Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Marks & Spencer - leading the way with Limited Edition

Each season, you can always rely on Marks & Spencer Limited Edition to have a few on-trend gems at a good price. Whilst in there looking for your undies, or PJs for the children, or a frilly Per Una number for your Mum, it's always worth taking a wander through Limited Collection. 

Whilst in the store today, I came across this Marks & Spencer Limited Collection Bardot shirt (£29.50). Bardot style tops and shirts were a huge trend last spring/summer and they're back on the scene again - in an even bigger way.

I really like the shape of this one as whilst it's not too clingy, neither it is too voluminous. Some Bardot tops are very frilly and girly, whilst some of the peasant tops are very smock like and create the illusion of a pregnancy bump where there is none. Not a good look. This shirt though is fairly tailored and streamlined and just a little more sophisticated than some that I have seen.

Moving on to a Bomber jacket...

Again we saw lots of bomber jackets last season and they're still going strong for S/S'16. With its dark background and lighter floral print, this M&S floral bomber jacket (£49.50) is an easy and non-too challenging way to wear this trend. Good with kick flared cropped jeans, denim shorts or with smarter trousers for work, it definitely has a place in your wardrobe this summer.

There's also a massive trend this season for the slip dress, a la Kate Moss from the early 1990's. Hers were silk and cut on the bias but this M&S square neck midi slip dress (£29.50) is a much easier, and more forgiving, way to wear the trend. For a little coverage, wear with a denim jacket, a biker jacket, a bomber jacket or  a denim shirt tied at the waist to keep the silhouette neat. Johnny Depp isn't a compulsory accessory.

The other reason that M&S is a good place to suss out the more trend led items is that we all feel that we belong there. I know that some people are a little nervous of shops like River Island, Topshop or Zara but who doesn't feel comfortable going into good old M&S - if only for a prawn sarnie?!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Blues to lift the blues...

There's a certain blue that gets me every time. I just love it. Aegean blue conjures up images of beautiful sandy beaches and a crystal clear, deep, sea. Anything that reminds me of this image and I'm there. It's the reason that I watch Home & Away - honestly. The shots of the beach make me feel warm and happy when it's cold and raining outside. Given that the beach doesn't feature in Neighbours however, I'm not quite sure what my excuse is. The swimming pools maybe?

I think that it's fair to say that this particular shade of blue may feature in the colour scheme for our new room in the not too distant future. We are going to need three really big light fittings and I love this Kartell fly ceiling light from John Lewis (£171). I've looked around for a cheaper alternative but I haven't managed to find one so far, although Very had one a few seasons ago. So if you do happen to know of one, please feel free to whizz the details my way.

Price aside, I'm not sure whether this light will actually come off or not - the reviews aren't brilliant in that many of them seem to arrive scratched and we will need to check what kind of glow the lights give off when they're actually on. Blue maybe? I'm slightly concerned that we might look like the local cop shop and apparently they collect dust like a bugger which is a shame because they will be too high to reach to dust. But anyway it's a start - even if it's a slightly inauspicious one!

I've seen this rug many times in our local store and I still love it - although I have slight reservations about the orange dots and how they might fight with other colours in the room. It's the blue Tash rug from Habitat (£375). We've had two Habitat rugs for 17 years now and they have worn fantastically well, weathering everything that family life has to throw at them - so perhaps this would be a good buy if I can make it work.

And finally, there's the Dixie sofa by Loaf (£1395). All of Loaf's sofas and chairs can be made in this fabric (I say "all" but there's bound to be an exception somewhere along the way.) Much as I love this colour though and much as I've always loved it, I would be slightly more nervous about committing to a large piece of furniture in this colour, just in case I changed my mind. Not that I'm fickle or anything.

With a colour scheme of Scandi neutrals such as pale greys and creams, I think that this colour will add some real depth, plus interest, to the room. I've yet to persuade Mr SG as to my accent colour though. He's just not feeling the love for Turmeric. I can't imagine why not!

Dimple footstool from Loaf (£445) in turmeric.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

A dining table with a difference....

