Friday, 28 December 2012

Whistles sale

I tend to feel a little bombarded by the onslaught of the January sales. It can be a case of information overload, and the feeling of having to bag those bargains is sometimes overwhelming. But the one sale I do always make a conscious effort to seek out is Whistles.

I love Whistles, for being a beacon of good design, quality and fashion. I'd buy more there if my wallet was fatter. And so there are always a few things I keep my eye on hoping that they'll still be there come mark-down time. I tend to look for more classic items which can be worn whatever fashion may come along. Don't be disheartened if the object of your affection is sold out online - the staff in store are very helpful and will do all they can to track down the item in the size you need. Here's my pick.

Lurex colour block top, £55; Dagmar Rina jersey dress, £55; Fishnet bow print jacket, £45; Croc print shirt, £75; Broderie Anglais Print Dress £80; Lily diamante top, £55; Dagmar Nadia silk tee, £65;  Renee crew sweater, £55.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas knitwear

I love a bit of Christmas knitwear. Let's just be clear, I do not mean something with reindeers or snowmen on, but a nice, neutral, good quality knit which can be paired with a statement necklace, denim shirt, or a bright-coloured t-shirt underneath, with cuffs poking out. Something you look forward to wearing, to see you through the cold days of winter.

{soda wash raglan tee in neon double pink, £7.99 GAP}

I always look for knitwear with a majority share of cotton, silk or wool, and so the trawl of some of my usual go-to retailers left me disappointed, namely Whistles, who are doing a roaring trade in nylon this year. Surprising, seeing as their knits, whilst lovely, aren't exactly cheap. But Cos, Massimo Dutti and Zara are doing a nice line in fine yarns, so have a look below and take your pick. (What's that? You're still after something for me for Christmas? The dip-dye number would really suit me, don't you think...?)

Top row, left to right
Over-size sweater with slits, £69.90 Uterque; Over-sized jumper with pockets, £64.95 Massimo Dutti; Fine gauge dip dye jumper, £48 Oasis; Lambswool jumper with zip back, £38 ASOS; Chain sweater, £64.95 Massimo Dutti.

Middle row, left to right
Silk hem sweater, £54.95 Massimo Dutti; Sweater with appliques on shoulder, £35.99 Zara; Pointelle mesh striped top, £38 Warehouse; Twisted yarn sweater, £35.99 Zara; Grey sweater with embellished shoulders, £79.99 Zara.

Bottom row, left to right
Fine wool jersey top, £39 Cos; Cashmere sweatshirt, £89 Cos; Cardigan with lace detail, £45.99 Zara; Alpaca wool jumper, £45 Cos; Silk and wool jumper, £55 Cos.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Red & cream

This ad campaign for Chloe really caught my eye the minute it came out, showcasing a fresher look for the usual tinsel-flavoured festive looks which this colour tends to inspire. 

{Chloe ad campaign}

If you're struggling with what to wear for your Christmas Day outfit, then a cream shirt or knit with a red skirt could be a great option, with some fawn/camel coloured accessories.

Here are some of the best red skirts out there at the moment - a simple grey or navy knit would also make a good pairing (and be better at disguising those gravy dribbles).

Clockwise from top left
Lace skirt by Alexon, £35 John Lewis; Crossover jacquard skirt, £64.95 Massimo Dutti; Reiss centre slit skirt, £110 John Lewis; Maddy pleated skirt, £55 Hobbs; Double split skirt, £160 Jaeger.

Thursday, 13 December 2012


I've had a request in to do a post on parkas. The criteria are that the coat must be warm, not too short, have a hood (preferably fur-trimmed), and be a streamlined shape, avoiding the whole quilted "Michelin Man" look.

I feel that I'm qualified for this search, as my mum has been searching for the perfect coat with a hood, ever since...ever since forever. The result of this is that she's the owner of six "almost perfect but not 100%" parkas, not to mention the non-parka style coats on top of that. So, I have a lot of experience to fall back on.

During my research, I've discovered that with parkas, you really do get what you pay for  - there aren't many good, cheap options out there. It's really a case of fashion vs. function. But I've tried to include a couple at the lower end of the spectrum. If money were no object, then I'd go for this option from Mr & Mrs Fur, but at €2997 I'll keep dreaming for a while. For a budget option, I'd go for Fat Face's Merlin option, which has now been removed from the website because it's sold out online, but I'm told you might still be able to find it in a branch near you. My vote for quality and value goes to Barbour - they offer a huge selection, so it's worth a browse on their website if you can't see your preferred style here. And you should have a good trawl of the internet for other suppliers, as the prices for Barbour jackets seem to vary hugely.

