Blush pink...

Picking a Christmas outfit is always tricky, you have to be able to eat insane amounts of food (I can't be the only one to have eaten 10 tons of cheese over the past few days, right?!) but still look (relatively) dressy. My family have always dressed up for Christmas and Boxing Day but Mark's family are always slightly less OTT so this year I had to tread the line between smart and casual which I always find really difficult. I had been planning on either wearing this dress or this dress but when Mark and I were in town on 23rd, I spotted this lacy beauty in one of the charity shops in Tewkesbury (yes I may have a bit of a thing for lace dresses!)

Dress: Debut at Debenhams via charity shop, tights: Tesco, shoes: Office
I was originally a little unsure of the colour as pastels can make me look really washed out but with the black belt and strong make-up, I think I managed to pull this blush pink/ lilac colour off. I really love the lace overlay and it was an outfit I felt really comfortable in, even after eating my own body weight in mince pies.
The dress was originally from the Debut range at Debenhams and I think it shows in the cut and fit of it, this was clearly designed for a special occasion and it made me feel really elegant when I was wearing it- a very strange feeling for someone as clumsy as me!

Oversized bows are always the way forward...
I imagine this would look really lovely with nude tights or bare legs come the warmer weather but the single digit temperatures convinced me to wear my trusty black opaques instead. These cosy tights were a Tesco bargain and I have been wearing them non-stop. 40 deniers just don't cut it in this weather but unless I am outside for a prolonged period of time, the Primark fleece lined tights are just too warm for a radiator like me so these 60 deniers are perfect!

How do you pick a party frock? What did you wear for Christmas?

Christmas snapshots...

I have been slightly AWOL over the past week as I have been catching up on some sleep and spending Christmas with my family and friends. As usual, Mark and I had 3 (!) Christmases; one for us and our friends, one with Mark's family and one with mine. As you can imagine, it was very busy and filled with lots of amazing food, drink and fun and we had the most amazing time. I will be sharing my festive outfits (sneak peek here!) but here are a few of my Christmas highlights in the meantime...

Our Christmas tree went up very late this year (only 5 days ago in fact!) thanks to the leak in our ceiling but it did shake me out of my Grinch-like slump when I saw it twinkling away in the corner!

A sparkly jumper dress, leggings and my lovely new slippers from Mark were my outfit of choice on Christmas Eve, cosiness and stretchiness is key to a good Christmas outfit in my opinion...

Especially when you have to eat a roast dinner three days in a row! ;)

Mark and I have concluded that it is pretty much impossible to get a picture where we both look nice- I'm not sure what is happening with my face here! 

Me and my two sisters- can you tell that we are related?! 

We weren't sure what to get people this year for Christmas so we decided that Kilner jars filled with the ingredients for yummy oaty cookies are always a winning combination and  it was really fun choosing what extra ingredients to add to the jars- don't the layers look lovely! 

Of course we had to make a few for ourselves to do a quality test on the recipe and I can report that the cookies are lovely! 

We went out for a few drinks with our friends on Christmas Eve and so I swapped one sparkly dress for another! This gorgeous tinsel dress was from ASOS and I was so excited to wear it although I wish I had worn a slip underneath it, it was pretty itchy by the end of the evening! I just realised that this is an extremely 80s looking outfit with the leggings and pointy shoes (I'm pretty sure there's a photo of my Mum wearing something similar 25 years ago!) but I really loved it and itchiness excluded, it was a really comfy outfit and perfect for hiding my food baby ;)

Where did you spend Christmas? 

The perfect party dress...

When it comes to party dresses, I am pretty fussy, it has to be comfortable enough to wear all day (and night), not be too short or revealing, have some kind if interesting detail and it HAS to make me feel like a million dollars. If I can also dance in it, then that is just the icing on the cake! When Marks and Spencer got in touch recently about featuring a party look, I was ecstatic, "good old M&S" are one of my favourite brands and they certainly know how to make a fantastic party dress! I chose this beautiful lace dress but strangely I chose the black version rather than the red - definitely an unusual choice for me! Although I loved the red, I agreed with Mark that 4 (!) Little Red Dresses may be excessive and actually I thought that the black looked much more elegant (does this mean that I am growing up?!) I actually wore this dress to my work's Christmas do last week and not only did it manage to pull off the infamous work to bar switch, it got so many compliments- definitely a winner in my eyes!

Dress: c/o Marks and Spencer, belt: Primark, tights: John Lewis, shoes: Clarks, excited face: model's own!

