Saturday, 1 December 2018

31 Days of Gifts

Whether the build up to Christmas makes you slightly stressed or you count down the days joyfully, you might still enjoy having an Advent Calendar, with the fun of opening a box every day that contains a small gift. Today I'd like to introduce you to an Advent Calendar with a difference, one that doesn't cost you a small fortune: it's the 31 Days of Gifts You so Deserve, which is an Advent Calendar for your Inbox. It will certainly make a welcome change from your Inbox overflowing with dozens of emails about Black Friday and Cyber Monday! If you click on the link above you can find out more.

I've taken part in previous years and have loved the recipes, playlists, inspiration and other themes for each day. If you decide to sign up for it, I'm sure you will enjoy the gifts as much as I have. Courtney Carver, who is the creator of 31 Days of Gifts, is also the inspiration behind Project 333. Don't worry if you don't sign up until after December 1st, as Courtney will make sure you don't miss out. At the end of each email there will be links to the previous gifts.

Decléor Advent Calendar

I should now confess that I've also treated myself to the Decléor Advent Calendar as shown above! I know that I will use all the products that it contains and the smaller sizes are ideal when travelling with hand luggage only. In previous years I have bought Beauty Advent Calendars and discovered that many of the products weren't ones that I would use.  I'm now wary of spending lots of money to buy products that in theory would cost a lot more, giving me great savings, but in practice aren't ones that I would normally buy. It means that I'm wasting my money rather than saving it. This time at least I know that I will be getting value for my money.

However I still suspect that I will get as much pleasure from my daily gifts from Courtney as from the more expensive Decleor products. If you decide to sign up for the 31 Days of Gifts too, I hope that you will enjoy them. Please let me know in the comments below what you think of this or any other Advent Calendar that you decide to purchase.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Black Friday - in the red Monday?


It's oh so tempting, isn't it? All these incredible offers that are causing our inboxes to overflow and popping up on Facebook to lure us onto their websites. Even if you manage to resist them, no doubt your local shops have huge signs in their windows that you can't avoid seeing when you go out.

 Yes, even in Spain I'm being inundated with exclusive offers!

If you haven't already succumbed, I would suggest taking a look in your wardrobe before maxing on your credit card to see if you really need anything new. If your winter coat is looking a bit shabby and you've been thinking of replacing it, maybe this would be a good opportunity to do so - unless of course you already have six other winter coats that are still looking good! Will this new jumper that you're about to purchase go with at least three other items in your wardrobe, or will you need a new skirt and pair of shoes to go with it? That dress is definitely in one of this season's on-trend colours, but will that colour actually suit you?

If I haven't managed to put you off making some impulsive purchases, I have a final suggestion. Make a list of what you need first, then please consider making your purchases from an ethical company like People Tree, who are having a Fair Friday instead of a Black Friday. Click on the following link to find out more: People Tree.

Monday, 19 November 2018

My Autumn 33 piece wardrobe

I know that we're well into autumn, and winter is fast approaching, but isn't the old saying "Better late than never"? This is my Autumn 33 piece capsule wardrobe, which is in the spirit of Project 333, though I confess that I don't follow it to the letter. The idea behind Project 333 is to have a capsule wardrobe of 33 items or less to last you for 3 months. Many people include accessories, however I restrict myself to items of clothing. You may recognise the first 8 items, as they are the pieces that I chose for the 10 x 10 challenge.

My regular readers know how much I love colour, though I am trying to include more neutrals in my wardrobe as I know that will make it more versatile. As well as the brown trousers and navy jeans shown above, I have included bottoms in camel, dark grey, burgundy and another navy pair. There's a navy cardigan, a bronze belted cardigan, a brown tweed jacket plus a navy and grey striped jacket. My outerwear consists of a short burgundy jacket, a longer beige puffer jacket and a navy wool coat. I do hope that you're suitably impressed!

Did somebody mention that there's a red skirt shown below with a matching top? Well spotted! In my defence, we are approaching the party season, so I have added those two pieces as they can be worn together or separately and are ideal for Christmas time.

My accents colours are shades of red, orange, green and blue. If my outfit of the day is one of the navy striped tops with the navy cardigan and bottoms, I'll probably add my red bag or other red accessories to brighten it up.

I am also trying to include as many of my Autumn palette colours as possible, although I'm not going to throw out every piece of clothing that I possess that is in a "wrong" colour!

