Sunday, 28 December 2014

Boohoo Plus NYE party outfit

Dress: c/o Boohoo Plus - Shoes: New Look - Clutch bag: Vivienne Westwood

I was completely terrified by this dress. I've never worn anything tight in my life and I've never even tried on a body con dress. Us plus size girls are always told to avoid them like the plague, only wear flattering things and don't wear things that cling to all your wobbly bits. I tried this on, wore it to a family gathering and you know what, the world didn't end. Nobody ran away in fear because they could see a bit more of my stomach and legs on show than they normally do. 

The dress is the Leah Dress from Boohoo Plus. I sized up on for this dress because I wanted it to fall a little longer on me and not be too tight with all the Christmas food inside me. Boohoo Plus is available in sizes 16-24 and everything is very reasonably priced so if you wanted to get something new for NYE without breaking the bank I suggest you take a look. Make sure you check out how cute Nancy from Sugar, Darling? looks in her Boohoo dress too, I'm thinking of getting the same one and wearing it with chunky boots and thick tights.

The beading on the dress was hard to photograph, it glistens in the light and looks very pretty. 

I paired the dress with my go-to clutch and shoes which I wear to most parties or nights out. I can't wear skyscraper heels anymore, chunky heels all the way now. If you're a bit more adventurous than me you could pair them with a pair of classic black heels like these gorgeous shoes.

To celebrate NYE in style order from Boohoo by 8pm on 30th December. 
Have you got your NYE outfit planned yet?

What are you doing this year for NYE? 
I'm going to be staying in with Martyn but getting dressed up and making a fancy meal. 

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Friday, 26 December 2014

Esprit New Year Wishlist

I'm not going to make any bold and unrealistic goals for the new year but the one thing I've promised myself that I'll achieve is looking a bit more polished in 2015. I've become stuck in a style rut and I've really not been making the effort recently. I'm just throwing on dresses that I know fit me well and are work appropriate but not spending time on picking out a few accessories that make the outfit stand out or trying new trends and experimenting. I've been buying lots of Joules and Boden recently and whilst they make some great stuff I don't think I'm quite at that middle class mother/yummy mummy stage of my life yet.

In my bid to look more chic I've been scouring the internet and found a store that stocks up to a size 18 (I get so frustrated when brands stock 8-14) and has loads of basic items which can be mixed with more statement pieces. Esprit is a fashion brand that blends creativity and responsibility fused with a sunny Californian attitude. Effortless style, authenticity and easy-going living are at the heart of the brand philosophy. There is loads of laid-back tailoring, hand-crafted and responsible production. 
The Esprit webshop has 12 collections per year and over 70 new styles every day! I've spent waaaay too long on there website and found a few items I'm coveting for my own wardrobe. 

imitation leather satchel £ 55.00
skirt with a draped front £ 29.00
fine knit jumper with cashmere + a choker £ 39.99

The first outfit is work appropriate but also great for family dinners or going out at the weekend. I love the bold colour skirt, detail on the jumper and bag big enough to fit my make up bag, packed lunch and all the other junk I like to carry with me.

two tone jacquard skirt with waist pleats £ 39.00
imitation leather biker jacket £ 29.99

fashion ankle boots with stretchy inlay £ 59.00

fine crepe top with a jersey back £ 29.00

The second outfit is also work appropriate but I would also wear this to a gig and add a splash of colour with some red lipstick and my gold Zatchels bag. Items from both outfits could be mixed together and I would feel comfortable in them but also feel like I had made an effort.

Do you find it hard to look polished? What are your goals for 2015?

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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Budapest Christmas Markets - Hungarian Christmas

One of the main reasons I visited Budapest was for the Christmas markets. I wanted to visit one on the continent but Germany can be very expensive because they use the Euro there so I settled on Budapest as a cheap alternative. There were plenty of other reasons I visited Budapest including the hot spas and historical sites but the markets were lovely and Budapest it the perfect city for a festive Christmas break.

Martyn and I were very lucky because there was a Christmas market right on our doorstep. There is a Christmas Market just outside the Basilica (post about the church here) which was only a two minute walk from our apartment. That meant there was a constant supply of mulled wine on my doorstep, we drank a lot of mulled wine so we didn't freeze because it was -2/4 outside for most of our stay. Each hour in the evening the Basilica was lit up with a wonderful light show, some were a bit psychadelic like the photo below.

