Monday, 30 December 2013

New Years Eve Party Look

I had been on the hunt for the perfect party dress for NYE for a while and this Little Mistress fitted the bill. The skirt is lovely and full with netting underneath and the lace detail at the top is eye catching and pretty. Little Mistress dresses are perfect for parties and more formal occasions and they also have a plus size collection which runs from size 18-24. Recently Little Mistress won the title of Young Fashion Brand of the Year at the Drapers Independents Awards 2013 for the second year running.

I'm only heading to a house party for NYE but I do love an excuse to get dressed up and I want to get plenty of wear from this dress as I've only worn it once over the festive period.


Bracelet: c/o glitzysecrets.com
Shoes: New Look


I love the detail on the dress and I don't think photos do it justice, it looks ever so pretty in person.


I've finished my New Years Eve look off with this forever vintage bracelet from Glitzy Secrets.
It's encrusted with clear and smoky Austrian crystals and set on antique silver tone bracelet. It looks like an item from the 40s and would also look lovely at a black tie event or as a piece of bridal jewellery. 

I hope you have a fabulous time tomorrow evening, have you got any plans?

Gemma
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♥ My 2013 - Part 1 ♥

January

The big main event in January was the NTAs which I attended with Sarah and the Echo Falls team. I will always remember the NTAs as the day I shared a lift with Clare Balding and shook Arthur Darvill's hand. I was so very star struck and thoroughly enjoyed myself. You don't get to hobnob with people like June Brown and Paul O'Grady very often so I consider myself rather fortunate.


February

In February I headed off to Paris to spend some time with my friend Julien and his housemates Audrey and Camille. We spent the day in Disneyland going on the Rock and Rollercoaster over and over and meeting Mickey like big kids. I also wandered around my a favourite part of Paris, Le Marais buying pastries and looking at all the beautiful historic buildings.



March

March was probably one of my favourite months this year. I got to stay at the beautiful Norbury Manor with some of the best people you could wish to meet. I've made so many friends through blogging, I feel very lucky. I also got to visit the Harry Potter studio tour and as a huge fan it blew me away. The final part of the tour brought a tear to my eye and I can't wait to visit again. I also had a 90s party with my friends and had fun compiling the playlist and covering the house in streamers.


April

April was full of lots of blogging fun. I went to Birmingham for a night out in Snobs with some blogging chums, went to a lovely Next event and had afternoon tea at The St David's Spa hotel and went to the St David's Ladies shopping night.


May

May was jam packed with fun as I headed off to Amsterdam for a long weekend for my friend Craig's birthday. I feel in love with my rented red bike and would love to visit the city again. I also took a trip to London to see the David Bowie is exhibition, saw the Cold War Kids and chowed down on a Byron Burger and Breakfast Club pancakes.


June

Sophie and Emma came to Cardiff in June for the weekend which was so much fun, plenty of M&S picnic food and dancing to cheesy pop in Clwb. I also organised the away day for work in the beautiful Grade 2 listed Main Building and I went on my annual trip to Torquay with the girls.


I've really enjoyed taking a look back at some of the things I've done this year and reflecting on how lucky I've been, I think I've managed to pack quite a lot in. Thanks to anyone I've been away with this year for putting up with me and part 2 of 2013 will follow soon.

Gemma
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Saturday, 28 December 2013

Brecon Mountain Railway

Yesterday I visited the Brecon Mountain Railway which runs from Pant along the full length of the Pontsticill Reservoir. It's something that Martyn and I had been looking forward to and it was nice to get some fresh air after all the excess of Christmas.

The location was beautiful, it's on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park with its amazing mountain, lake and forest scenery. It's based near Merthyr which at one time it was the greatest iron making town in the world and most of the earlier railways used iron rolled by its mills. It also witnessed the trial run of the Trevithick locomotive - the first steam railway engine in 1804.