Let's finish with the mathematics. In my Autumn 33 piece wardrobe there are seven bottoms if you include the skirt, though it will probably only be worn for parties. I have seventeen tops and I may very well wear the red top shown beside the skirt with a pair of  trousers in the daytime. If I multiply 7 by 17 it will give me a total of 119 possible combinations, which is more than enough to give me a different outfit each day during the next three months. 

However some of the combinations won't really look that good, so I worked out how many of them were outfits I would actually wear and the figure was eighty, which I think is still pretty impressive. I haven't even mentioned adding one of the two jackets or two cardigans. Let's not forget the outerwear, which I'm already wearing now that it's becoming colder in Spain and will definitely need when I'm in the UK.

Talking about mathematics, I do know that I'm only showing 32 pieces of clothing here and it is proof that you don't need a huge wardrobe to create lots of different outfits, but I reserve the right to add a final piece when I go to London next month to spend Christmas with my family! 

Of the pieces shown above, only six items have been added since last year, and they have replaced clothing that has been taken to the recycling bins. "Be more with less" is the name of Courtney's website where you'll find out about Project 333. I think it's a motto that we should all adopt. What do you think? 

PS Exciting news: I am taking part in the UK Blog Awards for the first time! If you'd like to vote for me (pretty please!) click on the following link. I'm under the category Fashion, and I'd love it if you clicked on my heart! 

Friday, 9 November 2018

10 x 10 challenge - part two

The second part of the challenge was (dare I say it?) a bit more challenging, as on days seven to ten I had to wear tops that I had already worn, but ensure that the outfits were completely different. I made sure that I wore different bottoms with each top, but also used accessories to change my look.

On day six I wore my new cardigan (which can be belted or worn loose as in the photo below), which is already proving its worth now that temperatures are dropping.

Day 6 outfit

Day 7 outfit
Day 8 outfit
For the second half of the challenge I pulled out a few scarves from my collection and wore those rather than necklaces to change the look of my outfits. I also swapped my red bag for a bright blue one, which I carried on the days I wore my navy jeans. If you're creating a capsule wardrobe for a holiday, these are good ways to add more variety to your looks without paying excess baggage fees!

Day 9 outfit
Day 10 outfit
Having survived the 10 x 10 challenge, limiting myself to ten items of clothing over the last ten days, I'm now looking forward to Project 333 and expanding my Autumn wardrobe to thirty three pieces! Did any of you take part in this challenge, or are you all waiting for Project 333?

Friday, 2 November 2018

Are you a conscious shopper?

Those of you who live in the UK, or have access to the BBC's iPlayer, may have seen a programme in the series "Stacey Dooley Investigates", where she uncovered some of  Fashion's Dirty Secrets. If not, you might like to look at this clip, where Stacey took to the street to talk to shoppers and to demonstrate to them how much water goes into producing just one cotton item. The actual documentary upset me, especially when Stacey travelled to the Aran Sea and showed the shocking environmental impact caused by the fashion industry, but even worse was the detrimental effect of the polluted rivers on local children's health.

I know that I've been as guilty as many other shoppers when hunting for a bargain to add to my ever-increasing wardrobe. Taking part in challenges such as Project 333 and my current 10 x 10 challenge is helping me realise that I really don't need that many clothes, however we have to be realistic. I go through my wardrobe at the start of each new season, discarding anything that is past its best (nowadays I take them to the recycling bins) and this does create gaps. However I have resolved to shop more consciously in future and look at the ethical policies of any on-line companies that I am considering purchasing from. My latest purchases were from Mint Velvet, a company that is based in the UK although they deliver internationally. Click on the link above to read their ethical policy.

Mint Velvet top
This new red top instantly became my latest favourite, partly because red is one of my best colours, but also because of the gold stripes down each arm. Even better, it was in the sales!

One of my favourite online companies is Kettlewell, as they specialise in producing clothes and accessories in seasonal colours. You can read about their production and ethics here and I also recommend reading their blog. Other British companies that I have used are People Tree, the fairtrade fashion pioneer, and FatFace, who issued a '360' sustainability policy in 2016. Friends of mine have also recommended Thought and Seasalt. Although these are UK companies, they do deliver internationally. Do you have any ethical companies that you can recommend? If so please leave a comment below with details.

You might also like to read this blog post of mine that I wrote five and a half years ago. Have things improved since then? It doesn't look like it, so it is up to all of us to shop more consciously and spread the message. What I do know, having worked for a while in the retail industry, is that the big companies are interested in profits. If we become conscious shoppers and it hits their profits, they are more likely to do something about it - sad but true!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

10 x 10 Challenge - part one

I'm half-way through the challenge and so far it's been pretty easy. After all I have six tops and two pairs of trousers to choose from, with two jackets to keep me warm when walking into town. I'm also able to choose shoes and accessories to suit each outfit. I know that the real challenge will come on day seven when I have to wear the tops with a different pair of trousers. I did face a small challenge on day four, when it was bitterly cold and pouring with rain and I realised that neither jacket was warm enough to go out in. Reader, I had to cheat slightly and wear a trench-coat over my jacket!

