Sunday, 1 February 2015

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. Love this idea for a mac and cheese party! 2. This glimpse into a vintage home is so gorgeous 3. This photoshoot is dreamy 4. And ts houseboat looks amazing, although I can't help but wonder about the dusting it must require! 5. Bri's closet makeover is fab - so organised! 6. This house looks so peaceful.

It's been a bit of a bad week - I spent two days in bed so sick. I always get ill around this time of year - I think my body is saying enough winter now, lets stay in bed til Spring. Luckily I made it back to work on Friday, to clear out my inbox (78 unread emails, urgh!), as I'm having a long weekend this weekend, as James and I are off to a spa this afternoon! 

I have been to a spa once before, and James never, so this is a fairly new experience for us - I will report back! I think James is probably more excited than I am. We got a good deal, and it seemed like the perfect end of January treat. I just hope the snow that's been making its way across the country doesn't spoil our fun! We got a little dusting this morning but not too much so fingers crossed the trains are all still running and we can make it there (and back!) ok.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Essie Colour Icons Review

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My love of Essie nail polishes is well documented on this blog, they are my favourite high street brand of polish, and I think they last well and have some seriously gorgeous shades. They also do some cute gift sets, and I got this trio of mini polishes for Christmas.

This is the Colour Icons (Or Color Icons as this appears to be the original American formula, more on that later) which includes three of their most famous shades - Mademoiselle, Fifth Avenue and Mint Candy Apple. These are all shades I'd happily buy and wear individually, so this seemed like the perfect gift set for me.

My understanding is there are actually two ranges of Essie polishes - the original range used in Salons and available in the US, and the UK diffusion line, available in Boots and Superdrug. From the reviews I have read the diffusion line seems like it is far and away the better one, with the smooth application, nice thick brush and really long lasting formula. Unfortunately the above gift set was definitely not this formula, and is no where near as nice as the other Essie polishes I have. It chips after a day, if that, and has a tendency to look a bit streaky too.

I really love all the shades in this gift set, but I would definitely say steer clear, and buy these colours individually in the newer formula from Boots. They aren't totally horrific, and I will use them, but they definitely aren't as good as the other Essie polishes I have.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Top five wardrobe buys

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1. Lacoste Shirt
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2. Levi straight-leg jeans
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3. People tree breton top
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4. River Island jumper
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5. Oasis dress

In the spirit of January and spring cleaning I've been thinking about clearing out my wardrobe, and looking at the things which I have bought and regretted, clothes that were poor quality and have worn out, or just things which aren't my style any more. Although I have been focusing on why those items didn't work, I thought it was worth a look too at the items which have been excellent buys, and which I wear pretty much every weekend, in some cases for years, without them ever feeling old, worn or outdated.

I can't remember exactly how long I have owned some of these items, but I suspect some are around the five year mark now, and continue to be the workhorses in my wardrobe. Unsurprisingly they are all shades of blue and grey, relatively plain, and go with everything else I own.

1. Lacoste shirt. This was a pretty expensive purchase for me, and pretty much the second day I wore it I managed to get it covered in blue nail polish! Thanks goodness for my mother's amazing stain removal skills as I ran crying to her, having no idea how to save it! It's such a great classic item, and is a really thick, well made fabric. I can see it being in my wardrobe for years to come.

2. Levi straight leg jeans. Another of my more pricey items, and the most recent of my purchases here but already a favourite. I can see from what I have picked that when it comes to basics like these it is worth while spending a bit more money. These are the perfect fit all over, and remain just right even after several washes.

3. People Tree Breton top. This was from when Emma Watson did a range for People Tree, and for a celebrity collaboration it has had pretty impressive staying power. I love how simple it is, it fits beautifully, and still looks just as good as it did the first day I bought it, despite that being years ago.

4. River Island jumper. River Island isn't somewhere I shop often, so it does seem unusual to have something from there in my top five. This jumper though has been such a good buy. I throw it on pretty much every weekend when it is cold, as it looks great, and fits comfortably over t-shirts and under coats.

