish overhead light bulb, and maybe change the blind. But other than that I am pretty happy with the living room. It's never going to be perfect - it's quite dark and usually has shoes and bags and post all over it, but it's comfy and cosy and suits us and the cats perfectly.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. Beautiful florals 2. Tree house love 3. I love this bright cosy home 4. Take Courage shows off her spare room 5. Wishwishwish's guide to Tokyo. Sigh. One day. 6. I love simple delicious meals like this

Happy Sunday! After a weekend away for the bank holiday last weekend in Bristol visiting my old university friends, and a new friend in Kate's beautiful baby Noah, I am enjoying a couple of days to get life back on track this weekend. Cleaning, chores and pottering about the house are the order of the weekend, with maybe a trip out somewhere locally for lunch today if the weather holds. 

It's also been good to get back into a blogging routine as my posts have been a bit sporadic of late. I had a great first few months of the year where I was managing to keep up a posting schedule of three times a week, but I've had a bit of inspiration drain recently, so it's been more hit and miss. When I started out blogging this was very much a fashion blog, and an outfit posts blog, and while that suited me at that point in my life, and brought in a lot of readers, I'm enjoying posting more of a variety now. I think having a niche is definitely better if you want to increase your readership, but I'm much happier and have much more to say just posting a bit of this and that and what I feel like.

I'd like to get out and about a bit more and do more London posts, as well as a bit more around the house, as that's what I enjoy reading and writing about, but my house renovation moves very slowly, and I still get nervous taking photos in public. Oh well, getting over that fear is my aim for the summer I think!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Music this month

Someone linked me to this study recently, which says people stop listening to new music on average by the age of 33. I am definitely one of those bringing the average down, as I pretty much stopped listening to new music when I left university (2009, sob!). Honestly I think illegal downloads were pretty much responsible for my music taste, as without friends emailing me mp3s saying 'try this', music communities on Livejournal, or randomly picking songs on Napster to download I have definitely fallen into a musical rut.

I am 100% legal in my music purchasing now (it honestly never occurred to me in those early days I was doing anything wrong, as if I liked them I bought the album, and if I didn't I deleted it....!) but somehow Spotify and iTunes Genius just don't get me, man!

In a bid to sort of half get myself out of my rut (and teach iTunes my tastes!), I have been buying the latest albums of the people I listened to in my teens, which explains this month's listening.

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1. Barenaked Ladies - Grinning streak. The Barenaked Ladies were on every movie and tv soundtrack when I was at school and I absolutely loved them. This album is a perfect slice of nostalgia in that I can't say they have moved on massively since their early albums but this provides more of the same, which lets face it, is exactly what I want. Bouncy indie-pop with a slice of depression.

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2. The Be Good Tanyas - A collection. I went through a huge female singer-songwriter phase The Be Good Tanyas fitted my folksy, alt-country lady music phase perfectly. They are so relaxing to listen to, the whole album leaves me feeling mellow and happy.

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3. Stars - No One is Lost. Stars are probably my favourite band ever, discovered through an accidental Napster download. They have a bit of a Belle and Sebastian vibe, but I prefer them, somehow I feel like the songs have a bit more variety and interest to me. Not that I don't love B&S to bits as well.

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4. Little Jackie - Queen of Prospect Park. Little Jackie had a brief moment of fame for slagging off Amy Winehouse (while she was still alive, so it's not quite as bad?!) but if you can get past that I absolutely love love love them. They are a cross between rap and pop, and are fantastic for running to, and just generally getting up and dancing around the house. I have listened to their first album 'The Stoop' approximately a million times, so it's probably about time to branch out.

Are you a new music lover or do you stick to the same bands you liked as a teenager? What is in your headphones at the moment?

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Spring/Summer Shopping List

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It has occurred to me that I am something of a binge shopper. I can go ages without buying anything and be perfectly happy, and yet as soon as I start spending I suddenly need to have all the things. Stuff. Things. Clothes. I need them all. Give them to me!

I am pretty good at not giving into the shopping monster within, and I don't go too crazy too often, but I decided to write a shopping list for the next few months, to make sure that I was directing myself to the things I actually need, rather than just mindlessly spending money.

