Easy entertaining…

Dress: M&S via charity shop; cardi: Dorothy Perkins; hold-ups: Charnos; headband: Claire’s Accesories; belt: charity shop; shoes: M&S

This last week has mostly been about entertaining folks we’ve barely had the time to see since Christmas, and getting over an inevitable bout of holidayitis. For this reason, combined with recent weather conditions, we have managed to complete exactly none of the trips we had planned for the break. We have climbed no mountains, visited no historical high streets, enjoyed no extended country walks… In some ways, a disappointment, although more, I think, for you guys than for Dapper and myself!

But I’m happy to say that every hosting occasion has been an absolute delight. I’m so pleased we managed to squeeze so many people in, despite both feeling pretty darned shoddy for a lot of the week. And Dapper cooked his famous stuffed marrow on more than one occasion, neatly splitting the cooking duties in two and therefore halving my workload – a definite bonus!

I have also taken advantage of the moments between guests, rain showers and coughing fits to really get the herb and vegetable garden going. We have a lovely little suntrap right outside the bedroom door, ideal for pot plants and hanging baskets.

Headscarf: was my Gran’s; navy dress & lambswool jumper: charity shop

I began growing various fruit, veg and herbs from seed last month, and have now transferred seedlings to the great outdoors to see how they fare. Fingers crossed they do well, and we’ll have a variety of fresh herbs, spinach, radishes, beetroot, strawberries, tomatoes, rocket, shallots, etc etc in the months to come!

Meanwhile, maybe next holiday we’ll manage that munro…

Wishlist: more goodies from Cath!

Frida Floral Medick Dress, £95

Very vintage, I adore the contrast check-lined pleats. The website suggests teaming it with a beret, or with a neck scarf and cardigan for the autumn months.

Floral gumboot socks, £15

Just what I need to keep my toes cosy inside my pink wellies when the heavens open!

Vintage hotspot: The Wear House

We stumbled across The Wear House in Ludlow quite accidentally, and lost three hours inside. It was like falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, with three floors of vintage, antique and independently designed goods ready for the perusing.

There is so much choice, a good balance of vintage and antique, clothing, bric-a-brac and interiors, and ladies and gentleman’s fashions. It’s not over-priced, as is often the case – for example, I tried on a gorgeous 50s lime chiffon dress, full-skirted and off the shoulder, in perfect condition for £55. Cheap at the price for something unique that has lasted so well for so long, and half the price of many cotton vintage repro dresses in the high street just now.

Thankfully, after all that browsing, the back-room and garden take their turn as a delightful tea-room, with generous pots of tea (-for-two: £2.50), delicious homemade cake, and if you’re really lucky, one of the regulars, John, to offer advice for the discerning gentleman on where best to make necessary clothing purchases. You know – panama hats, summer weight linen suits and the like…

A jolly fine way to spend a Saturday!

Hubba Hubba & the day I fell in love with Veronica

Isn’t she beautiful?

A few months ago, Dapper and I took a Saturday out to visit a reenactment fair. Whilst there, Dapper spotted Vintage Life magazine and we instantly signed me up for a subscription. In my lovely first copy, which I took away that very day, I spotted an ad for Hubba Hubba.

Unfortunately, Hubba Hubba’s website launch had been delayed. I was disappointed to find that I could see nothing of their collection – but I could sign up for their facebook page.

And this was where I first saw Veronica. In black with that marvellous fitted waist, plunging neckline and long sleeves. A good length – not too short, and a decent fabric that would make her evening appropriate in the cold winter months.

Veronica, £140 – £165 from Hubba Hubba 

Like all Hubba Hubba’s designs, Veronica comes in a choice of colours (black or floral – I wants both!) and high street sizes, or for an extra £25 cost, can be made to measure. This is a stroke-of-genius offering, as so many of us struggle these days to find clothes that fit properly – it’s a complaint I hear more often than any other when it comes to women’s clothes off the rack!

Sweater shop

Sea fan sweater, Anthropologie, £118

I spotted this Sea Fan Sweater on wwepw and fell head over heels. I love a good belted cardigan, and this one has a vaguely Victorian feel to it (cardigan-ness aside!). I’ve actually been looking for knitwear this week, wanting some twinset or 40s styles, perhaps with puffed or gathered sleeves, in navy, camel and red to match my charity-shop-find reversible skirt. So far I have drawn a blank on camel, somewhat confusingly, seeing as everyone is hailing it as the colour of the season!

I do love these, though. Most of which are outside my pre-set budget, of course…

Seagull embroidered cardigan, £55, Laura Ashley


Heath Feather cardigan, £89 and Holly Walk cardigan, £69, both NW3 at  Hobbs

It did occur to me that vintage or handmade might be a good way to stay within budget, and Etsy provided some great possibilities including:

Darling Blue vintage sweater, £11.33 from Dry Salvages,
Red and navy sweater, £93.85 from Fashionable Knitting

And then I remembered how knowledgeable twitter folkses are, so I asked if anyone on there had any suggestions. From whence Fleur directed me to Rocket Originals:

Cotton mix nautical sweater, £30,
Blue and white square neck sweater, £45

Finally, while hunting down funky wellies (it has rained A LOT in Oxford this week!) I found these cardigans, not even close to my required colour scheme, but absolutely perfect in every other respect:

(click on images to enlarge)

Pencarrow cardigans from Joules, in maroon, soft grey or
my personal favourite, caramel.

