Friday, 30 December 2016

NEW YEAR BEDAZZLING


As 2016 draws to a close, we are very much looking forward to a new start in 2017.  We began our blog in January 2016 and were over the moon to reach 1000 genuine Instagram followers just before Christmas. We hope that means you enjoy seeing what we wear and the places we visit, and we certainly hope to bring you more of that in 2017.


But first of all we have a big night out to plan for New Year!  Anne C is wearing a beautiful pleated champagne dress which is still available from Chesca - which I think you either love or hate (Hubby thinks it looks like a nappy)!  From Anne's point of view it is really comfortable, and for a curvy shape, is very flattering.  Anne discovered Chesca some years ago and they cater for plus size - even though Anne has lost some weight (ok so she will never be a size 8!) they start at size 10 and go up to size 24 and have some stunning clothes - she wishes she could afford to shop there regularly.  Despite her dress size, she is not very tall and sleeve length and shoulder seams are always a problem, but this dress is a perfect fit and the shaped hemline balances the look.



She has accessorised with a heavy black beaded necklace from Uterque, rose gold earrings and pink pearl bracelet from Simply Devine in Tadcaster, diamante watch from Swarovski, faux snakeskin clutch bag bought in Santorini and black silk sling backs from Debenhams (similar here).






Anne H's tulip skirted black dress with a bow collar was also purchased from Simply Devine in Tadcaster and is by James Lakeland.  It is a really versatile and comfortable dress  in soft jersey, and a really flattering shape, being cut below the bust and falling below the knee.


Annes black suede court shoes are from Dune London, her diamante bracelet is from the now closed Emma Somerset  and her evening clutch is one she has had for ages.



Anne C's navy blue dress is in a stretchy jersey fabric and came from Florence and Fred at Tesco, and has a sequinned panel on the hip to give it a festive vibe. She has teamed it with navy and diamante earrings bought in M&S a couple of years ago and a diamante necklace and rose gold bangle bought at Castle Howard this Christmas. The pink pearl bracelet is from Simply Devine, bag is Anne H's (see above).





Anne H's dress is from Reiss and was purchased nearly three years ago for our cruise to the Far East. With metallic mesh sleeves and gunmetal grey tones it is a very flattering colour and looks equally dressy when worn with trousers. Her two tone grey shoes with gold decorative elements are also from Dune London - a favourite shoe shop for Anne as their court shoes are of a wearable heel height.  


Anne's diamante necklace was purchased at a Christmas stall at Castle Howard for just £14, so a  real bargain.  Her bracelet is from Laura Ashley and glasses are from Miu Miu.  

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Friday, 23 December 2016

FESTIVE CASTLE HOWARD

Anyone who remembers Brideshead Revisited will recognise the stunning location of Castle Howard, set in stunning countryside between York and Scarborough.

Anne H has visited previously at Christmas, but this was a first for me, though we have spent many a sunny summers day here - including a memorable occasion at a Porsche Show which was hubby's passion at the time!


But on a crisp and sunny Winter's day just before Christmas, I can honestly say it was a lovely festive day out and we had the opportunity to buy a few treats at their pop-up stalls, as well as marvel at the stunning Christmas decorations.  What an amazing place it must be to live there (though I would dread the bills as it was lovely and warm inside the house!)

I wrapped up warm in a red wool oversized coat from Kaleidescope bought some years ago but a similar one from Jaeger here, which I decorated with a white faux fur scarf from ebay to keep it Christmassy. My black trousers and red leather gloves are from M&S, favourite black suede boots from Primark and black mock-croc handbag from a stall at a summer fair.


Anne H wears a coat from COS which is the classic navy Crombie style that never seems to date.  Her scarf was purchased at a Christmas Fair at Ripley Castle a couple of years ago. The tan suede boots are from Kurt Geiger Miss KG range, called Spider, and are also available in black.  Jeans are from 7 for all Mankind and the trusty black handbag is from Loxley.  


