Friday, 28 August 2015

latest loves #1

Hellooooo! I'm guessing you'll have already noticed that things are looking a bit (OK, a lot!) different around here - the Owl and the Accordion has only gone and had a makeover! I started this blog waaaaay back in 2011, when I had little to no web experience, one of the most basic cameras on the market and was half-heartedly buying and selling vintage at local fairs and online. Four years on, my interests have changed, my technical skills have improved and the vintage business is no more (the buying went well, but it turned out I wasn't so good at the selling...), so I decided that it was time to bring the design up to date. The template is by the lovely people at Pipdig, who couldn't have been more helpful  - if you're looking for web design or blog templates, do check them out!

To go with the new layout, I've also got a few new regular features that'll be making an appearance; today is the first in the 'latest loves' series - these posts are going to be full of anything I've read, heard, seen, bought, eaten, drunk, rubbed on my face and slathered on my hair, and then fallen in love with.

(From top left)
If you follow along on Instagram, you'll have seen a picure of this H&M scarf on the end of our bed - I love the pattern, and also that it's absolutely massive, so doubles quite happily as a blanket.

I've been trying to tear myself away from the laptop earlier in the evenings, so I can get a few early nights with some tea and magazines. I've really been enjoying the Jasmine silver needle from the folks at Jing Tea - the little individual infuser is idea for taking to bed, as it reduces the risk of a big old mess!

I've been watching a few YouTube videos on makeup and skincare (A Model Recommends and Caroline Hirons are my favourites), and learned how important it is to cleanse and tone properly - I'm already a big fan of Lush, so I picked up this Ultrabland cleanser about a week ago, and the difference is already amazing. My skin feels softer, looks brighter and seems loads clearer - I'm also using Micellar Water from L'oreal, the Lush Eau Roma Toner Water and a Botanics Rosehip Brightening Nightcream, and so far, so good.

I'm a big fan of cotton tote bags, so when I saw this one on someone's Instagram feed, I immediately snapped it up. It's from the 'Books are My Bag' shop online, which is a great website dedicated to promoting independent bookshops and getting involved with reading. Not really something I need encouragement with!

I've been getting stuck into a few books lately as well; I saw the 'How to Style Your Brand' book on Hannah's Instagram feed, and it looked so good that I went out and bought my own copy. It's such a good resource if you're thinking of starting, or have already started your own business; not only is there loads of great advice and content, the pictures are really inspiring as well. My non-work related book of the moment is the brilliant 'Women in Clothes' - I got my copy on Kindle for iPad, as it's pretty pricey to buy, but I'm enjoying it so much that I'm tempted to buy a hard copy!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

five top tips to cleanse your closet

I don't know whether it's because we've been clearing out our clutter at home, or whether I've just finally accepted that my groaning wardrobe is full of stuff I don't wear, but the other day I found myself heaving everything into bin bags and putting it away in the loft. To be honest, I think I just got fed up with opening the door in the morning and having to spend half an hour trying to find things that worked together. 

When I sat down and really thought about it, I realised that I only actually wear about 10% of what I own; my regular outfits consist of jeans, tshirt, sweatshirt or jacket, trainers or sandals and an oversize scarf here and there. I've got a whole load of skirts, tops and dresses that have never even been out of the cupboard, so why I'm hanging onto them like some crazy hoarder is beyond me. Having a near empty wardrobe by the end of the evening was incredibly liberating though, and if you're thinking about doing the same thing, I've come up with five top tips to make your clothes earn their place in the cupboard.

1. Be Brutal
I decided that anything I hadn't worn in the last six months could go; so all of those eBay 'bargains' that I kept just in case they fit 'one day', those impulse charity shop buys that seemed like a good idea at the time, and anything I'd bought on a whim went into the bag. The basic idea behind this is that if you've not worn it by now, you probably never will - so no cheating, set a time scale and throw it in the bag!

2. Be True to Yourself
The worst thing you can do is keep stuff that you know you're not going to wear, just because it's 'on trend' or you've seen it on your favourite celebrity / blogger / YouTuber. Think about what you really like to wear; it could be that like me, your style has changed over the last few years - I used to absolutely live for patterns but nowadays I'm all about plain, simple and easy to wear. 

3. Try Things On
You need to make sure everything you're keeping still fits in the way you like; I used to like really skinny jeans, but over the last few months I've got into slim, girlfriend, boyfriend and 'Mom' styles. I like the shapes, they're way more comfortable and they suit my frame much more - I've also got size seven feet (I know!), and a looser fit seems to sort of balance them out. Ha!