Day one

Day two
On reflection, day one's outfit was a bit monochromatic for me and would have been better with a brighter necklace or scarf. I did take my red bag though when I went out, which brightened it up. I carried my Monet bag (bought in the shop in Giverny) on day two, which toned with the trousers.

Day three
Day four
Here I am wearing my favourite stripes on day three. This time I remembered to grab my red bag before taking the photo. On day four I was wearing this warm top however, as I said, I still needed my cardigan jacket with the trench-coat on top. It's not always sunny in Spain!

Day five

On day five I added a scarf, which blended with my top and jeans. plus a splash of red. I think I will have to hide this red bag before I start the next five days - that way I can ensure that at least three outfits will have changed! Tomorrow is a holiday in Spain, so I will have time to plan my five outfits for the rest of the challenge.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Autumn 10 x 10 Challenge

I'm working on my capsule wardrobe for Autumn (a.k.a. Fall in some countries!) and hope to reveal my Autumn 33 capsule soon. In the meantime I spotted a new 10 x 10 Challenge and thought it would be the ideal starting point. The idea is to choose 10 items of clothing to wear over the next 10 days, combining them in a variety of ways so that you create 10 different outfits. Click on the link above for more inspiration from Leanne of Classy Yet Trendy. If this challenge proves successful, I will add to the ten pieces to form a complete capsule of 33 pieces to wear over the next 3 months, as part of Project 333.

The easiest way to do this challenge is to pick mainly neutrals for the ten items, but I've never been one to choose the easy way and I do love colour, as regular readers will testify! Before selecting my pieces I checked the weather forecast for the next week and to my dismay saw that temperatures are due to fall (sorry - just had to use that pun), so I have chosen warmer clothing than I've been wearing recently.

The good news is that accessories don't have to be included in your ten items, so I have several scarves and wraps on stand-by as well as a variety of shoes, bags and jewellery.

Why don't you choose your ten pieces and join me in the challenge? It's Saturday today, so a good day to start. If you decide to join in, please let me know and tell us all how you get on with the challenge.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Revisiting Fashion Feng Shui

Having gone through my Autumn colour swatch from Style Yourself Confident, and having discovered that I loved most of the 33 colours it contained, I realised that I would need to be sensible and choose just a few of them for my Autumn wardrobe. However, how was I going to decide which ones were my best colours? I decided to revisit Fashion Feng Shui to see if that would help.

Click on the link above if you want to find out more about the five Feng Shui types: it's a post I wrote four years ago, as well as posts describing each type. Most of us are a mix of the different types, both in the way we look and in our personalities. In my case I have the rectangular shape of a Wood type, with the hair and eye colours of a Water and the skin colour of a Metal. What about the essential me though? I'm mainly a sporty, casual Wood, but I do like the creative elements of Water and occasionally I can be a dramatic Fire!
Floral and stripes are typical Wood patterns

Wardrobe for a Wood

As you can see above, blue and green are ideal colours for a Wood. Dark colours suit Water types, whereas light colours are best for Metals. You won't be surprised to hear that red is a good colour for Fires! As for those Earth types, yellows and browns in particular suit them.

By revisiting Fashion Feng Shui, I am hoping that my evolving wardrobe will not only contain clothes in Autumn colours that go well with my personal colouring, but also clothes that reflect my authentic self and my intention, as described in Feng Shui terms. Parisian chic anybody? 😉

Neutrals will form the basis of my Autumn wardrobe and I've gone for dark chocolate brown, olive, camel, autumn grey and marine navy. I have several greens and blues in my palette, but I particularly like the lime green and jade green as well as turquoise, teal blue and dark periwinkle blue. Finally, I am adding in bright orange red and dark tomato red for when I fancy a bit of drama, plus oyster and gold for a more elegant look!

My intention is first to shop my wardrobe, as I know that I have lots of clothes in Autumnal colours already. I've reduced the 33 colours to the 14 given above, which may still be too many. I intend working on my Autumn 33 over the next few days, so watch this space to discover which items of clothing I select and which of the 14 colours make the final cut!

Thursday, 4 October 2018

End of my colour journey?