Dress: Fashion World - Hat : New Look - Wellies : Hunter - Bag: Vivienne Westwood - Coat: Tesco


I've always love trains but my current obsession can be blamed on Michael Portillo and his fantastic programme Great British Railway Journeys which I love watching. I'm fascinated by our industrial history here in the UK and trains played a huge role in that.

a picture of a steam train

The train that we saw that day was a No.2 Baldwin Locomotive which was built in the 1930s in the USA and was used by a cement works in Port Elizabeth in South Africa. 



a picture of Brecon Mountain Railway

Enjoying the views of the reservoir.


We wanted to walk around the reservoir but there were 60mph winds yesterday which kind of ruled that out so we headed to a viewing point in the Brecon Beacons and had our lunch with some speldid views before heading back home. 

a picture of pen y fan in wales

Pont ar Daf path up to Pen y Fan.


I can highly recommend a trip to the Brecon Mountain Railway and there's so much to see in this area I know I'm going to be there a lot this summer. Can't wait for some good weather to head out to the National Park which is practically on my doorstep. 


Gemma
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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Twas the night before Christmas...

Rushing around trying to great ready for Christmas, short days and torrential rain really aren't the best blogging conditions. I haven't managed to post anything for ages but I've got plenty coming up over the next few days which will inevitably feature photos of Sookie in a Santa hat.

I've had this Very dress for a while now and it's now my go-to dress for a night out or slightly formal occasion. It's super comfy (and roomy, perfect to wear if I'm going out for a big meal) and was under £30. I wore this on Sunday while visiting family and to a Christmas meal with some of my closest friends.


Dress: Very - Necklace: Punky Pins - Shoes: Mel


I spent a lovely evening with my mad but brilliant friends for a Christmas celebration and I got to see all my favourite people at the same time. This hasn't been possible for a while since some of my friends now live abroad and everyone is so busy now that we are all a little older.

Larking about with mince pies with Craig
We toasted Andrew and Dee for making such a wonderful Christmas feast.

It's always great to be reminded how lucky you are and I really am lucky with such good friends.

Hope you all have a wonderful time this Christmas xx


Gemma
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Monday, 16 December 2013

Christmas Gift Guide for Men

I really enjoy writing my gift guides every year, they give me a chance to sit down and think about what I'm getting for everyone otherwise I just end up rushing into Boots and panic buying something. It can be hard to buy for male colleagues, brothers and dads. Coming up with something unique year after year can become difficult. Luckily, most men aren’t very particular about what you get them for Christmas, as long as it’s not another pair of socks. What do you buy for a younger brother? What do teenagers like, I don't know?! People always seem to find gifts for men tricky so I'm happy to help out with some ideas.


Christmas gifts for men
Posters from posterlounge.co.uk - If you have a brother living away in halls of residence or a teenager brother who locks himself away in his room then a poster could be a fun and inexpensive gift to brighten up their dingy den.

Traditional rounders set - Dotcomgiftshop - A bit of post-Christmas dinner rounders would be such a great idea. Burn off some some calories, have some family fun and get some fresh air because you know you will end up sitting in front of the TV watching movies and scoffing Celebrations for the rest of the week.

Personalised decanter - Homewetbar - This would be a lovely gift for the sophisticated chap in your life. You can personalise it with an initial or add a letter so you know what's inside like a W for whiskey.

Submarine by Joe Dunthorne - I think this would make a perfect gift for a Dad, bother, boyfriend or anyone that's ever been a teenager really. It's one of my all time favourite books and I'm rather fond of giving it at a gift. It's about a boy called Oliver who is rather precocious teenager from Swansea. He's a bit of a self-styled social scientist, he spies on his parents and embarks on his first relationship with a girl called Jordana. It's highly funny and would make a great stocking filler. 

