"Betty Leopard": January 2012

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

ZOMG Lipstick Launch Bloggers' Party

Beware, some parts of this blog may not be suitable for work, but should you really be reading blogs at work anyway? :p

Sorry I've been a bit absent again. I was working so hard last week as I've still got so much work to get through and I wanted to make sure I'd done enough to allow myself some time off to head up to London yesterday for the ZOMG Bloggers' Bash! An event run in honour of the new ZOMG lipstick created by Zozo of The London Lipgloss (awesome blogger) and ReeRee Rockette, the genius behind Rockalily Lipsticks (fantastic lipstick range).
I wasn't one of the ones specially selected and invited, but I got myself on the waiting list and found an invite drop into my inbox about 2 weeks ago. I was really excited. Ok, I was pretty nervous too but mostly excited, especially looking at the fabulous list of other bloggers who were already attending :)

I spent ages worrying about my outfit. As I've already mentioned, I have been working on making a dress and hoped to wear that. I finally got all the pieces sewn together by the Saturday but didn't try it on until the Sunday, and unfortunately it needed adjustments that I just didn't have time to do :( So, in a little bit of a last minute panic, I raided my wardrobe and found a lovely royal blue dress that I haven't worn in years and had almost forgotten I had! It fitted all my requirements; smart in a glamorous sort of way, sleeves to keep out the cold (and cover up my nasty arms) and a good length so I didn't feel too exposed while wandering around London on my own. Plus, when I paired it with my awesome fur collar/scarf that I got for Christmas, it had a nice sort-of-vintage feel, and I had shoes that matched :)

I kept my make-up pretty simple. Just my usual black flicked eyeliner and mascara with a neutral lipgloss on my lips. I know it was a lipstick launch and it felt a bit strange to go not wearing any, but I just wasn't convinced that I had a colour of lipstick that would be suitable with the blue of the dress :/

I headed into London all by myself, which was nerve wracking enough on it's own! Once I arrived at Paddington I made a brief stop at Krispy Kreme to gather my composure and get some sugar inside me. They have just launched their new Valentines themed donuts; I had the Double Chocolate Cheesecake heart shaped donut, but there is also a White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake version.

Anyway, after that little distraction I made my way to the tube and then onto the venue; The Distillers Pub in West Smithfield. It was a great venue actually, deceptively big, so it held a lot of people whilst still feeling quite small and friendly. The decor was awesome, with a beautifully papered ceiling, uber glam chandeliers and a big sweeping staircase! Although, as I say, it was bigger than it looked, the place was still packed out with bloggers, chatting, drinking and getting involved in all the activities. I grabbed my name badge, made a guess at the number of lip shaped sweets in the jar (in the end I was WAY out) and picked up my 'bloggers bingo card'.
There was a whole range of activities going on, including vintage hair styling, cupcake decorating, hats from Little Miss B and wigs from Wonderland Wigs to try on and mess around with! The crowd was really eclectic, which was nice, with lots of vintage and rockabilly styled ladies and some beautiful hair and clothes! As much as there were some beautiful more mainstream fashions on display, I do love the rockabilly look.
At first I felt very out of my depth. I arrived only about 5 minutes after the start time, but the whole place was already in full swing and everyone seemed to have already grabbed someone to talk to! I wandered around a bit like a lost child for a good while before I decided to head for the bar! One large glass of house white, £4.95, not too bad for London.
Eventually, I found my feet and got talking to some people, thanks to the bingo card! The idea was to meet people who fitted various criteria on your card, like 'Someone who has their name in their blog name' or 'Someone who publishes using Wordpress'. Then you put their name in the box and when you had completed two lines you put your card into a draw to win prizes! Brilliant idea in my book :)
As I grew in confidence I found myself talking to more and more people and met some great ladies, including Bethany of Arched Eyebrow, Annie from EpiphannieA, Camille from Camille Over the Rainbow, Jennie from Fancy Dresscapades, L from Good Morning Angel, Amy from L'Amour Et La Mariage and Lexi, the lady behind Rockabetty Studios as well as meeting up with Aimee from Dream In Colour who I had already met at the Xmas Bloggers Bash in Bristol. Honestly, I don't think I could have got chatting to a nicer group of ladies anywhere else in the world, with such varied styles, backgrounds and careers, but a shared love of clothes, make-up and blogging. It was especially nice to find a fellow scientist in Jennie and to meet Lexi as I've followed Rockabetty Studios on Facebook for ages and think their pin-up photography is amazing (when I can afford it I am totally doing it!). In the end I had such a good time chatting that I took hardly any photos, hopefully other people have and I will be able to link to those.
Later in the evening there was also a couple of burlesque performances from Rubyyy Jones (**NSFW**) and Banbury Cross (**NSFW**). They were both beautiful and put on great, but very different performances. Rubyyy had quite a modern and comical routine based around talking to a man online and stripping on webcam for him, while Banbury had a more classical burlesque strip-tease that fitted perfectly with her stunning Marilyn Monroe looks. I've never seen a live burlesque performance before but I was blown away by the confidence of these ladies!

