Category Archives: Lifestyle

Be a savvy sales shopper

Be a savvy sales shopper

I buy lots of my clothes in the sales. Usually, it’s a combination of impulse purchasing and forward planning – both clever in their own ways.

The buy-it-now, wear-it-now impulse purchase

This is where I indulge my inner magpie. Right now that means something fun and summery. Sales are the time to indulge in styles that probably won’t have that much longevity. We’re talking about the fun slogan bag for your holiday, an embroidered kaftan or some cute summer jewellery. You might not get a huge amount of wear out of it, but at sales prices, who’s complaining?

What am I looking out for? Cool dresses for my summer holiday, cute pom-poms and bright summer bags:

Summer sales picks

 Denim jacket, £18, Boohoo / Lucille Dress, £35, Boden / Tote bag, £14, Very

Why’s it clever? Buying throwaway summer pieces in the sale might be seen as wasteful, but I’m not so sure. They key is to limit yourself to a few, fun purchases. Don’t go mad. Buy a few treats to see you through till the end of the summer, but don’t waste your money on piles of things that’ll be useless come September.

Now, let’s talk about the clever buy-it-now, wear-it-later purchase

Right now, the savvy thing to do is to look towards Autumn. You’ll be surprised what you can find in the summer sales that will carry you right though to winter.

Look out for simple, transitional pieces that’ll ease you into the cooler months – navy skirts, Breton stripes and a cute coat for cooler days:

Autumn clothes from the summer sales

Sienna coat, £75, Boden / Skirt, £39.99, Benneton / Breton top, £12.50, Boden

Why not look ahead to next summer too? Choose staple items that won’t date, like jeans, linen, simple dresses and skirts. This is the time to invest in quality pieces that you can’t normally afford – things you know will be useful next year, and for years to come.

And thanks to online shopping, you can do it all from the comfort of your own home. Curated sales websites like Love the Sales, gather all your favourite sales in one place – meaning it’s now easier than ever to snap up a bargain!

Whatever you’re looking for, it pays to be clever.

This post is in collaboration with Love the Sales

 

My essential summer accessories

Wherever this summer takes you, there are certain accessories you should never be without. We’re talking about those classic pieces that’ll see you through your day – whether you’re sitting on a windswept beach, an island paradise, or a park bench in your lunch hour.

The French basket… You can’t do summer without a French-style market basket. They’re practical and laid-back – but also terribly chic. They’re also massively affordable: my basket was £21 and has already earned its keep, and then some.

French market basket

The hat… Everyone needs a classic sun hat for the hottest days of the year. Choose a simple, wide-brimmed style for causal summer style that’ll never date. Mine is by Oliver Bonas.

The statement earrings… Liven up simple summer outfits with a knock-out pair of earrings. I love the nautical style of these rope earrings from Weald Store (a fabulous online indie that I urge you to check out).

Statement summer earrings

The Denim Jacket… is my trusty friend through the summer. It goes with everything and the stitches that hold it together are imbued with summer vibes.

The Denim jacket

The make up… Tinted facial suncream is my new summer essential. This tinted gel by La Roche Posay not only protects, it also gives a subtly healthy glow – all whilst feeling light on the skin. All you need on top is a bit of blusher and highlighter and you’re ready to go! This palette from Charlotte Tilbury is packed with flattering, glow-getting, shades.

Summer make up

Oh, and your umbrella…You don’t want to be without that, do you? This is England, after all.

Clever occasion dressing

I’d love to hear about your essential summer accessories. What can’t you live without?

My guide to cycling, with Joanie clothing

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

A year ago I made a dream come true and bought a Pashley cycle. It’s bright, shiny and beautiful. Its bell makes the perfect ding-a-ling – and the wicker basket would be big enough for Toto, should he ever need a lift.

It’s my pride and joy, but it didn’t have a name – until now. I’ve decided to christen it Joanie, in honour of Joanie Clothing, who sent me some absolutely beautiful clothes to style this post. The Joanie Gals are full of light-hearted fun with a vintage twist – their clothes were made for cycling like strawberries were made for cream!

What have I learnt after a year with my bike?

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Cycling gets me from A to B, but it also makes me feel happy in a way that walking or driving never does.

