Wednesday, 31 August 2011

mid-week inspiration: lissy elle

Middle of the week already; how?! Here's some photography inspiration to appeal to the child in all of us from the hugely talented photographer Lissy Elle - I adore her work! Particularly love how carefree and relaxing these images are; the perfect balance to a hectic London lifestyle.

I went back to work yesterday after 10 wonderful days off and, of course, an amazing holiday - and wow, the lifestyle change really did hit me. Two delayed trains, a queue of heavy traffic and several rude people meant stress levels were the highest they'd been in a week and a half - and all before 9am, before I even got into the office. A little bit overwhelming! Don't get me wrong, I love London, and I love to be kept busy - but going away and remembering what it is to relax and take life slowly and then being thrown suddenly back into such a hectic mindset and lifestyle is a little bit daunting. I'll get used to it again, and not feel so tired, in a few days time - but in the meantime, I love the photos above for their relaxing inspiration :)

How do you destress from your busy lives, and make sure that you have time to unwind? I've been thinking of trying a bedtime ritual, like burning lavender incense, reading a book, having a bath or doing yoga. Do any of you have pre-bedtime relaxing rituals?

Monday, 29 August 2011

Touring Tuscany...

Quaint little hilltop towns contrasted with large bustling passionate cities, tall medieval mustard yellow buildings with green shutters and iron railed balconies line cobbled streets.
Large, ancient squares with imposing statues and outdoor gelaterias, where locals eat ice cream all through the day and into the night.
Gorgeous medieval distinctive architecture in every cathedral, belltower and any other important building; off-white Carrera marble with flashes of green and white and red Tuscan columns, positioned on top of each other growing the towers further and further skywards.
The best pasta you've ever tasted; sitting in little family-run restaurants with a glass of wine, some buffalo mozzarella, crusty warmed bread and some amazing lasagna, gnocchi or even just simple spaghetti al pomodoro, twirling it around your fork and slopping it into your mouth Italian-style.
Beautiful undiscovered beaches with raked golden sand, bright orange parasols and almost crystal blue water; calm sea with gentle waves that sweep you out to look back at the beach, the hot sky and the cascading mountains in the distance as you float.
Hazy evenings spent sitting in Florentine squares amidst imposing buildings and Roman statues; listening to a man playing classical guitar, watching the night pass by under candelight.

Tuscany. I knew it would be beautiful - but I had no idea just
how beautiful. I've had one of the most wonderful weeks exploring Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Tirrenia and the surrounding areas (including a little detour to Rome on the last day of the holiday), and absolutely fell in love with the area - as you most probably can tell from my descriptions.
I'll write a few posts about Italy, over the next couple of weeks - there were so many amazing experiences during my time away and lovely little places and shops that I really do need a good few posts to share everything with you.

Suffice it to say for the moment, then, that the Tuscany region of Italy is stunning, and that you
must go there at least once in your life. And as for me? I feel so completely refreshed, re-energised and re-focused on life; a holiday was just what I needed after a hectic rollercoaster over the past 12 months!

Friday, 19 August 2011

friday fives: italia

I'm off to Italia! I leave this morning, and will be spending a lovely week lazing about in the sun and exploring Tuscany - Florence, Pisa and the surrounding areas. I am so very excited!

Just a very quick post today, but hope you like these five photos of beautiful Italy - and more to follow when I get back from there myself! Have a lovely week, everyone.

5 photos
  1. One
  2. Two
  3. Three
  4. Four
  5. Five

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

sweet charity

Caritaz jewellery; have you heard of it? I came across the gorgeous range the other day, and loved its pieces and the concept behind it so much that I had to share it with you.

What makes Caritaz special? Not only is the jewellery itself really beautiful - as well as the pendants above, there's a whole range of charms, accessories, rings and and cuff links, all decorated with lovely Swarovski crystals - but it's all for an excellent cause.

