Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Cashmere. No more words are needed!

As soon as the weather gets colder I'm the first to reach for a jumper - and if it's of the cashmere variety that's even better. 

So when Woolovers asked me whether I would like to try a piece from their cashmere range, I was over the moon. The grey crew neck cashmere jumper that have been wearing for the last five winters has started to go into holes, so it's days were really numbered. 

Woolovers has been in existence since 1989 (that's a really long time now - I was at University then!!) and they supply knitwear to over a million customers all over the world. This season they really have some fabulous pieces with a very modern feel about them, from ponchos and wraps to coatigans as well as more "traditional" pieces. I love how a poncho or a coatigan can make a very plain outfit something really quite special.    

So, back to the cashmere, I chose this soft blue jumper and it's absolutely gorgeous. The softness and warmth of cashmere is undeniably one of the finer things in life - (and there is absolutely no itching at all which gets a huge thumbs up from me). The colour will work with so many darker winter colours from navy to grey, and plum and camel. And it's really given this Whistles skirt of mine a new lease of life. I've always loved the colours in it but the blue jumper really lifts it. 

I have no doubt that the lovely folks at Woolovers would love it if you dropped by to take a look at what they have on offer this season and in a few days time I'll be styling a piece from their merino range. 

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The tale of the Fur coat and its changing colour...

The finished article!

Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that for a few weeks now I've been playing with the colour of this Zara mint fur coat that I've had for a few seasons now. Given that I bought the coat via my own free will, I obviously didn't dis-like the colour per-se but I wasn't a fan of it on me. The colour wasn't quite deep enough and on occasions I felt a bit Orville like but nonetheless I loved its fluffiness and warmth, so I decided to dye it to see what happened. 

This was its colour pre-dye...

I dyed it with one box of navy blue dye which was really easy to use. I had to wash the coat on its own, wash it again with the dye and then run the washing machine through again whilst empty.

One box of dye is sufficient for a garment that weighs up to 600g. At 750g that coat was slightly over the limit but I bit the bullet in any event.

So this was the coat after its first round of dye. In all honesty I'm not sure that this colour is a true representation of how it really looked after round one and prior to round two, which probably isn't really that helpful but it at least it provides an idea. Still, I did keep wondering whether, if I used two boxes of dye, it might finally go navy. I knew from reading the instructions that i was unlikey and instead, that the coat would end up a mix of its original colour and the colour of the dye...but I'm an eternal optimist.

Which is exactly what happened. It didn't go navy (other than the inside label) but it did go a darker shade of green - but a shade that I really like so in the end (wait for the pun) all came out in the wash. And actually I have to say for a pretty inexpensive fake fur coat, it washes like a dream.

Friday, 25 November 2016

The (gorgeous) pussybow ruched sleeve shirt by Me & Em

There's a simple formula for a smart/casual outfit that's an absolute fail safe every time. We've all used it over and over again and it's this:

Fancy top + battered jeans + sparkly shoes

The fancy top that I'm wearing in these pics is the Me & Em pussybow blouse (£119) and it's an absolute gem of a top for a night out with the girls. Equally with leather leggings it's super stylish or with more tailored trousers it's the perfect work outfit, with a lovely modern relaxed silhouette.

I'm a sucker for a bow, or a frill, or for something pretty and this top is just gorgeous, having both the pussy bow at the neck and a frill at the sleeve. The frilly sleeves are perfect for peeping out from under a coat with three quarter length sleeves, or for wearing with a long line gilet - but they're not so wide and loose that you can't go about your everyday business without trapping them in the dishwasher or dangling them in the cooking.

The "swing" in the top is fabulous too. It's not so full that it feels maternity like in nature but it has enough shape so that it doesn't cling. Plus the movement and slight "swish" to it makes it feel really elegant.

I love the length too. It hits at just the right point to keep it modern and given its wider hem, it has a slimming effect on the hips.

Plus - and it was only a matter of time before I came to this, there's room to layer plenty underneath, which is one of the reasons that I chose this top. I have a vest and one of my trusty short sleeve cropped tops underneath so it was perfect for a daytime outing too. Obviously in the evening I might even lose a layer. I know, how daring!

I like it when a new shape arrives in my wardrobe and I can see myself wearing this top in all sorts of different scenarios. When a top ticks the navy/pretty/versatile/can be layered up, boxes - I'm there every time.

Now obviously if I'd thought about it, I would have taken a couple of shots before I had tied the bow not after, by which time I had made it slightly crinkly. But it's lovely undone and arguably better for those ladies with a curvier bust who prefer more of a v-shaped neckline.

Now that's what you call a bow! So gorgeous!