There’s something uniquely wonderful about gliding along under your own steam. Cycling is very democratic – you don’t have to be particularly fit to do it and it’s great low-impact exercise. With minimal effort, you can push those pedals around and feel the wind in your face. The sound of the wheels swishing, that blissful feeling when you free-wheel for a few seconds: it’s good for the body and good for the mind.

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Yes, you can wear a dress while cycling!

I’m never going to be a lycra-clad gal. It’s just not going to happen. Cycling in loose skirts and dresses is much more me – and it’s surprisingly comfortable and practical. Of course, windy days can be a bit challenging – sometimes a bit of knicker flashing is inevitable! Try wearing cycling shorts under your dress, or if the fabric is loose enough, hold the two halves together with a peg to turn your skirt into culottes.

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Worried about safety? 

The best advice I’ve ever had is to remember that you have every much as right to be on the road as a motorist. In return, you need to behave like a motorist too. Remember those hand signals you learnt in cycling proficiency at school? You need to use them. Always be aware of what’s going on around you and never forget to check over your shoulder before you pull out or move across the roads. I basically assume that drivers won’t see me, unless I make it absolutely clear what I’m doing.

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Maintaining your bike

Cycling is much more fun when it doesn’t feel like hard work. A bike with flabby tyres and a rusty chain is never going to bring you as much joy as one that glides effortlessly along the road — so use some simple maintenance tips to help your bike work with you instead of against you. Even if you don’t want to DIY, knowing what to look for means you know when to ask for help from a bike shop.

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Keep your tyres properly pumped

Firmer tyres help prevent punctures — but more importantly, they make cycling much easier, and you can go faster for the same effort. Spend £15-30 on an upright track pump with a pressure gauge: it makes it really easy to get this right. Look on the side of the tyre for the maximum pressure, then aim to get them that hard. You’ll probably need to pump them up once every week or two.

Firm tyres go hand in hand with a smooth-running chain

If yours is rusty and stiff, get it replaced, then treat it to a weekly dose of chain lube. Not too much, though… if you use something like this Finish Line product then you want no more than one drop for each link of the chain. Turn the pedals backwards whilst you drip it on — and put something underneath so the stray drips don’t end up on the floor!

Joanie Clothing Dress and Pashley Bicycle

Check your brakes

If they don’t work properly, don’t ride the bike. Pull them on and try to push your bike along; the wheels shouldn’t go round if you’re squeezing the lever hard.

Hate punctures?

Try a different tyre. Puncture-resistant brands like Schwalbe Marathon are really tough — they’re great for city cycling because they’re very hard to damage. A bike shop will help you choose (and fit) the right ones for your bike.

If you haven’t ridden your bike for a while, or if you’re not sure it’s properly set up, then get it serviced by your local bike shop. It’s much easier to keep everything running properly once it’s in good order: just follow the tips above and you can’t go far wrong. You shouldn’t have to put up with problems that stop your bike bringing you pleasure. Fixing bikes is much, much cheaper and easier than fixing a car!

Joanie Honor Bicycle Print Collar Top

What I’m wearing:

Maurice chambray shirt dress, £40 / Carly striped Dress, £30 

Bicycle print blouse, £28 / Rattan handbag, £28

 All c/o Joanie

My bike is a Pashley Sonnet Ladies Hybrid Bike

Thank you to Joanie for sending me such beautiful and comfortable cycling clothes! 

Life lessons from Blogtacular 2017

Life lessons I learnt at Blogtacular 2017

Last month I went to my first ever blog conference. What took me so long? I like to describe myself as a confident introvert. I like meeting people, but big group activities make me want to run for the hills.

What changed? It’s simple – I found a blogging conference that appealed to me. Blogtacular was set up in 2013 by the ever-inspiring Kat Molesworth. It’s a passionate, creative conference – and everything about it felt welcoming and friendly.

In their own words:

“Blogtacular is a celebration of the talent which grows wild on the internet. Many of us feel like outsiders who have somehow broken into an off-limits space, when the truth is we are the trailblazers of new paths of expression, business and advertising.”

Yes, yes and yes! That’s exactly how I feel about blogging. I know you aren’t all bloggers, so I won’t bore you will all the techy details we like to talk about when we get together. However, attending such an amazing conference taught me some really valuable life lessons that I feel we can all learn from, whether we’re bloggers or not.