In the next couple of months, we will be in the market for a new dining table - I know, how exciting? (!) Actually it really is. I feel as though after 16 years of marriage it might be our first, proper, grown ups dining table. Not grown up in the sense of a traditional dark wood item but grown up because we're now past the stage of having to cover the seats in oilcloth and we no longer need to be sure that it can be wiped down after a child scribbles on it. So, fabulous as our Ikea table has been, I won't be sorry to say goodbye to it. Instead we can choose something that we actually like - now there's a revelation. It needs to seat 10 people and we fancy something industrial. And here's a selection of what I've come across so far.... 

The Arden table and bench set from Graham & Green (£1800) has a cement fibre top and is 240cm long, which is a pretty good size. My problem is that I'm not sure about benches. Mr SG likes the idea and whilst it's true that they do seat more people, they're a real pain unless everyone on the bench likes being the same distance away from the table. Which knowing our family will never be the case and I can imagine arguing throughout a whole meal - which on reflection is not much different to usual.  

Also from Graham & Green is this zinc table (£1200). It's 210cm long and its styling makes it less industrial than the one above. I think that this is a great compromise for those who still prefer a table which is more traditional in its styling, whilst using more modern materials. With so many of us having wooden floors, the zinc top makes a nice contrast and breaks things up a little, plus with this option it's possible to have a little more fun with the seating styles. I like the idea of having mis-matched chairs with this table. Sadly though Mr SG doesn't like the table at all so I don't think that chairs, either mis-matched or otherwise, will be featuring.  

Loaf has this gorgeous concrete conker table, which I went to take a look at when I was last in London. It comes in medium (160cm length £715), large (180cm length £755) and extra large (220cm length £855). The chairs/benches are extra but again I like that it offers a flexible approach to seating.

Made has this fawn dining table in zinc (£349). It's a more compact option than some of the other tables, being only 140cm in length, making it perfect for smaller spaces. It's designed to feel like a working table in an old manor house, or farmhouse, which is why zinc was used to top it.

For anyone who is now in the concrete mood - but not in the market for a new table - John Lewis has this concrete pendant light for £70...

Or for something even simpler to work into your décor without anyone else knowing for at least a couple of weeks (depending on how observant your husband/children/anyone else who is going to land you in it might be) a lamp is the perfect solution and John Lewis has this tall table lamp for £80 with other concrete bits and bobs here.


If any of you have come across any other industrial table sized gems then do feel free to let me know. I've also checked out Heals, M&S and John Lewis but there's nothing there. I haven't checked out proper "industrial" suppliers yet but I guess that might be the next step. We're only at the very first stages of mulling things over so nothing is set in stone yet - or in concrete. (Dire. Groan. I know.) 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Block heels - a success or one for your room 101?

Is it just me, or do anyone else's feet hurt when they look at high heels? Without sounding like an old croc, many years ago I would walk to the tube in heels, walk from the tube to work, walk around all day including up Bond Street at lunchtime and then do it all in reverse to get home again - and I didn't even think twice about doing so. I still own the first pair of heels I ever did all of that in - Marilyn Anselm for Hobbs. Anyone remember her? 

These days? Not so much. If I'm not working, it's pretty much trainers or flat boots all the way for me but if it's a small heel that I'm after, I love a good block heel and I can always rely on Topshop to come up trumps. 

I ordered these Jolene mid buckle shoes from Topshop (£48) a couple of weeks ago but it's only really been today that I've managed to get around to trying them on. They're 100% leather and they also come in black and in this black and white print below. I like the idea of wearing them with cropped kick flares, with wide legged cropped trousers and also possibly to the wedding we're going to in early April. I'm conscious that the wedding is only a couple of weeks before the marathon and as well as abstaining from alcohol, I'm also abstaining from heels (it's fun, fun, fun all the way right now!) These are a great option though - enough height not to feel flat but no so much that my feet will hurt by the end of the day.