Caritaz was founded in 2009 with the aim of raising funds and awareness for worldwide charities. Each piece of jewellery it sells is designed especially for and dedicated to one particular charity, and the company donate a large proportion of the sale of each piece to the cause. So you get a beautiful piece of jewellery, and help a charity at the same time - seems like a win-win situation!

So what is there to buy, and what cause does it help? The Swarovski Crystal Butterfly Pendant and the Swarovski Clover Crystal Pendants, above, have to be my favourite pieces from Caritaz. Made of silver, rhodium and, of course, Swarovski crystals, they both retail at £80, or £120 with a chain. Best of all, buy these pieces and you'll be helping children's hospices (the Butterfly Pendant) or domestic violence charities (the Clover Pendant) - a cause which is especially close to my heart.

I also love these charms; in a variety of colours and decorated with Swarovski crystals, they detail the name of the cause they're helping (eg skin cancer and liver disease) on the inside of the charm, and retail at £45. Very cute.

You can purchase Caritaz jewellery through their site, or at several stores across the UK.

Monday, 15 August 2011

whistle a happy tune

Do you believe in karma? I do. I might not seem like it, really, or talk about it much, but I'm a very spiritual person, and most definitely believe that what goes around, comes around. I'm also a little superstitious, and I have this little thing where if something bad happens, or I feel negative, in any way - and not necessarily through my actions - I have to do something positive to counteract it. In my head, it's all about balancing it out; I feel like by doing something positive, and giving out good karma, there'll be a little bit of good karma that comes back to me, and to those around me, eventually.

And this is what happened the other day. Flowers always make me smile, and they make my mum smile, too. I bought her some when we were both feeling a little down about the riots, and put them in a pretty vase for her. She really liked them, which obviously made me happy for her, and soon enough things seemed a little less melancholy. And there's my kind of karma for you...

Aren't they pretty?

P.S. A little apology that there were no Friday Fives this week - it was a bit of an odd week by all accounts. Back with them next week :)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Travel Accessories - Julie Slater and Son

When you commute nearly an hour and a half to and from work, as I do every weekday, you learn the importance of a good travel card holder really rather quickly. The standard National Rail card holder won't last anyone with a hint of a fashion sense very long at all as it's really rather dull, and it's really quite surpising how hard it is to find an alternative travel card holder that's not only good quality but actually looks nice too.
Over the past year in which I've been commuting to London every day from Surrey, I've bought a total of four travel card holders, all of which in turn have either fallen apart or lost all their prettiness a few weeks into use. My latest one, for example, I bought for its pretty pink floral pattern - which then rubbed off completely two weeks into use, leaving me with a plain grey travel card holder. Not exactly what I had in mind when I bought it.

So when Julie Slater and Son offered to send me one of their travel card holders, I was more than happy to give one a try. I'd heard good things about the company and the quality of their range of travel accessories before, and it turns out their travel card holders are no exception.

Knowing as you do my love for anything floral, it probably doesn't come as any surprise that I chose the Daisy Chain oyster card holder for its gorgeous print! It's beautifully made, as well - real leather on the outside (smells lovely!), two clear windows with matching printed fabric lining and a further leather pocket on the back of the card holder too. It's a perfect size too, of course, and the best bit is that this really feels like a travel card holder that will last - one that won't fall apart or have its pattern rub off a week into use! It's available to order from the Julie Slater and Son website for £13.50 - really very good value for a high quality, leather product.

If floral travel cards aren't really your thing, Julie Slater and Son have around nine other card holders with different prints to choose from - as well as a whole range of other travel accessories, bags and purses in various designs.

Disclaimer: I was sent a Daisy Chain Travel Card Holder by Julie Slater and Son to reviewand keep, free of charge. This post contains my honest and independent thoughts on the product I received.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London Riots: Croydon

Over the course of the past four evenings, London, the city I live and grew up in, has been transformed into a place I can hardly relate to. The horrific violence which started in Tottenham over the weekend under the guise of a protest has quickly spread to other boroughs, bringing with it not only large groups of threatening people but extreme looting, arson and danger.