Clockwise from top left; Rockalily Lipsticks, Chandelier, Vintage hair styling, Cupcake decorating
The Beautiful Miss Banbury Cross

The final part of the night was the bingo prize draw, with great prizes donated from a range of great businesses including Little Miss B, Pip Jolley and Illamasqua. I was lucky enough to be drawn as the winner of a lovely necklace donated by Pip Jolley!

My Pip Jolley Necklace prize!

I had such a lovely evening, I can't believe I ever considered not going (I did nearly chicken out)! It was such a great event, organised by great ladies for a great lipstick! It was such a friendly, sociable event, with a wonderfully selected guest list, fun activities that really got everyone involved and the blogger bingo was a really inspired idea. I only wish I had more hair so I could have got involved in the vintage hair styling!
I am so grateful for being invited and for having the opportunity to socialise with other bloggers. I really want to thank ReeRee and Zoe for throwing such a fantastic party and all the ladies who helped make the event so much fun.
If you are a blogger then I really recommend you try and get involved in some blog events; everyone gets nervous but it always works out for the best! I'm currently trying to decide if I can go to TOWIB in a few weeks time.
I am too poor to be able to own a Rockalily lipstick myself at the moment, but I've never heard a bad word about their lipsticks, from the colours to the packaging to the wear. You should definitely check them out here.

I hope you are well, I will really try and blog again this week :)

Monday, 23 January 2012

My Weekend (Mostly) In Pictures: Cake-Pops and Clothes

I decided to give myself a break from work over the weekend and get involved in some things I've been meaning to do for a while.

On Saturday, I broke out my cakepop maker, that my sister bought me for Christmas. It wasn't the first time I've used it, but I didn't take pictures last time! I'm really impressed with it. It's so simple to use and cooks so quickly. I like cakepops, they're really cute, but I've never been able to get them right with the crumbled cake and frosting method. This bypasses that and just cooks the cake mix into a ball shape! So there's less faffing around making the cake balls and more time for decorating!

My Cake Pop Maker
Tiny Spherical Cakes!
Jam Filled Cake Pop
Pretty Cake Pop Goodness

I added some sprinkles into the cake mix for fun, putting little colourful flecks throughout the cake :) I'm still experimenting with decoration. Last time I tried standard icing, which didn't work at all, fondant icing, which worked but was very time consuming and melted dark chocolate, which was the easiest. This time I tried vegan white chocolate, which I was initially disappointed with, but looked better when set, chocolate frosting, which was messy but worked and just rolled in sugar, which was very easy! The ones rolled in sugar also had jam inside, which I did using my new fancy injector nozzle for my piping bag :)

That wasn't the end of my cake related activity. On Saturday evening we went to a 30th birthday party that had a kid's party theme. There were so many sweets, treats, snacks and cakes! I came away with this beautiful cupcake (I was too full to eat it on the night!), which has further inspired me to improve my cupcake decorating skills.

On Sunday, I moved from baking onto sewing, and got back to work on the dress that I started ages ago! Ideally, I'm hoping to wear it to ZOMGbloggersbash next Monday, but I'm not sure I'm going to get it finished on time. I'd already cut out most of the pattern pieces, so it was mostly just sewing the pieces together, which is quite nerve racking as I'm not the most accomplished seamstress (my most used tool is my seam ripper!). It took me quite a while to get started, but managed to sew together most of the top, both the sleeves and the skirt before I was hit with a mega headache and had to stop. I've been taking pictures along the way and will write a blog post about the whole process when I'm done.

