Monday, 23 December 2013

Stocking fillers: £10 and under

Ay ay ay! You've left your Christmas stocking shopping until last thing and spent all your money on yourself? Snap. But if you're looking for a few last minute bargain items to top-up someone's stocking, then look no further.

One thing on your side is that in some shops, the sale has started so you might just get more than you bargained for. Good luck.



Top row, left to right
Silk & cotton eyemask, £5.99 Zara Home; Conran bergamot & cedar scented candle, £7.50 Marks & Spencer; Mavala mini colour nail varnish, £4.50 Boots; Leather card holder in cracked metallic, £8 ASOS.

Middle row, left to right
Roger & Gallet Fleur d'Osmanthus Miel de Douche Moussant, £9.50 Marks & SpencerRose milk chocolate by Rococo, £1.30 Bloomsbury; Gold lacquer tray, £7.50 Marks & Spencer; Bronze encrusted statement necklace, £10 River Island; Toiletry bag, £4.75 Marks & Spencer.

Bottom row, left to right
Revlon Super Lustrous lipstick in Love That Red, £7.49 Boots; Ecote pencil case in pink and silver, £10 Urban Outfitters; Autograph opaque tights with cashmere, £9.50 Marks & Spencer.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas cooking

We're cooking Christmas Dinner this year, and whilst I am massively in favour of employing a few foolproof cheats to make things easier, there are other tried and testing dishes that I'm cooking from scratch, and are easy to make in advance. Here's my lowdown.

{red cabbage, using this recipe}

{tastes even better after freezing}

The cauliflower cheese below is a good one to make and keep in the freezer to whip out on Boxing Day when you're not feeling inclined to do any more cooking. It's a Hairy Bikers recipe, but I also add an onion, use half-fat creme fraiche instead of double cream, and use any old cheese where it asks for Gruyère. Oh and I just use normal breadcrumbs on top.

{cauliflower cheese with bacon & mushrooms, from this recipe}

{cranberry sauce - so easy to make, just three ingredients}

{will keep for a week in the fridge}

{served in my new T.G. Green dish}
The other recipe which I've just tried out as a good veggie option, is this kale & mushroom lasagne - another good one to make in advance and freeze, as it tastes so much better one reheated. It's a nit fiddly the first time you make it, but becomes easier once you've been through the process a couple of times. That's what I'll be whipping up this weekend.

Monday, 16 December 2013

The never-ending project

{the finished result}

I've had this old white chest for ages, storing some of my handbags, and the intention ever since I bought it has been to recover the top.

{the before shot}

I've had it over seven years, perhaps more, so this has been a long time in the anticipation, but finally I've done it and am feeling pretty smug. I am not the most skilful at these type of projects, not really having the patience to think things through, so I instead plunge in and hope for the best. But this is something which doesn't really require much skill, and if you get stuck there are loads of free tutorials online to give you a helping hand.

{tools of the trade}

I did do an upholstery course a few years ago, the proper sort with horsehair and tacks, and whilst the horsehair hasn't been revisited since, I do prefer to use a hammer and tacks rather than a staple gun, as I think it gives me more control, I'm used to using them and it lasts longer too. But a staple gun will just as easily do the job.

{hinges removed}

I removed the lid from the chest, and also unscrewed the hinges, choosing to cover the whole lid, and then reattaching the hinges by screwing through the fabric once the lid had been recovered.

{I got the foam cut to size at the local fabric shop, for £10)

I cut my fabric to size, making sure I had enough to grip the fabric so I could really stretch it around the lid.

{a layer of wadding}

I also used a layer of wadding between the fabric and the foam - this gives the fabric something to  glide over when you're smoothing and stretching it as tight as possible to cover the lid. I initially put a tack into each side of the lid to hold the fabric and wadding in place.

{many tacks make light work}

I then went around stretching the fabric as tightly as a could over the lid, lightly hammering in tacks all the way round to hold it in place.

Just a note on your choice of fabric - anything with lines, like the fabric I used, can be a little more tricky as you need to make sure that your lines are staying straight when you're covering your lid. A fabric with a random pattern is an easier one to pick if this is your first go at recovering something.

{on the finishing straight}

Once I was happy that I'd got the fabric tight enough over the lid, I went round again, removing each tack, folding the fabric under at the end so that there was no raw edge on show, and then hammering the tack in properly, down to the wood. So effectively, I put every tack in twice. I think if you're more skilful with a hammer and tacks you could probably get away with just hammering them in properly first time.

Compared to how it looked at the start, I think it looks so much better with the top covered, almost like a completely different piece of furniture. The fabric is some that I had lying around after I recovered our dining chairs, and I thought it would suit this project, avoiding the overly twee Cath Kidston look which has been plaguing us for years now. 

So for a total of £11.50, the project is complete, as I already had the tacks and the fabric. Well done me.

p.s. I think a good staple gun could make some with crafty tendancies an excellent stocking filler.

Monday, 9 December 2013

End of week round-up

So after my earlier post this week which looked at the big skirt, I had a little day trip in London, where I clapped eyes on the most perfect big skirt of all, in Anthropologie. It's not on their website, but it is there in the flesh in store, and here it is in all its glory.