Online friendships are real

How many of us used to roll our eyes about online friendships? Or feel a little shame-faced. You know, it’s not the real thing, is it? But times change. The online world is here to stay, and why shouldn’t friendships forged through blogs and social media be just as real?

At Blogtacular I finally got to meet lots of people I’ve meet online. I think there’s an assumption that our online selves are inauthentic. But that’s not always true. Every person I met was exactly as I thought they’d be. Which rather suggests that the little parts of ourselves we reveal online are sometimes as authentic and true as it gets. I certainly feel more real in the spaces I’ve curated online than I do in the school playground.

Blogtacular 2017 © Amber-Rose Photography (314)

Everyone gets jealous, and that’s ok

Everyone agrees that social media can create impossible images of perfection, that will (in our darker moments) cause feelings of jealousy. But it’s not the done thing to admit the jealousy you feel.

One message that kept cropping up again and again in the talks I attended at Blogtacular, is that it’s totally ok to admit to feelings of jealousy. You may even be able to learn something from it. Don’t be ashamed of your jealous feelings. Own them and make them work for you.

I can’t tell you what a relief it was to hear successful women like Emma Gannon admit that they get jealous, and that people get jealous of them. I’m working on accepting my own jealousy of others – but crucially, making it work for me. I waste far too much energy feeling bad about things, and I bet you do too.

Life lessons I learnt from Blogtacular

You’re never too old to learn new tricks

My last session of the day was Xanthe Berkley’s video workshop. I’m quite afraid of video, so this was a big leap out of my comfort zone. It was a bit like being at school again and spent most of the workshop feeling rather out of my depth.

However, the tools we were taught to use in workshop was actually very simple. Back in the comfort of my own home I’ve been experimenting with taking little videos and using a simple app on my phone to edit them. I’m surprised by how much I love it. This is just the start of a new skill which I’m planning on learning a lot more about.

Which all goes to show that we’re never too old to learn new tricks. The intensity of the conference gave me that little creative kick I needed.  So, why not sign up for that course you think you’re not good enough for? I guarantee it you’ll surprise yourself.

Blogtacular 2017 © Amber-Rose Photography (275)

Thanks Blogtacular, see you in 2018! 

 

 

The halcyon days of summer, with Winsor Bishop

Halcyon Days bangle, Winsor Bishop

halcyon / ADJECTIVE / Denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful

If anywhere is going to evoke thoughts of halcyon days, it’s Cambridge.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to an evening at Winsor Bishop, an independent jeweller in the heart of the city. It was the summer solstice, and one of those balmy evenings when Cambridge was at its best. Bicycles, blue skies, students in evening dress lounging around outside colleges – it’s a city that’s perfect for making our own halcyon days right now.

The wine fizzed and the diamonds glittered.

Winsor Bishop, Cambridge

Winsor Bishop, Cambridge

It was the perfect night to be introduced to Halcyon Days, an established English brand who specialise in beautiful enamel bangles and bracelets. I was lucky enough to take one home with me and I’ve been wearing it ever since.

Halcyon Days bangle, Winsor Bishop

Even if the sky isn’t always blue, the flash of bright enamel on my wrist is enough to remind me of those halcyon days of summer. For me, it’s a concept that conjures up images of long summer days – blue skies, golden sunshine, fruit-picking, Pimms in the garden… I bet at least one of those is on your list too!

Halcyon Days bangle, Winsor Bishop

Thank you to Winsor Bishop for helping me create some halcyon moments of my own! If you’re in Cambridge I recommend calling in to their beautiful and friendly Trinity Street store.

Want to see more? Here’s a mini video of my evening!

Instagram: finding joy in perfection + the accounts I love!

English garden flowers

Instagram is all about perfection. Which sounds a bit unrealistic. Surely, sharing only the perfect version of our lives is bad for us? Maybe. But I think worrying about it is missing the point. Most of us relish the perfection presented by Instagram – it’s a little raft of beauty floating on choppy waters. We go there precisely because we want to see perfection. 

I spend a lot of time on Instagram. Too much. But I just can’t help myself. It’s such an inspiring treasury of design, fashion, creativity and friendship. Sometimes I feel envious of the beautiful things I see (we’re only human, after all), but usually these feelings are quickly quashed by the positive sense of community.

I lose count of how many accounts I follow, but one thing I do know is that it’s an eclectic mix. What catches my eye?

