Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Cheap and full of christmas cheer...

If, like me, Christmas this is year is a homespun affair you'll be looking for some ways to save money, but still keep things looking festively-stylish [or stylishly festive].

There are some great resources online to help you on your way, here a few of my favourites.

Martha Stewart always has great ideas for the holidays and she has some lovely free gift-tag downloads that look very chic, click on the link here for ideas.

Another place to go is the brilliant design blog Paperseed which is by a graphic designer in Portland, Oregan. Her designs have that simple, retro look that I just love, and the trick with all these ideas is to print them directly onto a thicker paper or card that you can get from a good craft centre.

These handmade tags are from BBC Food website - I'm thinking of whipping something tasty up for the Grandparents as a stocking filler, even if you don't use these templates the ideas are fun.

The last link is to another inspiring design blog, Eat Drink Chic by Amy Moss. Her labels have a very cute handwritten feel, great for any fashionable friends.

Have fun with your wrapping!

Thursday, 2 December 2010


Can anyone solve a conundrum for me? How do European women and particularly french women manage to look so effortlessly stylish? I realise this is hardly answering one of life's great questions but it has been a perpetual puzzle for me, a girl from Rotherham, who was trying to make it in the very international, and glamorous world of fashion from my early 20s.

I felt abit like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole if I'm honest, as all the women had incredible style like they'd just walked off the set of a Federico Fellini film, whilst I looked more Carry on Camping! It's such a difficult thing to define but I always felt like there was something aesthetically not quite right with my 'look' for want of a better word - my nails weren't manicured, my shoes were the wrong shape, or something similarly ridiculous that would leave me feeling constantly inadequate.

I only ask as I was reminded again whilst looking at the brilliant blog The Sartorialist. I will borrow a couple of images to illustrate but you should really go straight to Scott Schuman's website as it is a pictorial education in modern style. Even the dressed-down outfits of the Euro-fashionistas have a confidence and f**k it approach the British don't seem to have.

Vanessa Paradis, Emmanuelle Seigner, Sophie Marceau, Catherine Deneuve, Audrey Tatou - all elegant and seemingly better with age and botox-free!

I'm also reaching an age [my mid-30s] where I think my style needs to become a little more considered if I'm going to look someway resembling good. This is of course something that doesn't begin to cross my mind as I'm wrestling with a toddler first thing in the morning trying to persuade him of the merits of brushing his teeth and putting clothes on other than his cartoon PJs. But I'm starting to think about what my next career step will be and my re-emergence into the real world - bad nails and all.

So I'll continue pondering on my predicament - although I seem to remember reading somewhere that French women spend the most money on lingerie and cosmetics in the world. True or false? Maybe that effortless chic does actually require considerable effort...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


I love mid-20th century illustration whether it's the quirky, colourful, modernist drawings of Eric Carle or the feminine lines of a 50s Vogue cover, they capture a very evocative period in design and fashion.

There is an exhibition on at the moment that I would love to see at Somerset House in London featuring the work of Rene Gruau. An illustrator for Christian Dior Gruau created iconic, beautiful images that reflected the spirit of Dior in such a wonderful time.

I can't help but think of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly - all poise and elegance - when I see these images and feel a little bit sad that we've lost that sense of style. The exhibition runs until the 9th of January in case you fancy popping along.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A little bit of sparkle...

Last week I posted about a pretty pair of vintage-inspired shoes from New Look Limited Edition, so here are some more of my favourite party pieces from the sea of glitz that's out there. I think there is a similar retro-theme running through most of my choices, but styled up with modern, simple basics I think any of these pieces would add just the right amount of glam to an evening out.

As with make-up I'd always suggest going with one statement piece whether that's a dress, a top or a jacket - oh and I added in the coat because in this weather you need something gorgeous to put ontop!

Dress - Reiss - £149

Fringed jacket - Kate Moss for Top Shop - £80

Coat - Orion London - £115

Maxi dress - Libelula - £365

Ruched top - Max Studio - £49

Jewels in the night...