My fabric and pattern (I'm making the long sleeve version)
My little silver chick pin cushion (a present from my grandparents) for pinning the pattern and fabric

After lying down for a few hours, dosing myself up with paracetamol and then stuffing myself with pizza, I felt a bit better. We spent the evening with out recently engaged friends, talking weddings, playing boardgames and eating apple and blackberry pie. It was a really lovely end to a great weekend :D

Finally, I wanted to welcome all my new followers and thank you all for reading my blog!
Hopefully I won't be too busy with work to post again this week.

Lots of Love,

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Clutterfly Jewellery

Throughout December I got a lot of comments on my 'festive' Bah Humbug necklace, so I thought I'd write a piece about the brand behind the necklace; Clutterfly Jewellery.

I don't remember how I first discovered Clutterfly, but I've been a bit of an addict ever since!
Clutterfly is an independent jewellery brand that sells their own handmade, tattoo themed jewellery and accessories. Their signature pieces are based on a tattoo style heart with a banner bearing a phrase. They have a range of their own designs but also offer a custom option, where you can have your own phrase added.
I have a sizeable collection of their pieces now, although no-where near as many as I could have if money were no object!!

My Clutterfly Collection
Top Row (left to right): Pin-Up Girl Double Heart in pink glitter, Lady Luck Double Heart in red, Hell Cat Custom Double Heart in purple leopard
Middle Row: (left to right): Bah Humbug Christmas Double Heart in black, Cake single heart, Live Fast Limited Edition mini double heart
Bottom Row (left to right): Hell Yeah Double Heart Barrette in pink glitter, Grrr! Single Heart Barrette, Side Show Double Heart Barrette

My own collection is actually a pretty good example of how varied Clutterfly items are; single hearts, double hearts, necklaces, hair accessories, a huge range of colours, patterns, finishes and an almost infinite range of phrases (considering you can add your own customise phrase). As well as the 'basic' types, there are also themed designs, including; Lady Gaga 'Little Monster' items, Frankenstein/Zombie/Horror items, Hawaiian/Tiki items, Roller Derby items, Pirate items and general Tattoo related items. A lot of the designs are available as necklaces, barrettes, rings, magnets, brooches and even keyrings. There is even a men's range of heart cufflinks. To be honest, the range is so varied I don't feel I can do it justice here, it has to be examined in person!
For accessories that are handmade to-order, the prices and dispatch times are really reasonable. In addition, there are freebies on offer for orders over £15! I've never had an issue with the quality, and each order comes with guidance on how to best care for your pieces. They do point out that it is costume jewellery, so  might not last forever, but I wear mine regularly and don't see why it won't keep going and going as long as I look after it. To be honest, I think of it as some of my best jewellery, and it always gets comments :)

If you can't tell, I'm a pretty big fan and think more people should hear about this great brand (in case you wondered, this isn't a sponsored post). I believe in supporting small, independent businesses like this and have always found the ladies behind Clutterfly to be friendly and generally lovely to deal with.
Visit their website here.

Sorry I've been a bit absent lately, real world work has been taking over my life a bit :/
Hope you are well,

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Brand Feature: Collectif Hilda Capris in Leopard Print

I'm quite excited about this, my first proper brand feature and for a brand I already really love; Collectif.
The lovely Tara at Collectif sent me these Leopard Print Capris to try out and review for you all.