Many of you who read this blog will know that I commute to London every day from Greater London. What most of you won’t know is that I live just outside Croydon, the town which witnessed riots last night so harrowing that they were termed ‘the worst in Britain’s living history’.

As I sat at home, thankfully safe last night, I watched in utter disbelief as the town I’ve grown up in, the town that is home, was all but destroyed. I watched it on national news channels in a way that felt very out-of-touch, very untrue; it felt like it couldn’t actually be happening. Had that many people really taken to the streets? Were that many people really breaking into every single shop on the high street and beyond and looting it for all it was worth? Were so many really so lacking of any basic human compassion that they didn’t care about hurting those around them - police officers and fellow rioters alike?

Reeves Corner - pictured above, in flames - was a large furniture shop, taking up a whole corner plot in Central Croydon. It was incredibly famous, a landmark, and had been a family business since the 1800s; it had survived two world wars, including the blitz, and a multitude of other problems in the past. It was also razed to the ground last night by a gang of destructive individuals who decided they quite fancied a free sofa or two, and had better set fire to the place afterwards for good measure.

The owners of Reeves Corner are now predicted to be bankrupt, their staff out of work, and their livelihoods completely destroyed. Worst of all, though, must be the insult and disregard to the generations of hard-working men and women that struggled to keep Reeves Corner running - and the way centuries of work was destroyed in just a few hours. Where was the respect for a business which had never done anyone anything but good? What was the point to be made in creating a fire so huge at Reeves Corner that it not only destroyed the shop but also threatened the residential areas around it, causing people to jump from their windows to save their lives? How can there ever possibly be a justified reason for that?

Reeves Corner wasn’t the only fire in Croydon - or, indeed, in London - last night, but it was the biggest. It scared people; it scared my friends who live in Croydon, and my family. It scared me.

The thing is, I’ve always defended Croydon. I’ve joked about it in a negative way, but it’s been in an affectionate way; I’ve always had a soft spot for the place I grew up in, the place people criticise and attach such a strong reputation to, but the place I’ve always felt relatively safe in. After last night, I wasn’t so sure I’d ever be able to do that again; I felt betrayed by the actions of a group of people who had taken over and destroyed my town, who had even destroyed and injured each other - who had even killed a man. I was disgusted.

This morning, though, I saw hope. I woke up to a multitude of support messages for Croydon from Facebook friends and Twitter followers; and I read the plans for a clean-up Croydon support effort starting from 10am. I had to work, but I heard that hundreds of people who were able to turned out with brooms and brushes and other basic cleaning equipment and did their bit to clean up Croydon today. And yes, tonight there’s still a lot more work to be done to restore Croydon to a town which doesn’t look like it’s located in a war zone; and yes, there are bound to be further riot attempts from the mindless minority around the area. But I am comforted and reassured that the vast majority of people in Croydon are just as disgusted by this devastation as I am, and that people can and will pull together to help.

Just as a few came together to destroy the area last night, so will so many more pull together to clean-up and restore the town to what it was, for everyone who calls Croydon and the surrounding area home. As I’ve read and heard repeated so many times today by my friends and acquaintances, Croydon may have had a reputation as a bit of a dump, but it’s our dump, and no one had any right to damage it.

I know you don’t usually read this blog for long, sad stories about problems in London, or elsewhere. I know this is a corner of the internet usually reserved for things that are inspirational, and the problems in Croydon last night can hardly be called that. But I felt compelled to write this, because the resilience, determination and willingness to help that people in Croydon and beyond showed today - that truly was inspirational.

