Happy New Year!

2014 has been a bit of a rollercoaster year for me, I chopped off all my hair, moved house and even considered giving up blogging but although there were some lows, there were some brilliant highs too. I'm hoping that 2015 will be filled with lots of exciting trips- any suggestions for where Mark and I can visit in the new year? Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that your new year's eve is fun-filled and rings in an awesome 2015!

Read all about it...

A few years ago you would never have seen me in a pair of jeans but I have slowly been incorporating them back into my wardrobe and after a lot of searching, I have finally found the perfect pair of high waisted jeans. I used to love the Topshop Kristen jeans but they discontinued them so I had to find an alternative. The ASOS Ridley jeans are a bit of a blogger favourite and I love the fact that you can get different waist and leg lengths, my stumpy legs are often too short for regular jeans so anything that fits them perfectly is a winner in my book!

Cardigan: Gap via Matilda, top: Cath Kidston, jeans:ASOS, shoes: Principles via my mum, glasses: Orla Kiely at Boots
I don't often go into the Cath Kidston store in Cheltenham but I popped in when I was waiting for Mark and found this gorgeous newsprint top which I just couldn't leave behind. It is made of a really thin cotton and flares out at the hem, I'm loving it now but I think it will really come into its own in the summer! I picked up my new glasses a few weeks ago and it is love. I splashed out on a pair from the Orla Kiely range and although they are expensive, they are worth every penny.  I figure I have to wear them every day so it is worth spending the money, right?

I told you, these jeans fit like a glove, I'm seriously considering getting them in a few other colours too.  I know some people aren't fans of high waisted jeans but I love them, they help keep everything all smoothed down and tucked in- I need all the help I can get to keep my stomach in check ;)

I have been a fan of these shoes for years. They belonged to my mum and I would pinch them whenever I could but they were finally passed onto me a few weeks ago and I couldn't be happier! My mum has the best taste, I just wish we were the same size in clothes so I could pinch those too (although she is probably glad that I'm not!)

Where do you buy jeans from?

Baking vanilla biscotti- a super quick and easy recipe...

I have been waiting to post about these as we made them before Christmas but they were a present for my parents and I didn't want to spoil the surprise! Biscotti are one of those things that always seem 'posh' but these were surprisingly easy to make and will definitely be the recipe I use to impress people! ;) I used this vanilla biscotti recipe from Baking Mad but made a couple of changes to it...

Indulging my magpie tendencies...

I have never been one to shy away from embellishment or jazzy items of clothing but Christmas does tend to bring out my inner magpie and it usually encourages others to dress up too. Although I love how cool minimalism is, I could never give up all of the fun sparkly things in my wardrobe! This disco skirt is a firm favourite of mine and I'm always looking for ways to incorporate it into my daily wardrobe. Jazzy skirts and  jumpers are the ideal combination at this time of year. It is fairly chilly outside but our office is always boiling so I need thin layers rather than chunky knits and this ticks all the boxes... I have my Christmas outfits all planned and I imagine this one will be featuring at some point- perhaps on Christmas Eve when Mark and I celebrate Christmas? 

This isn't the best picture but it shows the gorgeous embellished shoulders on this Tesco jumper. I picked it up in the sale a couple of months ago and have been saving it up ever since. The gems are a green-y silver colour and are surprisingly non-tacky in person (which I am kind of sad about haha!) A black jumper is a classic in anyone's wardrobe and embellishment makes it a super fun one at that...

Even my nails are getting in on the festive action! This Max Factor Angel Nails varnish is one of my favourites and although it is a shimmery pale gold, it picks up whatever colour it is next to. It looks massively silver here but looked bronze next to my gold sparkly outfit that I wore the next day. I hate having to paint my nails so a colour this versatile is sure to be a winner... 

I have said it before but I love how shiny this skirt is! The mini pleats are super flattering and although the colour echoes Bacofoil, I don't even mind, this is a colour that will flatter anyone and everyone!

Are you a magpie or a minimalist?

Blush leopard print...

These photos were taken a long time ago back at the beginning of September but for some reason I have never shared them. I don't know why as this dress has to be one of the best things I have bought this year! It's completely out of my comfort zone- leopard print and a relaxed fit are not what I would usually go for but I really love it. It is the perfect dress for both work and play and I love how free it makes me feel. Soft cotton jersey and a fun print will always be a winner in my book! This year has definitely been one of change and experimentation- I never thought I would move to Cheltenham or chop off all my hair but I did both of those (and more!) in 2014 and I'm excited to see what 2015 brings!

Dress: Whistles, tights: Tesco, shoes: Clarks
I also experimented with the parting in my hair to give myself a faux fringe and a bit of volume and I really like how it turned out. That's the beauty of short hair, it can look really different with very little effort which I never found with my longer hair. I am on the lookout for some hairclips and headbands to jazz it up even more, do you have any recommendations?