If you don't know about Collectif already; they are an independent clothing retailer specialising in vintage 40's and 50's style clothing with a rockabilly/pin-up influence. Basically, right up my street!
I already have quite a few items from Collectif in my wardrobe, mainly cardigans (and mainly leopard print!). I discovered the brand years ago now, when I first dipped my toe into the leopard print pond and bought a red leopard cardigan from them. Since then my love for leopard print, and Collectif, has grown. When I had to select a short wishlist of items I was spoilt for choice and it actually took quite a while for me to whittle my selection down.
Having never tried any trousers from Collectif before, I was a little apprehensive about how they would fit. I went for a size 12, but was partly tempted to go for a 14 as they looked pretty tightly fitted on the model on the website and my bum and hips can cause problems in size 12 trousers if they're tight. I needn't have worried though, they fit perfectly; skinny in the leg (as they should be) but not too tight around the top. The material is really soft with some stretch, and they're just generally comfy, and there aren't many of my decent trousers I can say that about!
The trousers do up at the side with a zip, but have decorative button details on the hip and at the bottom of the leg.  I really like the buttons and they definitely contribute to the vintage feel. There's probably not much point in commenting on the print, as my love of leopard print has been pretty well documented by now! Not that it would make much difference to me, but I believe animal prints are still going to be a feature for spring fashions. The leopard print is also picked out in flock as well as being printed, which definitely adds to the soft feel of the fabric. I tried really hard to capture it in a picture, it wasn't easy, but I think I just about got it.

Button Details and Attempting to Capture the Flock Pattern

In order to properly show off the trousers too you, I got a little silly and gave myself my own one-girl photo shoot to try out a couple of different looks.

Striking a few poses in an everyday sort of outfit
For warmer weather (when it comes!)

Wrapped up for colder times

I have to say, trying all this on made me realise that my wardrobe is a little black heavy at the moment, and that just won't do for spring. These outfits are just a very small example of how to work these trousers. I think they can be really flexible and fit in with a lot of different looks. 1950's retro styling should still be a feature for SS12, so you could stick with the 50's rockabilly look, teaming them with a gypsy top or an embroidered shirt (check out the selection on the Collectif site). Alternatively, you could bring them bang up to date with some of the new trends for SS12. They'd look great with a pale, maybe cream blouse (something with a peter pan collar? or sleeveless?) or a t-shirt in a pastel shade, maybe even a crop top, if you're brave enough to bare your midriff (I'm not!).
I'm wearing heels in most of the pictures, because my legs look better that way, but the trousers look equally good with flats, maybe some brogues, I still really want a pair of brogues.

The capris are available on the Collectif website in 5 colours (Brown, Leo, Red, Leo Red and Snow Leo) and cost £35.
Notice I now have a pretty Collectif button in my side bar, so you can click straight through to their page any time you like :) They have a lot of new prints coming in for the spring season too, so keep your eyes peeled for those. I'm expecting some Hawaiian/Tiki style prints, and hopefully some new uses of leopard print!

I'd love to hear if you have any other creative suggestions for outfits using these trousers!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Budget Stylist: Winter Skin Care

Now, I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels a need to slather myself in moisturiser in the winter. A combination of cold air, winds, heating and woolen fabrics all conspire to leave my skin dry and dull. As a result, I'm always on the look out for new skin care products to try out.
So, when I saw an article on The Stylist website about 'Winter Skin Savers', I was excited. However, on flicking through their recommended products, I was disappointed. Everything was so expensive! The average cost of the products featured was £51.65, with the most expensive being £216 (Sisley All Day All Year Essential Day Care)! There were a few cheaper products; a Kores lip butter at £5.10, Neutrogena Cracked Heel Cream at £5.98 and Yes to Carrots Body Butter at £8.99, but I was left with the distinct feeling that more affordable products were severely under-represented.
I'm not having a go at The Stylist, I'm sure they know their audience better than I do, but I just have a thing about what I consider to be overpriced products, or at least, lack of acknowledgement of the fact that not everyone has massive beauty budgets and that budget beauty is as important as high-end products. Everyone, no matter what their income, should be able to look after their appearance and treat themselves if they so desire. Yes, expensive products have a place, some people like the luxury of the brands, maybe they do work better, but cheaper brands can still work well!

Anyway, I didn't just write this to rant. I thought I'd put together my own little selection of winter skin savers, for under £10.
Boots Simply Sensitive Day Moisturiser. 125ml. £2.79.
This is my current face moisturiser of choice. It's as effective at keeping my skin soft and moisturised as any other product I have ever used, and is ridiculously cheap. It's light, non-greasy and has added SPF 15 protection. My skin can get quite oily and this doesn't make that worse. I use it day and night and I think it's great.