Journey on a steam train - Severn Valley Railway  - I normally get my brother gig tickets for Christmas or his birthday which means we get to spend some  quality time together on our own and bond a bit. It also means I get to do things that I wouldn't normally do like the time I took him to see Ke$ha and had the best time. Why not get some tickets to a play that your dad or partner would love and then you get a present/fun experience too ;) I think a journey on a steam train would be a fantastic gift for a grandfather or train enthusiast in the family.

iPad  cover - John Lewis - This would make a great gift for Marvel comic fan. If you know a relative is getting an iPad from Christmas this would be the prefect accessory. John Lewis is right next to the train station and always open late in Cardiff so I always drop in for those last minute presents ;)

With only a week to go are you all set for the big day?

Gemma
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Thursday, 12 December 2013

I’m a Great Westerner

I really do like to make the most of my time off at weekends and this usually involves a trip to another UK city by train. I've been to Warwick, Derbyshire, London, Birmingham, Manchester and many more destinations in the past couple of years and I'm always on the lookout for new places to explore. Being young, free and single (well not anymore) means I can go away at weekends and I intend to keep on doing this until I have more adult things to worry about.

Thanks to Michael Portillo and his Great British Railway Journeys show I'm pretty obsessed with trains now (I'm even going on a steam train a few days after Christmas) and I love to relax for a couple of hours, reading on the train before ending up in an exciting and new destination. 

There are still a few corners of the UK that I've still got left to explore including most of the Northern cities and Scotland but there are a few trips I would like to go on in 2014 a little closer to home which I can visit directly from Cardiff on the First Great Western rail network.

Cornwall

The first place I'm longing to visit is Cornwall. I've Only ever been down south as far as Dorset so I really want to explore that corner of the UK more. Cornwall is famous for; spectacular beaches; surf spots and surf schools; gorgeous gardens; cliff top walks; boat trips; and  attractions such as St Michael's Mount, the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Minack Theatre, Land's End, King Arthur's castle and the Eden Project. I know I could go for a couple of weeks and still not see all of this beautiful area.

cornwall

I think a trip to Cornwall would be best in the Summer so I could enjoy the beaches and get out for lots of walks so my next destination is somewhere I can visit any time of the year.

Oxford

From the city of Dreaming Spires - Oxford to the pretty countryside of Oxfordshire, there are so many fantastic things to see and places to visit in Oxford. I've never been before and it's somewhere I'm itching to visit. I bet you can guess the place I want to visit there the most? The Bodleian Library of course! For a bookworm and library assistant like me it's the ultimate destination.
The Divinity School at Oxford also served as Hogwarts infirmary in four films and the Duke Humfrey's Library was Hogwarts library. Both of these located at the Bodleian Library. I would love to hire a bike and visit the Ashmolean Museum, Blenheim Palace and Bicester Village to shop some of the designer outlets. Trains to Oxford only take two hours from Cardiff so I'm not sure why I've never been before.

Oxford

First Great Western run to some fabulous destinations around the country and they are giving you the chance to win two first class tickets to the location of your choice. You can chose Cornwall, London, south Devon, Bath, the Cotswolds, Cardiff and Bristol (and many more) If you win and chose Cardiff do let me know and I can give you plenty of recommendations of things to do and see.

Where you go is up to you, but to be in with a chance of bagging the prize you’ll need to go to this page and fill in your details.  You’ve only got until December 16th to enter, so be quick! If you’re on Twitter you can let others know where you’d most like to go and join in the chatter using the #imagreatwesterner.

Gemma
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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Garmin nüvi 50 Review

I have recently been recruited to be a safety and security tester for Tesco Compare, by reviewing the Garmin nüvi 50. I was excited to try out a sat nav as I go on a fair few road trips with my friends and trying to use the sat nav on your phone is a nightmare. I've been in the car many times when a phone sat nav system is slow and you miss your exit resulting in a 10 mile motorway detour, not fun at all. Not knowing where you are going or which lane you need to be in can lead to stress which you don't need if you're trying to have a fun and safe day out.

Enough babble, what can the Garmin nüvi 50 actually do?

A picture of Garmin nüvi

I decided to test out the Garmin nüvi 50 on a trip to Nash Point with my boyfriend. Entering the location we wanted to reach was very easy. You need to select the country first and the enter the address of your destination by spelling the town or postcode. It takes around a minute depending on satellite reception to find the route. You can add more destinations if you need to pick up a friend on they way and then you're ready to go.