I think the shape and design of the dress is really unusual and although it is a relaxed fit, the contrast waistband helps to make it look less shapeless. I managed to get the updated version of my beloved Clarks loafers but I haven't forced myself to make the switch yet, this pair are just so darned comfy!

What's the best thing you bought this year? Any recommendations for jazzy hair accessories?

Rock 'n' roll inspired...

It's not often that I wear outfits that can be described as cool but I think this outfit may be just that. I picked up this snazzy dress (yes, more leopard print!) for a mere £7 in the Tesco sale a little while ago and it has become my go-to dress for when I want to look smart but still be super comfy. I have worn it with both nude and black tights and heels but this is probably my favourite way to wear it. The jumper and boots add a bit of a rock 'n' roll edge and most importantly, make it super cosy! All I need now is a slick of eyeliner and my leather jacket and I will have that cool vibe nailed... I have been super impressed with Tesco's clothes recently, I keep finding clothes whenever I go in, living opposite is dangerous!

Dress:Tesco, jumper: Tesco, tights: Sainsbury's, boots: c/o Duo
This cropped fluffy jumper (similar ones can be found here and here) is so soft and although I would never normally choose a cropped length, it actually is much more flattering with dresses than a regular length would be. It just goes to show that stepping out of your comfort zone occasionally can be a really positive move! I have treated myself to a few MAC lipsticks recently and Impassioned  is a firm favourite of mine, I love how bright it is against my pale skin...

It took me a while to break in these Duo ankle boots but now I have, they are one of the comfiest pairs of shoes that I own. They have replaced my beloved Bertope boots which I have worn out, or at least until my local cobbler can work his magic and resole them! I love the heels on these, they are comfy enough to wear all day but crucially push me over that 5' 5" barrier too which is always a good thing ;) 

Any tips on nailing that rock 'n' roll look?

My #simplybereal moment...

Illustration by the lovely Alison Hansen
You may have seen that Simply Be have been asking bloggers to share their 'real moments'- those times where life doesn't go as planned and have turned them into personalised illustrations. You can see mine (by the very talented Alison Hansen) above, isn't it ace?! I recently bought yet another red dress (it was called Maria, how could I resist?!) and I was trying to smuggle it into my wardrobe without Mark noticing but my plan was foiled when an avalanche of clothes fell on top of me, making a huge noise in the process. They asked for my favourite outfit to illustrate and although it was difficult to narrow down, this little lacy dress is a firm favourite, whatever I am doing!

This was such a fun campaign to be involved in and I loved seeing all of the other illustrations- definitely check the #simplybereal hashtag out on Twitter! 

P.S. Simply Be commissioned this illustration for me but I received no payment for this post.

Vegetarian pea and cheese fritters recipe...

You all know how much I love Leon, their recipes are brilliant and ever since I got their Fast Vegetarian cookbook Mark and I have been cooking up a storm in the kitchen.  I was a little dubious about these pea and cheese fritters before I cooked them but I needn't have worried, these were delicious. We have incorporated these into our weekly eats as they are so quick and easy to do and I cannot be faffed with fussy or long-winded meals in the week! The recipe said it should make about 6 fritters but we had about 20 in the end and I could only manage 3 before I was full so we will be halving or quartering the quantities next time we make them...

Dark days and nights...

As you may have noticed, I have been  blogging a lot less recently and that is partly due to the change in seasons (winter is not a blogger's best friend) and partly because I have been feeling more than a little overwhelmed recently. There's been nothing specific that has triggered this, it's just that life seems to have sped up whilst my energy levels have dropped. Quite frankly I haven't had the energy to keep up with the relentless process of photograph, write, promote, repeat and blogging has suffered as a result. Last night, this all came to a head (cue me bursting into tears) so Mark and I decided to go for a walk and spent about an hour and a half wandering around Cheltenham, making plans and talking through everything, which despite everything was actually really nice. 

In order to try and get a handle on everything again, we decided to draw up an evening schedule for in the week in order to allow time together going for walks and exploring the lovely place we live in and also some 'self care' time (Rosie's post on this is brilliant and really struck a chord with me) which could be anything from reading, blogging or even having a bath. I think I have always been torn between missing out on things and wanting to make the most of any free time we have but at what cost? I have been feeling very overwhelmed for a long time and I was physically and emotionally exhausted last night but I slept through the night for the first time in a long time. Isn't it amazing what a bit of fresh air and a good chat can do?

I don't know quite what this post is trying to say really, I guess I just wanted to get some of the muddled thoughts out of my head onto the page. Life is never easy but it has been harder than usual recently so please do bear with me whilst I get my head back on track... I would also love to hear about anything that has helped you when you have been feeling anxious or stressed too, please do share!

Pastel knitwear...