Olay Classic Beauty Fluid. 100ml. £4.79.
This is the product that I replaced with the Boots moisturiser, not because I was unhappy with how it worked, it really was a cost cutting measure. Olay Beauty Fluid is a classic, and products like thiss have stuck around for a reason! There is also a sensitive skin version.
Yes To Carrots C Through The Dry Spell Deliciously Rich Body Butter. 250ml. £9.25
Ok, I haven'y actually used this product, but when I need a new body butter, I'll go for this one. Yes to Carrots was the runner-up in The Ecologist's Eco-Beauty Heroes of 2011, and that's what's sold it to me!

Bio Oil. 60ml. £7.70.
I have used Bio Oil for years, primarily for its scar reducing properties. As a moisturiser, it's really intensive, I use it on properly dry skin (feet, eww) and on my elbows which get especially dry and chapped at this time of year. It really does work on scars as well, and, although I've never tried, I'm sure it will on stretch marks too.

Figs and Rouge 100% Organic Balm. 17ml. £4.99
I actually have the pomegranate version, but though coco vanilla sounded yummy too. I initially bought it as just a lip balm, but with having a cold I found it is also really good for the dry skin I got on my nose, and I've also used this on my elbows. It uses all natural ingredients, smells gorgeous and properly moisturises you lips (or skin) rather than just putting a waterproof barrier on them like some petroleum based lip balms.

Soap & Glory The Righteous Butter. 300ml. £10.21
Ok, so this is a bit of a cheat as it's a bit more than £10, but I couldn't not include it. If you haven't already tried this then you're missing out. Smells great, moisturises really well, pretty packaging. Soap and Glory products always make me feel like I'm properly indulging myself, and I love them.

So, there you go, a selection of great products for your skin in this cold weather, without breaking the bank. Then again, there's always Vaseline!

Hope you're enjoying your weekend,

Friday, 13 January 2012

How should I feel about Anti-Wrinkle Creams?

If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I'm 26 (rapidly heading towards 27) and have a bit of an obsession with my skin and how a 26-year-old should be looking after theirs.
I've touched on the idea of more 'grown up' skin care before, and speculated about using anti-ageing creams, although, as yet, I've still not bought one. However, as a result of my beauty box subscriptions, I am increasingly getting the feeling that the beauty industry is strongly of the opinion that someone my age should definitely be using some sort of fancy potion to ward off any future signs of ageing. To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about this.

A selection of the anti-ageing product samples I have been given
The angry, self-righteous feminist in me wants to scream and shout about how the media/beauty industry shouldn't dictate what beauty is, what I should look like or what I should plaster on my skin, and when. Surely, my ageing status and desire/requirement to use any beauty product is my own decision? Then there's the more, rational and realistic (but still feminist) side of me that wants to look my best now and in the future, accepts that anti-wrinkle creams will likely play a part in that at some point sooner or later and that my beauty knowledge can be somewhat lacking.
Up until now, I've put all my anti-ageing samples to one side and ignored them, clinging on to my right to be youthful, young-at-heart and not having to think about wrinkles. But now I'm getting paranoid, if these people who know about beauty products think I should be using something in the anti-ageing line, maybe I should be. Maybe, if I don't start soon, I'll look like one of those wrinkly dogs by the time I'm 40! Maybe it's already too late!

Picture from Pinterest
Ok, so I'm not quite that paranoid yet, but I have decided to start giving the creams a try. Unfortunately, as these treatments are meant to be pre-emptive, it's kind of hard to judge their effects. Plus, as I'm only going to be using samples, I'll be chopping and changing products, so I've no idea if they're still going to work.

Do any of you use any sort of anti-ageing product? What do you use and when did you start?

To be honest, if I had any spare money to be spending on these things, I'd probably just get something from the Boots Protect and Perfect range, as I've heard good things about that. For now, random samples of otherwise expensive products is all I've got.