This Juno style (£59) is also massively popular at the moment. 100% leather, they come in grey, gold, white and red and your Granny would love them! As to my thoughts on them? Hmmm. Marmite. And personally I'm on the "don't like" side of the fence.  I like a block heel to be accompanied by a pointed toe, or leopard print, or something which stops them from looking too Granny-esque. And these are designed to be full on Granny-esque. Which is fine when you're really young and no where near being a granny but you know, as that age bracket creeps potentially closer? Let's just say they're not somewhere I plan on going.

Even on young feet I'm not convinced! 

For another option, Topshop has the Jensen buckle mid shoe (£49) which come in leopard, black and burgundy with a pale pink trim. The composition varies depending on the colour.

I know that many avoid block heels for the fear of looking granny like. Well having seen the Juno style, I totally understand that particular fear. However, there are plenty of other options which don't make you look as though you're going to be pushing a pram any time soon - and not as the baby's mother. So I would encourage anyone to given them a go. For work with slim trousers, or for casual with rolled up jeans, they're a really good option and more flattering and less dated than a kitten heel. What do you think? Have you had success with block heels or have they been consigned to your room 101?!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Pineapples for interiors

Interior trends often reflect fashion trends and vice versa, which means that not only can we find pineapples on necklaces, t-shirts and Valentine's Day cards but also in our homes - and not just in our fruit bowls either.

As I've mentioned before, fingers crossed we will shortly be having our house knocked around which should result in a big open space for eating, socialising, working and playing pool or table tennis. Whilst I can't quite envisage the space, and whilst I'm not yet sure which larger pieces of furniture we will need, other than a new dining table, I'm quite excited about the bits and bobs and finishing touches. I guess that this is slightly the wrong way round but I always think that if you love something, you will find the perfect home for it.

For my last birthday and for Christmas, I asked for gift cards which I have been squirrelling away in anticipation of those things which catch my eye - of which there seem to be many. And something "pineappley" is near the top of my list.  

I came across this Laura Ashley pineapple lamp (£96 was £120) today and immediately fell in love with it. I've made huge amounts of progress with Mr SG this weekend and he can now talk about the work on the house for about 10 minutes before needing to go and lie in a darkened room. Or reaching for the bottle, which is followed by a lie down in a darkened room. I actually managed to get him into Laura Ashley with me today and he liked this lamp. So that was a good start. We had actually gone into Laura Ashley for a different interiors gem but I'll save that for another day.

 Graham & Green and has long been a favourite place of mine to browse interiors and this pineapple lamp base (£125) comes a very close second to the Laura Ashley lamp above. The reviews of it are really good and I love the choice of shade, although there are plenty of other options too.

For those who would prefer a glass option, M&S has this pineapple lamp for £49.50. Compared to the other two styles, this one is quite a chubby pineapple!

For anyone who would prefer a pineapple "object" as opposed to a lamp, John Lewis has this gold pineapple vase (£40) and in the picture below, you can see how fab it looks in a room setting. In fact I really like the whole of this look for a living room but I suspect that there are many rooms like this all over the country, given that John Lewis has marketed this look so heavily.
Oliver Bonas is a great shop for bits and bobs and they have these gorgeous pineapple spoons (£18) which could be displayed in a non-kitchen setting.  They also have gold pineapple salt and pepper pots in store but not online.

As with fashion, there's always the issue of how much money to commit to a piece that may only be a trend for a few seasons. On the other hand, if we love something, I don't think that any of us will stop loving it just because it's no longer "the" trend of the season.  So, what are we thinking about the Pineapple trend? Yeah or meh?

Friday, 29 January 2016

Cropped wide legged trousers - fancy giving them a go?!

[Outfit: Jacket: Reiss, Trousers: Whistles, Scarf: New Look, Trainers: Adidas, Cropped jumper: Zara, Bag: Marc Jacobs]

Remember the wide legged Renee cropped trousers from Whistles that I told you about not so long ago? Well here they are in action. I know, it would have been nice to have got a better photo than this but I wore them to the Hush preview day and as I left the house at 5.25am and returned home and changed prior to the school run there wasn't anyone to oblige (implying that someone obliges on other occasions which is kind of stretching it a little).  

