Tuesday, 17 March 2015

3 ways to wear... a pearl necklace

Recently I've been trying to pay a bit more attention to my morning routine, and my work outfits in particular. Starting work at 8am means I tend to crawl out of bed at 6am, yawn under a scorching hot shower and tug on the first thing my fist grips as it reaches inside my wardrobe. I don't make time for breakfast and can barely muster the energy to dab on some moisturiser, let alone a fully fledged plethora of oils, serums and gels. Let's just say I'm not a natural morning person.

When it's cold outside I find it all too tempting to wear something cosy with plenty of room to slouch around in, so it's been nice to make more of an effort around the office (like here and here), which helps me feel more confident and motivated.

One thing I still haven't quite mastered during my bleary morning routine is putting the contents of my overflowing jewellery box to good use. I have stacks of chunky statement necklaces (like this and this) that I absolutely adore, but styling them takes a little more thought than simply slinging them on and sloping out the front door.

On my Pinterest travels I regularly stumble across swoon-worthy blogger outfits in which coils of perfectly proportioned sparkles and beads have been effortlessly teamed with nautical stripe tees. Yet whenever I try something similar it looks garish or clashy, and after three or four necklace changes I give up and go without.

In my mind what's become abundantly clear (because I obviously need any excuse to do more shopping) is that I'm sorely lacking in simple, classic necklaces that I can pop on regardless of the outfit and will pretty much go with everything. And as I started scouring various online shops to fill this gaping wardrobe hole, I decided that a great place to start would be with a classic string of pearls.

There's something special about a freshwater pearl. I like the idea that an ugly (yet tasty) mollusk can create something so pretty and pure. As soon as this beautiful freshwater pearl necklace from Eternal Collection plopped through my letter box it reminded me of my grandmother's dressing table, of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's and sitting in French cafes sipping crisp cold wine and guzzling oysters like Ernest Hemingway in A Moveable Feast. It reminded me of pretty brides and seaside trips and The Walrus and the Carpenter from Alice in Wonderland. Unlike many of the bold statement necklaces that go in and out of fashion, a string of pearls will happily last a lifetime and more.

How to wear a pearl necklace

Despite not having posted an outfit photo in months (can you tell I feel like a goofball in these pics?) I wanted to experiment with the versatility of pearls and try them with a few outfits. Please excuse the lazy lack of ironing (which seems painfully obvious as I post these pics!)

How to wear a pearl necklace
Colorblock shift dress - ASOS (£19 reduced from £55) | blazer (old - blogged here) | chelsea boots (old) | vintage belt

How to wear a pearl necklace
Tartan shirt (old) | structured pleated skirt - River Island (£10 reduced from £25) | Digby Red Leather Chelsea Boots - New Look (sold out - black version available

How to wear a pearl necklace

Mustard yellow trousers - ASOS (sold out - similar here) | shoes - New Look (old) | top - Dorothy Perkins (sold out - ivory version available here)

I've been wearing this last pair of trousers at every possible opportunity lately, they're so comfy and I adore the colour (channelling my inner daffodil, obvs). They almost make me want to stop dieting as I don't want them to get too big, but then as it usually goes with ASOS, they've started to bobble a little bit and will inevitably end up relegated to the boot fair pile (cries). 

I hope you're all having a lovely week and keeping your fingers crossed for more spring flowers and sunshine this weekend!


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Thursday, 12 March 2015

Recent beauty favourites

I'm under no illusions here. I am absolutely not a beauty blogger. I do slap on a bit of make-up for work, and have been known to sit in the bath with some kind of green slime smeared on my face, but truth be told I'm more likely to poke my eye out with an eyeliner brush than achieve perfectly formed flicks. However, over the past year or so I've concluded that a quick scrub with a cheap cleanser in the shower is not my best bet, and I've been trying out various new products to add to my growing arsenal of (sob!) anti-ageing weaponry. Today I thought I'd share a few favourite bits that have been doing my skin some minor miracles lately.