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Magazines, Because Books Are Long: Dashing Magazine

I love books, I really do. I aspire to owning a home with a library room, where all the walls have floor to ceiling bookshelves. However, like many of you out there, I'm a busy person and I can't always find the time for books.
Magazines to the rescue!
My interest in magazines has had a bit of a resurgence in the past year, mostly in the form of craft and lifestyle type magazines. Magazines fit more easily into my life than books, smaller, more portable, less precious and with articles that can be read in any order, independent of each other, whenever I have a moment. As well as something to read, magazines serve to teach me things and show me things that I didn't know about before; from how to make things to new books to interesting websites where I can spend other spare moments.
As part of my renewed interest in magazines, I have discovered as whole new world of online digital magazines. Now, I don't own an iPad or any such similar portable media device that you can read these digital magazines on, but I still have a good old fashioned laptop that I can read them on (although an iPad would be much more convenient, and cooler). It all saves paper, and that can't be a bad thing!

One of my recent discoveries has been Dashing Magazine; and I can't recommend it enough!
Have you ever read a magazine and felt like it could have been (almost) entirely written specifically for you? That's how I feel when I read Dashing.
Their second issue has just been released, filled with beautiful illustrations, photographs and articles on a huge variety of topics including Etsy, tea, headbands and how to screen print fabrics. It kind of fulfils my every magazine need, with lifestyle, fashion and crafting all rolled up in one. There's even a feature on having a baby, while not relevant to me, it seems that half the people I know are expecting within the next few months.

All images from www.dashingmag.com/

It's just so beautiful and interesting. The pages make me happy and remind me of good little things in life that can be too easily overlooked in a hectic schedule (like bubble baths and a good cuppa). It's a little bit of escapism from my mind-numbing job.
The only problem is, it's likely to cost me a lot of money, what with all the beautiful things I want to buy, make and do (definitely need to schedule a trip to JB's American Diner in Brighton).
I think I can pretty safely say, if you like my blog then you'll like this magazine. So, once you're done perusing my pages, go have a flick through theirs - Here.
If you know of any other good publications, do let me know :)

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Universal Letter Writing Week 8th-14th January

This week is Universal Letter Writing Week.

Image from morgueFile
A handwritten letter is a truly elegant way of communicating. Unfortunately, the past century has seen a relentless influx of new, more convenient, and speedier means of communicating - the telephone, fax, pagers, emails, text messages, social networking, skype. The Royal Mail is no longer an essential communication service, becoming an essential eBay delivery service (still very important!).
When you think about it, none of these new forms of communication really come close to the joy and excitement of a pretty, handwritten letter or card dropping onto your doorstep. Now, January might not be the best time to ask this question as Christmas can provoke a need to send letters and cards, but when did you last send or receive a meaningful card or letter? Just a name and generic greeting (Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas etc). doesn't count, by the way. How did it make you feel?
I love receiving little cards, notes and letters in the post. When I graduated from uni and everyone went their separate ways back to their own home towns, my friends and I would regularly send each other cards with little doodles and messages, even though we also regularly communicated electronically as well.
A card or letter has so much more permanence than an email or text. It's something someone can put on a shelf or keep in a special place to pick up and read when they need to feel loved. It's something very personal, between two people, that can be decorated and made pretty, becoming more of a keepsake than just a form of communicating.

Letter Lounge (@letterlounge) is an organisation that aims to encourage letter writing. They host letter writing events, complete with pens, paper, cake and even stamps, where you can go along and take some time to write a letter to someone. They even post the letters for you, so it's pretty minimal effort on your part!
It just so happens that there is a Letter Lounge event this week! If you're in London on Thursday evening (6pm - 8pm), head over to the Tatty Devine shop on Monmouth Street and check out their Letter Lounge event. If you are running your own event, you can also get in touch with the people at Letter Lounge and get them to come along and set up shop!

If, like me, you're not in London, you can still try your hand at writing a letter or card and sending it to a loved one. I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for pretty stationery, and this would certainly be the perfect opportunity to buy some! If I'm shopping on the high street, I like Paperchase for pretty cards and writing sets. But, truth be told, if I've got the time to get things delivered, Etsy is brilliant for unique and interesting cards and stationery.