One thing I have learned is that you really need to see these coats in the flesh, as the quality, warmth and fit are so hard to gauge online. Here's my selection below - wishing you all a very cosy Christmas.

Top row, left to right
Fur lined parka, £95 Topshop; Vila's Stare Down Coat, £139.95; Aigle Milwaukee quilted parka, £395 Travelling Bazaar; Vintage troop waxed parka jacket, £329.95 Barbour; Winter parka, £245 Toast; Winter force waxed parka jacket, £279.95 Barbour.

Bottom row, left to right
Odd Molly's Anchohuma Parka Jacket, £259.95; Sessun Desserter Twill Parka, £245 ASOS; Faux-fur hood military parka, £109.95 Mango; Pepe Jeans' Olga Jacket £195.95; Fur-trimmed parka, £199 Poetry; Rochdale waterproof jacket with Liberty lining, £199.95 Barbour.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

River Island edit

I used to be a huge fan of River Island, back in the day when their shop interiors were all wood-cladding, their carrier bags were patterned with a huge cat on a Victoriana-style background and the labels in their clothes said Charlotte Halton.

In the intervening years, I've hardly dabbled at all in River Island, but the past few months have seen me wandering back over there a little more. Like most high street retailers, you have to hunt for the items which don't major on the polyester, but their bags and shoes in particular are good, with a large selection made from leather. Here's what I'm liking of theirs at the moment.

Top row, left to right
Black diamante rose gold studs, £3; Grey pointed cage stiletto sandals, £75; Beige Baroque embellished cardigan, £50; Structured leather tote bag, £70; Navy long sleeve angora jumper, £40.

Middle row, left to right
Grey metallic azteec print jumper, £32; Black floral pencil skirt, £25; Blue snake pointed court shoes, £50; Grey metallic chiffon back dip hem t-shirt, £20; Lime green leather bowling bag, £85.

Bottom row, left to right
Silver caged sandals, £30; Black embellished box clutch bag, £30; Gold tone and black enamel ring, £8; Cream leather bowling bag, £65; Cream textured contrast trim sweatshirt, £32.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Over the last week or so...

...we've moved house from rural Buckinghamshire to living on the UK's sunny south-coast, in Portsmouth. Amongst the stresses and strains of the move have been some particular highlights:

{leaving present from work...}

{...containing my all time favourite shower oil}

{staying at The Crown, Old Amersham}

{house warming present: home made Dime Bar}

{lunch at Carter's On The Camber}

{pulled pork}

{BBQ ribs}

{dinner at Canteen on the Southbank...}

{...followed by Twinkle cocktails}

{discovered The Garage Lounge in Southsea}

Monday, 10 December 2012

Introducing: my North African correspondent

Liverpool Lou is a creature of many talents; she's a real creative whirl. From perfectly executed make-up artistry, star-turns on the stage and creating home interiors accessories using perfect stitchery, to being an all-round great friend - she has it all.

She has recently done me a huge disservice by moving thousands of miles away to live an ex-pat life of intrigue and adventure amongst the souks and spices of Marrakech. As a form of absolution, she's agreed to give me regular blog posts on her literary loves and loathes, being a voracious reader with an eye for style and substance. I imagine her reclining on a tiled rooftop, lounging on cushions, whilst reading her latest volume of choice, donning a beautifully printed kaftan, channelling something of a Talitha Getty look.

{Talitha Getty photographed in Marrakech by Patrick Lichfield}

She's managed to drag herself away from the roof-top jacuzzis, cocktails on the panoramic terrace and haggling for leather goods long enough to give us her first instalment. Hope you enjoy: think you're going to love her posts.

A Novel Noel

If I am ever stuck for a present idea, I will often turn to Waterstones for a solution. The humble and wonderful book is sometimes sadly considered to be a “boring” gift. Well, I say there is one out there for everyone. You want something personal? Check. Beautiful? That can be done. Not too pricey? Absolutely. If you give it some consideration, even the most hardened non-reader can be satisfied. I have picked a few “classics” here, but classics which look particularly gorgeous. This week, I propose that you judge a book by its cover. Gasp.

{£8.99 from Penguin Books}

People either love it or hate it. I love it. Old fashioned English upper class life, plenty of wit and a twist of sadness. I cannot relate to the characters’ way of life at all but their feelings, wants and needs are all too familiar to anyone with a shred of humanity. And it is so funny. Love the pink on this edition - would make a good nail polish colour.