When I want tips from a fashion insider I look to Erica Davies. Her sense of style (and her amazing home) inspire me every day. I’d like to be her when I grow up, please.

For a bit of interiors swooning, I turn to Rebecca at RKV_Loves. Her home renovation project is jaw-droppingly beautiful. It’s how I’d like my own home to look in that parallel universe when I had more money, time and inspiration (and no children to mess it up). It’s probably never going to happen, but a girl can dream.

When I want to see something a more down-to-earth, I love the colourful home of Georgia Coote. Her gorgeous and imaginative photos give us a peep into her creative life. It’s an easy, fun style, that’s a bit more attainable for us mere mortals!

For a hint of the rustic good-life, I follow Rebecca at @margotgoodlife. She’s just moved into a rambling old farmhouse and I’m really enjoying her glimpses into the simple, country life. This is Instagram at it’s best – following someone’s life story through photos.

Instagram is an amazing place for all the creative makers out there. Sunshine Jo’s combination of pin badges and cats has really made me smile lately. I also love the biscuit-themed fun of Nikki McWilliams’ account.

There are so many more accounts I love, but I can’t mention them all. We’d be here all week.

Which accounts do you love? I don’t think it’s ever possible to follow too many! 

Culottes…and a lesson in self-confidence

Culottes, would you could you?

I last owned a pair of culottes in about 1991. They were brown, voluminous and I wore then to Brownies. Just like mules and high-heeled jelly shoes, these were one trend I was happy to leave behind. Until now.

Warmer weather makes us more receptive to new things, doesn’t it? In my last post I mentioned that I’ve been trying different styles lately – things that defy the way I normally dress for my shape. Last week, I tried the cold-shoulder top and loved it. Now feels like the time to welcome culottes back into my life.

Culottes are a great choice for me. I love skirts and dresses, but hate shorts. Culottes are the perfect middle ground. So in the spirit of trying new things, I ordered a pair in the Joules sale, and waited with trepidation for them to arrive.

Culottes, would you could you?

Why the fear? I’ve become so conditioned to only ever wearing skinny jeans, that anything baggy or voluminous feels wrong. Won’t it accentuate my curves, and make me look short and dumpy?

When I first tried them on, I liked them, but then the doubts crept in. All I could see was the lack of flat stomach and the emphasis on my hips. But then I showed my boys and my husband and they all immediately said how cool they looked. Which made me realise that the perception of how a pair of culottes should look was really just in my head.

They’ve taught me a lesson in self-confidence. If I slump and look down at the floor, then they will look awful. But if I smile and hold my head high, they’ll look amazing. Every time I put them on, I get that little voice of doubt, but then I remember what the boys said. I like them, and trust this feeling, rather than looking for things to criticise.

Culottes, could you, would you?

On a purely practical note, they really do feel amazing to wear. This pair is light and soft – and I love the pattern. They’re smart, but laid-back. Pretty and versatile – they feel just at home on the school run and they do in a meeting. They’re also going to feature in my holiday packing.

As with most loose trousers, I prefer a defined top half – so, for me, it’s always going to be a tucked-in top. A simple white shirt or vest would also look amazing.

Culottes

My culottes are by Joules. They’re in the sale at £29.95, but are selling fast. My tee is by White Stuff and my necklace is past-season Joules (try eBay).

Culottes

Luckily, there are lots more to choose from! For a classic look try these…

Nancy culottes, £80, Boden / Lennon culottes, £49.95, Joules

Or, how about a floral pair? I love these two…

Wild garden culottes, £36, Warehouse / Floral culottes, £19.99, New Look

So, cullotes: would you, could you?

 

 

Three things I’m loving this week

Sarah Raven Flowers

Have you been enjoying the heatwave? This week has been all about ice lollies, eating outside and long balmy evenings. Sure, it’s got a bit too hot at times, but I love the way it makes life feel so different – it’s like being transported to the tropics in the comfort of your own garden.

The days take on a completely different hue. There’s something so joyful and timeless about watching your children’s faces as they run through the sprinkler; or the chilled-out feeling of watching the sun go down on the longest day of the year.

So, what have I been loving during this most tropical of weeks?