Over the six years since I started writing this blog, I have taken various colour analyses, both online and in person, with varying results. Putting it into "seasonal" terms I have been both a Jewel Winter and a Spring. When it comes to "tonal analysis", I have been classified as: warm and soft; soft, warm and medium; or (in what I felt was a very detailed analysis using 7 Steps to Style) as warm, smoky and deep aka Enigmatic. Warm and soft would appear to be a common theme - apart from my Jewel Winter result, that is!

The one thing that I've found consistent in my search for my most flattering colours is that there have been colours in each system (whether seasonal or tonal) that really don't suit me! How can that be? I think that may be the reason why I have continued with the search to discover my best colours. Recently I came across Pamela Graham of Style Yourself Confident, who uses both seasonal and tonal analysis, depending on which system suits the individual best.

I have to say that I like Pamela's approach and have been very impressed with the results.  I was happy to be told that I'm an Autumn, as it's a season that I really love. Pamela sent me loads of photos and explained how she came to her decision as well as giving me comprehensive booklets full of helpful advice.

Going back to the question of whether I am warm (which did seem the most frequent response) or cool, here are the two colour palettes with me in the centre.

In case this isn't that obvious, the next two examples show me surrounded by Winter and Autumn colours. I think it's a lot clearer which set of colours suit me best.

Although I had liked many of my Winter colours, the icy ones did me no favours at all, so it was a relief to see the Autumn colours, many of which already feature in my wardrobe, and to feel confident that I would be happy to wear them all.

 Pamela is very down to earth and realises that we can't afford to throw away all the clothes in our wardrobes that are in the "wrong" colours so she has given me lots of practical advice. The important thing is to wear the most flattering colours near my face. Luckily I already have brown, camel, olive green and some navy in my wardrobe, which are all good Autumn neutrals to form the basis of my Autumn wardrobe. I can then build on this with some of the lovely accent colours in my palette: turquoise, teal blue, jade green, salmon and dark tomato red all appeal to me.  I'm looking forward to developing my new Autumn wardrobe and will share my findings with you in future blog posts.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Family celebrations & holiday in Ljubljana

Faced with the challenge of packing for six days in the UK plus five in Ljubljana, with one day in Alicante both before and after my holiday, I tried not to panic. I had the advantage of a suitcase in the hold, which meant I wasn't limited in the number of clothes I could pack, however my trip was going to include a visit to north-east England as well as Slovenia. The solution, you won't be surprised to hear, was to create a travel capsule with plenty of layers.

My new summer skirt
Regular readers know that I'm a "jeans and t-shirt" fan, so I only have a few dresses and skirts in my wardrobe, however I discovered this skirt recently in a local shop. I thought I would only wear it in Ljubljana when going out for dinner, however it was lovely and sunny in South Shields for my cousin's Golden Wedding Anniversary celebrations, so I wore it there too.

There be dragons!
 My two daughters, Vicky and Kate, came to Ljubljana with me, so my birthday holiday was extra special. We did a walking tour of the city, which included tickets to the Castle, where we found out about the famous Ljubljana Dragon.

Having lunch in Bled Castle, overlooking the lake
Another highlight of our holiday was a trip to Lake Bled. We walked up to Bled Castle, but splashed out on a taxi for our return trip (our excuse being that it saved valuable sight-seeing time!)

Apart from my green skirt, I packed a pair of jeans (for the UK), smart navy trousers, beige cotton trousers and a lightweight navy patterned pair. I took the tops I had worn for my 10 x 10 challenge, plus a couple more, making sure that they would go with all of my bottoms. My colour scheme was neutrals of navy and beige (plus my olive skirt) with accents of red, orange, coral and blue. I also packed my favourite red trench-coat as well as a short-sleeved coral jumper and a navy cardigan in case it was chilly up north (it wasn't!)

We all loved Ljubljana (even though it was full of other tourists!) as it is a beautiful city, plus the locals were very friendly and spoke good English, though they also appreciated our attempts to speak some Slovenian. We rented an apartment close to the city centre, with the idea that we could cook for ourselves, but there were so many good restaurants beside the river that we ate out most days. This time I had packed some dressy tops for changing into in the evening, so there was no need to do any hand washing!

Although I'm not a travel blogger, I thought I would share some other photos from our holiday in Slovenia.

We enjoyed a boat trip along the Ljubljanica river

One of many lovely squares, with the castle in the background

More like a country scene than a city view!

View from Ljubljana Castle

Ljubljana Castle

View of Bled Castle from the lake
Our boat was driven only by manpower!