We have finally fitted the lights in our living area after 5 months of bare wires poking through the ceiling. Three ceiling pendants that we agreed on and within budget were proving a tricky and expensive problem, so I finally managed to find some cheap coloured glass pendants that we both liked.

I love coloured glass - we have stained glass panels on our internal and external doors, and I have pretty votive candle holders on the mantle piece that sparkle like boiled sweets with tea lights in them, so I was quite chuffed to find these in the BHS sale.

The catch has been not fitting them on naff white plastic rose and cables but spending a little more on chrome fittings on-line. These also have the advantage of having longer, adjustable cables that can be fitted lower as we have over our dining table. These were from

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Sheffield is covered in a blanket of beautiful, white snow, like someone has frosted us in delicious, white icing. Of course it will soon turn to brown sludge but for now we are enjoying the views and Noah his loving is bright, engine-red sledge.

With more forecast tonight we're waiting to see what we wake up to, I'll let you know!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Just gorgeous...

Ok I couldn't resist posting these beautiful shoes from New Look Limited Edition.

They so pretty and delicate, like a really great vintage find, not like the ugly platforms and stack heels that are still all over the high street at the moment. I won't be going to many parties this christmas, but if I were I'd be wearing these with a great slim pair of cigarette pants - very cute! And navy is definitely my favourite.

Book club

I've lapsed in my posts these last few weeks as the real world has occupied my days and nights. Noah is now 2 and growing chattier and cheekier everyday. I never realised just how tiring it would be to be a full-time Mum - it doesnt help that he is awake at around 5am which means the days feel very long.

Another thing that has filled my evenings is a new book club that I've joined with other local Mums. Interesting and compulsive, the books have reignited my enjoyment of reading after my English Lit degree all but snuffed it out!

The first book was The Crimson Rooms, and was not the type of book I would have ordinarily picked up but the whole group agreed it was a really gripping read. Set in the 1920s it's the story of Evelyn Gifford and her struggle to forge a career in one of the last bastions of male dominated society - law.

It also interweaves several other narrative strands about a murder case that she becomes involved in, and the appearance of her brother's son and his mother from Canada. There was so much going on but I found myself really drawn into the experiences and the vivid depiction of 1920s London life.

Our second book was Eat, Pray, Love as the film had just been released so we enjoyed going to the cinema too to watch Julia Roberts - of course this is all really an excuse to get out of the house for an evening to have a good natter and a glass of wine!

A very modern story of self-discovery through travel and meditation, it is a journey through the author's experiences of trying to find happiness and balance in Italy, India and Bali.

There was a notable divide in the group over those who enjoyed the book and those who just weren't that bothered. I definitely sat in the first camp and as we sat in the Bull's Head discussing the merits of book versus film I found myself getting a little carried away with my own stories of yoga and stress! Sorry girls!

I think for many people, like myself, there is a very personal connection with the emotions that Elizabeth Gilbert experiences in reaching the point in her life where she needs a change. For anyone who is interested in spirituality I think it's a really good read - Elizabeth Gilbert is a really likeable writer, although the critics in the group thought she was over-indulgent and selfish. For me, she managed to make an esoteric subject very accessible.

Our latest book is The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and I'm loving it - my favourite yet I think, so I'll be sure to post once I've finished it.

The moral of this story is definintely to try books that you wouldn't ordinarily pick up - it's very rare you;ll be disappointed.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Cinematic Chic...

I love escaping to the cinema, it's like stepping into someone else's shoes for a couple of hours, and I always come out with my eyes a little more open and a lift in my spirits. One of the reasons I enjoy the cinema is looking at some of the inspiring set designs, like I'm stepping into their home rather than their shoes for those brief moments.

The sets I love the most are those that reflect the characters in the movie so well. Nancy Meyers' films seem to capture this perfectly - Something's Gotta Give and It's Complicated are two of my favourites. After both films I just wanted to climb through the screen and curl up on one of the ridiculously expensive looking sofas. Of course Sex and the City has to appear somewhere in my choice as it certainly looks like Carrie Bradshaw chooses her interiors the way she puts together her outfits.