{skirt from Anthropologie}

And a trip to the much lauded newly opened J.Crew was in order, where I was enchanted by the decorations - the gold balloons and the window streamers. I feel a Christmas craft session coming on.

{balloons at J.Crew}

{streamers at J.Crew}

Other highlights of the day included lunch at Comptoir Libanais, plus fabric shopping on the Goldhawk Road, where I scored this very pleasing neon ribbon.

{lunch at Comptoir Libanais}

{pink neon ribbon}

And from the other end of the high street, I popped into everyone's favourite shop Wilkinson's, where I found this make your own cracker kit for the £3, complete with paper hats and jokes. 2013 has been an excellent year for "free with magazine" miniature gifts and my stash will be put to good use inside these crackers, tied up with my newly purchased neon ribbon. I'll add name labels and Christmas messages with my label maker.

{make your own Christmas crackers}

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Christmas list 2013

Right, that's enough with showing you all suggestions of what to buy for him, for her and for the home, it's now time to share with you my own Christmas longings.

As ever, the list is embarrassing long, which perhaps reflects the frugal few months I've been having lately which has acted as fertilisation time for the list to flourish. A couple of new tops to spruce up my wardrobe, some Christmas baubles for myself, some items to update the house and my usual hankering after some leather accessories have all made the cut. Plus the ubiquitous Christmas "smellies".


Top row, left to right
Detox bath oil, £20 Elemental Herbology; Metallic zip top clutch, £36 Topshop; Grey Gardens DVD £10.46 Play.com; Maisie jewel statement collar necklace, £22 Accessorize; iPhone case, £20 Alphabet Bags; Hammered gold ring, £30 V&A.

Second row, left to right
Sahara 28mm coin drops, £65 Daisy London; T-shirt with lace details, £19.99 Zara; Wallet & card holder, £69.90 Uterque; Effortless flat shoes, £39.95 Moda in Pelle; Tom Frost postcards with envelopes, £6.95 One Brown Cow; Contrast sleeve jumper, £45 Cos.

Third row, left to right
Tall stripe tee, £16 Topshop; Clear Jupiter table lamp, £28 BHS; Santal 33 fragrance by Le Labo, £105 Liberty; Dancer riding boots, £78 Topshop; Fabulous Face Oil, £40 Aesop (their Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm is also brilliant); White cuckoo clock, £49.95 Muji; Converse All Star High Warm, £70 Size.

Bottom row
Zig Zag runner, £30 Urban Outfitters.

I wish me a Merry Christmas.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Outfit Inspiration: Liberty Ross & Natalie Portman

{Liberty Ross & Natalie Portman}

I loved these outfits on Liberty Ross and Natalie Portman when I saw them earlier this year, and I think we could take a leaf or two out of their book when it comes to finding outfits for the festive season. What I like most about this look is that it leaves room for some knitwear on the top half, whilst the bottom half injects a whole load of glamour, but still with plenty of scope for a pair of thick tights underneath (plus Natalie Portman's skirt looks a little "wipe-clean" which will come in handy if you spill your gravy / trifle / cranberry sauce).

It's a sensible but dressy combination, which is even more wearable if you take the skirt length up to somewhere around the knee, but be careful to still maintain the fullness of the skirt to give you that swooshy sensation. If you go for a plain skirt, pair it with a bold statement necklace to up the ante, otherwise, let the pattern make the impact for you. And its versatility has been well documented by the street style crowd.


Even better, you've probably already got this look lurking somewhere in your wardrobe, especially amongst those less versatile full-skirted dresses which are more one-wear wonders, which just require you to slip a jumper over the top to transform it into a whole new outfit.

But for those of you who are unable to rustle up something from the depths of your cupboards, and if you want to flash the cash, no-one is doing this look better than Tibi and their paint splatter skirts. For those of us on a budget, here are a few more purse-friendly examples of what's out there at the moment.  It's worth investing a little more than usual as a skirt like this will see you through the summer, with a plain t-shirt or silk vest. 



Top row, left to right
Bassey jacquard pleat skirt, £155 L.K.Bennett; Leopard wool jacquard skirt, £125 Karen Millen; Cerys pleat detail a-line skirt, £145 L.K.Bennett; Heavy crepe full skirt, £60 Topshop; Rochelle ribbon flared skirt, £150 French Connection.

Middle row, left to right
Rita skirt, £125 Coast; Aminta jacquard snake print skirt, £175 L.K.Bennett; Oil painting printed skirt, £129 Ted Baker; Diamond print pleated skirt, £105 House of Fraser; Collection gilded Paisley skirt, £158 J.Crew.

Bottom row, left to right
Dark red jacquard midi skirt, £40 River Island; Ivy smudge print skirt, £145 Whistles; Black animal print midi skater skirt, £35 River Island; Weekend by MaxMara abstract animal print skirt, £176 John Lewis; Leticia optic floral print pleat skirt, £175 L.K.Bennett.

If you're looking for some knitwear to go with, then try these styles from H&M& Other StoriesCosUniqlo and H&M again.