Saturday, 23 July 2016

Ten Essential Items for a super stylish holiday




It's been a long time since I packed for anything other than an overnight stay in the UK; my passport expired almost ten years ago (shocking, I know!) and the last time I actually left the country was to go to Venice in 2004.

I'm definitely of the opinion that you can have just as nice a time at home though, especially with the beautiful weather we've been having lately - Ali's got a week off in August, so we're going to try and head off somewhere for a few days, which means I've been thinking a bit absolutely endlessly about packing. When you've got two kiddos, scooters, bikes, balls and beach equipment, it doesn't leave much room for clothes - and I'm definitely not the capsule wardrobe type (I've tried and failed, many times). If you're like me and you really can't imagine limiting yourself too heavily, you have to just be smart about what you do take - choose things which can be worn in different ways, and accessories that are multi-functional, and you'll be grand. Using a website or app like Lyst can help you pick and curate your holiday wardrobe with just a few clicks; it's ridiculously easy to use and caters for all budgets (so you can mix up your A.P.C with your ASOS at the touch of a button).


You can search via designers, stores or items, and then filter according to budget, colour and fabric, making creating a cohesive collection super-easy. I used it to find my ten key pieces for a holiday wardrobe (above), and was pleasantly surprised to discover some brands and labels weren't as expensive as I'd previously thought - I also stumbled across some great new finds, which suited my pretty limited budget. Happy days!


1. The Maxi-Dress
A maxi-dress is one of the best things you'll ever take on holiday, simply because it can go from day to night with a quick change of accessories - and it's great if (like me) you're not keen on shorter hemlines.
White Stripe Bardot Maxi-Dress, £35, River Island

2. The Oversized Clutch
I'm not talking so big you need a trolley to wheel it along, but a decently sized bag that could easily hold all of your essentials for either the day or the evening.
Clutch Bag with Flap, £16, Zara

3. The Sunglasses
The sunglasses shape of the year this time around is most definitely the cat-eye (again!) - choose simple black with a hint of metal to make sure it works everywhere from the beach to the restaurant and beyond.
Gold Metal Cat-Eye Sunglasses, £15, ASOS

4. The Espadrilles
Espadrilles are one of the best types of holiday shoe, because they work absolutely everywhere; with a bikini and kimono by the pool, culottes and a cold-shoulder top for sightseeing and with your best holiday evening dress for dinner.
Ankle Strap Espadrilles, £17, Lost Ink at House of Fraser

5. The Denim Dress
If you only pack one thing (well, apart from your swimwear and undies!), make it a denim dress. It doesn't matter whether it's a shift, a dungaree-dress or a maxi-dress, denim is beautifully versatile - wear with a light jacket and sneakers during the day, and then add some statement jewellery and flat sandals for evening.
Light Blue Denim Shirt Dress, £19, River Island

6. The Tote Bag
I rarely ever use anything other than a tote, because I tend to carry so much stuff around with me, and they also seem to go with most outfits. Holiday-wise, they double brilliantly as a beach bag and also a day bag for sightseeing - plenty of room for everything from your suncream and guide book to beach towel and novel.
Striped Jute Tote Bag, £22, The Beach People

7. The Hat
Who doesn't love a big hat on holiday? Great for keeping the sun out of your eyes, hiding messy hair in photos and most importantly, preventing heat stroke. The bigger the better, I say!
Multi Stripe Sunhat, £15, Banana Republic

8. The Kimono
One of my favourite things to wear in the summer is a kimono; great when the clouds roll in, or for an evening outfit after the sun has gone down, they keep the chill off without making you too hot. Tassels are pretty much essential (well, I always think so!)
Denim Style Cotton Jacket, £40, Mango

9. The Scarf
A good scarf is the best accessory you'll take on holiday, I swear; as long as you make sure it's a perfect square, you can wear it as anything from a headscarf or sarong to a top. You could even actually wear it around your neck!
Black Cotton Tassel Scarf, £19, & Other Stories

10. The Sandals
Wherever you're going, it's a good idea to have some slightly more formal sandals or footwear, just in case you end up going to a nice restaurant, or somewhere that needs something other than espadrilles or flip-flops.
Franco Double Buckle Sandal, £42, Topshop

Many thanks to Lyst for partnering with me on this post.
Images courtesy of Unsplash.
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Friday, 22 July 2016

Adventures in Southsea





















I've been meaning to write this post up for the last two weeks, but as usual, things kept getting in the way! June and July are usually pretty busy for us anyway, but this year it's been crazier than ever; Ben has just finished infant school (waaaah!) and moves up to the juniors in September, and Daisy is starting reception, so we've had loads of visits, concerts, performances and meetings to go to. I'm so glad the holidays are here!