4. Include Accessories
While you're on a roll, it'd be a shame not to sort out those piles of unloved accessories. Go through scarves, jewellery, bags and even tights and nail polishes, and ditch anything that's not left the house over the last few months - don't forget, there might be some loose change in the bag pockets, so check them first. 

5. Organise, Organise, Organise
Once you've cleared some space, get organised; sort clothes by colour, style or season, whichever suits you best and makes most sense. Have a look online for storage solutions; Muji do a great transparent acrylic range that's really useful for jewellery and accessories, or if you want something a bit more decorative to hold your lovely things, try H&M Home or Urban Outfitters. 

Of course, now that there's all that extra space, there's enough room for a few new things for autumn; I've got to the age now where I'm happier to buy less and spend more as long as it's good quality - I'd rather have one great jumper or pair of jeans that I wear to death, than ten of the same thing that don't fit properly and make me feel uncomfortable. My autumn wishlist is pretty basic, and is mostly things I've got one of already, and need another for when they're in the wash!

1. Jacquard Weave Scarf, £9.99, H&M
2. Loose White Shirt, £59, COS
3. Pendant Necklace, £25, & Other Stories
4. Essie Nail Polish in Chinchilly, £7.99, Boots
5. Cotton Jersey Sweatshirt, £49, COS
6. Sunglasses, £5.99, H&M
7. White Backpack, £19.99, Zara
8. Sneakers, £40, Clarks
9. Backpack, £24.99, H&M
10. Mom Jeans, £19.99, H&M
11. Tapered Trousers, £69, COS

Monday, 24 August 2015

found: nancy straughan

One of the things I love the most about writing a blog is how many creative and talented people you meet; I originally started the 'found' series to showcase artists, makers, photographers and bloggers that I thought really deserved a bit of time in the spotlight. A couple of weeks ago, the amazing Nancy Straughan emailed me to get in touch about her textile and paper designs; the first thing I saw were the words 'eco-friendly' and 'sustainable', closely followed by some pictures of her work, so it was pretty much love at first sight!

Working from her small flat in London, Nancy set up her homeware company in 2013 after completing a degree in Printed Textiles; she now spends her days designing and producing beautiful fabrics, home accessories, art prints and stationery, which are sold through her website and several independent stockists. What I really love about her work, though, is that every stage is done with the earth and environment in mind; all base cloths are natural, organic and sustainable, prints are digitally printed with eco-friendly inks, and all paper products are made using recycled paper.

For more information or to make a purchase, head to Nancy's website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Friday, 21 August 2015

bournemouth mini-break with #Bloggerlodge

A few weeks ago, I got a email from the lovely people at Travelodge, asking whether we'd like to review their Bournemouth hotel and explore the local area as part of the #Bloggerlodge campaign. After a pretty skint year, we couldn't afford a break at all this summer and jumped at the chance - so last Thursday we pcked our bags and headed off for two nights.
I'd been watching the weather forecast crossly for about a week before we left; originally there had been rows of little happy sunshines, all lined up together. But by the time the day before rolled around, they'd all been replaced by big black threatening-looking clouds, and the promise of thunderstorms and flash floods - and sure enough, when we arrived, it was absolutely hammering it down.

I huffed quietly for a bit until we found the Travelodge, and then huffed a bit more once we discovered we had to pay for parking (I always assume parking in these places is free and of course, we didn't have any change on us, doh.) The room itself was great, though - our bed was impressively large, there was everything we could need and it was so clean you probably could have eaten your dinner off of the carpet. It was quite late in the afternoon by the time we arrived, so we went out to dinner, then came straight back to the hotel and tucked the kids up in bed with a DVD, then went to bed ourselves.
The beds themselves were fine; the mattresses were firmer than I'm used to, but they obviously can't cater for everyone - the real problem was the stifling, smothering heat of the room. Despite there being a friendly little notice advising us to keep the curtains closed during the day so the room didn't heat up, the first thing I did when we got there was enthusiastically throw them open to see out - and then didn't remember to close them again afterwards. Which basically meant that despite having a fan blasting all night, it was a bit like being in the Sahara!*

When we woke up on Friday, it was still pouring with rain but the breakfast kind of made up for it; priced at £7 for adults (children eat free), it was an all-you-can-eat breakfast frenzy. Once you've paid, you can have what you like, and as much as you like; from memory there was toast with a variety of toppings, bacon, sausages, eggs, beans, tomatoes, yogurt, croissants, pastries, a huge variety of cereal, stewed fruit, fresh fruit, tea, several different kinds of coffee and two different juice flavours. At home, breakfast for me is usually half a cup of cold tea and twenty minutes of shouting, so this was a rare treat. Sitting down! Hot food! No rushing! No fighting!