5. Oasis dress. Finally this Oasis dress, which I ordered online and when it first arrived I wasn't sure whether to keep it. I am very glad I did though! It works well with tights and boots in the winter, and with sandals in the summer, and I like that its so plain it goes with everything. It's perfect for pairing with a scarf or statement necklace.

What are the best buys in your wardrobe?

Sunday, 25 January 2015

A picture of the week

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James' parents got me a subscription to Red magazine for Christmas, and issue 2 of the year arrived today. It's definitely winning as my favourite women's magazine, I always love the fashion and read pretty much every article. The Vogue underneath was passed on from my mum, but I have gone off it a bit to be honest. The fashion is so unattainable, and I don't find the articles very interesting. What's your favourite magazine?

This weekend James and I continued our tour of free exhibitions of London, with a trip to Bafta to see the Bafta, Backstage exhibition.  I wasn't 100% wowed, it was pretty busy and the rooms it was displayed in weren't ideal for an exhibition, the majority of the photos were displayed in the corridor leading to the loos, which was a bit awkward! The pictures were interesting, though there were no name tags so I could only really name the very famous people! If you aren't Kate Winslet or Angelina Jolie I am afraid I probably missed you... 

This week I'm off to eat Iranian food to celebrate my colleague's marriage (to an Iranian man - she is Columbian ). I know nothing about Iranian or Columbian food, so I am excited to try it out! It's also my sister's birthday on Wednesday, so we are going to my parents' for dinner to celebrate too. Two meals I don't have to cook = a winning week for me! That's obviously ignoring the fact I almost never cook and James does 90% of it...




Thursday, 22 January 2015

Music in January

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Here are four albums I've had on repeat this month.

1. Taylor Swift - 1989. Of course. I held off buying this in case James got it for me for Christmas, as I've been obsessing over Shake it Off for ages. I ended up buying the vinyl from Amazon because I am a massive hipster, and for every physical vinyl/cd you purchase they also give you a digital copy as soon as your order is shipped, so you get the music a couple of days early. Favourite song so far? Welcome to New York and I Know Places.

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2. Sohodolls - Ribbed music for the numb generation. I bought this ages ago when one of their songs was featured in Gossip Girl. A significant proportion of my music collection is stuff I own purely because it was in a tv show when I was a teenager/early 20something. I recently rediscovered it and am loving it for perking up my commute. Favourite songs are Bang Bang Bang Bang and 1724.

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3. Pink Floyd - The endless river. I bought the cd for my dad for Christmas from Amazon, so I ended up with the digital copy for myself due to the aforementioned scheme. Win-win! Its really lovely chill out music, and reminds me of the music my dad played in the house when I was growing up. Lots of Pink Floyd and Mile Oldfield on repeat!

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4. The Aquadolls - Stoked on you. I downloaded this after Zoe featured them on her Female Fronted Artists to watch in 2015 list. She said Aquadolls had a Beachboys vibe and I was sold. It's a nice breath of summery California air on a cold January day. I do think some of the songs I find hard to relate to because I am old (Guys Who Sk8 and Tweaker Kidz? I don't even know what that means!) but there are also some fab tunes like Don't Mean Jack and Our Love Will Always Remain which I love.

What have you been listening to this month? Do you have any recommendations? As you can tell I like primarily uptempo pop-y female fronted artists, and Pink Floyd!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Empties

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I've not done an 'empties' post before, but they are one of my faves to watch on youtube, so I thought I might do my own version by creating a gif.

Finished recently are (clockwise from bottom left:

Chloe Perfume - this has been my favourite perfume for ages, and it was the perfume that first made me like perfume. I still love it, I always feel that bit more chic and grown up when I wear it, but I think these days it might just be getting pipped to the post by Valentino Valentina, which I tried and fell in love with more recently. It's not that I don't still love it, and I will probably go back to it at some point, but for now I'm looking to try something new.

Clinique take the day off cleansing balm - I really liked this and was pretty sad when I used it all up. It was really gentle and did exactly what it said. I am currently using the Body Shop Chamomile cleansers, but I think I will go back to Clinique after that. They are fine but just not quite as good.

Mac waterproof eye makeup remover - I get through one of these ever 2-3 months pretty much. It's the only makeup remover that gets rid of my eyeliner without having to scrub. I love it and always have a back up to hand for when I run out.