As I write this tonight, reports are coming in of violence spreading beyond London; to Birmingham, Manchester and even further afield. I hope, deeply, that this is untrue, and that the rioters will be dispersed before any more violent acts occur. To anyone who has been or will be affected in any way by the rioting across the UK, though: courage. Let’s not let a few spoil the towns and spirits of so many others. Let’s be strong, resilient and courageous. And instead of destruction, let’s show how inspirational our actions - and our clean-up efforts - can be.

If you'd like to help clean-up Croydon, and London, please visit the Riot Clean-Up site or follow the Riot Clean Up Twitter feed to find out more.

Photo credit

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Just a Minute: August

How on earth is it August already? This year is flying by! Proof of how oblivious I am at the moment to time passing comes with the fact that it's 7 days into the month and I've only just remembered to do Just a Minute for August... oh dear!

Anyway, here's a little round-up of my various flavours of the month.

This month, I am...

Reading... lots of blogs and magazines

Buying... sunhats, suncream, flights, a hotel and travel insurance - it's holiday month!

Listening... to ska, Chase & Status, Tinie Tempah, reggae, Einaudi and some old R&B... an eclectic mix, as ever.

Watching... Dynamo: Magician Impossible and Penn & Teller's Fool Us - I love magic and anything mysterious!

Loving... the glimpses of summer we're having, the fact I'm going on holiday soon and the fact I'm feeling contented with, and focused on, where life is heading for me at the moment

Planning... holiday outfits and itineraries!

Do you want to join in with Just a Minute? I found this on Daydream Lily's blog via August Street, and it's a lovely little monthly activity. Feel free to join in - and make sure to send me a link if you do, so I can see what you're up to at the moment!

Above photo is taken from Rosemarie.'s flickr photostream, and is just beautiful, don't you think?

Friday, 5 August 2011

friday fives

5 photos this week from wonderful flickr user A Twitch Upon The Thread's photostream. These images reflect what would basically make my perfect weekend - books and exploring the countyside. Love it.
I've had a real urge to go fruit-picking lately, hence the top photo; I think some fruit is still in season for the next few weeks, so I may well do a bit of research to find out where I can go to get my hands on some strawberries, raspberries, or whatever else they have. Not sure if there are really any fruit picking farms around London, though, so I may have to venture further out into the Surrey countryside... we'll see.

5 things that made me smile this week:
  1. The most perfectly relaxing weekend with my boyfriend last weekend, including a delicious pub lunch on Sunday
  2. A long walk in the countryside with the boy after said pub lunch
  3. A very fun night out with my work colleagues on Thursday
  4. A lovely lunch with work colleagues today
  5. Booking a very gorgeous hotel for my holiday to Italy in two weeks' time!

5 things I'm looking forward to in the coming week:
  1. A very lazy weekend at home, for the first time in a long time
  2. Holiday shopping (anyone know where there are any nice hats on the high street at the moment?)
  3. A few dinners and drinking sessions with lovely friends
  4. Going wandering in lavender fields this weekend
  5. A couple of secret, very exciting things going on at the moment - life is good...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

H&M Home Collection 2011

H&M - one of my favourite clothing stores - have just launched their Autumn/Winter 2011 Home collection, and I've spent ages poring over it! It's so inspiring; full of bright colours, floral patterns (which of course, I love), bold fruit motifs, words woven into fabrics and lovely complex textures.

On their website, H&M have broken the collection down into a few distinct categories, each with their own unique styling: Sharp Simplicity, Sweet Sensation, Always at Home, Industrial Modern and Bohemian Chic. The photos you see here are a mix of the last two categories - the bottom three images are from Industrial Modern which is definitely on trend in terms of current popular style, while the top five are from Bohemian Chic, reflecting styles that seem to be more core to H&M brand's design identity.

I'm definitely mostly a Bohemian Chic kind of person, I have to say (hello inner hippy)... I adore everything from that part of the Autumn/Winter 2011 collection. It also seems to be the part which H&M themselves are leading with, appearing most prominently on the Home landing page.

Lovely collection - and very inspiring!

Images from here, here and here.
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