Chatting to one of the friendly volunteers, she told us that planning the Christmas decor takes all year, with the decorator poring over colour schemes, coloured balls and whatever is de rigueur in the Christmas world! Then the actual decoration is completed by a veritable army of helpers, armed with several thousand baubles, candles and lights.  The result is a stunning array of beautifully decorated trees, table centre-pieces and arrangements - all of which of course can be purchased in the shop!


Not quite a Christmas tree - but using bare branches decked in seasonal baubles can be really effective.


A single candle in a glass candle holder or lantern, placed in a plain holly wreath makes a wonderfully simple decoration for a hall table or console.


Something a little more elaborate - especially if you have a beautiful historic stone statue to dress up!


Bags of dried oranges (available to buy at Castle Howard), together with dried cinnamon sticks or cloves can create a wonderfully fragrant decoration.  The candles in this shot are mostly actually battery operated, but look just as effective as the real thing - and are probably much safer, especially if you have young children or small animals about.


This beautiful brass electric lantern is transformed with some simple white ferns and artificial berries.


Real tealights in special holders look stunning on this branch - good to see it isn't on a real fir tree as the branches could be a fire hazard.




We loved this sturdy tree with its tea cups and saucers - all in matching blue and white Delft pottery or Willow pattern.


Simple is always effective - a long gallery of plain Christmas trees with just a string of lights for decoration. Perfect.
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Sunday, 18 December 2016

CHRISTMAS DAY DRESSING



I always feel as if I have to dress up on Christmas Day, when in truth, it's a day to relax, have fun and be with people you love.  After the hurley-burley of the year, Christmas Day is about family, friends and being comfortable.  I have been out for Christmas lunch to friends' homes in previous years and have felt the need to have full make-up, styled hair and beautifully manicured nails, when really, all I wanted to do was chill!


This year I think I have got it sussed!  There will just be three of us at home for Christmas Day, so I can be as relaxed and comfortable as I want to be, since I will be cooking and clearing up the mess caused by all the wrapping paper, string, bows and glitter on our beautifully wrapped presents.  Most of the day will be spent watching films and probably eating chocolates! The other Anne, however, has a full-on day for her much larger extended family and will be catering for a full house - 12 to be exact!

Ever a glutton for punishment, on Boxing Day she has also has invited us for lunch with her immediate family.  My outfit this year is one I rescued from the charity pile, and will be perfect for Boxing Day - dressy enough but comfortable.  I have lost some weight in the last couple of years and this was an outfit which was a little baggy (but I have tightened the waist line and it doesn't matter if the rest is a little loose) - perfect now for when one over-indulges at this festive time of year - and Anne is a superb cook so I know that there will be lots of lovely goodies to eat and drink.

My outfit for the day is a three-piece velvet suit of camisole, baggy straight legged trousers and a long swing jacket (it does have fur cuffs and collar but I have taken those off).

I have teamed the outfit with a statement glass necklace from John Lewis (like this but in silver) and rose gold diamante earrings from Simply Devine, and a sparkly crystal watch from Swarovski.


Anne H's very festive red silk longline shirt is from Pure Collection (although the website calls it burnt russet).  It's just a perfect length to feel comfortable in but still stylish and smart and in the perfect shade of red for Christmas. She has teamed it with a longline necklace from one of her favourite shops, Covet in Ilkley, which has a great range of unique, ethically sourced jewellery, and a handcrafted bracelet with coral inserts purchased from one of her frequent trips to Tropea. She is pictured below on her latest visit to Italy to celebrate a family birthday.


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Sunday, 11 December 2016

CHRISTMAS JUMPERS

It's that time of year again when we rummage around in the bottom of our drawers or wardrobes and dig out the sort of jumpers we wouldn't be seen dead in at any other time of the year!  But oh, they do so bring on the Christmas spirit and by the time lunch is over they look positively acceptable.

We would love to see pictures of you in your Christmas sweaters, and in the meantime here are a few from what would appear to be a fairly extensive collection from the pair of us.  A worrying trait perhaps?


First up is Anne C rocking a very fetching Santa Claus, or is it Mrs Claus?, top.  A little lighter weight than the usual knit, this might actually take us through the Christmas cooking without causing a literal burn out.  This top comes from Matalan and was purchased last year.  It just goes to prove that these tops never go out of fashion. (Note the Santa earrings!)


