Friday, 29 November 2013

Stocking fillers: for her

Right, move over gifts for men and for the home, it's time to get to the fun stuff. Here's my stocking fillers: for her guide and for those of your really stuck for ideas, you might also want to read last year's.

Top row, right to left
+ Taupe silk short, £39.99 Zara Home (20% off + free shipping today only)
+ Faux-pearl earrings, £12 & Other Stories
+ Dogeared 'letter' charm, £14.95 Bloomsbury & Co
+ Lip colour, £12 & Other Stories (Melton Sunset and Baft Pink are particularly excellent)
+ Knitted hat, £7.99 H&M
+ Medium notebook, £20 Liberty

Second row, right to left
+ Purple Betsy Liberty print shower cap, £20 Liberty
+ Double layered cashmere gloves, £29 & Other Stories
+ Gatimu ring, £20 Made
+ Clinique Superbalm lip treatment £11.70 John Lewis (currently on price match)
+ Clutch bag in sequin check, £30 ASOS (although it was a toss up with this one)

Third row, right to left
+ Leather shoulder bag, £34.99 H&M
+ Leather coin purse, £16 Topshop
+ Small floral tray, £19.99 Zara Home (20% off + free shipping today only)
+ Limited edition golden monogram mug, £8 Anthropologie
+ Kate Moss paper doll set, £5.50 alexandalexa (also available in Debbie HarryDavid Bowie or Ryan Gosling - something for everyone)
+ Ally Capellino card holder, £27.50 Bloomsbury & Co

Fourth row, right to left
+Empire collar statement necklace, £19 Accessorize
+ Calligrapher canape plate, £8 Anthropologie
+ Make up bag in Clementina Liberty print, £14.95 Poppy Valentine
+ Under Cover neon pink iPad case, £30 Bloomsbury & Co
+ Wool tights, £15 Cos (these are 270 denier - totally winter proof)

And I could go on, adding a new scarf, some cashmere socks, a new diary, hand cream or a bottle of perfume... but I've run out of space. Soz.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Stocking fillers: for the home

I hadn't planned on writing a Home gift guide this year, but as the number of home related items started getting longer and longer in my "for her" and "for him" lists, it became a necessity. Part of the problem this year has been H&M, and the amazing range of really affordable and irresistible items in their home range this year. If you're planning on an H&M Christmas and you haven't signed up to their e-newsletter, do it before you order and you'll get a 25% off discount code.

Top row, left to right
+ Hand knit tea cosy by Chi Chi Moi, £25 Not On The Highstreet
+ Celtic/Tibet rug, £25 National Trust
+ 'Bordfolk' egg cups, £11.95 Nook
+ Normann Copenhagen wine pourer, £18 Bodie and Fou
+ Star napkin, £1.99 H&M
+ Uno, £6.99 ToysRUs

Second row, left to right
+ Ceramic dish, £3.99 H&M (would make a lovely change plate, or also try this one)
+ David Bowie tea towel, £10 Bold & Noble
+ Brass two hole pencil sharpener, £6 Nook
+ Rabbit candle stick, £4.99 H&M
+ Spanish Marcona almonds, £5.75 Fortnum & Mason
+ Mushroom measuring spoons, £20 Anthropologie

Third row, left to right
+ Garrick slippers by Just Sheepskin, £48 John Lewis (currently on price match) or a ladies alternative here
+ Wooden tray, £7.99 H&M
+ Honeycomb decorations, £8.95 Nook
+ Squirrel salt & pepper shaker, £7.99 H&M

Fourth row, left to right
+ Wall calendar, £27 Bold & Noble
+ Glass jar, £3.95 Nook + Radox muscle soak, £1.05 Boots (l love this stuff, think it's massively underrated)
+ Candle stick holder, £6.99 H&M
+ Paper napkins, £1.50 H&M
+ Tray, £6.99 H&M

So I had to stop before the list got too long (I'm told Santa doesn't do greedy), and that was before I'd had the chance to add some of my other ideas such as a scented candle, a coffee-table book, some new glassware or mugs or some lovely coffee. Have a cosy Christmas.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Stocking fillers: for him

It's taken me a while to do this Christmas gift guide this year, mainly because after I re-read last year's, I felt that I'd done such a comprehensive job (if I do say so myself) that there wasn't much more to add. But then after a little internet research, I really got into the swing of things and came up with some new ideas, with a  little help from Popeye.

I think the secret to a good stocking is to buy slightly more luxurious versions of everyday items that your recipient already uses. A posh shower gel, notebook or water bottle can really add a little boost to someone's day, especially when it's something they use often.