I really liked wearing these trousers. The fabric is beautiful and it falls really well. Plus they're a little different. I should add however that the waistband is high and pretty small and two pieces of Deliciously Ella's flapjack and several of  her juices left me feeling somewhat errrrm uncomfortable. But it was so worth it.

I've also tried these trousers with ankle boots, ghillie lace ups and block heeled shoes and they work with all of them. So they will all be combos that I will be wearing, especially when the weather gets warmer. But maybe I should leave the flapjacks (which were the size of bricks) out of the equation.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016


Yesterday I had a trip to London for a preview of Hush's S/S '16 collection. Not only that but breakfast was provided by the Mae Deli, which is Deliciously Ella's new enterprise. Being a fan of Deliciously Ella's recipes, I couldn't wait to see what was on offer and I wasn't disappointed - juices, mango flapjack and chia pudding. Hush clothes, plus food from the Mae Deli - what more could a girl want?

Well nothing really but then when Amanda, The Online Stylist, and Frances from School Run Style arrived, the day turned from a lovely one into a fabulous one. It was also lovely to meet Vikki from Style & Minimalism Joanne from The Stylist and the Wardrobe and Sylvia from Sylvia Sparkles. It's so nice to put voices to faces and to share experiences, challenges and successes with others. Their blogs all make for a brilliant read so do drop by if you have a spare minute or two.

So as to the clothes, there were several different stories in the collection, from paler blush colours to graphic prints and from khaki to brighter colours. They included the softest cashmere ever, lovely knits, swim wear, beach dresses, a fuller cotton skirt, gorgeous shorts in fluid fabrics and leather pieces too. Plus shoes - oh the shoes!

I pretty much think that these shots speak for themselves, so I'll let you take a whizz through them at your own pace but let's start with accessories.

Beautiful sunglasses - a real outfit maker (and hider of wrinkles). I just wish that I could bring myself to wear them in the winter. Life would be a whole lot easier when it came to taking early morning photographs.  

Graphic and neon. Just gorgeous!

I love a tassel. Beach, festival, school run, day chilling at home or out for a BBQ - they are the necklace of the summer.

Good to see that pineapples are still having their moment - and strawberries too. I love both of these cheeky little numbers!

Stars, like stripes and leopard print, won't go anywhere. Ever. (Well I don't think that they will)!

OK so let's take a look at shoes. These are now made in house rather than being outsourced, as are the leather pieces (black A-line skirt and biker for this season.) Heels, flats, sandals, brogues, flatforms, trainers - Hush has all bases covered!

And now on to T-shirts. I'm not a huge t-shirt fan and the older you get, the more they need to be right to avoid looking, well, rubbish really. But I think that the cut, and these stars, would help with that.

And I know that I'm a cliché  but I'm a sucker for a palm tree. Maybe not in the "Club Tropicana" Wham type way but a subtle palm tree gets me every time.

If you haven't yet ventured into the dangerous waters of a logo sweatshirt, this could be the perfect time to start.

And as for a smiley sweatshirt. Well I think that this would look just perfect on a rainy beach in Guernsey. Maybe Hush could start doing brollies too.

See what I mean about a palm tree? I love this colour and it has a depth that works for me. Much as I love the paler blush pink of which there is so much this season, it really doesn't like me.

Flamingos are still having their moment too - from glasses that I recently bought in Ikea, to a new ironing board cover with flamingos on from John Lewis (I know, living life on the edge again) they are still finding favour.

And saving the best until last, this was my favourite piece out of everything. Why? Well it's simple and chic in a "dress up, dress down" type way. And I'm happy to embrace off the shoulder as a trend but only if the piece is simple like this, rather than frilly as otherwise I think that I would feel a little ridiculous. Oh and I love the trim too!

So let's talk temptation! Are you tempted with anything here? Here I've linked to the pre-collection (which includes the beautifully soft cashmere jumper, the leather skirt and leather jacket and an amazing jumpsuit) with the rest of the collection going on sale mid February. Enjoy!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Jumping on the protein bandwagon.....

Recently I've had quite a few people asking me what I think about the use of protein powder. "Protein" is the new buzz word, whether it be in the form of shakes, powders or bars - and everyone is jumping on the protein bandwagon.