Whilst this top was gifted to me by Me & Em, all the words and thoughts are my own and I can honestly say that this is a truly lovely top!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The "alternative" Christmas top - because not everyone loves sequins!

I know, it's hard to believe, but not everyone loves sequins. And there's a real trend this season of "un-seasonal Christmas dressing" which frankly I'm not buying into at all. If you like them, Christmas is for sequins, feathers, frills, froth and fancy stuff and no-one is going to convince me otherwise. However for those who genuinely are on the hunt for something pretty but less obviously "Christmassy" how about a kimono inspired top?

Firstly, apologies for the slightly small images. Really if I was any good at this game I would spend ages re-sizing the images but please forgive me - I want to go to bed!

Anyhow, let me introduce you to....

..the floral print kimono top from Zara £25.99. It's a fab price, lovely with a pleather pencil skirt, kick flared jeans and heels or some tapered leg trousers. What I really like about this top is that it's not a clingy number (see below), it has wide sleeves so there's no cutting into flesh and it's just a lovely top to have in your wardrobe for those last minute invitations out.

Quite a lot of the kimono pieces are made of silk, so they can be pricier but equally they can work really hard in your wardrobe and you know, if it's the perfect piece, then it's worth the price.

This cherry blossom silk kimono from Karen Millen (£250) is a fabulous piece. I love the nod to the tux from the collar - and the longer back offers some bottom coverage where it's needed most. Layer with a pretty cami for a wafty, exotic (non-sequined) look. There's currently 25% off with KM for Black Friday.

And I love this embroidered collared jacket from Ted Baker (£249). This would be perfect, and different, for a winter wedding, a work do or equally good dressed down with ripped jeans.

There will be others out there and it's only an idea - but it's one that I'm quite fancying if I'm honest. Are the days of the sequin numbered?

Oooh and as to other deals for Black Friday, there's 20% off at Hobbs, 25% off at Whistles and 20% off at Selfridges.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Our Living Room Mood Board - I have plans!

Now that the  back of the house has been sorted out, it's time to address the rooms at the front of the house - namely the living room and the kitchen. We're nearly there in terms of what we would like to do with the kitchen but the living room has (and is) taking a little more thought.

View of the house from the garden. Designed by Khoury Architects

Living room layout

Our living room is a fairly long, thin, oblong shape with a bay window at one end. At the opposite end there used to be French doors leading into the conservatory but earlier this year they were taken out and replaced with a wall. Behind the new wall is a store room - which is great for all the detritus that needs to be hidden from view - but it's not so good for the light in the living room. Oh and the door into the living room from the hall is also in a funny place, effectively cutting the room in half. So really it's a bit like two separate narrow rooms, with the one furthest from the window being very dark. Excellent!

Work so far

As part of the renovations earlier in the year, we made some alterations to the living room. First, there was only one radiator in it, which wasn't sufficient so the room was cold and uninviting. We had it replaced with two ladder radiators, which are much better. We also had the spots taken out of the ceiling and they were replaced with a centre light fitting, plus the TV point was removed so that the TV is now the opposite end of the room, away from the window and the glare from the sun.

Now for the fun part

Given that the new room at the back of the house is very light and decorated in greys, neutrals and all things Scandi, it seems a good idea to break out into a riot of colour in the living room, which is entirely self contained so it can have a strong personality of its own. The walls, however, I think will be darkish - but warm darkish - for a cosy feel. The room is currently painted almost white and it's still dark in there at the far end so I think it's a case of embracing the lack of light and not trying to pretend that it's something that it's not. 

Where we're at so far

So a few weeks ago I came across the blog The Pink House and I've been fairly glued to it ever since. Given my love of many thing pink, it's not surprising that I love Emily's blog, and in particular her post called "From Grot to Glamour - the Pink House Den before and after" which you can read here.

This is a picture of Emily's Den as it is now...

[photographer Susie Lowe]

Emily's den was in turn was inspired by this picture that she saw in 25 Beautiful Homes Magazine and which was designed by Jessica Buckley, an interior designer who lives in Edinburgh. I love the clever use of colour in these rooms which are just so fresh, inviting and uplifting.

The other living room that I love is Erica Davies' of The Edited. You can read all about the styling of her living room in the post "The House Files: My living room before and after" here. For those of you who haven't already read the post, I won't spoil it but safe to say that she has taken a very plain room and turned into something magical with gorgeous layers of colour, print, texture and interesting arrangements of accessories.

[photograpy by Eleanor Skan]

When does "taking inspiration" from something that someone else has done, become copying it?