Top row, left to right
+ Prospector Co Wormwood Absinthium Hand Cream, £11.50 Fable + Folly (although this old favourite is also a trusty option)
+ Chup Genser socks, £25 Fable + Folly (these Japanese-made socks are really up Popeye's street, although trusty Pantherlla do some trust less expensive styles, all made in England, here and here)
+ Scottie stocking holder, £36 Anthropologie (although I thought this could be more useful as a handy resting place for anyone who constantly misplaces keys, ID lanyards - you get the picture)
+ Eva Solo water bottle with orange strap £20 Habitat (use code EM25 for 25% off online from 7pm 27 November)
+ Black and grey multi-striped viscose scarf, £14.99 Tie Rack (enter SALE50 at the checkout to get 50% off)
+ Bear Grylls Grandfather knife, £23.99 Blades and Bows
+ Rock the Shack: Architecture of Cabins, Cocoons and Hide-outs, £28.78 Waterstones Marketplace*

Second row, left to right
+ Royal Giraffe notelets, £16.95 Heals
+ Pine reviving bath milk, £10.95 Weleda (apparently this is excellent aprés-ski)
+ Computer or laptop brush, £10.95 Nook
+ Bones EP by Josh Record, £1.99 iTunes
+ Rhodiarama pocket line webnotebook, £8.95 The Paperie

Third row left to right
+ Blot blue patterned mug, £7 Habitat (use code EM25 for 25% off online from 7pm 27 November)
+ Canton organic chai tea, £6 Canton Tea Co
+ KeepCup, from £8.60 KeepCup Store
+ Clutch pencil, £5 Nook
+ Lego bag tag, £3.99 Tesco
+ Matches, £5.50 Fable + Folly

Fourth row, left to right
+ Herringbone room shoes, £10.95 Muji
+ Sumo champion skittles, £9.95 Muji
+ Noctua bottle opener, £26 Anthropologie
+ Nova Scotia Fisherman Sea Kelp Lipbalm, £5.50 Roullier White
+ Blodwen ticking wash bag, £12.50 Nook

There are still plenty of other items still not on here, such as something for the drinks cabinet, a few edible items and perhaps some techie gadgets thrown in for good measure. So I hope this helps to give you a little inspiration, and don't forget, there's less than four weeks to go...

*You may find some of the products I've suggested cheaper on Amazon, but I'm trying to avoid using Amazon for any of the items in my gift guides, after them having rather a dubious time of late. But each to their own, so go forth and shop.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

This is dynamo

Whilst I am guilty of getting nostalgic for the days of our youth, when penny sweets were still a penny and cassette players which automatically turned over to the other side were a technological wonder, there is one thing that 2013 has improved upon, and that is the Dynamo label maker.

Remember the black and red plastic hand-held machines which printed out any message you liked in white embossed lettering on black tape? Well, in 2013 we've gone NEON and things are a lot more fun. I am a fan of making things more personalised and individual, so this gadget is right up my street.

{my MoTEX label maker}

There's a choice of colour in machine and in tape, and whereas they're not as cheap as I thought, once you've stocked up you're set to go for many labels to come. I got mine from a shop in Winchester, but the Etsy shop OHMYBUY has an excellent selection. And also let's not forget that this would make a very brilliant stocking filler, perhaps with a set of blank notecards to start creating some bespoke thank you notes?

Here a list of where I've put my labels to use so far:
+ general greetings cards and Christmas cards
+ gift tags
+ my make-up drawers
+ my jewellery drawers
+ my re-purposed or blank shoe boxes
+ as labels of glass jars of homemade chutneys and also on spice jars
+ in the study, on magazine files and box files

That's money well spent.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

This year's parka

I am pleased to announce that I am now the proud owner of a winter parka. Well, actually, I won't be until Christmas Day, but still, the thought that it has been locked-down and is firmly in Popeye's grasp is a warming one.

Despite all my research last year searching for the perfect parka, I didn't actually seal the deal. But the Casual Bobby Parka by Whistles (now also available in navy) didn't take long to win me over this year. And to top it all, they had me agonising between it and the Jourdan Waxy Parka, which my mum went for, and is excellent.

{Whistles parkas}

Left to right
Bobby casual parka, £160 Whistles Jourdan waxy parka, £165 by Whistles from Atterley Road and House of Fraser (or this Boden version is a good alternative)

So needless to say, there was much research that went into this year's choice, and I thought it only fair to share that with you. I've tried to include some budget options, but it's really a case of getting what you pay for with a Parka. Have a look below and see what you think.

Top row, left to right
Khaki trim parka, £75 Next; Levina parka by Parka London, £235 ASOS; Borg lined clean parka, £100 Topshop; Zip hood parka, £285 Comptoire des Contonniers; Winter Parka II, £265 Toast.

Bottom row, left to right
Carlotta jacket, £70 Monki; Parka with fur collar and suede details, £445 The Kooples; Clean parka, £100 Warehouse;  Washed drop waist parka, £75 ASOS; Detachable faux fur parka by Warehouse, £90 ASOS.