Origins Night-a-mins night cream - This is the second tub of Origins Night-a-mins I have been through, and while there are a lot of things I like about it - the smell is amazing, and it feels really thick and luxurious, there is something about Origins which just doesn't quite work for me. I think maybe their products are too strong/harsh for my skin, which is crazy sensitive. It's a shame because I really want to love this night cream.

Origins Ginseng Energy Boosting moisturiser - As with the night-a-mins this is nice, but it just doesn't quite do it for me. I don't feel like it gives me any more benefit than the £5 Nivea moisturiser I usually get, and for a lot more money. It does smell amazing though.

Ren invisible pores detox mask - I've been eking out the last remaining bits of this mask for a while now. Ren always feels like it just works and I see improvements after one use. I will definitely be getting a few more Ren bits at some point soon.

Mac liquidlast eyeliner in black - The best and only eyeliner I ever use. It is the only thing that lasts on my greasy hooded eyes (pleasant, I know). The only down side is the only thing that gets it off is the Mac waterproof eye makeup remover, so I am tied into these two products forever. Already on my next tube of this, and thinking I need to pick up a back up soon!

Boots little red tin lipbalm - I'm not sure if they even still make this. It's really old. Embarrassingly so. Lipbalm doesn't go off right? I finally made it to the end of this tub anyway. It was fine but nothing special. I am really in to the Nivea lip butters at the moment, instead.

Valentino Valentina purfume - The second perfume I finished this year and another one I really loved. James got me a new one for Christmas, so I don't have to go without. It smells really feminine, and sweet but not too sweet. Its girly but not sickly at all. I love it.

Rituals Happy Hands Mandarin and Mint - This hand cream has been by my bed and gets a lot of use, so I've got through it quite quickly. I have really dry hands in the winter so I usually have two or three handcreams on the go around the house and in my handbag. This smelt gorgeous, but was pretty standard in terms of what it did. I liked it and would use it again, but I wouldn't go out of my way to repurchase.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. Jane's travel photos are always amazing. This time Buenos Aires 2. I found some amazing new home design blogs in this post from Emily Henderson, mainly from the comments section which is golden 3. Some new ideas to feed my soup obsession 4. Love this list of small shops to visit around the uk, via Hjartesmil 5. A gorgeous colourful home 6. another dose of beautiful libraries

Finally the weekend! We are slightly trapped this weekend, by both the weather (cold) and the train services (not running at all due to engineering works). I'm not sure how many weekends it will be like this but it is getting old, fast. Yesterday we just pottered around the local shops and I had a bit of a clear out of some of the cupboards and drawers which have become stuffed with junk. Very satisfying.

Today we are hoping to make it to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Grayson Perry exhibition, if we can get there! Hopefully the buses are still going. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

God's Own Junkyard

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Last weekend James and I visited the Lights of Soho God's Own Junkyard pop-up. I've been meaning to go for ages, but finally got to it when I read Liv's blog and realised the exhibition ended on the 18th! If you miss it though there are pieces in Selfridges, and in the original God's Own Junkyard in Walthamstow. 

The exhibition is the art of Chris Bracey, who recently passed away, and who is responsible for most of the neon signs in Soho, as well as a lot of work for films like Batman and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Downstairs there are also neon pieces from other artists including Tracey Emin.

I definitely left wishing I could afford a piece of neon art, but alas they are slightly beyond my budget for now. Perhaps one day the 'sex, drugs and bacon rolls' one will grace my kitchen! I think the sight of so many signs together is part of the appeal though, I don't know if having just one neon sign in my living room would work so well. Plus it might make my neighbours a bit concerned! 

The exhibition is open seven days a week until Sunday.

Monday, 12 January 2015

New bits around the house

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We've bought a few new bits for the house over the past few months, and I spent a considerable amount of the holidays arranging things and getting them just so. The biggest purchase was the John Lewis Sonoma day bed above, for the spare room. This was not cheap (Now that I think about it, it is probably the most expensive thing in the house!) but I love love love it. We had it downstairs in the living room over Christmas for extra seating for guests, and then I made James help me carry it upstairs to its final resting place in the spare room, nearly killing ourselves getting it up the very narrow stairs in the process. For some reason whenever I carry heavy awkward things I always get the giggles. Many is the time I have collapsed in hysteria in the Ikea car park. James was not impressed when I repeatedly nearly dropped the thing because I was laughing so much!