The screen is quite large at 5 inches which allows you to see more of the map and things coming up like junctions or points of interest. I think the large screen adds an element of safety because you don't need to strain your eyes or look at the screen as often which means you can concentrate on the road. The wide screen displays the map, estimate time of arrive or miles left and the speed limit in your area. We found the speed camera notifications and speed limit notifications very accurate and handy. It's hard to keep an eye on the limit when you don't know the area and are trying to concentrate on listening to the directions so the beeps the device makes if you start to creep above the limit are a great safety feature. 

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The instructions are read aloud in a clear accent – there were a few place names that are hard to say, which was pretty funny to listen to. You can also download some free voices on the Garmin website if none of the ones on the device tickle your fancy and there are some premium ones including Yoda and Marge Simpson. The Garmin website offers a series of extras, including different vehicle icons and you can update your maps for free. The device is only loaded with UK and Irish destinations but you can add European maps for longer journeys.

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Garmin's lane assist and junction view features are a great feature on the device. The nuvi 50 displays an image of the road and its surroundings, along with road signs identical to those used in the real world. The static image appears on the screen in the lead up to turn offs and is especially useful on busy motorway junctions. The only negative I could find was the lack of traffic features, even as a post-purchase add-on. This means it won't provide detours around traffic jams or diversions but for the price and large display this isn't really going to be a deal breaker. 

The device is easy to use and has a clear, large display. It retails for £100 online, which I think is very reasonable if it means safer and stress free journeys.

Now I've got my routes planned I've got a few other car issues to sort out and new tyres are at the top of my list. Would you recommend either Tyre Shopper or National


Gemma
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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Clothes Show Live 2013

On Sunday, I was very lucky to be invited to Clothes Show Live as a guest of Echo Falls. I attended last year and had a lovely day and couldn't wait to go back this year and hang out with some of my closest blogging pals. California wine brand Echo Falls teamed up with fashion blog What I Wore Today (WIWT) to snap some photos of stylish Clothes Show attendees and Poppy who founded the blog also hosted fashion panels at the Echo Falls bar with MTV host Becca Dudley and fashion expert Caryn Franklin.

a picture from clothes show live 1013

Skirt: River Island
T-shirt: ASOS
 Pumps : heart shoes by Mel
Necklace: Gift

With so many stylish ladies under one roof at the Clothes Show Live I wanted to make a bit of a splash with my outfit so I wore my new super sparkly skirt teamed with a casual, over-sized t-shirt. I'm hoping to get a lot of wear from this over the festive period and I'm going to team it with some heels, a fluffy cream jumper and a string of pearls when I visit family on Boxing day.

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I loved my fancy press badge, not had one of these before :)

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As you can see the bar was busy all day and provided the perfect place to sit down and unwind after a hectic day at the Clothes Show Live. There were loads of clothes stalls to browse and the make up stands seemed to have some amazing deals especially Models Own and Clarins.

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Sarah in her rather lovely bird print dress sipping on some pink bubbly.

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Alex and I headed over to the catwalk next to the Echo Falls bar to watch the ladies from Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model strutt their stuff and model some clothes from the retailers at the Clothes Show.

Lots of other bloggers attended that day and hung out at the Echo Falls bar and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the Clothes Show including these lovely ladies:


CLOTHES SHOW LIVE BLOGGERS

Mel, KimDebs.

DSC_0511 

I want to say a big thank you Echo Falls for inviting me, I had a lovely day.


Gemma
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Strictly Come Dancing - Outfit Inspiration

I've certainly changed a lot this year. Weekends used to mean wild nights out, cocktails and getting dressed up but now my weekends are completely different. A mixture of settling down and my friends being busy with their dissertations means you can usually find me in on a Saturday night in front of the TV with my family. I've swapped the vodka and diet coke for hot chocolate and glam dresses for my PJs. Saturday nights are all about Strictly Come Dancing for me. I can admire the glitz and glamour but by sitting comfortably at home and not out on the town until the early hours.