Ali's birthday is at the end of June, and our anniversary is at the beginning of July, so we usually just celebrate both occasions over one weekend; this year we were pretty short on cash, so we just pottered around Southsea. We had an amazing brunch at Southsea Beach Cafe, popped into Home for coffee and cake, wandered around the Rose Garden and stumbled across the BEST florist stall at the Castle Road market. I'm going to do a separate post with a homeware haul where I talk more about Rose Clover, but for now, check out the website and shop!
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Monday, 18 July 2016

Summer Accessories: The Tote Bag


I find shopping and getting dressed in the summer so much more fun than in the colder months; you don't have to worry (well, not quite as much anyway!) about getting drenched, or finding yourself suddenly freezing at the bus stop. Best of all, you're not hidden away under a giant coat, which means that you can indulge way more in accessories, knowing that someone besides you and the cat will actually see them!

I've got a few accessory posts lined up, because in all honesty, it's my favourite shopping category. Today, I've rounded up five of my favourite tote bags from House of Fraser; most of the bags I buy are this style because you can fit SO much inside. It used to be baby and toddler stuff, now it's more cameras, crochet and magazines - I like to be prepared if I'm going anywhere in case there's a delay! They're so beautifully versatile; they work equally well as beach bags, work bags, overnight bags or hand luggage - but there are a few things to look for when buying one. Here are my top tips!

1. Check the handles and seams.
A tote bag is big - so it's natural that you're going to end up filling it up. It's human nature - the bigger the bag, the more stuff you pile inside. You might not think that a couple of books and a camera weigh that much, but you'd be surprised, so take the time to check out the seams and handles - look for double rows of stitching and hardware for added security. The last thing you want is your laptop tumbling to the ground in the middle of the street!

2. Look for inner dividers and pockets.
A big bag is brilliant if you're a 'more-is-more' girl like me - but not so much when you're looking for your phone or keys in a rush and you end up tangled in a pile of hairbands, chocolate wrappers and old lipsticks. A good tote will have a couple of inner pockets made for your smaller items, so you can keep everything to hand.

3. Think about usage.
Before you part with your hard-earned cash, think about what you're going to be using it for. If you're looking for something to throw your towel and suncream in for the beach, stay away from expensive fabrics like leather, suede and nubuck - they all mark and fade terribly in the sun, so stick to cotton and straw for your beachside holiday!

Many thanks to House of Fraser for collaborating on this post. 
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Friday, 15 July 2016

The Botanical Home book signing and a trip to Guildford








A few weeks ago (OK, OK, more like a couple of months....), I heard about a book signing at Anthropologie in Guildford - I don't really go to many events or press days, as travel is so pricey and I always have to get back for the school run, but this one was on a Saturday. And it was for a book I'd been waiting to get my hands on for ages - The Botanical Home by Selina Lake. Squeee!

If you've read any of Selina's books, you'll know why I was excited (interior author royalty AND Anthro - what a combination!), and if you haven't, then you definitely need to get to a bookshop for a browse. The event itself was lovely - beautiful floral and botanical displays all over the shop, stacks of books piled high and the most delicious little cakes and meringues from local cafe Kalm Kitchen (more on them in a minute!). I came away with a signed copy of the book, a goodie bag and a copper candle holder from Anthropologie - if only more events were on a Saturday! (I'm going to do a separate post on the book, because there were so many lovely parts that I wanted to talk about and show you!)




Cardigan: Uniqlo // Stripe T-shirt: COS // Jeans: H&M // Flatbed Sandals: H&M // Bag: Monki





We spent the rest of the day pottering around Guildford (the kiddos were at their Grandparents - there was no way I was risking my two hectic little people running around Anthroplogie. Imagine the possibility for breakages!); I bought some flowers from the market for my Mum, we ate delicious food in Kalm Kitchen - I had beetroot, squash and feta salad, and it was ah-ma-zing - and then wandered around the castle grounds and enjoyed the sunshine.
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Friday, 1 July 2016

the #ethicalfashioncollective: H&M jacket and DIY-ripped knee jeans









Well, that was a quick month! It's the first Friday in July (although the weather obviously missed that memo), which means it's time for the #EthicalFashionCollective - the joint project between lovely Mel and I, where we try and promote clothes that for whatever reason are a bit more on the earth-friendly side.