So some of the prices above are higher than my normal range, but because I think you wear a parka so much, it's worth the investment, making your price per wear work out a bargain (or that's what you can tell yourself).

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Season staples

With all the discount vouchers that are flying around for GAP at the moment, I thought I'd do a little round-up of what's in stock. The stock on their website compared to what's in their shops is always quite different, so it's always worth popping in rather than just browsing online. 

Although GAP seem to be making more and more of their clothes from materials like polyester and acrylic, there are still some good quality items on the shelves if you do some stringent label checking. Here's what I like - especially those all important new Christmas pyjamas.

Top row, left to right
Side-zip v-neck tee, £16.95; Luxlight crew pullover, £24.95 (also in navy and ivory); Classic trench, £59.95; Merino crew pullover, £39.95 (also in grey and black); Polka-dot pullover, £29.95.

Middle row, left to right
Pleated leather mini skirt, £149.95; Leather envelope clutch, £24.95.

Bottom row, left to right
Printed poplin PJ set, £29.95; Bow-neck top, £34.95; Wool car coat, £99.95; Metallic shrunken sweatshirt, £29.95; 1969 sexy boyfriend cords, £44.95.

And a few of my favourites below which I found in the Bath store:

{eeny meeny miny mo}

{a classic leopard print clutch}

{a zip-up leather pouch - available in a choice of colours}

Monday, 4 November 2013


Houndstooth (also known as dogtooth) is another one of those trends which resurfaces every autumn. It's heralded with a new wave of enthusiasm, like the pattern has not seen seen daylight for years, when in reality it comes around every year with dependable regularity.

So the good news is that it's something which can be invested in, and you can be sure you'll get your money's worth for years to come. I've never bought into the trend, but after finding this skirt in the charity shop, I realised that its of the moment monochrome tie-in, and the ease with which it will complement pretty much any other item of clothing means it works hard for a place in your wardrobe.

{houndstooth pleated skirt}

Here's a selection of what's out there on the high street. Pair with denim for play, or a shirt or smart t-shirt for work: there's an approach for everyone.

Top row, left to right
Pencil houndstooth dress, £44.99 Mango; Giants houndstooth coat, £499 Jaeger; Letty top, £99 Hobbs and Letty trousers, £119 Hobbs: Houndstooth check dress, £39.99 Zara; Giant houndstooth cocoon coat by Jaeger, £399 John Lewis.

Bottom row, left to right
Houndstooth coat, £109 Zara; Houndstooth suit skirt, £29.99 Mango; M&S Collection houndstooth checked long skirt, £39.50 M&S; Karmen skirt, £55 Oasis.

Friday, 1 November 2013

My current clear skin regime

I've been using the routine described below for a couple of months now after seeing some initially impressive results. I wanted to carry it on consistently for a while before I starting extolling its virtues to you, so that if and when I did, I could do it with total confidence.

After years of battling with never-perfect (sometimes terrible) skin, putting my faith and salary into seemingly "miracle products" which occasionally made improvements but more often didn't, I am almost amazed to be able to feel like I've finally settled into a routine that works.

As someone who is as equally concerned with anti-agening as anti-blemish, I feel like the regime below takes care of both these factors, as part of a routine which is fairly streamlined and simple, and not too pricey.

The four main components which I think have made the most difference in terms of clearer skin are the REN toner, Cetaphil cleanser, Effaclar Duo and Clarisonic, and I would urge any of you who are struggling with blemishes to consider these products, with the Effaclar Duo being my absolute top pick. I would even go so far as to give this the over-used and over-promised "miracle" label. It probably deserves its own individual post, but I'll just slot it in here for now.

{morning routine}

Top row, left to right (in order of use)
REN Clarifying Toning Lotion, £18 REN (don't forget your 20% discount code, valid until 7th November 2013)
- this toner exfoliates as it tones using natural acids (lactic, citric, tartaric and glycolic), removing dead skin and unclogging pores which means less congestion, clearer and brighter skin. It is also antimicrobial which means it kills bacteria lingering on the skin and will therefore reduce any future breakouts. Although this product does contact some alcohol, I don't find it drying at all.

Clinique Repair Wear Laser Focus Wrinkle Correcting Eye Cream, £30 Boots
- there are several eye creams out there which I think do a good job, but I am currently favouring this one because a pot of this lasts so much longer than many other eye creams I've tried, which makes it  good value for money. It keeps my eye area moisturised without being greasy, so any fine lines look diminished and it makes a good base for my under-eye concealer.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo, £13 Boots
- this product delivers immediate results which is continues to consistently deliver. I use it like a serum, but I believe you can use it as a moisturiser alone. I definitely need to use a separate moisturiser on top. You can use it morning and night, and I did this at first which really delivers results, but I now use it only first thing, as it can be a little drying applying it twice a day. Its approach is two pronged: targeting individual blemishes and unblocking pores.
It targets blemishes using the ingredients niacinamide and piroctone olamine which purify the skin and prevent the blemish for developing into a full-blown breakout. It unblocked pores by removing dead skin cells, using a combination of LHA (a derivative of salicylic acid) and Linoleic acid, an omega-6 essential fatty acid also known as vitamin F.
So there's a lot of science, with great results, and what's even more pleasing is the price. And look out for the regular money off and 3 for 2 offers on this brand at Boots.