Gala Bingo recently set some bloggers a challenge to create some posts inspired by the style on their favourite Saturday night show. While Nicole Scherzinger always looks amazing and the contestants on X Factor get to wear some lovely outfits I had to pick Strictly. Who doesn't love some old Hollywood style glamour and thousands of sequins?

You're not going to be able to buy a ballroom dress perfect for the
Viennese Waltz on the high street but I've found plenty of Strictly-inspired outfits on the high street. Here are a few that I think are the most accessible and wearable:
strictly come dancing fashion

This very glamarous dress by Frock and Frill channels the 20s vibe perfectly and reminds me of all the great beaded dresses the female contestants wear when they attempt the Charleston. The tiers and sequins would look great on any dance floor when you're strutting your stuff.

Abbey Clancy is definitely my favourite contestant this year the black dress from her Matalan range reminds me of the sophisticated dresses the ladies wear for the Argentine Tango.I really want Abbey and Aljazto win this year but I also have a soft spot for Susanna and Kevin.

The final dress is from Collectif and is the perfect dress to recreate that 50s jive look. I love the full skirt, perfect for swirling around on the dance floor.
strictly come dancing
To finish the look you need the right shoes and these Dune dancing shoes are great. They look pretty similar to the ones I had as a kid when I used to have dancing lessons except mine were covered in gold glitter. Loved those shoes...

You need as much glitter as possible to sparkle on the dance floor and this snow glitter polish by Illamasqua will certainly help with that.

Finally, we all know you can't hit that Strictly dance floor without lashings of fake tan being applied ;) I love that Sophie Ellis-Bextor has refused to wear any this year, not even a little bronzer.

I'm Team Abbey this year but who do you want to win?

*This post is in conjunction with Gala Bingo and their X Factor slot game.


Gemma
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Friday, 6 December 2013

F&F Winter Coat

With the weather turning distinctly chilly and weather warnings issued for this weekend a biker jacket really isn't going to cut it anymore. I've finally caved in a dug out my hats, gloves and chunky knits to keep out the cold.

This rather lovely coat comes from F&F at Tesco and features contrasting sleeves, hessian and wood toggle fastenings and a hood. I'm always on a look out for winter coats with a hood as it's hard work trying to get an umbrella out of your bag when you have gloves on. The reason I really love this coat is because it reminds me of Oliver Tate from my favourite book and film Submarine. He wears a rather lovely navy coat with toggles in the film and I've been on the hunt for one just like that for ages.

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Sookie joined me in the garden for some posing.

Coat: c/o F&F
Skirt: New Look
Necklace: Punky Pins
Black winter Boots
: Clarks
T-shirt: Horrors band merch

f&f duffle coat

I love the classic appeal of a duffle coat which grew in popularity when they were issued to members of the Navy in WW1 and WW2. The wooden toggle-fastenings were made to be easily fastened and unfastened while wearing gloves in cold weather at sea and the oversized hood offered enough room to wear over a Naval cap.

I'm off to the #BathXmasMeet on Saturday and the Clothes Show Live on Sunday. Will I be seeing any of you guys there? I'm really looking froward to getting all dressed up and having the chance to do some reading on the train back from Birmingham. Hopefully I will have time to squeeze in some Christmas shopping too as I still have a few gifts to get. I've found a new site which has helped me save loads on Christmas presents with discount codes called Voucherbox. I have signed up for ASOS discount code alerts on there which I have made full use of. The more I save on presents means the more I can spend on myself right? ;)

Gemma
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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Banana & Walnut Loaf Recipe

After a rather stressful couple of weeks I was glad to have a weekend at home, lounging about in my PJs and spending some quality time with my mum. I'm usually in some other UK city at the weekend or spending time with my friends or boyfriend so it was nice to bond with my mum and snuggle up with the dog. Spending hours getting dressed up and staying out until 4am just isn't my style anymore and in a recent survey by Ladbrokes Bingo 70% of women said they preferred a night in with the girls to a night on the town so I know a few of you feel the same way as me. 