{£12.99 from Penguin Books}

The dear, sweet, ever-positive Candide has his optimism levels tested beyond his imagination in this faux naïve novella. The utterly, shamelessly sarcastic tone is hilarious. This is the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition which is particularly easy on the eye. (All of the lucky books in that series are bestowed with beautifully illustrated covers.)

{£6.93 from The Book Depository}

The classic cover of the classic novel. That blue! Those eyes. Perhaps someone you know will be inspired by the forthcoming (and amazing-looking) Baz Luhrmann take on this – get them the book. I’ll leave my love of the Luhrmann for another post, maybe.

{£8.08 from The Book Depository}

This is the edition I borrowed from the library where I work just a couple of months ago – I suspect it may only be available in the USA but to be honest there are so many gorgeous versions of this excellently witty little satire you may be spoilt for choice. It is certainly comparable to Gatsby – decadent and carefree Bright Young Things career around at parties only to eventually realise the emptiness and meaninglessness of their lives. (All the same, I would still like to spend perhaps a just couple of months doing nothing but flying from one party to the next, wearing beads and feathers – or sometimes a bit of Saville Row tailoring and a top hat? – knocking back gin fizzes and telling everyone it’s all just too shame-making, darling.) I should have lived in the jazz age.

Now all you need to do is write an inscription which will mean your offering will be that bit more personal and treasured forever (even if it doesn’t actually get read).

Love Liverpool Lou x.

*Note from the Editor: just found this hardback series of F. Scott Fitzgerald books, published to celebrate the 70th anniversary of his death, with beautiful covers by Coralie Bickford-Smith. With beautiful art-deco patterned foil jackets and matching bookmarks, these classics of literature would be perfect for your flapper-loving, jazz-age obsessive like Liverpool Lou.

{anniversary edition by Penguin Classics}

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Two candles

Hello, here are two candles I"d like you to meet, which are almost less than the price of your daily latte and will last far longer. I'm always being asked about good cheap candles, and just when you've been waiting for ages, two come along at once.

So, I've moved house recently, and the house we've moved into was empty for a while, and so it smells.... well, funny. Not horrible, but certainly not nice. It's a smell that all the cleaning in the world isn't shifting, but candles are helping.

I've been on the look out for some cheap but chic candles to burn (because it feels like sacrilege to whip through my Diptyque numbers just to achieve a pong-free zone) and I have become a huge fan of this one by Febreeze. I know, they need to work on their packaging, it could in no way be described as chic, but once that bad boy is out of the box, it couldn't offend anyone. The scent is cotton fresh, and whilst it smells a bit overpowering in the box, once it's lit, it's lovely.

{currently on offer at Waitrose}

{febreeze: lose the box, add some vintage matches}

The second is Price's Winter Jasmine candle, which is slightly smaller than your average candle, but still doses out a good whiff, and the scent is perfect, without being too sweet or sickly. They also do a fig one which was definitely my preferred scent (one of the best fig candles I've smelt actually, and I've smelt a few) but the wax was coloured purple which put me right off.

And best of all? They're a third off at Waitrose - the Febreeze candle is £3.08 and the Price's candle is £2.62. Good stocking filler? I think so.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


I've been meaning to post this for a couple of weeks but forgot about it in the house move. We were trying to think of some new ideas for dinner, and Popeye came up with this recipe for Aubergine Parmigiana - a great meat-free alternative when you want some comfort food, and a good option if you've got vegetarians round for dinner.

{aubergine parmigiana}

{ingregients + the start of a G&T}

We have some leftover aubergine slices and so the next day we concocted a sort of bruchetta, with some toasted sourdough, goat's cheese, rocket and the aubergine. Delicious. And we also tried it with hummus as an alternative to goat's cheese - double thumbs up.

{re-heating the leftover aubergine slices}


{with goat's cheese and rocket}


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Christmas list

I am a lover of a list. I live my life by lists, but my favourite list of them all is the Christmas list. I have long lived by the "stick to the list" mantra, and whilst there are certain people for whom it'll always be fun to choose a freestyle present for, there are others who I will always be grateful for a list to choose from. It's the feeling of being certain that you've got something that the person will love or actually need, at a time when it's all to easy to buy something safe, but not necessarily 100% on the money. So, you give me your list and I'll give you mine. Here it is. The trouble is, mine are always greedily longer than they really ought to be, but then, that all helps to retain the element of surprise! Here's hoping...