I seem to be saying this a lot recently but apologies for the rubbish photos! I bought this gorgeous lemon yellow jumper a few days after my birthday and have worn it so often- it is just so darned cosy! The office is always freezing first thing in a Monday morning so a cosy knit is essential. I usually go for deeper jewel colours in the winter but maybe I can make wintry pastels a regular feature in my wardrobe again? The jumper is quite a feature on its own so I decided to keep the rest of my outfit fairly simple. I am guilty of often over-complicating things but hopefully I have managed to pare back my worst tendencies recently!

Jumper: Topshop, necklace: Accessorize, top: H&M, jeans: Warehouse, shoes: Clarks
The jumper is so deliciously cosy and is the perfect accompaniment to my current favourite necklace. As always, I am loving coral toned make-up, I bought a mini Benefit set from Boots which had a mini Coralista blusher and although I go through phases with how much I like the colour, I do wear it a lot. It is pretty subtle and adds a healthy glow to my everyday make-up but I can build it up if I want something more intense. I probably won't shell out for the full size one though, I have my eye on the Majorette blusher instead! I know I have raved about Percy & Reed's Wonder Balm before but it really is such a good product for my hair- fellow curly and wavy haired girls take note!

I was so chuffed when I found these Clarks grey shoeboots when we moved. They are ridiculously comfy to wear thanks to their slim wedge heel. Paired with my Warehouse skinny jeans they make me look much taller too which is never a bad thing! This is probably the closest match to the real colour of the jumper, I will have to take some proper pictures of it at some point!

Are you a fan of pastels?

A flying visit to Manchester....(PICTURE HEAVY...)

It's been a shamefully long time since Mark and I last visited Manchester but we headed up at the weekend to catch up with Mark's brother and pay a flying visit to one of  our favourite cities. You can see just how excited we were by these photos, we both really love Manchester and could happily live there, we did see some lovely flats too, I just need to find a job up there! 

Wearing my Seasalt coat (necessary for the rain!), H&M striped top and Mac Impassioned lipstick. 

Manchester Central Library is awesome and I could have spent all day in there, how beautiful are those windows?!

We also made a brief stop in Chinatown to try and find some Chinese figs but to no avail :( I love this archway though, the colours are gorgeous!

Takk Manchester is a super cool Icelandic inspired coffee bar/restaurant in the Northern Quarter where I felt very uncool, this was hipster inspired dining at its best! ;)

This amazing mural was by Nicholas Chaffe (@nickchaffe) and I absolutely love it. There are so many little details in it and I keep noticing new things every time I look at it. Now I just want one of my own! 

OK, so the food and drink at Takk was amazing! I had the avocado, bacon and tomato sandwich on sourdough bread with a flat white (check out the genuine graffiti-covered school desks! ) which was absolutely delicious. Mark had roast potatoes, shallots and pan-fried chorizo with scrambled eggs and sourdough which I was super jealous of! 

The graffiti was amazing, I especially loved this beautiful vine and bird one on the side of this youth hostel- isn't it gorgeous?!

This was the first time I had visited the Northern Quarter and I loved it- the rickety fire escapes and quirky shops felt very Brooklyn to me, I may have to pay another visit to keep my New York cravings at bay!

The Museum of Science & Industry/MOSI was super fun and although we spent the entire afternoon there, there was still a lot that we didn't manage to cover so a full day (or two!) would be needed to do this justice I think! 

We saw a replica of the Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM) a.k.a. the Manchester 'Baby' computer which was very cool...

The exhibits on Manchester's textile industry were so interesting, just look how complex this machines look!

I mean wowee! 

This thistledown coat was super cool- a must have for every fashion blogger I think ;)

They also had an exhibition on 3D printing which was brilliant, I loved how brightly coloured these all were!

These are 3D-printed frames of an animation of a bear climbing some stairs, they don't look like much here but quite something 'in action'. 

My little brother was always a fan of Bob the Builder when he was little and these were the original models they used in the show (before they remade it!)

A very cool cine camera, I love the Italian stickers on the case!

The forst all-metal printing press was invented by the Earl of Stanhope, this one was made sometime between 1810 and 1830...

The museum also houses the world's oldest oldest passenger station, originally known as the Coach Offices. Built between June and September 1830, the Coach Offices consisted of separate booking halls for first-class and second-class passengers on the ground floor. I get the feeling that Gemma will appreciate these pictures, that gal loves a good train! ;)

The steam train still pulls a little carriage around the track which looked super fun but we didn't get chance to go on it which was a shame, maybe next time!

More cool murals...

I love the contrast of the old buildings and the uber modern Beetham Tower, that is one shiny building!

This is an awful picture but it was an amazing pie! We went to Pi in Chorlton for dinner after a long day walking around town and it was the perfect finish. I am now a fully fledged Pieminster pie fan (this was the Shamrock) I just need to get my hands on some more to try...

We went to the North Star deli in Chorlton for brunch before heading back on Sunday morning, the perfect finish to a wonderful weekend! 

Where should I try next in Manchester?