Anne H's top is from Tesco's F&F range and was purchased a couple of years ago. Loving the addition of the little scarf to add another dimension and something to dangle into the the gravy. Tesco have a great selection for all the family and with prices from only £12 they are a real bargain.


This one  from Marks and Spencer also last year is a little more tasteful and is in Anne C's favourite colour - pink.  The addition of the fetching sequinned tree makes this a fancy little number to rock-a-round the Christmas tree in with the help of Rafferty the cat. (Christmas tree earrings this time).



This next one has more of a ski jumper vibe but also includes a bit of sparkle to add some excitement.  This sweater is from Next who can be guaranteed to have the most amazing Christmas jumper selection with sizes for all the family.  I haven't looked, but suspect they may even have something for the family pet.



This is really quite disturbing as Anne C is usually the one who goes for the brighter, more extravagant tops and here she is again in a much more tasteful number, purchased from Bon Marche, (not a shop she normally ever goes in) with the feature of a graphic sequinned Christmas tree in gold.  (And Christmas wreath earrings for this one!) Fabulous. 


Finally Anne H has really gone all out and I think this might actually be a PJ top, but it is hard to tell.  A really in-your-face snowman with her favoured scarf to add a 3 dimensional aspect.  This top is also from Next from their range called "Today" in which she chose to hibernate in, and was purchased last year.

So this completes our selection of tops and if we are honest it doesn't even cover all of them.  

But if you are looking for more inspiration apart from the retailers we have linked here we would suggest also searching out ASOS , Boohoo and Zalando.


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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

AN EMOTIONAL TRIP....

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to visit Australia – never a country on my bucket list, but I had finished a cruise in Hong Kong and since my daughter was temporarily working out in Australia, I thought I would tag a quick week onto the end of my trip.

How I wish I had allowed longer – not just spending time with my daughter, whom I hadn’t seen for six long traumatic and miserable months as she worked her way round the country fruit picking – but because I wish I had seen more of the country.

I absolutely loved Sydney, and had to pinch myself as I stood on Bondi Beach.  It really wasn’t how I had imagined, though I don’t really know what I had expected.  Certainly there were no Kiss Me Quick Hats or fish and chip shops, but it definitely had a seaside flavour with surfing shops and ice cream parlours - but much more up market than Bridlington and Scarborough in winter!  The cove was clean and clear, the water a little chilly but the surf was gentle near the shore, though a little choppy out at sea. And this was a Monday in March - a gloriously warm day and a million miles away from a dreary working day at home.


I had looked for an inexpensive option for our stay and since the hotels were quite pricey, we decided on an airbnb apartment in the suburbs.  Fortunately my daughter knew which suburbs were safe and we found a cute little one-bed apartment in Surrey Hills for a very reasonable rent.  Since my daughter was strapped for cash by this time, she walked everywhere, and although initially I baulked at the “stroll” into town, by the end of the week I had got the walk – which took an hour on the first day – down to 35 minutes and I also started to feel fitter too! As it turned out it was a great way to see the real Sydney - walking past the bars and restaurants, sampling the wonderfully laid-back atmosphere.




On our first day, we walked through the Botanic Gardens and came out near Sydney Opera House.  Standing next to this amazing building we could see Sydney Harbour Bridge and then amazingly, the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship in dock!!  Given that I had recently stepped off the small and intimate Silver Shadow cruise ship – the Queen Mary was enormous – but what a sight to see!

The Opera House and surrounding paths were surrounded by scaffolding and hazard cones as they were obviously repairing and repainting.  I was not surprised to read that a couple of weeks later, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were visiting Sydney - I guess the world is just perfect for them!




Our time together was brief but packed as much in as we could – often eating in our bijou apartment.  However, there are some fabulous restaurants along the water front.  We ate Italian right next to the water’s edge, drinking cocktails from jam jars and watched the sun go down.  It was a magical first evening.