After baking a few weeks ago I wanted to try something a little more challenging so my mum suggested we bake an old family favourite, banana and walnut loaf.

This cake is perfect for morning or afternoon tea. It's light and moist and very easy to make. For the  best results, make sure the bananas are overripe. For me this cake is a great comfort food and I serve it with a little butter spread on top.


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Ingredients

  • 100g butter or stork, at room temperature
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 large bananas
  • 100g sultanas
  • 50g walnut pieces, roughly chopped
  • a pinch of mixed spice (optional)
I used half of this amount because I only have a small loaf tin.

Instructions


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160 fan. Line a loaf tin with baking parchment or grease and dust with flour if you don't have any. 
  2. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric hand whisk until pale, light, and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and add a tablespoon of the flour after each one. This will stop the mixture curdling.
  3. Peel and mash the bananas in a small bowl with a fork, then stir into the loaf mixture, along with the sultanas and walnuts. Fold in the remaining flour, then spoon the mixture into the tin. Smooth the top, pressing well into the corners. 
  4. Bake for 1 hour/1 hour 15 minutes, or until risen and firm to the touch. If the top of the cake starts to brown too much before it is fully cooked, cover with foil. Leave to cool on a cooling rack then cut into slices.
(I once made this whilst at uni, I didn't have a whisk and couldn't be bothered with folding things in. I put all the ingredients in a bowl and mixed it with a wooden spoon. It still tasted nice but didn't rise as nicely.)

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I want to bake a few more cakes when I have some time off over Christmas. I'm definitely going to make this yule log but do you have any other suggestions for me?

Gemma
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Sunday, 1 December 2013

My Ultimate Christmas Wishlist

I'm starting to get really excited about Christmas. I've got Pinterest boards dedicated to it, I've been baking Christmas treats for friends and I've started to tick things off my Christmas food shopping list. You're meant to grow out of this I suppose but even thought it's only the 1st of December I've already bought and wrapped most of my presents and I'm acting like a big kid. I'm going to watch Muppet Christmas Carol tonight and I might even sport a Christmas jumper whilst doing it.

I get a lot of joy from planning, wrapping and seeing someone tearing open their gift and most of all that look of excitement on their face. But with Christmas in mind I can't help thinking about a couple of things I would like Santa to drop off for me. Some gifts on my list are far too extravagant but it doesn't hurt to browse, right?

Don't worry,  I'm not coming over all twee like Jess from New Girl because I've wanted a bike so badly since hiring one in Amsterdam a few months ago. Viking make very similar bikes for around a third of the price so I may treat myself to one in the new year when I've bought everyone else their Christmas presents. To be honest I could stick a bell and a basket on any red bike and be pretty happy with it. I'll be total hipster cliche riding around on one of these...

Some gifts are more practical like the GHD's because my old ones have died and I've lost my favourite Alpha ring from Daisy and would love that to be replaced. I really don't need another dress but this Ted Baker one is so soft and silky and I always go an have a little look at it when I'm in House of Fraser, it's very pretty. Zalando currently have the dress on sale down from £205 to £145.

The little Pandora charm is not only super cute it would also remind me of my trips to Nash Point lighthouse and Portland Bill this year. My final pick had to be some books. I always get books for Christmas and these are extra special books. Each book is bound in cloth with covers designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith. I think books make the perfect gift because as Moz once said 'There's more to life than books, you know. But not much more.'




ultimate Christmas wishlist


Bike -  Pashley - £675
Ted Baker Cocktail Dress - Zalando - £145
G Alpha Ring - Daisy- £37
Lighthouse Charm - Pandora - £40
GHD IV styler - ASOS - £79
Clothbound Classics - Penguin - Whole Collection £460  - £14.99 per book

Gemma
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