I've not slept on it yet, but I have spent many an hour lounging on it reading or on my laptop. It's quite firm so it makes for a great all purpose surface, I can quite easily rest my coffee cup on there without worrying about spillages. It's fantastically well made, I love the way it looks, and it makes the spare room into another really useable space.

I also picked up the above lampshade from John Lewis for £15 in the sale. I struggle to find nice modern looking lampshades which don't cost loads, or aren't too big, as our ceilings are not very high, so I snapped this one up when I saw it. It's in the spare room at the moment but I may swap things around at some point.

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A couple of Etsy purchases for the living room. These cotton ball fairy lights were from icandylighting, and are a definite step up from the fake polystyrene coals in the fireplace before! I shamelessly stole the idea to put fairy lights in the fireplace from what katie does and I love how they look. These were very cheap, so they took a few weeks to deliver, and I hadn't quite anticipated they would come unassembled, but the end product is not bad for the price.

The Nikki McWilliams Custard Cream Cushion has been on my wishlist for ages, after seeing it on a few blogs. I already want more biscuity cushions - maybe the pink wafer or Tunnock's caramel... We changed up our sofa covers as well (we have the Ikea Karlstad) from the Isunda grey covers you can see here to the Korndal Dark Grey covers. While I loved the original covers we got, the cats also loved them a bit to much, and the mixed colours in the weave showed their scratch marks so badly. I hated looking at them. We swapped them for the plain dark grey cover, and it's much better. The cats still scratch but it doesn't show up nearly so badly. We also swapped out the original wooden feet for the Karlstad metal altenative feet they sell, which I like much better too. It makes the sofa look a lot more expensive than it was.

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Finally (because this post is epically long already) a quick free upgrade - I finally got some of our books out of the loft and arranged them. The shelves on the right hand side are in the kitchen (you can see them in situ here) and while they are an awkward shape and position that will eventually go when we redo the kitchen, I figured we might as well make the most of them while we have them. The little bookcase on the right was my great-grandmonther's and I've had it ever since she died about fifteen years ago. In my bedroom tour you can see it was in the fireplace, and just held a few random things I didn't have places for. I finally got it out of the fireplace (too dusty!) and arranged some books and other bits on it. This little corner is one of my favourite places now.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

A picture of the week

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James and I stopped off at the Nordic Bakery for a coffee and cinnamon bun break yesterday in between pottering around London. It was jam packed, and the woman sitting behind me kept shoving her chair back into me, but the cinnamon bun made everything ok.

Is anyone else an apartment therapy fan? I am attempting their january cure - a month of tasks and challenges to help you clean, organise and improve your home. I'm not doing terribly well at keeping up with the daily tasks, but I did have a good clear out of the fridge and cupboards yesterday, threw out all the out of date food and cleaned all the shelves. It's a pretty good improvement already. 

One of the tasks this week was to walk round your house and make a list of all the tasks, big or small which are nagging at you to be done. Mine is a pretty big list, which I might share at some point, but for the most part highlight a need to spend money! There are a number of diys that have been on my to do list for ages, such as putting up shelves in the living room and tiling the hearth in the bedroom (step one, learn to tile!), but mainly it's areas where we just don't have enough furniture, or the right furniture. 

A decent shoe rack, a second sofa for the living room, lamps, storage, that kind of thing. I realise apart from a couple of large purchases such as the wardrobes, the living room rug, desk chairs and the spare bed we haven't really bought much since we moved in. We're still living with the same amount of furniture as we had in the flat. I don't have the money to rectify this all at once, but I think having a list has really helped me work out what the priorities are, so I can focus on them for the coming year.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Book Haul

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I got quite a few books for Christmas which I am excited to get reading. Last year I read 17 books, which wasn't terribly impressive to be honest. When I was younger I read constantly, and would get through that number in a month, but these days I get way too distracted, by the Internet mainly, and I hate being interrupted when I get to a good bit, so reading before bed and on the tube is problematic as before I know it, it's 1am, or I've missed my stop!