I'm very happy not to keep re-inventing the wheel and so if the principle of something works (and if those who've done it the first time round don't mind) then I'm happy to go with it. If Emily says that Farrow & Ball stone blue is a warm blue then I'm good with that. Obviously I've tried it out and love it but other than that, why waste several hours in Homebase going through all the blues in the colour charts? So stone blue on the walls it will be.

The colour that Erica used in her living room is also a gorgeous bluey/grey. So desperate was I to get hold of a tester pot and so bad was the traffic that one morning last week I ran to our local John Lewis to get some, arriving at 8.58am and leaving shortly afterwards with said pot of Little Greene Paint Company Juniper Ash safely in my grasp. I also have plans for this colour...

What about the soft furnishings?

Well that, is where I think most of the colour will come in to play. And there are three things that I have in mind:
  • A large footstool which is in a horrible fabric. The design is good but the fabric yuck. I think I chose it (and the rest of the suite) in desperation when I was pregnant with our third. This will be re-covered, quite possibly in a smallish animal/geometric print;
  • The love seat that goes with said footstool. I'm planning on getting it re-covered in a fabric different to the footstool. The seat pad cushion, and back, may well be in a printed fabric whilst the rest of the chair may be plain, so that in years to come the cushions can be changed without too much expense;
  • We have just had a new pale grey sofa, so this will get new cushions - again in a fabric different to the footstool and love seat, and possibly different from one another.
And this is the type of thing that I have in mind

You cannot imagine the amount of fabric sample books that I have been through in the last week - Harlequin, Romo, Scion, Designer's Guild, Villa Nova, Osborne & Little and still I'm not entirely sure that I have found exactly what I'm after (how much of my mother's daughter am I? I think she was the only person in the world wanting an almond coloured, left handed opening, fridge freezer.)

These are the requirements: It needs to be bright, not too floral in nature or if so, modern floral as opposed to traditional floral. Graphics, spots, stripes or palm leaves are also good. I prefer a whiteish background as opposed to a mucky coloured one and I would like lots of blue in it. Oh and it need to work with, but not go with, this Designer's Guild wallpaper in the unit which was up-cycled in the summer. 


 Both of these prints are by Harlequin and are contenders. Or they were. I'm not so sure now...

This is the above print, shown made up on a sofa. And that's the thing isn't it? Fabrics always look so different when made up, that it can be easy to reject something that could be perfect.

But I'm a big fan of the Miami range from Designer's Guild. The fabrics are bright and fresh, pretty different to what else is out there and they all work together in a non-co-ordinated kind of way and across the colour spectrum.

And the one that I like the most...they have, of course, stopped making it in this colour way.  But I have several samples of prints on their way from various different companies, so I'll see where we are by the middle of the week.

So, despite all those musings what have I actually achieved so far? Hmmm, well that would be the purchase of this John Lewis painted lacquer tray (£30) because the colour is perfect and the lacquer gives it a lovely finish. 

And this Nicola Metcalfe London Skyline print from John Lewis (£55) - the colours of which are fab and it reminds me, in a painful kind of way, of running the London Marathon this year. 

Mr SG went to the motorbike show yesterday. "Can I buy whatever I like?" he said. "Of course darling" I replied "As long as I can be in charge of decorating the living room." He didn't buy a new motor bike. The living room will get decorated.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Winter white at its best from Me & Em

[Styling the Me & Em cable weekend jumper for a Saturday shopping trip with jeans, Topshop fringe loafer boots and a sleeveless coat.]

Recently I've been lucky enough to work with the wonderful brand that is Me & Em. Many of you will be familiar with Me & Em already but for those who aren't, Me & Em started out as an online brand in 2009. I used to pore through their catalogues both religiously and longingly!

Recently Me & Em have gone from strength to strength and they now have a store in Connaught Street in London and also a pop up store in Belgravia.  Clare Hornby, Me and Em's founder and Creative Director, seeks to offer "high quality affordable clothes that are contemporary, flattering and classic."  Essentially she takes classic wardrobe items and tweaks them, making them stylish and relevant - and lovely to wear.     

In this post I'm featuring the cable weekend jumper from Me & Em (£149). You all know me by now - always running a little chilly and much as I would love to waft around in gorgeous silky tops, unless I can get a few layers underneath them they're just not going to work for me. But I've always loved a cable knit jumper and I have been on the look-out for the perfect one for a number of winters now, rejecting many along the way. I have an old one from Warehouse but it's a bit "porridge" in colour where as this is a lovely warm, creamy, soft white, which works much better for me. It also comes in grey marl and antique blush

I love the chunky neckline on this jumper, together with the way that it falls - plus it's incredibly warm. But don't be fooled by its chunkiness and casual nature, with some heels and sparkly socks, this gorgeous jumper could easily be worn in the evening.