1. Light spring coat (John Lewis Pink Trench Coat)

I rather stupidly got rid of all my coats in a fit of 'everything is worn and broken and looks terrible' without actually buying anything to replace it first, so it's going to be a cold spring if I don't hurry up and buy a coat! My old trench bought in 2011 had a ripped lining and frayed sleeves so it was definitely time to get rid. I like the idea of a pink coat to add a bit of colour to my spring wardrobe.

2. Grey cardigan (Uniqlo merino v neck)

I get through cardigans like no ones business, and the stock is low at the moment after a few shrinkages-in-the-wash and left-on-a-plane situations. Periodically I just go to uniqlo and pick up a few to replenish my wardrobe, and a trip is very much needed! I am thinking grey, and maybe some colour as well.

3. Black Jeans (Levi Demi Curve Straight)

Now I know my preferred jean style (Levi's demi curve straight leg) and have worked out the perfect fit, I am keen to get a few more pairs, as I tend to wear them pretty much every weekend. The price (£80 a pair) means I won't be exactly going mad buying loads, but the ones I own have worn really well, so I think a black pair are next on my list.

4. Underwear

Enough said? I recently had a bit of a clear out of my underwear drawer, threw away a lot of old, worn out things, and now I need some replacements.

5. Sunglasses (& Other Stories) and Sundress (Uniqlo)

Also known as the things I live in when summer rolls around. The screw keeps falling out of my current sunglasses, so I think they need replacing, and a sundress that is smart enough for work but also doesn't look out of place at the weekend is pretty much my ideal item of clothing.


Another item of clothing where I am in serious need of some replacements, as everything I own is from primark and has gone to holes. I'm pretty fussy about sleepwear, it's got to be pjs, shorts for summer and cuffed hems for winter, always with sleeves, and as soft as possible. M&S pretty much win for me every time, and I love their Rosie for Autograph collections each year.

What is on your spring/summer shopping list?

Monday, 27 April 2015

A List

Say something that you are proud of, but you never get the opportunity to brag about: I got a promotion last week :) As of 1st May I will go from being an assistant manager to a manager at my job.

What are your frequently used emojis? 

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What did you do last night? I went for dinner at Smiths of Smithfield with my family for my dad's 60th Birthday. We went to the top floor restaurant and it was Amazing. Beautiful views over East London and such good food. It felt really special, but at the same time really relaxed and calm. 

An image that symbolizes this day: Watching the runners in the London Marathon from the bottom of our road in the rain.
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 What did you have for breakfast today? Porridge, cooked to just the right consistency, with a teaspoon of honey.

What is your lucky number? I don't have one. When I was a child it was 10. 

How did you like the eighteen year old? I had a lot of hair and wore jackets.
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What is your last purchase? Tickets to Bristol for next weekend to go see my friends :)

Are you allergic to anything?
Not badly enough to give anything up!

How long have you been without sleep the longest?
Was awake for about 30 hours on my way home to London from San Fransisco. My friend Kat was with me and had a fear of flying and kept kicking me to keep me awake, when I tried to sleep! Thanks Kat...

What time do you wake up in the morning?
James' alarm goes off at 6.20, I put my pillow over my head and press snooze til 7ish.

How do you see yourself most often in everyday life?
In a mirror selfie.

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A word that you'll never manage to spell correctly:
I always type too fast and get the letters in the wrong order! If not for spell check all my psots wuold be splet liek thsi!

List borrowed from Sandra.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Blue Suede Shoes

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When Duo offered to send me a pair of shoes for spring my initial thought was they were not for me. I knew them as a company specialising in wide fitting shoes, and having freakishly narrow feet (I struggle with any regular shoes which don't have an ankle strap or laces to keep them on my feet) it seemed like a company which would not be a good fit - pun intended!

However a quick trip to the website made me realise they also offer a number of narrow fitting shoes - my holy grail - and I quickly fell in love with these pretty blue Malin loafers. They arrived last week, and I took them out for a spin on the weekend when James and I had a classic 'date night' - dinner and a movie in Greenwich. Safe to say I am very happy - they fit beautifully, the colour is gorgeous, and they make a plain old jeans and breton outfit look that little bit more special. I can definitely see myself investing in a few more of the Duo narrow fitting shoes in the future.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Make Up Lately Three

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This is the makeup I've picked up and been using lately. It probably represents what I've bought or been given over the past three months or so, with the exception of a few repeat buys which I haven't included as you will have seen them a million times before.