I was kindly sent the Kadria balancing face oil with chia and blackseed (£36*) to try, and I'm so glad I did. I've always been a little suspicious of face oils because I don't like the idea of dousing myself in something greasy. I couldn't have been more wrong. This oil has a musky, heady scent that is so soothing before bedtime, and just a few drops nourishes my skin and leaves it feeling soft and supple. I probably wouldn't use this product all year round (just those days when I need a boost of moisture), but it's perfect in winter, although I do prefer to use it before bedtime and opt for something lighter during the day.

Recent beauty favourites

I recently subscribed to Glossybox with a little scepticism after a disappointing run with Birchbox last year (there's only so many lipbalms and 10g sample sachets a girl can take). So far though, Glossybox has been superb, and the Kueshi revitalizing face toner (£8.36) from the January box seems to have got the whole internet talking. It smells beautiful, feels light and fresh and I will definitely be buying it again.

Recent beauty favourites

Whenever I'm due my period I tend to get a few spots on my chin, which can be sore, unpleasant and generally a bit blah. In the past I used to shell out about £30 for a B Kamins acne wash which was a minor miracle for these hormone changes, but when it was withdrawn from the UK market I couldn't source it for love and definitely not money. Since then I've been fruitlessly hunting for an alternative for those 'time of the month' breakouts, and at long last I think I've found it. The Australian Bodycare skin wash (£12.24*) and balancing face cream (£12.20*) contain tea tree oil as a mild antiseptic against spots. The wash leaves my skin feeling fresh and clean but not tight or dry, while the face cream is a great all-rounder. My only minor criticism would be that I'd like to see spf coverage in the face cream, but other than that I love these products and they're now a regular part of my skincare routine.

Recent beauty favourites

Not the best photo of the LancĂ´me bi-facil (£21.50) I'm afraid as I was halfway through the bottle before I got round to photographing it! This eye make-up remover is sheer perfection. I tend to use Bioderma on work days, but if I've slapped on a few extra coats of mascara along with some thick sweeps of gel eyeliner, bi-facil is perfect for soaking off the panda eyes. You have to give it a shake as it separates in the bottle, but it doesn't leave you feeling overly greasy (although I do like to do a sweep with my Bioderma as well as I hate any form of oily feeling on my skin). For lazy people like me it's great as even the darkest eye make-up comes off quickly. I love it.

Recent beauty favourites

Another Glossybox treasure, the Jelly Pong Pong all over glow (£10) skin illuminator should be a staple in everyone's beauty bag as far as I'm concerned. I've tried all kinds of highlighters, (I currently have Benefit, Superdry and Chit Chat sitting in my drawer) but this is far an away the best. I love it because it doesn't have a pink tint. It's more golden, and gives you a lovely dewy glow using just a tiny dab. I adore this product and it's a bargain at £10. I'll absolutely be buying this again.

Recent beauty favourites

I'd love to hear your recent beauty favourites in the comments below!


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Thursday, 5 March 2015

Recent Instagrams

As I peeped out of the bedroom curtains this morning I found myself doing a little jig when I saw that the sun was already well above the rooftops. There's nothing quite like spring to shine some light into your day after the long, dark winter.

The last few weeks have been a flurry of activity, and I've been throwing myself into this and that without much thought. Then last night I had a dream where I was being chased by a hooded figure. I tried to run away but found myself up to my knees in thick, gloopy mud, fruitlessly wading through it as fast as I could but sinking deeper and deeper into the squelch. When I woke up I didn't need to ask Google what this dream could have meant - the meaning was crystal clear. And when I really ask myself what I've actually achieved from all this dashing around, the truth is, very little.

Recently I've been feeling a little frustrated about losing track of things. My email inbox is overflowing, my blog is neglected, DIY has ground to a halt and my wedding plans are non-existent. So this morning on my way to work I decided to quiet the chatter of Twitter, Instagram and emails, put my phone away and spend my bus journey trying to work out exactly why I feel this way.

And then it hit me. I'm busy because I dip into a task, then get sidetracked and go onto something else, which leads to something else, before getting distracted by emails, and then back to the original task. Eventually I find myself with a dozen half started tasks, but nothing done, and I feel overwhelmed by the mess of loose ends. Even now as I write this post I find my mind drifting towards "ooh I must remember to set up a direct debit for the water bill", and "is it bin day today?" and "oh crap I need to text my sister back." So, my new pledge to myself is to focus on one thing at a time from start to finish. I'll let you know where that takes me.