After all that, I’m no better off for sweaters themselves – but I am spoilt for choice when it comes to potential sources. It’s a darned good job tomorrow is payday!

My 30th birth-week: Part The Second

Ok, let’s continue where we left off…

I had a lazy day Friday, with much catching up on the sleep I’ve been missing nightly over the past 8 months. In the evening I was joined by Dapper Chap, who presented me with some highly appropriate gifts!

And we went into town for a Mexican meal in celebration of Roisin’s birthday, which was on Saturday.

After some yummy and very filling fajitas we all retired to the Somerville as usual, where chatter, cake and general merriment ensued. It was a really lovely night, I believe thoroughly enjoyed by all!

More gifts – hot pink leather gloves to match my purple winter coat, from Carys and N; a scarf to match my red crocheted beret, knitted by Roisin’s fair hand, alongside some beautiful fat quarters and a stunning book-shaped locket; the Katherine Hepburn collection from Nic, to help further my education!

On Saturday we had a complicated day of getting stuff ready for the party, getting ourselves ready for the party, setting up the PA, sorting out food… none of which would have been remotely possible without the much- appreciated help of Dapper Chap and my lovely Nat. I am indebted to them for such a spectacular evening.

My lovely Nat and I

I am also indebted to Rich for the loan of his PA and for making me a playlist; to Steve, for transferring said playlist onto Nat’s ipod for me; and to Cath for letting us fetch and deliver the system from hers, even though she was suffering a particularly nasty head cold! However, poorly sick Cath aside, I think everyone had a good night, which I’m hoping goes a little way towards thanking them…

Gorgeous Sarah and Kawika

Beautiful Nat and a very handsome Steve

My baby brothers and I


Lauren had made me an utterly delicious cake (chocolate and sweet potato – it was amazing!) and I was so touched that everyone had put in so much effort to be there with me.

More beautiful gifts!
The candle smells divine, and that capelet was hand-crocheted by Alysa!

Every single person looked fantastic – even the barman had dressed up –  and the venue provided the perfect backdrop for the theme.

There was dancing, and my favourite moment, an a capella rendition of  Sweet Caroline, followed by “let’s see how many hats we can balance on Caroline’s head”. I put Johnny Two Hats to shame!

Overall I couldn’t have asked for more – an utterly splendid night, and the start of many happy 30ths to come!

My 30th birth-week: Part The First

Well guys, I do believe I owe you the mother of all make-up blog posts… and boy are you going to get it!

Firstly, I do actually have several outfit shots from last week. But in the interests of not bombarding you with an inordinate number of images, I’ll be scheduling these as “style bites” to appear over the next few mornings. Instead this post is going to be about all the lovely gifts and special moments I’ve been privileged to receive and enjoy over the last week. Starting where I left off, last Tuesday!

Flowers and fizz from my colleagues

So, Tuesday morning I packed up several days’ worth of stuff and took myself off to Sutton to pay for the party venue for Saturday night. Nat met me at the pub and escorted me back to hers, where she and Steve treated me to curry, presents and Only Connect on the iplayer. (If you’re British, like game shows, and haven’t seen Only Connect, get thee to the iplayer this instant and enjoy!) My chicken tikka tawa was really tasty, and as well as the beautiful gifts shown below I received and promptly quaffed a lovely bottle of pink fizz from Erika and Andrew!

Vintage 60s sweater clips!

Ruby shoe!

Gin from Steve!

Beautiful cake stand from Nat’s Mum!

On Wednesday, I had a lie in before crawling into bed beside Nat for a cosy brekkie in front of Gilmore Girls. We eventually peeled ourselves up, and I caught the train back to Stafford to my Mum’s.

I was awoken bright and early Thursday morning with these:

Beautiful (and comfortable) shoes

And this:

A proper vintage Kenwood mixer!

I took myself into town to do a spot of shopping before meeting my Dad and Lorraine for coffee at the Soup Kitchen, and had a most successful day in the charity shops:

More lovely shoes

Pencil skirt – one half of a very Jackie O skirt suit


Reversible camel, navy and red wool skirt – how cool is that!

After coffee we had a mooch about a few charity shops, then it was back to Mummy’s for lunch, a quick scoot to town again to visit the bank, then a brief visit to my not-really-an-aunty Aunty Dot’s for a cup of tea and a catch-up. Aunty Dot’s house still feels like a treasure trove to me – she too is a hoarder of all things old and pretty, and has more collections than – well, than I do! Plates, boxes, Victoriana… there are spice tins and mangles and carpet beaters and beautiful old books at every turn!

On Thursday evening, Ben drove over and we all went to Spice Island in Stafford for an utterly divine curry. A few mishaps aside (not long after entering I found myself drenched in red wine, and not through any fault of mine!) it was a lovely meal, extraordinarily tasty. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area – and with main meals BOGOF, it’s bargainous too!

Retro-style telephone (yes, I will soon have a landline!) from Ben.

Also from Ben, a gorgeous tea cosy to match my blue theme
and dainty embroidery scissors.from the V&A

And then it was back to Leamington to a pile of cards and presents!

Beautiful necklace made by the lovely Amy at Wonderland Boutique

I know you’re dying to read about the weekend and my amazing party, but you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow. Meanwhile, here’s a sneak preview of my outfit, and feel free to satisfy your curiosity over at Nat’s blog, The Writer Side of Life.