As we're only forty minutes away, we've been to Bournemouth a few times before, so we already sort of knew what there was to do. The main attraction is obviously the beach and everything around it; there are a few museums, but nothing that would massively interest really young children, so we decided to hide from the rain at Tower Park just outside Poole. It's a massive complex with swimming, bowling, soft play, a cinema and a tonne of restaurants, so we passed the time here until the clouds started to lift. By about 2pm it had brightened up a bit, so we decided to go and explore the seafront for a while; with miles and miles of sand, fairground rides, amusements, telescopes for gazing out to sea and plenty of ice cream opportunities, it's definitely a good place to go if you're looking for a proper seaside holiday.
Saturday was check out day, but when we woke up it was gloriously sunny, so we decided to hang around for the day and go home later. Bournemouth in the sunshine is an entirely different experience; we had a great time meeting up with friends that live locally, running about on the beach, eating fish and chips and squeezing in as much ice cream as we could (because obviously, we don't have ice cream up the road in Portsmouth!). One thing we really enjoyed was taking a trip on the Land Train up to Boscombe Pier; the wind was blowing in our hair and the air had that lovely freshness it gets after days and days (and days) of rain.

I've always been a bit 'meh' about Travelodge Hotels; if we're going anywhere (which is rare!), I always try to support local and independent businesses. They often tend to be a bit more quirky and unique, which is just something I look for. (That, and a good breakfast!) That said, we really enjoyed our stay. and I think you get an awful lot for the price - it's definitely somewhere we'd think about staying again.

  • Super helpful staff, who were really accommodating (the kiddos usually have warm milk at bedtime, and they were more than happy to heat some in a mug and give it to us to take up to the room.)
  • Everywhere was really, really clean - even the lifts were spotless!
  • Large beds and nice, crisp bedlinen
  • A TV in the room with plenty of channels (helpful when you're trying to keep the kids quiet!)
  • The breakfast, oh, the breakfast!
  • The opportunity to have an evening meal in the cafe - the menu looked really impressive
  • The parking was awful - it was an underground carpark, and was really difficult to navigate.
  • The fact that you had to pay for parking, and it was done on an hourly basis rather than for the duration of your stay.
  • You had to pay for WiFi - there's a complementary half an hour, but after that it's £3 for every 24-hours. It's not a great expense, it just seems a little outdated as most other places offer free WiFi (even my doctors surgery has free internet!). 
Great Things to Do in Bournemouth
  • If it's sunny, definitely head to the beach. There's absolutely loads to do, plenty of eating opportunities and the beach itself is 7 miles of golden blue-flag sands. It's also really flat, meaning it's great to keep an eye on the little ones - we usually go to West Witterings, which has loads of dunes and hills. Good for leaping and jumping, not so good for keeping track of multiple children!
  • Take the land train up to Boscombe Pier. I was so glad we did this; we caught it up by Bournemouth pier, and it travelled along the seafront down to Boscombe, then back through the town centre and Boscombe Chine Gardens. If you're short on time, it's a really good way to see things you might otherwise miss.
  • Explore the Winter Gardens; these are just across the road from the pier, and are full of plants, flowers, seating areas and little street food stalls. Although it would probably be better to go in early summer when the flowers are at their best, it was still a nice place to potter about in.
  • Visit the Oceanarium. We didn't actually go inside, because we'd been to the Aquarium in Southsea the week before, but it looked really good. Rather than just sea creatures and fish, there are also otters and a new penguin exhibition, which makes a nice change!
  • We didn't do much shopping, but there's LOADS of different opportunities in the area. If you're into food, Southbourne has got loads of cafes and delis, and the vintage quarter in Pokesdown has loads of quirky little shops for vintage lovers. There's also all the main high street shops, if you're looking for something a bit more mainstream.
*Possible exaggeration

Many thanks to Travelodge for collaborating on this post with me, and kindly providing us with a room for two nights. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

current favourites: bath, body and skincare

I realised the other day that I've never, ever written about make-up and beauty on here, which is nuts because I LOVE trying out bath and body products - since I started thinking more ethically, I've been looking around for more eco-friendly skincare, so I thought I'd share my current favourites. I'm starting today with face and body products; from low budget moisturisers to higher-priced masks that promise fountain-of-youth style effects.