But enough grumping about my busy-ness. This post was supposed to be a little round-up of what I've been up to recently. I'd like to say I've been out frolicking, but the truth is I've been keeping a tight hold of the purse strings recently. After months of sticking my head in the sand I've finally had to face up to the fact that we're getting married this year, and yep, that means planning a wedding. Although I feel like we've done very little, we do have all the big items ticked off, but what's now looming over my head is the prospect of paying for it all. Budgeting has become a big thing in our household. We've had to adjust to our new jobs, a period of unemployment over Christmas, new bills and new responsibilities. Now that the dust has settled a little bit my head is in the right place to start thinking about ways to save money.

Working for a university means I now have the joys of an NUS card, which is very exciting having not been a student for (er hem) over a decade. I've also become one of those people who scours cashback and voucher websites before buying anything online, A couple of weeks ago I was buying a new duvet and was hovering over the 'place order' button on the Next website when I thought I'd have a little peek at voucherbin.co.uk to see if there were any good discounts. I found a 20% off and free delivery codes for Debenhams and saved £18, which made me very happy indeed (plus the duvet is super snuggly and enormous, which is a bonus).

Despite being largely housebound by the rubbish weather and our limited funds, hopefully I'll still have some fun bits and bobs to tell you about. If you don't already follow my Instagram acount you can find me at queenieandthedew.

001 Munch

Nakd very kindly sent me a big box of bars, which was very exciting as I'm a serial snacker and it was nice to know I wasn't scoffing crisps or chocolate. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the wide variety of flavours I hadn't tried before, like rhubarb and custard, bakewell tart and ginger bread. my favourite is still cashew cookie (yum), and as I attempt to slim into my wedding dress they'll be making a regular appearance in my lunchbox.

Nakd bars

I've been trying some new recipes recently, and this Moroccan fish stew from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food was a big hit. 

This evening's #dinner was a yummy @jamieoliver morroccan stewed fish with couscous. #nomnomnom #lbloggers #food #foodporn #eatingclean #eatclean

002 New growth

My new project is the garden, and I'm determined to grow our own veg this year. I sowed some Nasturtium seeds that I found in Poundland and they've since grown into little green plants, which is all very exciting. I also enjoy having a dig in the garden as it's blooming hard work and makes you feel like you've been getting some exercise. With spring coming the bulbs are starting to flower, and I've been slowly wedding the flower beds (our garden is quite big so there's a lot to do) and getting things ready for summer.

First #gardening project of the year - growing nasturtium seeds that I bought in @poundland_uk. Can't wait to see these little beauties flower #greenfingers

My nasturtium seeds have turned into teeny seedlings ������

Pretty spring crocuses on our walk this afternoon #spring #flowers #manchester  #springscoming #crocus #lbloggers

Plant nursery accidentally sent me 18 raspberry canes instead of 6. Eek! Any #Manchester #gardeners want to pick a few up this weekend let me know!   #allotmentgarden #allotment #gardening #vegetables #vegetablepatch #growing #greenfingers


003 Work wear

I've been a very bad blogger what with all these dark, cold mornings, and havem't taken an outfit shot in forever. I have snapped a few pics for my Instagram account though. Here are a couple of recent work outfits that will hopefully make their way onto the blog properly in the not-too-distant future.

Friday's #ootd. Ready for a jug of coffee and a long weekend. Tap for brands. #gpoy #outfit #fridayfun #thankgoditsfriday #lbloggers #fbloggers

Today's #outfit, wearing my big boots so I can trudge through the snow! #ootd #gpoy #fbloggers Tap for brands.