Working from home

Summer is definitely one of the times that working from home comes into its own. My house is cool and I can have the windows open. My commute is whizzing back from the school-run on my bike, the breeze cooling my face. When I take my coffee break, I get to potter round my garden picking flowers. This week I’ve been feeling incredibly lucky that I have the opportunity to do this. Making freelance writing and blogging my job is a dream that’s been a long time coming.

Cats, flowers and window

Being a mermaid 

During a heatwave I love having a really cool bath – it’s so soothing and calming after a long hot day. This week I’ve been trying the lovely bath soak from Living Sea Therapy*. It’s made with Cornish seaweed and minerals and smells amazing thanks to twelve essential oils –  including mandarin, ginger and eucalyptus. It’s been perfect this week!

Living Sea Therapy

Living Sea Therapy

The cold shoulder top 

This is a new style for me, and every time I wear it I have that Adele song stuck in my head. Sales are a great way to try a
new trend and I picked up this lovely top  in Oliver Bonas – reduced from £45 to £15. I really love it – it’s laid-back but feels more special than a tee.

The cold shoulder top

This week I’ve also been…

Watching…. Girl Boss on Netflix. Loved it!

Reading… Harry Potter (the Half Blood Prince), perfect escapism for crazy times.

Drinking… Adnam’s Ghost Ship and Camden Hells Lager – both perfect for hot weather!

What have you been loving this week? Do you wilt in the heat, or lap it up?

* Living Sea Therapy kindly sent me this product to try 

Shake your pom poms!

Make your own pompom accessories

I have an enduring love for pom poms. I’m so drawn to the little fluffy balls of colour, you might as well call me a pom pom magpie. So I’m excited that they’re having moment this summer. You’ll find them on bags, tunics, scarves, earrings and anything else you can think of. 

Have a go at making your own pom pom accessories. Like most summer trends, this one’s probably not going to endure beyond the end of August. Why spend lots of money, when you can decorate the things you already have?

And was there ever an easier craft to make? Invest in a pom pom maker (trust me, this is one purchase you’ll never regret) and you’ll be churning them out in no time. It’s the perfect craft for hot summer days when anything more fiddly is too difficult to contemplate.

All you need to do is make a few pom poms and leave their long strings (the ones you tie them together with) intact. Then, you can then tie them to every possession you own.

Have a go at making your own pom pom accessories.

I’ve decorated my French market basket

Have a go at making your own pom pom accessories.

…and my favourite summer sandals. There’s no sewing involved, just knot them on. You can cut them off when you get fed up of them, and change the colours according to your outfit! 

Have a go at making your own pom pom accessories.

Don’t fancy getting crafty? Here’s my pick of the best summer buys. Please forgive me the momentary lapse in taste – I think we all need a pet pom pom parrot for summer.

Summer pom pom accessories

Sandals, £25.99, New Look /  Parrot keyring, £4.99, New Look / Earrings, £7.50, ASOS / Basket, £21.99, ASOS

make your own pom pom accessories

Are you ready to shake your pom poms?

 

 

Make a blazer your new best friend

Summer blazer

I’ve always overlooked blazers. It’s easy to do. They’re a bit unassuming aren’t they? Always in the shadows, they were never going to win the popularity contest to be my best friend.

That’s a bit mean though, isn’t it? I’ve decided it’s time we made friends. My fear has always been that blazers are a bit dull. But this perceived weakness is actually the blazer’s greatest strength. Its simple, utilitarian style is pretty cool.

Summer blazer

A simple navy blazer goes with everything – pleated skirts, floaty dresses, ripped jeans… But my favourite way to style it is with wide-leg linen trousers and a Breton – classic summer attire for those days when you want to feel a little more pulled together.

Summer blazer

Summer blazer

Keep things low-key by choosing a slightly stretchy, jersey fabric for a more unstructured look.

My jacket is from H&M. It’s now sold out online, but it’s worth trying your luck in store. If you’d prefer to shop online, let me point you in the direction of this gorgeous jersey jacket by Boden:

Image: Boden

Or, if you’d prefer something more loose and unstructured, this jacket from New Look is perfection:

Image: New Look

My t-shirt is by H&M, and my trousers are last summer’s linen wide-legs from Marks and Spencer – who do fantastic linen at brilliant prices. This pair from their current collection are very similar.

Do you have a blazer lurking at the back of your wardrobe? Get it out and make it your new best friend! 

Summer blazer