Clockwise from top left:
Dandelion Writing Set. £2.50 for 10 sheets of paper, 10 envelopes and 10 address labels
Ava Zip Letter Set. £2.75 for 10 sheets of paper, 10 envelopes and 10 address labels
Lazer Cut Floral Cards. £7.00 for 5 cards with envelopes
Kista Note Cards. £4.75 for 8 cards with envelopes

Clockwise from top left:
Mini Note Cards: Japanese Kokeshi Doll. £2.33 for 12 mini cards (based in Utah)
Grey and Peach Note Cards. £3.99 for 4 cards with envelopes (based in Florida)
Four Owls Mini Letter Writing Set. £9.98 for 12 sheets of paper, 12 envelopes and 12 labels (based in West Virginia)
Bowls Letter Writing Set. £7.50 for 8 sheets of paper and 4 enveloped (based in London)

Of course, if you have the time, you could always make your own absolutely unique and personal stationery. All you need is some paper or card, some pens/paints/stickers/sequins/etc and let your creativity run wild!

All this, and I haven't even started thinking about the right pen for writing with!
Can you think of someone to write a letter to? A Friend or Relative? A proper thank you letter for a Christmas gift? Or, if not, write a letter to yourself to open in a years time (or longer)?

Happy Letter Writing,

Friday, 6 January 2012

We Are Adventuring. We Are Adventurers

"Adventure - Be Your Own Pet"

December ended up being a pretty hectic month for me one way and another, I didn't get to blog as often as I would have liked even though I got up to some cool stuff I have really wanted to share. Now this stinky cold/virus, that is still hanging around, has been severely impairing my brain function and ability to do most things.
So, I thought I'd break myself back into blogging and try to do a bit of a mini review of the more interesting things I did in the build up to Christmas (mostly around Winchester). In line with my 2011, and now 2012, Resolutions, I'm still trying to make much more effort to get out and do things as part of my plan to improve my mood and enjoy life more, and these are some of the mini-adventures I've been on in an attempt to do that :)

Ice Skating in Winchester
While Pete was away over the summer, we decided that, in order to make sure we spent more quality time together when he returned, every Tuesday would be Date Tuesday; a day/evening to do something other than sitting on the sofa all evening. So, as soon as I remembered that it was December and that the ice rink was back in Winchester, I booked us in for some Tuesday afternoon skating :)
The setting was lovely, with the ice rink set up right next to the Cathedral and surrounded by the little sheds that constitute German markets in this country. We were booked in to skate from 4.15, and so the sun had set and all the lovely Christmas lights were on by the time we took to the ice. Neither of us are experienced skaters, but Pete was much more confident than me and spent most of the time with me firmly attached to his arm.

Winchester Cathedral and Ice Rink
Pete and I (wrapped up warm in my awesome River Island Leopard Print Trapper Hat!)
Warming Up afterwards in the cafe, with tea and cake :)
Wearing: Hat, River Island. Top and Cardigan, Dorothy Perkins
Christmas lights near the Cathedral

It actually wasn't too cold and I managed to not fall over once! Despite being quite scared, I had a really lovely time, especially the yummy lemon drizzle cake afterwards. I ached like nobodies business the next day though (from the skating, not the cake).
We definitely caught it at the right time though, as apparently peak times (mostly weekends) were ridiculously busy, which wouldn't have been so much fun.

Star Gazing on St Catherine's Hill
The following Date Tuesday, Pete decided to take charge and took us out to sit on the top of St Catherine's Hill (near Winchester) in the hope of seeing a meteor shower.Unfortunately, the weather didn't work in our favour and it was too cloudy to see the sky and too cold for me to wait too long. It was still nice and peaceful to be sat up there, just the two of us and the dog, in the dark, under a blanket, with a thermos of tea. Goodness knows what anyone would have thought if they'd come across us!
I got to take some interesting low light pictures though.