As soon as I saw the gorgeously detailed lace and slightly higher Victorian inspired collar, I was sold. Although the dress looked relatively short on both me and the model, the high neckline meant it didn't feel at all revealing. Not to sound too smug but I think I have pretty nice legs and this dress gave me a chance to show them off! It was really difficult to try and get a photo of this but my tights are actually a dark charcoal grey rather than black, much more interesting than my usual 40 deniers but not overpowering... I was originally going to wear heels with this but actually I think it looks better with flats, another plus for me! 

A slightly blurry picture but I also really loved the sleeves on this dress, I know that sleeves can be a deal-breaker for some people and these do not disappoint. Isn't the lace gorgeous?!

I wanted to show off the sleeves and collar so I kept my hairdo simple and fuss-free; a messy bun only looks better as the day wears on! I decided to attempt liquid eyeliner which was a total success despite it being about 5.30 in the morning and paired it with a glossy red lip, simple but still suitably festive! 

I kept the rest of the accessories simple and as I didn't have a chunky collar necklace to wear with this (any recommendations?) I added this skinny gold belt to break it up a bit which matched perfectly with my nails (Angel's Fire by Max Factor FYI)

What do you look for in a party dress? Any ideas where I can get a good collar necklace from?

P.S. Marks and Spencer sent me this outfit for review

Little black dress...

Despite my well-documented love of colour, I do have a soft spot for that perennial style classic: the little black dress. My LBD of choice is this one from Tesco- I love the fit of it and I can imagine it looking good on anyone and everyone. This has seen me through many a business meeting, meals out with friends and family and even my Grandad's funeral earlier this year- not bad for a mere £7! What I like most about this dress is how simple it is, there is a time and place for embellishment and fancy details but this makes the perfect blank canvas. Luckily, it even works without me having to wear heels, there's nothing worse than having to wear heels when you have a day's worth of meetings! These photos were another bunch that were taken earlier in the year but I wore the exact same outfit the other day and forgot to take photos, so thought I would use these instead! This outfit is never going to set the fashion world alight but it is made up of some of my favourite items of clothing and it tends to be the kind of thing I wear to work on a day to day basis- basics can be fun too! ;) 

Coat: Dannimac via Mum, dress: Tesco, cardigan: BHS from Mark's mum, belt: New Look, shoes: French Sole c/o Spartoo
This cardigan is another one of the hardest working pieces in my wardrobe, it was originally hip length but I somehow managed to shrink the body of it in the wash (weirdly the rest of the fit stayed the same!) It is 100% wool so massively warm but with temperature being so variable in the office, it is a really good layer to have around, especially as it scrumples folds down into nothing in my bag! 

The dress has a knot detail at the waist (which actually  sits at waist height on me- rejoice!) which normally offers enough decoration but you know how much I like to match things and so out came my trusty leopard print belt! I really like the draping on this dress, it doesn't look too much like it is trying to disguise my lumps and bumps which some ruching can. Ruching is supposed to skim elegantly over my love handles, not cling to them unforgivingly! 

I have just noticed the rogue hair attached to my arm here, how annoying!
These French Sole shoes are so comfy and the red trimmed leopard print is just tacky fun enough to put a spring in your step. What's the use of a blank canvas if you don't jazz it up a little?! 

Where is your favourite little black dress from? How do you jazz up work outfits? 

Goodies from the Clothes Show- what did I buy?

The Clothes Show can be more than a little overwhelming and the urge to buy as many things as you can possibly get your hands on can be difficult to resist! Luckily, I have been before and so I had an idea of the kind of things I wanted to pick up. Beauty stuff is always much cheaper there and luckily I had my wing-woman Selina with me to help hunt down the bargains! A lot of the magazines offer 'goody bags' but it is definitely worth looking around before you buy anything as some are much better than others and you have to be realistic about what you will actually use/read! I hadn't bought any magazines for a while so I was pleased when I saw this Cosmopolitan and Company goody bag. I paid a grand total of £3 for this, including two magazines, which definitely makes it worth it. Especially for the train journey home!

Models Own make some of the best nail varnishes around and I love the range of colours and finishes that they have - their stall was INSANE and even had a giant glittery nail varnish in the middle of it. Definitely my favourite stall! They usually have all kinds of good deals on and this year was no different - you could choose 3 polishes for £10 (usually £5 each) and then you got given a goody bag with £65 worth of products including the official Clothes Show nail varnish 'Show Stopper'. 