The main market is situated Vörösmarty Square. At the end of November Vörösmarty Square turns into a huge festive market place.Wooden stalls and two outdoor stages take over one of Budapest's most attractive spots during the build up to Christmas. There are lots of handmade good to browse, tasty treats to feast on and a lovely festive atmosphere.

We drank so much mulled wine on our trip, we bought mugs so it would stay hot and took them home with us. I'm sure they were only around £1.50 each too, bargain.

Some traditional Chimney cakes at the market. Kürtőskalács (chimney cakes) are made from sweet, yeast dough. A strip is spun and then wrapped around a cone–shaped baking spit, and rolled in granulated sugar. During the baking process the sugar stuck becomes caramelized and forms shiny, crispy crust on the cake. You can also have additional toppings like ground walnut or cinnamon powder.

We also visited the Great Market Hall at the Pest end of Liberty Bridge. It's a great place to stroll even in cold and rainy weather. The three-storey hall is huge and you can pick up plenty of Hungarian paprika here.
They really know how to do Christmas well in Budapest and I felt that once I got home my festive cheer had disappeared a bit. I was excited to get that Christmassy feeling back when ICE International Currency Exchange challenged me to recreate a Hungarian Christmas. I picked up a lot of souvenirs on my trip and some items in the UK to bring a Central European feel to my home. Christmas in Hungary is celebrated with traditions similar to those found in other Central European countries as well customs unique to Hungary.

Hungarian Christmas starts with the celebration of Advent. Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas, at this time families decorate their front yards and tables with beautiful advent wreaths adorned with four candles.Every Sunday before Christmas they lit one additional candle and the last one is lit on Christmas Eve. You can find colorful wreaths in every Hungarian home and I saw some giant ones at the Christmas markets dotted around the city.

The Christmas and gift-giving season starts  early with the Santa-like figure, or Hungarian version of Saint Nicholas, Mikulás (or Szent Miklós)  visiting the homes of Hungarian children on the night of 5th December, on the eve of Saint Nicholas Feast Day, 6th December.

If you're from outside the UK I would love to know how you celebrate Christmas and please share any unusual family traditions you might have, I would really enjoy reading them.

Drinking more mulled wine.  I don't have a mulled wine problem...

Although the role of gift-giver on Christmas Day itself is assigned to the Christ Child, on the night before St. Nicholas Day Hungarian children traditionally place a boot on their windowsill waiting for Mikulás to come by and fill it with treats. In Hungary, Mikulás often comes with an assistant: a "Krampusz", a Devil, who punishes bad children.

Before 24th December, people decorate their houses and start to cook and bake. On 24th December, people decorate the tree with ornaments and put the wrapped presents under it. On Christmas Eve young children are waiting for the arrival of Jesus and especially for the presents. Gift-giving is done after the meal, and after singing carols around the tree.

I bought myself a little Christmas tree to decorate today like they do in Hungary, some mulled wine because my trip to Budapest was filled with it, some paprika to make some traditional goulash or fisherman's soup and an advent wreath.

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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Trying to relax at Christmas

The words Christmas and stress seem to go hand in hand for me at the moment. There's social events most nights, presents to buy, I've got a cold and I'm really looking forward to a whole day off with nothing to do. There isn't just one super cure for a stress free and relaxing Christmas, but there are a few simple things we can do so it doesn't get the best of us.

Make a list and check it twice.
I always find that writing things down helps clear my mind. I have a card list, present list and food list which all get ticked of and give me peace of mind. I also write all parties and things I need to attend in my diary so I won't forget anything. When writing your to-do list you could rate the items on it in order of importance. If the less important things don't get done, don't stress out.

Giving up control isn't always the easiest thing to do, but it can make a big difference. I like to control the menu over Christmas but I don't drive so going to pick up the food can be difficult for me. I've asked Martyn to pick up a few bits for me. I've had to learn to relax when he comes home with Aunt Bessie's roast potatoes instead of regular potatoes which I roast myself. It's not worth worrying about.

Make time for friends.
A couple of hours chatting with the girls and a glass of wine can make a huge difference to my mood. December is busy in work because the students using the library have deadlines so I can feel a little a little run down and not in the mood to socialise. As soon as I see my friends any worries just seem to dissolve away. 