But let's start by taking a step back and looking at why protein is important for us. To quote Jamie Oliver "Protein is the building blocks of our bodies. It is absolutely essential for the growth and repair of muscle tissue, as well as building hormones.....protein really is your best friend and should be enjoyed in the right way." OK so that bit we get. Growth, repair, keeping us healthy - that makes sense.

As to the science part, essentially there are complete proteins, which come from meat, fish, eggs, milk and cheese and these contain all of the essential amino acids. And there are incomplete proteins, which can be found in beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, cereals, quinoa, oats, tofu, bread, flour and corn. Mixing incomplete protein sources together can provide a source of complete protein. So far so good.

And so what are our protein needs? For women aged 19-50, the optimal amount of protein to aim for is 45g a day.  By way of example, 100g Total Greek Yoghurt has 9g protein, 100g cottage cheese has 6.1g, a typical egg has 9g, half a medium sized tin of tuna has 20.3g, an average sized chicken breast has 30g and 100g of smoked salmon has 23.8g. 

The claims - When we work out we create small tears in our muscles. As the tears repair, the muscles become bigger. The claim is that protein powders deliver protein to those damaged muscles as quickly as possible post work out, to assist in repairing and re-building the muscle fibres.

The caveat to the post! Now I'm no scientist (and please do feel free to point out where I'm slightly off point) but there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to supplementing your diet with shakes, powders or bars. It's not something that we have to do as a good diet should be able to provide all of our protein needs - but many people choose to supplement their diet in this way and it really is a matter of personal choice.

So, these are the things that I've been mulling over recently....

 [This picture came up when I did a search of "mulling it over images". And who am I to argue?]

The need, or otherwise, to supplement my diet with protein: I'm a kid of the 70s! I like listening to stories of how Brendan Foster broke his world record on a breakfast of tea and toast eaten with his in-laws and how he celebrated his victories with a shandy. So really is there a need? Would the odd extra chicken breast, a couple of eggs and some yoghurt not suffice? I mean, are any of us out to break any world records or win weight lifting competitions? On the other hand I totally appreciate that protein in the form of a shake is a quick and easy way to replenish the muscles, especially after an evening work out when time may be short (or at any other time when time may be short. OK, so that's all of the time then!)

Brendan Foster at the 1972 Olympics. A 70's style Harry Styles. Sort of.

The cost : These various supplements aren't cheap and if I'm spending those extra pennies on something that claims to deliver, then I would like to be sure that it will deliver.

The ingredients: Now this is where I start to struggle. I just don't like the list of ingredients in some of the various different options. I might be wrong but many of these products look highly processed. I've come across protein cookies which contain palm oil, sugar, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers and flavouring. I've also looked at protein bars, which similarly contain sugar in various different guises, preservatives, thickeners, E numbers and gelatine. As to the protein powders, many contain emulsifiers, flavours, colours and sweeteners. There are some out there with very few ingredients (see below) but in general I was surprised with what I found.

The side effects: This is my biggest worry! It concerns me when people start throwing things down their necks willy nilly just because it seems to be the thing to be doing. The research would seem to be limited but there are suggestions that too much protein can result in osteoporosis and kidney problems. No doubt people would have to consume huge amounts of protein but it's early days yet. Who knows what we will discover down the line? I suppose that the difference between getting protein through food is that your brain tells you when you're full, so overdosing through vast quantities of meat, eggs or fish is probably less likely than taking too much via an extra scoop or two in a shake.

What do others do? Sometimes it's good to take a look at what others do who you trust. Joe Wicks, the Body Coach, advocates the use of protein powder on occasion without a problem. Kayla Istines, another of my favourites, doesn't advocate the use of protein powder personally but instead relies on food sources to keep her protein levels up - and she has an incredible physique. Madeleine Shaw recommends the use of the vegan Sunwarrior protein powder which costs £34.99. In fairness, all that this contains is raw sprouted whole grain rice protein and salt. So maybe for anyone tempted to go down the protein powder route, it's worth taking a closer look.  