In 2015 I want to get better at making time for reading, and so my aim for the year is to read 30 book That's nearly double what I read last year, so it's a decent challenge, but not unachievable.

For Christmas I got two collections from the Book People, which were seriously good value. Firstly the box set of Hilary Mantel, which if we are talking words per £ here must be the best return on investment ever. I read Bring Up the Bodies last year and it was one of my favourite reads of 2014, and I have got started with Wolf Hall already this month. They aren't the easiest books to read (and they are so long!) I can't see myself reading all of these this year, but I do enjoy her writing so much, that it keeps me going even when it seems a bit dense.

The other collection is three much shorter books - the Culinary Fiction collection, featuring The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C Morais, The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa and White Truffles in Winter by N.M. Kelby. I love books set around food or travel, so hopefully these three will be good, interesting reads.

Finally I got two cook books - both at opposite ends of the spectrum. Gwenyth Paltrow's It's All Good, a totally health focused book, which should help my annual 'Help it's January and I need to get healthy!' panic, and Jamie Oliver's comfort food, which is all about indulgence. My goal health wise this year is to aim for moderation. I tend to do all the classic mistakes of over indulging, then flipping to the other end, depriving myself for a week, hating it, falling off the wagon, rinse and repeat. This year I am going to try and be a bit more balanced. Simple, home cooked food most of the time, but with enough treats that I don't feel like I'm totally deprived of anything! I'm hoping these two cookbooks will therefore work well together, rather than being completely anachronistic.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

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I've been wanting to make a green soup of some sort for a while now. Most of my usual soup recipes involve root vegetables and come out a sort of muddy brown colour (delicious but not terribly attractive) and I figured it was about time to branch out. This isn't the most healthy of soups, thanks to the cheese, but it is delicious, and the cheese makes it really filling. You could probably swap out the Stilton for some low fat mature Cheddar if you wanted it to be a bit better for you. I just love the colour so much, it's so bright! I was worried it would look kind of swampy and unappetising but I think it looks really fresh and inviting.

If you aren't a blue cheese fan you are dead to me you may still like this as the cheese doesn't come out super strong, but adds a nice bit of depth to the flavour. It's loosely based off this recipe from the BBC good food website but I've adapted it based on what I had in the house.

Ingredients

six shallots, finely chopped
one large leek, sliced
one baking potato, diced
two heads of broccoli, roughly chopped with the stalks removed
1.5l stock
olive oil
 knob of butter
160g Stilton, crumbled

Recipe

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or cooking pot and cook the shallots for a few minutes until soft and slightly browned. Add the leek, potato and butter, and once the butter is melted put the lid on to allow to sweat for five minutes.

Then add the stock and the broccoli and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the broccoli is soft. Leave to cool for about half an hour, and then transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Return to the pot and stir in the Stilton until it is melted in. If you are feeling arty farty leave a little to crumble on top.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. This home isn't my style, but it is stunning 2. I have so enjoyed Style Slicker's Seoul visual diary 3. Best job ever? 4. An amazing resource for make up storage. Why oh why don't we have the container store in the UK?! 5. This photoshoot is amazing 6. Christmas is over but a good book gift guide is useful all year!

Happy New Year! Time to blow some cobwebs off the old blog and get back into it I think. I always feel more inspired after I've had a holiday, and some time to gather my thoughts rather than getting to Sunday night and thinking 'argh, I have to blog something this week!' So hopefully there will be some interesting posts coming up this month, at least!

We hosted a party for New Year for twelve of our friends, which was just lovely. Neither James or I are particularly good at that sort of thing. I get stressed and insist we need seventeen lists and a spreadsheet for everything, and James tends to leave everything to the last minute, but between us we did a good job I think. We had a pretty low key spread of homemade pizza and salads, and one of our friends, Katie made an amazing salted caramel chocolate cake for dessert. The cats were seriously concerned about there being so many people in the house, but they dealt with it by hiding behind our bed until everyone left the next morning, and making occasional salvos out to walk over my face in the night!

Not the best night's sleep, but not a bad start to the year either!