Make up is definitely a shopping weakness of mine. My mum is forever berating me for going shopping and coming home with nothing but nail varnish! I'm no beauty blogger so I am trying to avoid the temptation to buy lots of the same thing (nail varnish and lipstick are definitely the biggest temptation for me) but to stick to looking at my collection and only buying things to fill gaps.

Anyway on to the products! From left to right:

Nivea Sensitive Day Cream and Night Cream I always seem to come back to Nivea for skincare. It's what my mum uses so it was what I was brought up with, and I always know I am going to get a decent product for a very affordable price. It isn't a very trendy brand, but I've tried so many expensive products and really not seen any more improvements on the budget highstreet brands, so I am sold on these two.

Too Faced Teddy Bear Powder Brush For a good few months I owned powder but no powder brush, so this brush definitely filled a gap. The Makeup Alley reviews were good, and I loved the design so I ended up asking for this for Christmas. Thus far no complaints! It's great for all over face powder, picks up the right amount of product and is really soft. Plus no stray bristles so far. 

Real Techniques Bold Metals Collection - Tapered Blush Brush This was definitely a bit of a whim purchase, mainly because these brushes are so damn pretty! They are much more expensive than the original collection - this was £24, which is more than the original Core Collection which had four brushes. I tend to use this style of brush a lot though - for powder, blush and concealer, so my excuse is I will definitely get use out of it. Thus far I really like it. I'm sure you could get something just as good for better value, but equally it is pretty and I don't regret the purchase.

Seventeen Stay Time Concealer I think I have had one of these in every Make Up Lately post so far! It's a great concealer for shadows and dark circles, and this plus mascara is what I wear on a no-makeup-but-I-have-to-go-out-somewhere day. Plus it is really cheap!

Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum Gel Foundation This foundation has been featured (and loved) by pretty much every beauty blogger I follow, and I can see why. Again it is really affordable, has a great consistency and coverage without being over the top. Alas even the lightest shade (light vanilla) is a teeny bit too orange for me, and as I don't tan ever I don't think even in the summer this will work for me. I'm using it up at the moment but I don't think I will repurchase, although I really want to.

Essie Nail Polish in Cute as a Button I couldn't not sneek a nail polish in! Essie are definitely my fave brand, I find them really nice to apply and long lasting. Cute As A Button is definitely going to be my spring shade, it's so pretty and bright but not too bright.

No. 7 Stay Perfect Mascara Another repurchased favourite, and the only mascara that doesn't give me panda eyes. I went to buy this from one Boots, but they have them just out on the floor and they only had a couple  in stock, which weren't in any plastic wrapping or anything. I am probably being overly fussy (I think the shop assistant thought I was!) when I asked her to see if she had a fresh one in the drawer, but I just didn't like the idea another shopper could have opened and touched the makeup I was about to put on my eyes. I had to go to another Boots in the end to find one that was fresh out! Is this ridiculous or sensible? I can't decide!

Valentino Valentina Eau De Parfum This was a Christmas present from James and is one of my favourite perfumes. I am using it sparingly! The bottle is just the most beautiful thing, and I love having it sat on my dressing table.

Bourjois Java Rice Powder I have wanted this powder for a while, mainly for the packaging I will admit, which is based on the original packaging when Bourjois was first founded in 1863! This is a slightly shimmery powder and a little difficult to apply (I cannot figure out the best way to get it out and on a brush without making a mess!) and following reviews I tried it out as a highlighter on my cheekbones and down my nose and chin. At first I didn't really see anything close up, so I sort of ignored it and went about my day. I kept glancing at myself in mirrors though (I'm vain like that) and thinking 'wow, I look really well today!' and it took me a few times to realise it was the powder! It gives a really nice healthy glow to the skin, without being at all obvious. Definitely a thumbs up!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. the monsters of Sofia 2. to Sophia Loren's villa in Italy 3. These tiny cinemagraphs are perfection 4. when in doubt add cats 5. blue is my favourite colour 6. I have become ballet obsessed lately

Happy weekend! This week felt endless at times, after my Easter Holiday and two four days weeks suddenly having to make it from Monday to Friday felt impossible! Bring on the May bank holidays already please!

I had my first book group on Thursday night - unfortunately only three of us turned up! We had a good time though, drank too much wine and discussed everything from work to politics and a bit about the book we had read in between! On Friday I had drinks at work to celebrat a colleague's promotion, where I may have agreed to attend a ballet class with someone, who I later found out went to ballet school instead of normal school as a child... I last went to a ballet class when I was eight so I might just be a little outclassed!