Top row, left to right
Combination blouse with lapel, £39.99 Zara; Virgin Perkish Leather Buckle Trainers, £129 Ash (or this grey leather shearling pair from Converse, can't decide); Grace by Grace Coddington, £17.60 Waterstones; Hand dyed vintage crystal bubble earrings, £80.87 Etsy; Sweater with open back, £44.95 Massimo Dutti.

Middle row, left to right
Katherine's day notelet set, £7 Culture Label; Knitted statement necklace, £38 Amy Lawrence Designs;  'Let The Stars Be Your Guide' print, £50 Culture Label; Special wash sweatshirt, £29.99 Zara; Flat clutch bag in leopard print by Claire Vivier, £125 Boudie & Fou.

Bottom row, left to right
Diana Vreeland DVD - They Eye Has To Travel, £16 HMV; Riding boot in tan, £89.99 Zara; Claus Porto Aloe Vera "Condessa" Wild Pansy Liquid Soap, £14.95 Elm House; Orelia cross-body bag, £99 Red Direct; a pair of La Rochelle square pillowcases, £18 each Cologne & Cotton.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Holidays are coming

You've just a couple of days left to get your advent calendar. We don't go over-board with Christmas decorations,  we just have a tree really,  but I so always insist on an advent calendar, and it's always Popeye's job to get it for me. Here are some of my favourites - the 24 Penguins Before Christmas is my winner.

Clockwise from top right:
Liz Earle advent calendar, £100 Liz Earle; Glitter advent calendar, £9.95 Liberty; Ciate mini-mani advent calendar, £38 Ciate, Selfridges or QVC; 24 Penguins Before Christmas advent calendar, £21.79 Amazon; Prestat advent calendar, £30; LEGO Star Wars advent calendar, £24.99 Amazon; 3D Victorian House advent calendar, £9.99 Amazon; The Ginvent Calendar, £79.95 Masters of Malt.

Sunday, 25 November 2012


Oh hello readers. It's not often you hear from me on a Sunday, but I've abandoned you a little this week, due to moving house and being without internet. So I've popped along to an internet cafe this morning, just in time to tell you about the Habitat 20% discount. It was in the Telegraph this week - the code you need to type in at checkout out is TEL11 and it ends tonight so log-on and check out! Here's my pick:

Clockwise from top left
Body wash by Helena Christensen, £12.50 (and buy one get one free); Orin tall occasional table, £200; Industry pendant, £80; Pack of three robot baubles, £12; Flamingo shower curtain, £20; Leather iPad cover, £20; Sesamee laundry bin, £48; Oken square occasional table, £35; Palaset three drawer box, £12; Grid hot water bottle cover, £15;  Brady throw, £95

Background image
Agnes rug, £55

Monday, 19 November 2012

Stocking fillers: for her

Ahhh, I love a Christmas Stocking. It's maybe my favourite part of Christmas. And girls are so easy to buy for - there's a never ending selection of high-street jewellery, toiletries and make-up out there to stuff into a stocking in any budget bracket. Here are my top suggestions. My particular faves are the Printed Leather Pouch from Culture Label (a great website that's a must visit for me when doing my Christmas shopping) and my favourite Almond Shower Gel by L'Occitane. I'm always open to ideas - have you got any requests I've missed off this list? Apart from the obligatory clementine and chocolate coins of course...

Top row, left to right
Gold heart stickers, £2.58 Knot & Bow; Dr Bronner's Organic Rose Castile Liquid Soap, £8.49 FeelUnique; Lipstick in Sartorial, £8 Topshop; Green fluorescent crystal stud earrings, £8 River Island; Organic cotton stripe ribbon, £5.25 notonthehighstreet.

Middle row, left to right
Almond Shower Oil, £16.50 L'Occitane; Clara postit notes, £5.50 Etsy; Instant Boost Skin Tonic, 30ml spritz, £5.25 Liz Earle; Marabelle earrings, £14 Oliver Bonas; Almond Hand & Nail Cream, £10 The Body Shop; Ladydate mini pocket diary, £7.49 Letts; Revlon nail polish in red bikini, £6.49 Boots; Printed leather pouch by Blackbird And The Owl, £22 CultureLabel.