1. Green People Fruit Scrub Exfoliator, £12.95
The lovely folks at Green People sent me a little gift bag a while ago,which included their exfoliating fruit scrub, and I've been using it ever since - I'm really picky about what I put on my face, because I've got really really sensitive skin, and anything that doesn't agree with it leaves me red, blotchy and spotty. This leaves my face feeling fresh and clean, but without that 'tight' feeling that lots of scrubs leave behnd. I'd been wanting to try Green People makeup and skincare for ages, and it was just as gentle and lovely as I'd expected; there's no chemical nasties such as parabens or lanolin, and they're also not bad for the environment. Hurrah!

2. & 3. Simple Kind to Skin Replenishing Moisturiser, Kind to Eyes Nourishing Eye Makeup Remover and Kind to Skin Exfoliating Facial Wipes, Various Prices
I've been using the Simple range since I was in my early twenties and I just love it - the moisturiser leaves my skin feeling really soft and dries in really quickly, which is perfect for me as I hate anything that leaves a sticky residue. I only really use the eye makeup remover when I've had waterproof makeup on, but it's super gentle on eyes and doesn't burn or sting - I love the facial wipes for cleansing, but I think I'm going to buy a proper cleanser as wipes are really bad for the environment!

4. The Body Shop Shea Body Butter, £14
One of my main problem areas skin-wise are my knees - it doesn't matter how much I exfoliate them, they just will not stay smooth. I've tried Cocoa Butter before, but I'm just not keen on the super sweet smell, so I use The Body Shop Shea Body Butter instead - it's really, really thick (think butter that's been in the fridge!) so you can massage it into the desired area really easily and it sinks right in. Lush! (I also obviously love The Body Shop for their amazing and uncompromising ethics!)

5. Aveeno Hand Cream, £5
I spoke a while ago about the handcream I was using, but when it ran out and I forgot to order some more, I discovered the Aveeno range in Waitrose. It's not organic, but it's the only high-street brand I've ever used that doesn't burn when it touches my poor, cracked, garden-ravaged hands.

6. Green People Vita Min Mask, £15.95
The second item in the Green People gift bag was the MOST amazing face mask I've ever slapped on my skin. I've tried hundreds of them before, and they all either make my skin itch or burn, or leave it really red afterwards - but this one couldn't be more gentle. It's packed full of plants, and every time I use it, my skin looks plumper and more 'even', and feels sooooo soft afterwards - it's aimed at tired, dry skin, and I've certainly got that!

7. Original Source Lavender and Tea Tree Shower Gel, £2.30
I've been using this for absolutely ages - it's Vegan certified and smells gorgeous, and it's cheap as chips. Happy days!

8. St. Ives Invigorating Apricot Scrub, £5.49
Another product I've been using since my early twenties, the St. Ives body scrub is by far the best one out there (well, I think so anyway!) It's really thick, and is packed full of exfoliators, where as others I've used have been a bit weak and watery - it's one of my key ingredients in the battle against my problem knees!

9. The Body Shop Drops of Youth Bouncy Sleeping Mask, £24
I first tried this overnight mask when the nice lady in The Body Shop gave me a sample after I bought some other things - at first I was sceptical; a facemask you put on and leave on at night? I had images in my head of crusty, product-soaked pillow and an itchy face, but actually I was pleasantly surprised. Although it doesn't sink in completely at first, it's dry by morning and really did leave my face feeling 'bouncy' - the wrinkles around my eyes always look a little bit less like caverns after I've used it. Can't be bad!

I've been searching FOREVER for a good pore minimiser, so if anyone knows of a good one, do let me know in the comments! Thanks!

home: my favourite spots

Somehow, it seems that five out of six rooms in our house are currently getting a makeover, which is pretty extreme given that we only rent! I mentioned a while ago that we're changing the tiles and worktops in the kitchen (more on that later - I've got an 'in progress' post coming up with pictures of what we found under the old tiles *insert horror theme here*), and I'm also trying to finish off the kiddos shared gender-free wonder-bedroom. As we swapped with them, I've had to make some changes in our bedroom as well, and the lounge is getting shjooshed (is that a word?) up a bit in time for the colder weather. Despite nothing being finished, I've got some new firm favourite spots in our house, so today I'm sharing my top three.