If you're looking for an item that doesn't cost much but that will transform lots of you shoes and outfits in an instant, look no further than the glitter double lace ankle socks from Topshop (£3.50). I love them and will be heading back for more!

Same outfit but with different socks and shoes. These socks are also from Topshop...

...and the shoes are Carvela. They are many years old now but they are surprisingly comfortable and I really love their vintage styling.

And then for somewhere in between the "I'm going shopping" look and the "I'm wearing heels" look, I've put the jumper with my favourite pleated skirt which gets an outing at least once a week. I love the juxtaposition between a chunky jumper and a silky skirt and it's hugely versatile. Wear with boots, or heels, or sparkly socks and heels - it's a go anywhere combo.

And here's a shot of the jumper from the back too - because it's always good to check your view from the rear!

This post was written in conjunction with Me & Em but all words and views are my own and I can honestly say that I've hardly taken this jumper off since I received it (which you may, or may not, want to know!)

Monday, 14 November 2016

The benefits of NEVER standing on the bathroom scales...

Well, one obvious benefit of not standing on the bathroom scales is that you don't know what you weigh - but that's not really what I mean. What I'm talking about are the psychological benefits. 

So where am I coming from?

I never was a big one for standing on the scales but about eighteen months ago now I took the decision not to get on them again. This came about after looking more into clean eating, taking up a new exercise regime and concluding that the whole process of just getting the scales out and standing on them was a monumental waste of time and not something that I particularly enjoyed. Really it was a bad habit with no real purpose. And before anyone asks, no, I don't have one of those metabolisms that whizzes around like an electric meter, so there was the distinct danger that my approach was a risky one and that in no time at all my clothes wouldn't fit. 

Some women view weighing themselves as a safety blanket - something that will stop them from putting on weight. I see the scales more as a ball and chain around a woman's neck; the reading being a big stick with which to beat themselves.

And then when I thought about it (and did a little survey amongst friends) I concluded that when women get on the scales one of two things seem to happen:

  • We realise that we've lost a bit of weight (joy) but then the gremlins come into play and we self sabotage what is seen as a benefit by having "treats" and the next time we get on the scales we're back where we were before the weight loss (despair);
  • We're heavier than we would like to be (despair) and then time is spent worrying about it and trying to lose that extra (in all likelihood) non-existent weight (double despair) only to get on the scales and start the whole process again. 

So whichever way you look at it, getting on the scales is not a particularly positive experience.*

What happens when you don't get on the scales?

In one sense, nothing really happens when you don't get on the scales. Unless you take it as carte blanche to eat what you want and not move anymore and then you'll soon notice a big change. 

But in another sense so many things happen. First, you take more responsibility for what you put into your body and you learn to trust yourself and your instincts - eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full because no longer is that "safety blanket"of the scale reading available to you to tell you how you're doing (or not doing, as the case may be.)

Secondly, there is no longer a psychological battle. It's about accepting that yes, at some points in the month/year you may feel slightly heavier but then at other points you will be lighter. And that's probably how it's meant to be. I'm not convinced that we're meant to weigh exactly the same all year round but as long as you end up pretty much where you started off, that's all good. There is no nagging voice, no guilt, no shame, no sense of failure. 

Thirdly, if you do feel a bit heavier, it's more a case of "Oh, that will sort itself out over the next two or three weeks if I just make a few tweaks here and there" rather than doing anything crazy to get back to a "magic" number in record time and feeling stressed when it fails. And that goes back to trusting yourself - in time it will come off as long as you're sensible, which it's much easier to be without a big stick to beat yourself with. 

It's also about listening to your body more. On a days that you don't move as much you eat less - because you just don't need the extra energy. Conversely it's about re-fuelling properly on the days that you have used more energy. It's not rocket science but it seems to have been lost somewhere along the way.

And I think that the best thing that I can tell you is that never getting on the scales is liberating. I actually don't give a monkeys about what the scales say. I'm far more interested in how I feel and how my clothes feel. At the end of the summer I think that I was a bit heavier than usual but now I'm a bit lighter than usual. But that's not down to any pressure from anywhere - particularly a needle on a weighing scale and it's corresponding number - it just is what it is and that's healthy.

So for anyone thinking of ditching the scales, I would say go for it. It may take a few weeks to break the habit and to adjust your eating habits and patterns but trust yourself - I think that it can work. 

I'm sure that people will have their own views on this and I would love to know what you think!

*Everyone is different and these are only my own musings and those of a small group of women I've spoken to. For those following medical advice, or who are on a weight loss programme, measuring progress by weekly weigh ins is probably crucial to their health. And I'm sure that I read recently that weighing yourself every day is a good thing....(but I remain unconvinced).