Checked trousers for a Thursday. Tap for brands. #gpoy #outfit #ootd #workwear #fbloggers #lbloggers #bloggers #clawhand

First outing for my new frock for Friday's #ootd. Tap for brands �� #lbloggers #bloggers #clawhand #fbloggers #outfit #gpoy #workwear #wiwt #fridayfun

Love my new two-tone @asos coat with blue trim �� #lbloggers #bloggers #ootd #fbloggers #outfit #gpoy #wiwt

004 Activities

A couple of Saturdays ago I decided to spent my evening catching up on Mr Selfridge with a glass of cava in the bath. I'd forgotten just how lovely a bubble bath can be!

My favourite way to spend a Saturday night #saturdaynight #bathtime #bubblebath #lbloggers
We haven't had much time to dip into Manchester yet, but when I did I loved the mini wheel at night time. It looks like a ferris wheel - far nicer than the huge London Eye (although its speediness made me feel a bit sick!) Hopefully we'll be able to try it soon. 

Never thought I'd say this but I think the #Manchester wheel is officially prettier than the #London eye ����

What have you been up to recently?

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Monday, 2 March 2015

The secret to a good night's sleep

A couple of years ago I was wading through a copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and found myself mulling over her words about sleep, and how important it is to create the right environment that is conducive to a restful night. I've always loved long snoozes, but often find the lure of late night movies or blog reading too tempting. I crawl into bed after midnight and muster just 6 or 7 hours sleep before dragging myself out of bed for work the next day, struggling to shake off the thick fog that clouds my brain (usually with the help of a hefty dose of caffeine). I'd feel groggy, lethargic, grumpy and, well, tired.

When Frank and I moved in together my sleep took a bit more of a battering. It took quite a long time to get used to sharing a bed every night (although thankfully Frank's not a snorer and I'm the one more inclined to hog the duvet). Our mattress was cheap and lumpy, our bed felt too small for my wriggling, and I was woken every morning at 4.50am by the flashing lights and beeping of the corporate recycling lorries outside my window. I convinced myself it was me, yet no amount of calming candles, lavender oil, early nights, bubble baths or meditation seemed to do the trick. Finally one particular night I lay in bed with Frank fast asleep at my side, the cats snoring at my feet, and realised I could see the detail of everything in our room. The flashing lights of the router, the pathetic unlined curtains, the street lamps outside, the lights on my mobile phone. No wonder I was sleeping so badly and feeling so crappy in the morning.

When we moved to Manchester I made a vow to put Gretchen's theories to the test and create a bedroom that was a tranquil space with a luxury bed, full of fresh morning light during the day, but pitch black and restful at night. We plumped for a shade of sage green with off-white woodwork, the thickest, fully lined black-out curtains I could find, and turned our attention to the bed. Normally I would have satisfied myself with a cheap bed frame and mattress from Ikea, but this time I new I wanted something better quality. Foregoing my usual online clothes shopping trips, I scoured website after website looking for beds, and was sorely tempted by some beautiful four poster beds that I spotted online (but would sadly leave little room for manoeuvring around).

Despite our main bedroom not being huge (although it's deceptively bigger than the photo below), we eventually decided on a king size antique metal frame with a way-more-expensive-than-we're-used-to pocket sprung mattress and an all-season feather duvet. It turned out to be the perfect plan, and despite the sting of paying a bit more for the mattress and curtains, I haven't consistently slept this well in months.


I'm looking forward to giving you a proper house tour once we've completely finished decorating. I still need to buy a couple of lamps and side tables, a lampshade and all those other nick nacks that seem to add up. But one thing's sure, as I stretch out in my huge bed under my cosy duvet in the pitch black, saving up some pennies and spending them wisely has given me the best nights' sleep I can remember.


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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Treasured possessions

If you've read my blog for a little while, you may have noticed that I'm quite a sentimental soul, with a tendency to hoard all manner of trinkets, whether it's theatre tickets, favourite books or tidbits from my childhood. I've always been quite sensitive I think, absorbing a lot of what's around me, whether that's chaos, mundanity, negativity or calm, and my environment has a big impact on my mental wellbeing. If the house is untidy I feel like the contents of my head might spill out onto the carpet. When it's grubby I feel fizzy and dissatisfied until I've vacuumed the carpets and scrubbed the bathroom, and when my inbox is a mess I feel gloomy and stressed. Today I had a mini Twitter meltdown as I contemplated the hamster wheel that seems to spit me out on a regular basis because I simply can't keep up (above all feeling like I'm letting people down by being flaky, uncommunicative and disorganised). Knowing my tendency to feel overwhelmed and how a shoddy environment can exacerbate that, surrounding myself with reassuring possessions has always been important to me.