This gorgeous chunky bluey-green glitter polish was designed to match the dress worn by the CSL ambassador Jade Thompson and it is a really lovely shade, even if it is impossible to photograph! I can't wait to try this properly and I imagine it will breathe a new lease of life into my pastel coloured polishes...

Can you tell that I am a bit of a magpie?! As you can see, I honed in on ALL THE SHINY POLISHES and picked up some of the 'Velvet Goth' range to try too. I was really tempted by the navy and I would have loved the Absinthe green but I went for shades I knew I would get the most wear from (how boring!) The Hedkandki one is a lot less yellowy in the bottle but I just could not get it to photograph properly!

Velvet Goth Amethyst, Velvet Goth Sardonyx (which would be an amazing name for an Asterix character!) and Hedkandi Disco Heaven

This was the contents of the goody bag (along with a silvery eye shadow which I have already lost in the depths of my bag!) I haven't tried much of their make-up but I have high hopes for the chunky kohl! I was really pleased to see the 'shape it buffit' too, I got one about 18 months ago but I broke it recently and hadn't got round to buying a new one so this couldn't have come at a better time!

I have always had fairly problematic skin and although I don't tend to have as many flare ups any more (now I've done it!) my skin still needs a lot of TLC and I am always looking for the holy grail products that will give me glowing, spot free skin. Clarins are renowned for their skincare and I was super excited to try out their Multi Active Collection. I paid £15 for this which is amazing considering the amount of product you get! 

Inside you get a 50 ml pot of the Multi Active Day cream, 15 ml of the Multi Active Night cream and 10 ml of the Multi Active Skin Renewal serum, more than enough to try it all out properly!

I love the pot it comes in, the frosted glass feels very luxe and it is surprisingly heavy, definitely one to take care with! 

The cream is relatively thick but it absorbs quickly and even after just a couple of days, I swear my skin feels plumper! The smell initially reminded me of baby lotion but once applied it reminded me of the perfume/make -up that my mum used to use when I was younger. It's not unpleasant but it may not be to everyone's taste...

Did you pick up any bargains from the Clothes Show? Which beauty products can you not live without? 

Clothes Show 2013 with Echo Falls...

This weekend I spent a rather frantic Saturday in one of my favourite cities; Birmingham. Echo Falls very kindly invited me along to the Clothes Show Live in Birmingham along with a bunch of rather lovely bloggers and I had the best time! I really like the Clothes Show although it has been a while since I last went- Danni and I both went in 2009 and 2010 but I haven't managed it the past couple of years! After getting on a very busy train full of excitable tweenagers and getting completely lost at the NEC (one day I will learn to read signs!) I managed to make my way to the Echo Falls stand where I collapsed into a rather ungainly heap. Poppy Dinsey of WIWT was co-hosting with Echo Falls and I had a major fan-girl moment when I met Poppy! (didn't she look awesome?!) 

Luckily, despite running around like a headless chicken, I was still in time for the first fashion panel of the day with Poppy, Caryn Franklin, Karl Willett and Becca Dudley which was really interesting. I totally agree that you should only work with nice people- work makes up a huge proportion of your life and it is no fun if you are miserable! I did lug my SLR to the show and tried to take photos but I realised afterwards that it had been on manual focus for the whole time so please excuse my blurry pictures :( 

I'm not sure who the guy on the end was but 3/4 of the panel and their awesome outfits, I loved Becca's dress!

Caryn being interviewed- just check out those awesome hair-fringed sleeves! 

The best thing about going along to blogging events is meeting new people and despite us never meeting before Caroline was absolutely lovely! We had a really good natter on our way back to the train station and it just reminded me how awesome the blogging community is- there's not many places on the Internet where you will find people who agree with you about so many things! I just hope I am as cool as Caroline one day, just check out her amazing shoes!

Selina is a blogger who I have followed for a long time and it was so nice to see her again and catch up, I haven't seen her since we were big winners at the SWBloggers Xmas Quiz last year! 

Me looking much less glamourous! I knew that I would be on my feet all day so I paired my beloved teapot dress with some burgundy tights and my new Clarks loafers which I  absolutely love. I have actually been breaking these in recently which could have been a really bad idea but actually the shoes are massively comfy and I haven't had any blisters (yet)- WIN! 

Image from WIWT
I need to get me a bright pink vase!

The bar was absolutely HEAVING- just look how long the queue was!