Obviously there were several shopping centres as Sydney is a major city.  We visited the Capitol Theatre which was showing The Lion King, one of my favourite ever shows.  Daughter Louise had seen it in London probably 15 years prior but couldn’t remember any of it, so we spent a nostalgic evening at the Capitol Theatre, which was refurbished in the 1990s with a bizarre faux 1920s interior.  Originally built as a fruit and vegetable market in 1892, it was just a single storey until the 1920s, when a second storey was added and it was used as a circus venue, cinema and theatre until falling into disrepair. I am all for rejuvenating old buildings, and it is very comfortable, but the decor is truly over the top!

Of course in Australia I wanted to hold a koala bear, so we visited the Sidney Wild Life Centre in Darling Harbour.  In New South Wales it is illegal for members of the public to handle koalas – which aren’t actually bears – because it is deemed to stress them out, even though in the rest of the country, it is allowed with a handler close by.  I did manage to get very close and personal however, and was delighted when the little fur baby opened his eyes to look at me as apparently they sleep for up to 22 hours a day.

We also saw some Tasmanian devils, which look like huge rats and which unfortunately are an endangered  species now as many of them get facial cancer.   We saw kangaroos and some fairly horrible snakes – and I must admit I am not a fan of zoos, though most of them today claim to be protecting endangered species. Darling Harbour is also home to a shopping centre and a number of bars and restaurant chains recognisable throughout the world.  Since my daughter had rarely eaten a full meal for the previous two months, she opted for a burger at the Hard Rock Cafe – though the service was dreadful!

However, during a shopping day (when I had to replenish said daughter’s wardrobe!) we discovered a little gem in the Tea Salon.  Tea and scones served on vintage china – with a choice of sweet and savoury scones and all were delicious!








The lifestyle in Sydney was very laid-back and relaxed – yoga on the beach and roadside cafes for breakfast were the norm, and of course there was sunshine!  My visit was during March which was the beginning of Autumn, so summer clothes were in the sales and Ugg boots, although new season, were much cheaper than they are in the UK – although why you would want Ugg flip flop slippers is a bit beyond me.

I would  go back tomorrow –  absolutely!  I would love to have visited the beautiful Blue Mountains just a short distance away, with its dramatic cliffs and eucalyptus forests.  Australia has so many beautiful cities and history to explore. Louise had been lucky, she had been swimming with dolphins, snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, had visited The Gold Coast and visited Easter Island, and even jumped out of a plane for her 23rd birthday (she didn’t tell me about that until after she had done it because I would have flipped out!) She also climbed Sydney Harbour Bridge - one of the must-do tourist attractions, but not one I have ever fancied, since I am petrified of heights.  I would have loved to have seen Madam Butterfly performed next to the lake and the Opera House in the Botanic Gardens, unfortunately opening night was the day I flew home.

Sadly I don’t believe I will ever make it back there – the 24 hour flight was a nightmare and I sobbed all the way home to leave my daughter there (with thanks to the kind gentleman who helped me through security because I was so distraught I fumbled my way through passport control with my suitcases).  However, she is safely back home now and settled in a career, so I have a lot to be thankful for.


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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

IT'S A WALK IN THE PARK


Anne H wears a lovely ribbed navy jumper dress from COS which was particularly needed as her boiler had broken and she had no heat or hot water.  She even came to mine to have a shower before we ventured to Roundhay Park and a spot of lunch at the Mansion.  She has teamed the jumper with some straight leg skinny jeans from 7 for All Mankind and some ankle bots from DUO who are now known as Ted and Muffy. 


She had added her Trafaluc (does anyone else know why on earth it is called that?) from this seasons Zara collection and the capacious Devonshire tote bag from Loxley England.  




My bright peach coat was a bargain buy from the summer sales earlier this year, which I bought in Tesco (see in red, pink or blue on current website here) with my Clubcard vouchers! Knowing what an impulse buyer I am, I went into the supermarket to buy some bread and milk and came out with a coat!  

The scarf - which is a perfect match - was also bought in Tesco a couple of years ago.

The jegging/jeans are from Marks & Spencer, suede boots - among the most comfortable ones I own - are from Primark, but similar designer ones are available here, and the black mock crock shoulder bag - my current favourite - was bought from a small stall at Wharfedale Hospital during a flying visit to check my bone density!