I've never been one for raiding the home section in Next (although their curtains are amazing) or covering my walls in generic prints of flowers or the New York skyline. One of my favourite feelings is to lift up the lid of my stationary box and picture the colourful chaos of the Egyptian bazar it came from, or at the end of a long day pop my watch and engagement ring into the little silver dish that I inherited from my grandmother. Lots of the things around me: the paintings, vases, plants and books harbour strong memories that ignite all kinds of imagination. They remind me that my troubles are a tiny stitch in the vast tapestry of family, history, friendship and life. They bring me back to centre and help me feel calm.

So when I was asked by More Than (who incidentally I have both pet and house insurance with and genuinely can't recommend them enough) which three possessions I treasure most, I knew it would be a challenge. I flitted between dozens of options: the charm bracelet my beloved uncle gave me as a baby, my engagement ring, my first pair of shoes, childhood family photos or the postcard Frank sent me after we broke up to try and win me back. After much deliberation, head scratching and face contorting, I came up with these...

001 The kitty cats

I realise this is a grade one cliche cat lady/pet owner choice, but without a doubt the two possessions I cherish the most are my two cats, Socks (aka 'the little one' or pussykins) and Splodge (aka 'the fat one'/Lady Tubbington/tubs/fatty-bo-batty/fatty boom boom). Yes they're not the prettiest of cats (my Instagram feed is crammed with beautiful fluffy tabbies draped over crisp white bed sheets, enough to make Splodge look like a cave troll in comparison), but in the last 8 years they have loved me unconditionally regardless of whether I'm at my worst or at my best. Yes they seem to adore me a teensy bit more around teatime and a little less on vet days, and seem to flit between being incredibly annoying and frustratingly aloof, but their companionship, affection and downright weirdness have kept me going even in my weakest moments. These two know my deepest, darkest secrets. They've sat patiently with my head buried in their fur sobbing in wretched agony. They welcome me home each day with a chirrup, a meow and a brush against my legs. They sleep every night, one on my head and one at my feet. They follow me around the house all day, insist on sitting on my lap while I type (or better yet across the keyboard) and incite genuine jealousy when they splay on Frank's lap and turn to me with a smug smile.  Life without them? I can't even...

Puss cats

002 This painting

This painting, given to me by my sister for my 30th birthday, is special to me not just because of the giver or the occasion, but because it depicts the place I spent most of my childhood. I wish I could express the flood of memories that washes over me every time I look at this muddle of paper, paint and wood, but I don't think I could do it justice, and only one other person in the world knows what it was like to spend most of our childhood perched on the top of the white cliffs of Dover. We grew up in a little village on top of this cliff, set back slightly, nestled in vast swathes of countryside (a little of which I blogged about here). The screech of seagulls, the smell of fresh farm manure, the hiss of insects and the whipping of wind through the barley was our soundtrack. Having lived in various cities, I now realise how lucky I was to grow up with nature all around me, be it the crashing waves against the white rock or the crunch of twigs in the undergrowth. For me, this picture represents gratitude, longing, sadness and hope.

treasured possessions

003 This jumble of metal and glass

No one is more surprised than me that my mobile phone made it into my top 3 possessions. Truth be told I hate the thing, and anyone will tell you what a terror I am at remembering to reply to messages or answering calls. I'll happily leave my phone with a dead battery down the side of the sofa for two days without another thought. And yet. Buried in this phone are a million photos, phrases, thoughts and texts that are simply irreplaceable. For every snap I share on my Instagram there must be 50 that I flick through from time to time, capturing treasured memories that would otherwise melt into obscurity. I also jot down little lists of memories, quotes, music recommendations, restaurants to try and dreams I've had that make my life feel richer. Having had my phone stolen before, I remember feeling more sad about these lost treasures than the inconvenience it caused.

treasured possessions

What are your three most treasured possessions?


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