Sunwarrior protein powder as recommended by Madeleine Shaw

The claims. So do these powders, shakes and bars really do what they say on the tin? Well as ever, where do you start when looking at all of the evidence available? To be honest I'm pretty sceptical about most things that I read as most articles have an agenda.  

In a recent Episode (Series 4 Episode 1) of "Trust me I'm a Doctor" the various claims were put to the test. First, it was established that the protein consumed in a protein shake immediately post work out did indeed travel to the muscle. So far so good.

Next an experiment was conducted on a group of 20 volunteers aged 67 to 24 to see whether having a protein shake post work out helped build any more muscle. Both groups took a shake immediately after exercise with one group taking a placebo. Both groups lifted heavy weights three times a week and after eight weeks the results were analysed.

Everyone got stronger by about 30% and all had bigger muscles but there was no difference at all between the two groups and the protein shakes did not provide any benefit.  It was concluded that there is a limit to what your body can cope with and as long as you get enough protein in your diet the body will either turn that excess protein into energy, store it as fat, or expel it via urine.  No doubt the experiment is open to criticism on many different levels but you have to start somewhere.

Conclusion - Anything that has a positive psychological effect is good with me. Whether it makes you more motivated, gives you greater belief in your ability or just makes you feel stronger and fitter, that's all positive. But it would seem that there are limitations to its effectiveness and we still don't know the long term effect of consuming high levels of protein. Checking the list of ingredients would be high on my list of priorities and I can't imagine going near a protein bar or a protein shake but the powder? Possibly at a push, but it would have to be a very natural one and I would use it judiciously. But in all honesty I would probably rather put the money towards some new running gear because that obviously makes all the difference to one's performance :)

What do you think? If you take protein powder I would be really interested to know how you get on with it and whether you've noticed a difference in any way. And if you don't already take it but you're thinking about it, does this change your view either one way or the other?

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Beth's Best Sale Buys!

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not really a fan of the sales when they first start. They are always crowded plus I tend to be on school holidays when they start - and children and busy shops definitely don't mix.  Nope, I prefer the sales when they are drawing to a close. When the stores go into final markdowns and there are discounts of 70% to be had. Yes, that's more like it. 

And I might have just bought one or two pieces in the sale. Whether I shall keep them all or not I don't know yet but here goes....

OK so I'm slightly late to the culottes party but I saw these earlier in the season and I liked them very much. When they presented themselves to me on my recent travels, I thought that it would be rude not to at least try them on. And would you know it, they came home with me! These are the Hobbs Hazel Culottes (down from £110 to £33).

This top first came out in cream last spring and it was gorgeous. Then it was released in this slate colour for the Autumn/Winter, which is probably slightly more practical. It's a fantastic top being the perfect length with skirts (pleated/prom style) and higher waisted trousers. It's a top that I've had my eye on for a while and at this great price, who am I to argue?  Jigsaw Cropped Shell Top (down from £79 to £23)

I bought these boots in a burgundy/wine colour earlier in the season and they have been great. They are just the right heel height and as well as being comfortable, they are cut quite low at the front, making them work with skirts and dresses, as well as trousers. When I saw that the black ones had gone into the sale, I knew that I could squirrel them away in preparation for next winter. Boden Harper Boot (down from £110 to £35)

Remember the spring wedding that I keep wittering on about? Well I thought that these might be quite nice for that. Shoes with multiple straps are going to be a huge trend for the upcoming season but irrespective of that, I like them because they combine classic leopard with a bit of trend. What do you mean leave them for someone else to buy? Don't be daft!  Boden Cordelia Heel (down from £130 to £41.70)

An interesting flat is always a great piece to have in your wardrobe and it may be that these also get squirrelled away until next Christmas. The first review I read about them said that they were comfortable (big plus) and the next reviewer said that they were very blingy - too much so for the reviewer but I was right in there. Bling away! Boden Embellished T-bar Point (down from £110 to £35.70)

So no I haven't added it up. I'll leave that for Mr SG to do when he reads this at work. No doubt he will come home and tell me how much I've spent but that's entirely missing the point. The point is how much I've SAVED. And I reckon that's quite a bit, so all is good :)