Sassy posing on the stools on the stage. We definitely got some inquisitive looks when we were perched up there, you could tell people were trying to work out who we were! ;)

Many thanks to Echo Falls for taking me and the lovely Caroline and Selina for keeping me company! 

P.S. I was at the Clothes Show as a guest of Echo Falls

Geometric print...

Being a blogger can be a funny old hobby- you spend hours taking and editing photos to go in a blog post, agonizing over the words to write with the images (or is that just me?!) whilst trying to keep up with emails, social media updates and comments… all in the few hours you have free in a week. Clearly, something has to give. Recently I have been feeling so out of the loop with blogging, I have barely been posting, thanks to another bout of flu and it all starts to feel a little overwhelming when you start trying to cross things off your ever-growing to-do list (don’t even get me started on sponsored/collaborative posts!) Instead of stressing out about this, I have been trying to remind myself why I blog (this post may be from 2011 but I think it is just as relevant today!) and trying to get back to basics and doing what I love the most; sharing the outfits that I love with all of you wonderful people who read my little blog! 

Coat: Dannimac via Mum, top: Tesco,  tunic dress: Tesco, bodycon skirt: H&M, tights: Tesco, shoes: c/o Matalan, necklace: Accessorize.

It’s funny, these pictures were taken a few months ago (just look how long my hair is!) and I never posted them as I hated how I looked in them and I was convinced that I was hideous.  Yet when I look back at them now, I view them much more kindly. It is far too easy to compare yourself to other people, or berate yourself for not being the best at something but actually I think we all need to be a little kinder to ourselves. We wouldn't dream of being as critical of anyone else and yet we are all our own worst critics, why?  I don't know the answer to that but instead of beating myself up about everything I don't have or can't do, I want to celebrate all of the things I can.  Here you were thinking you were going to get a generic outfit post and instead you get a stream of consciousness from me ;) 

I picked this tunic/dress up one evening when Mark and I were doing our weekly shop in Tesco as I really loved the geometric pattern and the unusual brown and black colour combination.  The print and colour scheme reminded me of 1970s prints and I had to resist my impulse to pair it with flared jeans and my gilet but since I last wore it, I have managed to shrink it and it is now in the long top, rather than dress category so it may be being paired with jeans sometime soon. It's a shame as I quite liked the longer length but it is really easy to layer and I hope I will love it just as much if I pair it with slim black trousers instead of a skirt  *fingers crossed*

It just goes to show how even just a few months can give you a fresh perspective on something. I have achieved so much even in the last year and I should at least try and remember this when I start to freak out about something! ;)

Any tips on staying calm?!

The great outdoors (or how I fell in love with exercise)...

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me will know that I am not an outdoor kind of person. I love the idea of spending balmy summer evenings sitting outside with a glass of wine or taking long walks through Autumn leaves but until now, you are much more likely to find me skulking inside doing everything I can to avoid the terrible trio of weather, bugs and exercise! Recently though, as part of my great exercise strategy/ weight loss programme, Mark and I have been spending any free time we have at the weekends going on walks around the beautiful countryside where we live and I have to say (whisper) I have been quite enjoying it! I have been walking to my lift in the morning and going to the gym at least once a week and I am pleased to say that I have lost about half a stone! :D Obviously I still have a long way to go but I have been quite motivated recently which is quite unlike me. I never believed the people who kept saying how exhilarating exercise was but recently I have definitely been getting 'the buzz' which has kept me going whilst my muscles are screaming out at me to stop...

Hoody: H&M, top: MiFit, trousers: MiFit, trainers: Dunlop Flash. I quite like this photo, I look quite tall!
Like most people, the thought of any kind of exercise is enough to put me off but by ignoring my grumbles and bribing me with promises of Fringe marathons, Mark has convinced me to get outdoors.
As with most things, I was most concerned with what the most appropriate things to wear were. The first time we went, I wore my beautiful Nike trainers and they ended up covered in mud so now I prefer my old trainers, my wellies or my new DMs (wipe clean rubber FTW!) paired with my rather snazzy new exercise gear. I love all of the various jazzy patterned running leggings you can get but I held off ordering any as I am hoping Father Christmas will be reading this blog! ;) Obviously it is getting pretty chilly out there so wrapping up warm is pretty important. If I am running, I tend to just wear my H&M hoody (I love the bright pink colour but I always feel like Elle Woods when I am wearing it!) as I warm up very quickly! Who would have thought that one day I would be feeling so enthused about both exercise and exercise gear?! Maria, you have changed!

What do you wear to exercise? How do you stay motivated?