Our Bedroom
When we first announced that we were going to give the kiddos the big bedroom, and take the small one for ourselves, everyone said we were nuts. And to be honest, I started to wonder the same thing when we nearly killed each other trying to force the double divan round the corner and through the doorway (anyone remember that scene in Friends where Ross, Chandler and Rachel are trying to get the sofa up the stairs? It was kind of like that, but nobody was shouting 'pivot' and everyone was swearing). But once everything was in, and tidied away, it started to grow on me - I love how at the moment, I can open my eyes in the morning and instantly see the bright blue sky (if it's raining, I leave the blind closed...), and I really like how clean and simple it looks. We had all white bedding anyway, and I've added some artificial plants for some greenery (for more inspiration, click here) and a small set of hooks to hold my jewellery - I'm enjoying this room the most because we're having to be really, really inventive with storage as well, which is a great excuse to have some of my lovely vintage clothes on display!

My Workroom
OK, so 'workroom' might be a teeeeny bit of an over-exaggeration when it comes to this room, but technically, it's where I work on my craft tutorials and magazine work, so I think it counts! It's a bit of a fairweather favourite though, to be honest, because it's a really, really budget conservatory and is absolutely bloody freezing in the winter - but in the summer, it's absolutely glorious. It opens out onto our patio, which I fill with plants, and overlooks the flower section of the garden (although currently blocked off by some rampant runner beans!), so I do spend quite a bit of time gazing out of the window, but it's inspiration, right?! Like the other rooms in our house, it's painted white, and is full of my fabric, craft supplies, vintage goodies and my beloved Bush radio (similar here), which is usually tuned to Radio 1 or Radio 4, depending on whether I'm feeling my age or not! It's pretty much done, but I just need to organise my paperwork a bit more effectively *stares at teetering pile of invoices on the floor*

The Lounge
I've talked about and shared photographs of our lounge before, but it really is one of my favourite rooms. It's roomy enough for the kiddos to play in, but small enough to be cosy, and I love the mantle for somewhere to display little postcards, vintage glass bottles, candles and bright flowers from the garden. It's home to my vast collection of books (particularly my fashion and craft books - my current favourite is this one about Alexander McQueen, bought for me as a gift by one of my best friends), and is where I work in the winter, lie on the sofa and watch endless boxsets with Ali. It's been a sickroom, a spare bedroom and an entertainment room, and it's always nice to come home to.

This is a collaborative post. 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

june and july in pictures

We spent most of June and July outside; either driving through the countryside with the camera handy (Hampshire is SO good for spectacular landscape photos!), at the beach or slumped on a bench watching the kiddos race around the park. The garden suddenly burst into life (as you'll know if you follow me on Instagram!), and we've had so many flowers; sweetpeas, stocks, nasturtiums, lavender, geraniums, dahlias, cosmos, scabious, veronica.... the list is pretty endless. So, so good. We've also enjoyed watching the sun go down in the evening, and there have been so many amazing skies - there's a video on my Instagram of the last one above, it looked like the apocolypse was coming!

I've been thinking about getting a tattoo for a while; when I was seventeen, I got one on my lower back and I kind of want to get it covered by something else. It's not really of anything; the best way to describe it as a little symbol with no meaning, and I really want it turned into something a bit more meaningful and impressive! Looking at pictures on Pinterest then led to thinking about things I might like to get in other places (I've created a whole board with my ideas, if you want to have a look it's here), so I thought I'd try to find some temporary tattoos to try out in different places. After searching absolutely everywhere and not finding anything I liked, I stumbled across the fabulous Pepper Ink on Etsy; full of vintage, botanical and simple monochrome tattoo transfers, there's an unbelievable amount of choice. I was a bit sceptical as to how long they'd last, but they really do withstand a god few days - and the Liquiskin is definitely worth getting, as it takes away that fake 'shine' effect you get with a transfer. Highly recommended!

Finally, I've done a bit of shopping recently as well; I don't usually buy things new, but I've had a straight run of eBay disasters which has put me off - either things not fitting or not looking how they did in the picture, and not being able to get a refund. Ugh. Our charity shops seem to have gone right downhill as well, so I've headed to the best of the high street which at least have a basic grasp of ethical values; Monki has excellent CSR policies, and that's were I found my amazing kaftan in the photo above. I actually featured it in my last style roundup post, and then accidentally bought one for myself. Whoops!

We're on Summer holidays now, so posts might be a liiiittle more spaced out than usual, because I have to work and juggle entertaining two smalls. Hope you're all having an amazing summer!

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