Bottom row, left to right
Liberty print tray, £24.95 Liberty; Lucas' Papaw Ointment, £4.75 Pawpaw Shop; Bahoma candle, £6.99 TK Maxx; Liberty print post-it notes, £5.95 Liberty; Notecards, £4 Paperchase.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Last weekend

I started the weekend with a lovely brunch with Little Legs at Caravan in King's Cross. Think it's my new favourite breakfast spot, and the spread was hard to forget, with the side order of bacon being the icing on the cake. We got there about 10.30am and got a table no probs, but by 11am the place was heaving and people were queuing out of the door. For Caravan at its best, you should be an early bird. A just-in report from Little Legs on this week's evening visit heaps more praise on the place, making it a restaurant for all occasions.

{avocado on toast}

A mini trip to a flea market sale saw me buying these Green candle sticks for a mere £1 (pic coming later). Think the addition of some pink candles will make the perfect pairing, and these look to be just the right shade.

Took advantage of Bob's last trip to France to put in a pharmacy order, which also signalled the start of my Christmas shopping. Felt quite smug surveying my goodies, especially my industrial quantity of Bioderma Crealine H2O Micelle Solution which is simply the best eye-makeup remover. My new rule not to start a new product before I've finished the old one is proving hard when it comes to this Masque Apaisant by Bioderma, but I'm trying to stay strong.

{products from France}

A visit to friends in Stock Newington saw us trying the amazing pizza at Il Bacio - wish I'd had more time to explore the large number of vintage shops in the 'hood - looked like there were excellent offerings! Any tips from London-based readers on where to try?

After a hard week, I had one goal in mind, and that was to find a pair of pyjamas to curl up in on the sofa. I have been hankering after a pair of the old-fashioned button-up style since I did this post. On my way back from work on Friday evening, I swung by TKMaxx, and scored myself this pair for £16.99, in 100% brushed cotton. I also got two Bahoma scented candles for £6.99 each. Mission accomplished.

Embedded image permalink
{new PJ's}

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Stocking fillers: men

It's never too early to start your Christmas shopping and we all know that men can be difficult to buy for, so here are my thoughts on the subject, with some input from Popeye. I've already bought Popeye variations on most of the items below over Christmases gone by, so if you've any other ideas to help me out, please leave your suggestions in the comments box below.

Top row, left to right
Monocle magazine, from £6 (subscriptions also available); Lego lunch box, £7.99 Amazon; Luggage tag, EUR 15.90 Ordning & Reda; Post-poo drops, £21 Aesop; Korres Shower Gel in fig, £5.33 Waitrose; Orange leather phone case by UnderCover, £14.95 Liberty; Tri-stripe boxers, £8 GAP.

Middle row, left to right
Arko Turkish shaving stick, £4 Roullier White; Birkenstock Davos felt slippers, £24.60 Amazon; Stripe socks, £8 Happy Socks; Blue herringbone box tie, $29 The Cordial Churchman; Cotton jersey striped neck cushion, £7.95 Muji; Bean pocket square, 30 EUR, Pochette Square; Kiehl's Facial Fuel SPF 15, £33 John Lewis.

Bottom row, left to right
Wind-up sumos, £8 Heal's; Pantone ruled notebook, £6 The Paperie; CD: Bloom by Beach House, £10 HMV; Leather card case by Almanac Industries, £22.66 Etsy (also in navy) - super slim; Sardine hankie box, £15.95 Thornback & Peel.

And for a little geek-chic for the genius in your life, I couldn't resist the selection below.

Clockwise from top left
Head Boy mug, £8.95 Glint; Lamy Safari fountain pen, £14.95 Ryman; Travel Scrabble, £17.40 John Lewis; Letterpress notecards, £4 Paperchase.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Ways with pastry

We've had a roll of sausage meat in the freezer for a while, with the intention of making some sausage rolls - got to be one of my all time favourite treats, but I've never tried making them myself. I should have, because it was a doddle. Admittedly I didn't make the pastry, I don't really see the point when the ready-made stuff is so convincing. I used this recipe, minus the mushrooms.

I'd bought too much pastry for the amount of sausage meat, so I ended up with a whole extra packet. So because we had some left-over roast chicken, I made a chicken pie using this recipe. It was my first outing for my little blackbird pie-funnel, which I thought did a handsome job. And also the first time I'd used this pie dish to bake an actually pie in - was so much easier that using a regular oven dish, as the wide lip allows the pastry to sit on top in a very well behaved manner.

A square of pastry was still hanging about, even after all this baking activity, so jam tarts completed this hat-trick. Just score a square in your pastry, a couple of centimeters from the edge, and fill the square with jam. I used blackcurrant jam here. Easy peasy.