Simply by Googling set design from the films I found some brilliant slideshows from each. The images from Something's Gotta Give are from
Architectural Digest, It's Complicated are from Traditional Homes and the Set Decorator's Society of America. The brilliant Sex and the City pictures are from Elle Decor. It's worth clicking through to see more inspiring homes.

Sex and the City 2

Something's Gotta Give

It's Complicated

Monday, 25 October 2010

Flea market shopping...

After my last indulgent post I felt like I had misled my few readers, it was as if I was suggesting buying £55 candles for Christmas and of course this is far from my real life at the moment. It was meant more as a wish-list of those beautiful things I'd love to have in my collection. Maybe in my past life I might have contemplated such a thing, but more likely I would have been 'gifted' it by a generous PR and passed it on happily to a lucky friend!

This blog was always meant as a more honest account of life than you find in the average glossy magazine, and so at the moment I'm a spend-thrift which generally means shopping in the sales, in charity and thrift shops and even car boot sales which can have the best bargains of all.

Another great library book I picked up recently was Flea Market Style by Emily Chalmers with great pictures by Debi Treloar. As always I'm totally inspired by the beautiful pictures.

We are so fortunate to be able to draw from such a rich history of styles when decorating our homes - I'm a believer in putting together different periods that work together rather than sticking to one style or era, just like in these images from Emily Chalmers book.

I have a confession - I'm a secret hoarder, although my husband will argue that it is no secret! I love collecting old things that have a quality and charm you can't find today in the mass market, as with my vintage clothes I have a select few pieces around our home that add a character and individual style unique to us.

If I had more money and greater creative freedom in decorating our home [it is a happy-collaboration of our tastes], I would use a bolder hand and include a brighter pallette with jewel colours, exciting prints and more feminine pretty pieces like vintage crockery and floral fabrics. Anyone who saw last night's Antique's Roadshow with the £2.50 car-boot cup and saucer that was actually £5000 Myson will be scouring the boot sales even more like me!

Here are some of my favourite thrift finds that I love.

Pastel blue 60s desk lamp from car boot sale bought for £3 - decorated with some old ribbon!

Not that thrifty really but I love the 50s cat - £20ish from an antique market.

Similar 50s style bottle from a charity shop for a few pounds love the colour and flirty character of the lady!

I have lots of original artwork that I pick up from boot sales and markets these are some of my favourites bought at the Sunday morning flea market in Gent on different occasions. The soft tones all work together.

My 50s formica kitchen chairs are pretty uncomfortable but for 8euros each from a brocante in the Loire Valley I had to bring them home!

For those of you new to this blog, if you like this kind of style have a look at my friend Lisa's beautiful home here.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Time to think...and shop...

I've had a quiet weekend to myself which is such a treat when I'm usually chasing around after a toddler.

I've done my banking, cleaned the house, ordered a fire-grate in anticipation of roaring fires at Christmas time, so generally been busying myself with all the niggling jobs that never usually get done.

One of which is thinking about starting my Christmas shopping! Unfortunately this has lead to me thinking more about what I'd like rather than what I'll be buying for everyone else. Once on-line it's too tempting to click onto my favourite sites and browse the lovely things, here are just a few I was looking at today - husband take note!

Bombus heart art from Not on the High Street - £165

This is such a great website for something a little bit different, I'm a real collector when it comes to hanging things on our walls and these are such a great idea and can be made bespoke so I love the idea of including the places that have special memories.

Mia Lia keepsake bracelet from Red Direct - £25

Red Direct always select the most stylish products that feel that little bit special.
Tweed collarless coat from Uniqlo - £79.99

Simple, elegant, timeless - all the things I'm looking for at the moment and a great price too. Uniqlo is a brilliant place to look for knitwear for gifts for family too, and you have to look a the J+ range at the moment designed by the brilliant Jil Sander - amazing tailored pieces at high street prices.

Costes scented candle from CultBeauty - £55

The appeal of is that it finds all those must-have products from around the world that you can't necessarily find here, so is worth a browse just to see what is on offer.

One of my favourites is the scented range from Hotel Costes. I was lucky enough to stay at the hotel on a visit to Paris and this scent captures that decadent, indulgent feel of the whole hotel.

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