Lights of Winchester from St Catherine's Hill
The Moon behind some spooky looking trees
More spooky looking trees

Winter Solstice at Stonehenge
Pete and I have wanted to go to a summer or winter solstice at Stonehenge for ages now. While you can usually only go and walk on a set path around the outside of the stones, at the summer/winter solstice (longest/shortest days of the year) and at the two equinoxes (when day and night are of equal length) the site is opened up, primarily for Druid/Pagan worshippers, and you are allowed to get right up to the stones.
This year we decided to take the opportunity, and took Pete's brother, who lives in New York, and his New Yorker girlfriend along for the experience (as great as NY is, you definitely cannot do this there!).
The biggest downside was the 5am wake up call, to get up and get ready in time to drive across to Stonehenge for 7.30am, when the site opened, and get in position for the 8.09am sunrise. In fairness, I could have got up later, but I wanted to put my make-up on :/
The road alongside Stonehenge was crazy busy, as were the lanes where people were parking. It was clear some of the more 'hardcore' visitors had been there at least overnight and had set up camp in their vans, with fires, chairs and cooking stoves. We found a reasonable parking space not too far from the site, hopped the fence (actually I slipped and got a massive bruise on my shin) and headed through the sheep towards the stones.
There were quite a lot of people there, but nowhere near the numbers you see at the summer solstice. While there were a lot of people clearly there for religious reasons, floating around in awesome cloaks with big wooden staffs, there were also a lot of people just there for the experience. There was a ceremony being conducted in the centre of the circle (not that I could really see that through the crowd), music and drums, a fair amount of drinking, and just a generally jovial and good natured atmosphere. We even got offered lavender shortbread by a passing lady in a cloak!

Me and Pete touching the stones
Sunrise through the eastern stones
The Stones
If you ever get the chance, I would totally recommend you head to one of these celebrations at Stonehenge. While the summer solstice might seem the obvious choice due to weather, you will have less chance of actually seeing anything due to the high numbers of people and, also, sunrise is much earlier in the summer than the winter!

Doing the Tourist thing in Winchester
After the sunrise we had a whole day to kill, and, even though my primary instinct was to head straight back to bed, it was decided we would head into Winchester to show Pete's brother and his girlfriend the sights. Although we'd only been in the city a few weeks earlier, we didn't actually do anything other than the ice skating.
We managed to fit quite a lot into the day and I was very impressed with myself for managing to keep going and not get shirty with anyone through tiredness. We made a brief round of the Cathedral grounds, saw the statue of King Alfred, visited The Great Hall and saw The Round Table and went round the City Museum.
The statue of King Alfred wasn't the easiest of attractions to see, being situated in the middle of a road, right next to some rather popular parking spaces, but we got a few good pictures. The Great Hall and Round Table were interesting too, but the City Museum was by far my favourite part of the day. The exhibits were fun and there were lots of things (for kids) to get involved with, including dressing up clothes for each of the different eras!!

Statue of King Alfred
The Round Table in The Great Hall
Pete and I dressed up in cloaks in the Roman section of the City Museum
Playing shop in the Victorian Pharmacy in the City Museum
Trying on a selection of hats in the Victorian section of the City Museum

It was all really good fun, which, given how tired I was, must mean it was a really, really good time. An added bonus, all the attractions we saw were free (statue) or only had donation boxes (The Great Hall and City Museum). FYI, we did make donations! Beware the giftshop attached to The Great Hall though, you could easily spend a lot of money in there!!

That ended up being a pretty long post. Hope you didn't get too bored!
I'm unlikely to be that busy again for quite a while, due to work load, so you probably won't get another post this long again for a while.

Hope you're all well,

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Under the Weather: WIWWIWI

Well, there has certainly been a lot of weather to be under during the past few days. I hope you are all well and haven't suffered too much in the recent strong winds.
Anyway, I'm not actually here to write about the weather. Unfortunately, my year has got off to a bit of a crumby start, and I've been laid up with a nasty cold since the 2nd :( My throat hurts, my head hurts, my sinuses are blocked, my ears are blocked and my nose is all runny and sore. Generally, I'm feeling rather sorry for myself.
Needless to say, I'm not up to much in the way of blogging at the moment, but hope to resume normal service soon.
As way of an excuse for blogging about my illness, I shall also include What I Wore When I Was Ill (WIWWIWI....???).

Today I have given in and taken to the sofa with my duvet, wearing my PJs, new leopard print dressing gown (M&S) and my leopard print trapper hat (River Island) to keep my ears warm. I haven't put any make-up on or brushed my hair. Suffice to say, I look like some kind of children's entertainer having a mental breakdown.

Hope the lurgy hasn't got you too,