We went by boat to the island in the middle of Lake Bled

Bled Castle

View over Lake Bled from the castle

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

10x10 challenge - the outfits

The first five days weren't going to be too difficult, as all I had to do was select five different tops to go with my three pairs of trousers. However over the next five days I would need to repeat some of the tops and ensure that I wore them with different trousers, which is when I realised that patterns weren't necessarily a good idea. One to remember when packing for my next holiday!

Yes, I had two patterned trousers and two patterned tops in my ten  items, which definitely won't go together. My three plain tops though are more versatile.

A practical problem arose because of the hot and at times muggy weather, making me a bit sweaty over the ten day challenge (Sorry, too much information!). As I was at home and not on holiday, it was easy enough to wash my clothes when necessary during the ten days, however I cheated when I went out one evening to an event in Jumilla Castle and wore a different outfit that wasn't in my original selection.

I'm now planning an eleven day trip to the UK and to Slovenia.  That's definitely going to be challenging (though I've paid for a case in the hold on my flights) however I've learnt a few lessons from doing this challenge. I'll be packing more than ten items but I'll still be creating a capsule that will mix and match.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Summer 2018: 10x10 Challenge.

I thought it was time that I tried out another challenge and this one is only for 10 days so hopefully it won't be too - er - challenging!

The idea behind this challenge - in case it isn't patently obvious to you! - is to choose 10 items of clothing to wear over the next 10 days, ensuring that you don't repeat yourself and that you create 10 different outfits. I guess that if you have 10 dresses in your wardrobe that you can wear each day it would be quite straightforward, but my wardrobe mainly consists of separates and my "go-to" uniform is trousers and tops.


I chose seven tops as shown above and the following three pairs of trousers, so clearly I need to wear a few tops more than once. The items I selected are mainly cotton and linen and most are loose-fitting, as temperatures in Spain at the moment are in the mid to high 30s (that's degrees Centigrade), so being cool and comfortable is high on my list of priorities

Having chosen my ten items, I immediately realised that I had limited my options a bit by choosing two patterned tops and two pairs of patterned trousers, which clearly won't go together. If this was a holiday capsule I'd make some changes, but as I'm at home and can wash things over the next 10 days it won't really matter.

My plan is to post photos of my outfits, probably in two lots of five, so you can see how it worked out. If you decide to take part in this challenge please let me know how you get on.

The inspiration for doing this challenge came from Leanne of Classy Yet Trendy, who writes about capsule wardrobes and creates many different e-books. If you click on the above link you can find out more. So - anyone want to join me?

Monday, 30 July 2018

Wedding in Florence & sightseeing in Rome

The wedding in Florence was absolutely amazing, and I am sure that my friend Callie thinks that in the end it was worth all the angst caused by her dealings with bureaucracy both in the UK and Italy! In the photo below you can see the beautiful Villa le Piazzole where the wedding reception and evening celebrations took place, after the wedding mass in the lovely Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli in Florence. I have shared some beautiful photos of Callie and Emilio's wedding on my Facebook page.

My wedding outfit
How did my travel capsule work for sightseeing in Florence and Rome? It proved very versatile, however I hadn't quite allowed for how hot and sweaty I would get walking around the two cities and that I would feel the need to change my outfit every evening after showering, so I needed two outfits per day!  Luckily I was able to wash a couple of tops plus a dress (after a waitress spilt my glass of prosecco over  it in Florence!) I bought the red striped top shown below in the sales in Rome and the one in the second picture was bought in the sales in Alicante, so I had plenty of clothes to wear. The only item of clothing that I never wore was my blue jacket, which I had taken "just in case".

La Bocca della Verità
I wasn't as nervous as Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday" when I put my hand in La Bocca - but there again, I hadn't been telling any fibs!

Sight-seeing in beautiful Florence

The Colosseum - where else?
I had booked a tour of the Colosseum on-line, with tickets for entry at 08.45. It was definitely worth arriving early, as it wasn't too hot while we were walking about plus it wasn't very crowded when we entered, though it became a lot busier later on.
I couldn't miss the Spanish Steps!
 It is impossible to see everything in Rome when you're only there for 4 days, though I did visit the Trevi fountain one evening and throw in a coin, so I'm definitely returning some time! I had also booked a tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, which was amazing. A shame, though understandable, that you can't take photos in the Chapel.

Another highlight for me was the Galleria Borghese, which is set in lovely gardens. I rather liked the Rules for the Villa!

I am very grateful to my daughters for joining me on my first holiday without John. Kate came to Florence with me for the wedding (travelling via Rome) and then she flew back to London while Vicky kept me company in Rome. They made it a lovely memorable holiday for me.