This weekend James wasn't working on Saturday (he now works 2-3 Saturdays in the month) so we celebrated with a date night - and went to GBK for dinner followed by A Little Chaos at the cinema. Kate Winslet & Alan Rickman in a period drama - perfection! It takes me back to the 90s and Sense and Sensibility and all the period dramas I loved then.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

An ode to the leather jacket

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jacket - jigsaw, skirt - topshop

This is what my birthday present from my parents ended up being. I'm pretty much in love. A leather jacket comes pretty high on my wardrobe staples list. I bought my old leather jacket about 7-8 years ago from Topshop, for an eyewatering £100, which for student me was an insane amount to spend at the time. I remember wearing it to lectures on the first day I got it with a denim skirt and a breton top, only to find my best male friend at the time was literally wearing the exact same outfit as me (well, jeans instead of a denim skirt) - a seriously mortifying moment!

I wore that jacket pretty much every day to uni though, and every weekend except in high summer once I started work, so the £100 turned out to be an excellent investment. It would have lasted me a fair few more years if I hadn't come home to find one of my cats hanging from it by its claws one day last year... the sleeve was absolutely shredded! I could have cried!

Given it had a good life though, it did give me a bit of an excuse to go shopping, which led me to this beauty in Jigsaw. Jigsaw is a shop I am going to more and more at the moment. It is great for work clothes, and although it's not cheap the majority of what I have got from there has been great quality. This jacket was a bit more than £100 (I'm choosing to blame inflation!) but I am hoping it will prove as good an investment as my last one. Kept safely away from the kitties in my wardrobe now of course!

I went for a grey-blue colour as opposed to traditional black as it looks a bit more unusual - softer and more feminine,  but still neutral enough to go with everything I own. I really hate the term 'buttery soft' but in this case there is not really any other way to describe it. I keep forcing my friends to stroke my arm - it's just so soft!

Monday, 13 April 2015

2 Willow Road

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One of the things I did while I was on holiday last week was to visit Hampstead with my mum and sister. I hadn't been before, and it is definitely somewhere I'd like to go back and explore more. We had a stroll round Hampstead Heath in the sunshine, and then popped into 2 Willow Road, a National Trust property just on the edge of the Heath.

I was keen to visit after reading about it in Emerald Street - Stylist magazine's email newsletter, which is a great source for suggesting new and different places to go and things to do. I'd highly recommend signing up.

I've become a bit modernism crazy at the moment. It's a bit of a blogger trend I know, but I just love the style. The house was built and designed by Erno Goldfinger in the late 1930s, and he lived there for about 50 years with his family. It caused uproar when he first sought planning permission, being so different to the houses on the street. Ian Fleming hated it so much he named the Bond villain after him (thanks Becca for that titbit of information)!

It's only a little museum/house, and we were probably only in ther half an hour, but Hampstead is a lovely place for a day out if you want to make the trip. I wasn't supposed to take photos (which is something I do normally abide by, promise!) but the sign was really small so I didn't realise until I got told off. I assume it is because his amazing artwork collection is copyright protected, but on the basis I didn't take any close ups of the art, I have posted the ones I did take above. 

The one thing I was a bit disappointed with was the furniture. The architecture was amazing, the artwork was amazing, but the furniture was kind of blah. Other than the amazing desk in the top right! Still definitely worth a visit if you are in the area though.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

A picture of the week

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My little cat burglars kitties have taken a liking to my hair elastics recently, and have a habit of stealing them from my bedside table in the early morning and then playing catch with them on the wooden floors before hiding them away somewhere. I rumbled their original hiding place (a suspicious bump under the rug in the living room) but since then they have gotten too clever for me and I genuinely have no idea where they are hiding them all. I am 99% sure they haven't eaten them, but I am starting to get a little worried...

Thankfully they seem less interested in my chunky acrylic lips hairband (to big to hide... or munch...) from Anna Lou of London (another perk of being a brand ambassador for them at the moment!) so I foresee a lot more of their funky hair elastics in my future!

Today is alas the last day of my holiday, and it is back to work tomorrow. I've had such a chilled week, done a lot of cleaning, but a fair old bit of relaxing and seeing family and friends too.