Bottom row, left to right (in order of use)
Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum, £65 John Lewis (this limited edition version is in support of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation)
- I've reviewed this product before on this blog, it's a classic. I don't use it ever morning (and yes, you can use it in the morning as well as the night), just when my skin feels like it needs some extra moisture.

Origins Plantscriptions Oil Free Face Cream SPF25, £46 John Lewis
- after trying lots of different moisturisers, this is closest to my quest for perfection. With a good SPF of 25 and the right level of delivering moisture without any grease or shine, this makes a good base for makeup. In terms of its anti-ageing benefits, it improves the appearance of lines and wrinkes by strengthening the structural fibres in your skin, and includes, fibrilllin, collagen and elastin to plump up the skin. It boosts the renewal of skin calls making them act younger for longer. So far so good. Interesting, I don't usually go for the oil-free version of a moisturiser but I tried the standard version to start with and it was far to greasy and heavy for my skin, so try a sample first. And if you're after a brand which (like REN) is paraben, mineral oil and synthetic free, then Origins is a good brand for you.

Just a few words about my morning routine - the biggest difference here is that I don't cleanse my face in the morning. It's important not to over cleanse the skin, and this can be a culprit in why your skin is intolerant or over sensitive. So when I have a shower in the morning I just rinse my face with water - but if you suffer with dry skin you should try to avoid contact with water.

{evening routine}

Top row, left to right (in order of use)
Bioderma Sensibio H2O - Solution Micellaire, £9.99
- this is a great makeup remover, and I always use it to remove makeup before then using a separate cleanser. I've mentioned it on this blog before. It has minute drops of oil suspended in the water, which gives it real power when it comes to deep-cleansing and makeup removal, whilst maintaing the balance of the skin. 

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, £8.99 Boots
- the most quick and effective cleanser I've used in ages. Removes all traces of makeup and grime, and leaves you skin feeling neutral, natural and absolutely not irritated. Many cleansers over cleanse the face, but this makes sure that your natural protective oils and emollients are left intact. Very comforting.

Clarisonic Mia 2 Cleansing Brush, £125 Space.NK
- it's been an interesting few months with my Clarisonic, which maybe deserves its own separate post, so to summarise: after the first few days my skin was initially amazing, followed by a full-on 'purge' (which I'd read about so I was expecting it), followed by a period of the best skin I've ever had and I was its biggest fan. Then things started getting worse, so I changed the brush, and went from using it twice a day to just once a day, and things are now going well. I've seen better results with this brush more quickly and painlessly than with Roaccutane. Be wary of the No.7 or Olay versions - yes they are cheaper, and may achieve some results, but they do not use sonic waves.

REN Clarifying Toning Lotion (as above)

Bottom row, left to right (in order of use)
Clinique Repair Wear Laser Focus Wrinkle Correcting Eye Cream (as above)

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum (as above)

Clarins Face Treatment Oil - Blue Orchid, £30 John Lewis (or the Botanics alternative, depending on how frugal I'm feeling)
- I love this product which really improves my skin. I've already reviewed it on my blog here, and it really suits my dehydrated skin. It contains Rosewood, Patchouli and Blue Orchid to add radiance to the skin and improve skin tone. And Hazelnut oil works to combat moisture loss and the appearance of any new fine lines.

Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Serum, £14.95 Boots
- I realised a few years ago that glycolic acid helps control my blemishes. I'll use this if I think I'm suffering with a few blocked pores, because the corkscrew action of this acid really works to unblock them. The plus side of this product is that it also works on fine and lines and wrinkles, and so works to improve overall skin texture.

Just a note about my evening routine - if I've not been wearing make up that day, I'll skip the Bioderma. And I never use the Night Repair Serum, Blue Orchid Oil and Glycolic Fix Serum one after the other. I'll usually just use the Blue Orchid Oil, but if I'm feeling a little dry, I'll use the Night Repair Serum before the oil. And if I'm feeling a little congested, I'll use just the Glycolic Fix Serum.

So, that turned into quite the epic blog post - hope you're still with me? I just feel like, after being on an eternal quest through the vast world of the skincare industry, I've finally struck gold, and I wanted to share that with you in case you're still looking for solutions. I'll do another post soon on supplementary products I sometimes use such as face masks and spot treatments. Hope somethings here works for you.