Eat, drink & be merry.
And don't worry about the consequences until 2015. It's Christmas, don't fret about calories and fat content. I stocked up on lots of lovely food from M&S and baked a cake before inviting some friends over to share it all with.  Hosting can also bring stress, fretting over a menu, cleaning the house etc so why not head out for a meal and nobody is left doing the dishes? Take the stress out of finding a table when all the restaurants are booked over the festive period and use Quandoo. It shows you all the restraints in your area and what times you can book a table. You can also use it in lots of European countries so it's really handy for when you go on holiday. They also have a Loyalty Program and you collect Points each time you make a reservation on Quandoo.

Remember you count 

Last but certainly not least: remember that you count too. Don't forget about yourself amongst all the hustle and bustle of making everyone else's life special. When you are out shopping or at home take some time to thank yourself for a job well done. I've been reading a book in bed and getting my lovely Pied a Terre scented votives and diffusers out to create a relaxing atmosphere.

I  have Iris & Vetiver, Plum & Black Amber and Fig Leaf & Cassis scented candles, I can't pick a favourite. It's nice to treat yourself to something luxurious like this or a new hand cream or nail polish.

Reed diffusers continuously scent my home,  I always stop and appreciate the scent when  I walk past the diffuser in my hall. 

When all else fails, remember to take a deep breath. It definitely isn't the end of the world if it all doesn't end up exactly how you imagined. As long as you get to see your loved ones and enjoy the biggest roast dinner of the year that's all that really matters. 

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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

#SimplyBeReal - My fashion nightmare

The Simply Be campaign named #SimplyBeReal has made me chuckle a few times already when I've seen posts about it on twitter. Illustrators have been recreating the 'real moments' women experience in everyday life. Fashion doesn't always to go as planned and I've had a fair few fashion disasters in my life so I had a hard time narrowing it down to one moment to bring to life in an illustration.

I've been working in the library sector for over five years now and what I wore was never a problem when I worked in public libraries with low shelving. I started working at a University library just over 4 years ago (you can read about that here) and that's where the problems began...

My job is a bit more physical than people imagine, I'm crawling around on the floor fixing problems with computer cables and shelving books on step ladders. My embarrassing fashion moment came when I was shelving some books in the library up on one of the high shelves whilst wearing a rather short skater skirt. A patron walked past and whispered to her friend that she could see right up my skirt and I was mortified. My face turned a violent shade of red and I've not been able to wear short skirts to work since.

I'm a midi skirt fan now and only wear dresses below the kneed to avoid any further embarrassment. 

My illustration was created by the wonderful Anke Weckmann and I love how she has captured me and my story. What to you think?

I would love to hear your funny stories, fond memories and fashion mishaps so please share them with me in the comments or by using the #SimplyBeReal tag.

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Monday, 15 December 2014

St. Stephen's Basilica - Budapest (& my apartment)

this is a picture of St Stephens Basilica in Budapest

One of the highlights of my trip to Budapest was visiting the Basilica. It was named after King Stephen I, the first King of Hungary who brought Christianity to his country who was canonised after his death.
A slightly bizarre feature (to someone from non-Catholic country like myself) of the Basilica is the saint’s mummified hand on display in one of the chapels, which is paraded every year on the national holiday of St Stephen’s Day The inside of the Basilica is stunning with a magnificent gilded dome which you can climb top get a panoramic view of the city.During the early 1900s the relic was taken to the Sigismund chapel in the Buda castle and remained there until 1944. During World War II, the Holy Right and the coronation jewels were taken and hidden in a cave in Salzburg. Later they were found by the US army, which delivered the Right Hand to the archbishop of Salzburg for safekeeping. It was returned to Hungary, right on time for the procession of August 20, 1945 by three members of the American Military Mission. It remained in the safe of the Basilica until August 20, 1987, when the Holy Right chapel was dedicated. I think the coronation jewels were only returned to Hungary after the end of the Cold War, they were safely stored in Fort Knox.

this is a picture of the dome at St Stephen's Basilica in Budapest

this is a picture of St Stephen's Basilica in Budapest

this is a picture of St Stephen's Basilica in Budapest

It really was breathtaking. I'm not a religious person at all but the scale and beauty of this building really took my breath away. I was definitely deeply moved by my surroundings. There is a small fee, 200 HUF to enter the church (less that £1) and if you want to climb the dome like we did then there is a 1000 HUF fee which is around £3 but well worth it. After climbing lots of winding stairs to the top of the dome we were rewarded but amazing panoramic views of the city. It was very grey and cold for most of our stay but the views were still spectacular. You can see as few at the Buda hills and make out all the major landmarks.