I'm a big lover of second-hand things; I'm not going to pretend that I never buy anything new, I do, and I LOVE finding a good bargain, but I find pre-loved clothes great when you're trying to save money and ease up on the planet. I do shop in charity shops occasionally, but don't really have the time any more to spend hours rummaging, so I get most of my second-hand clothes from eBay - it's also a great way of finding older items that shops might have stopped selling. My jean of choice used to be the Sqin from H&M, which seemed to disappear almost overnight - they were brilliant; more on the slim side of skinny rather than skintight, and with a low-ish rise which meant you could go for lunch and not have to unbutton your jeans afterwards! I recently got two pairs for £5 on eBay, and as they were so cheap, I didn't feel in the slightest bit worried about taking the scissors to one of them!

Which brings me onto the second thing I wanted to talk about - DIY and customising. Ever since I was a teenager, I've added things onto t-shirts, turned mens clothes into dresses and taken things apart to make something new and a bit different. I'm not the best seamstress in the world (technical skills: zero), and there's an element of cobbled-together-ness about it, but it's fun and a great way of making something completely original. I'd wanted a pair of ripped-knee jeans for a while, but couldn't find any that I liked both the fit and the torn effect on (not in the right place for my knees / too torn / not torn enough / didn't like the colour), so I got a bit happy with my new (old) Sqin jeans and a craft knife. It doesn't really warrant a whole tutorial, but this is what I did:

1. Put the jeans on and mark where the knees are.

2. Take them off again, and check that the marks are relatively even using a tape measure.

3. Place a thick piece of card inside one of the legs, underneath the mark.

4. Using a craft knife, make a hole that you can get your fingers inside, and then tear across to make the rip. If the thought of doing that makes you nervous, use the craft knife for the whole cut instead!

5. Repeat for the other leg.

6. You'll find the edges will fray a little, so if you want a softer effect, just give them a bit of encouragement - otherwise, trim them off!

The best thing about ripped knee jeans is that there's no real right or wrong way to do it - for a softer look, try grating the area with a cheese grater first, or experiment with a razor blade to gently pick at the threads. Anything goes!

The second part of the outfit in the ethical category is the jacket; I found it on sale in H&M, and it's from the conscious collection, which is the part of the brand that promotes earth-friendly manufacturing processes. I've always loved aztec prints and patterns, and I'm a big fan of the oversize look as well, so it was a win-win! (The shoes are from H&M, the top is a man's t-shirt from Paul Smith and the sunglasses and bag are both from Monki. When I pulled the sunglasses out, Ali howled with laughter and cried, 'wow! They're a bit special!' Yeah, thanks husband.)

If you want to join in with our planet-loving fashion series, simply use #ethicalfashioncollective on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, and tag both me (@owlandaccordion) and Mel (@melwiggins) to show off your style.
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Thursday, 30 June 2016

the botanical farmer



Yes, that is a gentleman with flowers in his beard at the top of the post. 

Not only does Sam Ellison have flowers in his beard, they're also in his blood; as the owner of a farm and three different floral-based companies, he basically spends his days growing and picking beautiful herbs and blooms, before turning them into breathtaking bouquets and the most a-ma-zing bath and body products.

The Botanical Farmer was born as a sister company to the award winning Traditional Flower Company, and is an absolutely ingenious way of avoiding wastage; once the stems have been used in floral arrangements, the rest of the plant and petals are then turned into bath products, room botanicals, essential oils, candles and even throwing confetti for weddings. You guys know I love a zero waste product almost as much as I do organic bath and body goodies - so when the kind folks at The Botanical Farmer offered me a jar of their bath tea, I couldn't reply quickly enough! 



Now, you all know that I'm a sucker for nice packaging; in the kitchen, in the bathroom, wherever - I've even been known to buy cereal because it looks good on the shelf. Ahem. I chose the Rose, Geranium and Lavender blend, which is number 8, and is designed to be calming (because we all know what a nervous nellie I am most of the time!) - and the packaging was a dream. It arrived in a beautiful miniature kilner-style jar, with a muslin bag folded carefully inside, and looked beautiful sat on my bathroom shelf (not that that's what matters the most, but, you know, it's up there ;-) ). As soon as I opened the lid, the smell filled the room; it wasn't like sniffing a tub of something in Boots - I honestly felt like I was standing in the middle of a flower field, that's how natural it was.

Bathing in it was heavenly - there's just no other words that work well enough. Not only does it have the rose petals, lavender grains and essential oils, it also contains a generous amount of Himalayan bath salts which act as a detoxifier and help to smooth your skin. Which can't be a bad thing! You don't need a lot to fill the little bag either, so the size of the jar is really generous - a beautiful, handmade, organic bath product which is kind to the skin, planet AND the wallet? Thumbs up from me!

I wasn't paid to write this review, however I was gifted the bath tea - all words and thoughts are my own, and really, I couldn't think of a single bad thing to say! Get involved!
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