Quite a budget outfit, although the sunglasses are Chanel and cost more than all the clothes put together!

We were taking advantage of a rare morning's visit to the local park - fortunately the snow had almost gone but it was one of those fine chilly mornings with a pale low wintery sun which makes your eyes water!

Afterwards we enjoyed a hearty bowl of soup in the beautiful old Mansion house, built in the early 1800s, which now houses a cafe and conference/wedding venue. The original park had been given away by Henry VIII, and through a succession of owners fell to one Thomas Nicholson, who built the two impressive lakes to disguise the remains of an old quarry and mines.  The park was subsequently bought by Leeds City Council, and is one of the largest parks in Europe, which is great news for me since it is almost at my front door.





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Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A little pampering......

We all need a little pampering now and again, so maybe once or twice a year we head to our favourite day spa for a little R & R.

This year has been quite a tough one - particularly for Anne C following her accident earlier in the year in New York (still not allowed to talk about it yet.....) so a relaxing facial and a full body massage was just what the doctor ordered for both of us.

Our favourite Spa is a beautiful old Yorkshire stone house in Mirfield, West Yorkshire. Family owned and a proper home-from-home Eastthorpe Hall is a peaceful oasis with  traditional beamed ceiling, big squashy comfortable sofas, huge open fireplaces, candles, lovely furnishings and quite a few angelic decorations to create a heavenly atmosphere. 







Spas we love

I love my spa days.... In a previous job, I was known jokingly as "the spa lady" having frequented many a spa or beauty salon. But both Anne H and I enjoy pamper time, and have sampled many a massage and facial over the years. 

We loved Seaham Hall at Seahouses, which is both relaxing and since it is at the seaside, makes a wonderful overnight or weekend break with superb food - and the bedrooms are just gorgeous! Champneys offers a huge range of lovely treatments and the food is excellent - but if I'm being honest it is just too big and a little impersonal, although the staff were all very friendly. It is a little while since I visited, and I know they have refurbished the bedrooms since my last visit, so I hope they are a little more cosy than they were. Having said that of course - I wouldn't say no to another visit!

Regular readers will also remember that I always manage to fit in a visit to the Spa of the Gods in Santorini which has stunning views and great treatments, but there is nowhere really to relax, although soaking up the Greek sun comes in a close second.

Other fairly regular haunts include Oulton Hall near Leeds and Hazelwood Castle in Tadcaster - both of which run great special offers either through Groupon or direct from the Hotel.  Oulton Hall - owned by Q Hotels is beautiful and  as well as the spa, has a swimming pool and gym, while at Hazelwood Castle, though the treatment areas at the Imagine Spa are quite tiny, they do a fabulous afternoon tea to round off your visit and the grounds are lovely.  I have also had the pleasure of staying overnight there and it is just stunning!


So back to Eastthorpe Hall - which is our favourite day spa. This lovely home is set in beautiful tranquil gardens and is pure delight in the summer, with its tinkling water feature and outdoor gazebo.

The food, which is freshly prepared by Granville, the in-house chef is just to die for - I wish I could make healthy food taste as good.  They also serve a raspberry/apple and ginger drink which I must try and recreate, because it is delicious.



Our day kicked off with a welcome ritual and relaxation followed by a short session in the sauna to warm us up on a chilly Autumn day.  Then it was onto the hot tub - sorry too cold for swimming once you have got yourself warmed up!!!  We wrapped ourselves up in our own robes - though robes and slippers are provided - before having a late breakfast of very naughty warm croissants with that lovely raspberry/apple drink and an expansive range of teas.

Then it was onto our respective treatment rooms for a lovely relaxing massage before being allowed to curl up on one of those snuggly sofas. After a superb lunch - served with an optional glass of Prosecco - it was time for a "gymnastic" facial and head massage.  Actually I missed the head massage because I think I must have fallen asleep.  Ah well, my lovely therapist didn't seem to mind - I just hope I didn't snore.

Following afternoon tea - more tea and a cream scone - we were taken off for a paraffin hand treatment which left our hands baby soft and silky smooth.  By this time we were tucked up in very quiet room having a snooze.... until next time!  




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