this is a picture of the view from St Stephen's Basilica viewing platform in Budapest

Our apartment was only a two minute walk away from the gem that is the basilica. We booked it through airbnb and really enjoyed our stay there. It was a very good price, the perfect size for a couple and had everything we needed. I would highly recommend a stay if you're considering going to Budapest. The host was from the UK and moved to Budapest with his Hungarian wife, he kindly picked us up from the airport and gave us a quick tour of the area.

There was plenty of space for four people/a family too as the one bedroom apartment also had a sofa bed.

airbnb apartment Budapest

If you want to read more about my trip to Budapest make sure you keep an eye on the Budapest tag. Have you been anywhere exciting recently? Please leave links below so I can get some travel inspiration.

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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Festive party look - JD Williams/Joanna Hope Blurred Spot Jersey Dress

spotty black wrap dress JD Williams

Dress: c/o JD Williams - Necklace: gift from Sarah - Bag: old from Miss Selfridge

If I was going to design my ideal dress it would be sit just below the knee (why is everything so short now at the moment?), it would have sleeves and I wouldn't need to wear a slip under it to be more modest. This Joanna Hope dress ticks all my boxes, hurrah!  I love anything polka dot but this is a bit more sophisticated than my usual navy and white ditzy polka dot print of choice and I'd like to think the gathering on the side highlights my waist without the need to wear a belt. It's available in sizes 12-32 from JD Williams which is great news, nothing worse than finding a dress you like and finding out it only goes up to a size 14. JD Williams have got some lovely partywear this season, I've got my eye on a navy blue velvet dress from their collection.

I've been wearing this dress to work with flats but I'll be wearing it to end of term drinks paired with some heels and a clutch, it makes the perfect work to night out transition dress.

statement necklace

Both the necklace and clutch are old favourites that I've dug out to complete the look.

spotty wrap dress

I love this bag and it has been so well used. It can be a clutch or shoulder bag, very versatile and the neutral colours match most things.

This is a photo of a black and cream clutch bag

What will you be wearing for all your family occasions and Christmas parties this year?

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Sunday, 7 December 2014

Budapest at Night

this is a picture of the Chain Bridge in Budapest

I have to apologise in advance, you are going to be so bored of Budapest once I've finished with it. I've got about six posts lined up about it and I might even attempt to make a blog about my trip there with tips for people going there for the first time. I arrived back home from my holiday in Budapest on Thursday and I've been looking through the photos and wishing I was back there every day.

It's a beautiful city and they really know a thing or two about lighting up their buildings to make it look magical at night. It was dark in Budapest at around 4pm everyday so a lot of my photos were taken at night, here are a few of my favourite photos of my new top destination:

The photo above is of the gorgeous Széchenyi Chain Bridge which is a suspension bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest.  Designed by the English engineer William Tierney Clark, it was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary, and was opened in 1849.

The Parliament building (above) is just over 100 years old. The building was inaugurated on the 1000th anniversary of Hungary in 1896, and fully completed in 1902. The Budapest Parliament building is the third largest Parliament building in the world. It was loosely based on our own Parliament building in Westminster and it is the same height as the St. Stephen's Basilica to show the equal importance of the state and church in Budapest. 
During the Communist era a large red star was added to the central tower above the dome of the building but was removed in 1990. There is a beautiful square on the other side of this building with a   memorial to the 1956 uprising and some museums. 

Lots of these photos were taken on our last night in Budapest where we rode trams 2 and 19 down each side of the river taking in all the sights for the final time. The photo below is of the other end of Budapest and shows the Gellert area and the green bridge which links it to the Jewish Quarter. Martyn and I loved just wandering around the city (even though it was very cold) with a mug of mulled wine in our hands and making the most of the views from both sides of the river.

Make sure you keep an eye out for my posts about the Christmas markets in Budapest, Andrassy Avenue, where I stayed and some a round up of all the sights I saw coming over the next few weeks. If you want to take a look at more photos of my trip in the meantime head over to my flickr album (warning, lots of goofy photos of me and Martyn in there) where you will find 300+ photos. 

Have you ever been to Budapest or hoping to visit in the future?

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