Great British Sewing Bee Baby Dress

Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe baby dress
sew your own wardrobe book baby dress
baby dress details
great british sewing bee book baby dress
I've decided recently to refocus my blog a bit more on my sewing, since that's a big part of my life now, so you might notice I've made a "Sewing" tab in the menu bar at the top of the blog now. I'm starting to branch out away from making circle skirts and dresses for myself now, so hopefully you'll be seeing all sorts on here soon. 
Anyway, what do you think of this baby dress? I wanted to make something special for my beautiful goddaughter for Christmas and thought this would be just the thing. As I keep mentioning, I've made a few dresses from the Great British Sewing Bee book already, plus a pair of leggings, so I decided to go for something that looked a little bit more difficult and had a few new skills I could try in it. The baby dress pattern also has baby knickers to go over a nappy too, but I decided not to do these in the end and just went for the dress. In addition to the tiny Peter Pan collar and bias bound edges, it is supposed to have two little applique hearts on the front - I chose to just put one on, mostly because I couldn't be bothered to cut more out! I think it looks better with just the one though. The heart isn't the neatest - as an excuse, it was my first time sewing anything like this at all, let alone going round the edges that I'd cut out not so neatly (not my forte, clearly!), but I'm sure I'll neaten up with practice.
The bias bound edges are self-cut and made with an iron, so I was pretty impressed with that! I've used bias binding before, but always the shop bought prefolded stuff, so it's fairly simple, but this took more time. In the end I was really pleased with how it turned out though, and with how much better I'm getting at stitching bias binding. 
The only issue I had with the instructions for this pattern was that it never told me to sew the edges of the collar, so I unknowingly sewed it on before realising, so had to do them by hand in the end (which I dislike doing!). Now I know, I can add it in beforehand, but since I was doing a collar for the first time, and not being a very technically minded person (I really have to reread sewing instructions multiple times and stare at diagrams for minutes at a time for things to sink in properly), it didn't occur to me at all before I sewed it on. Can I just add that I've discovered something I strongly dislike about sewing? Poppers: sewing poppers (and buttons, but these were worse) is, for me, tedious and boring. I also had a particularly thick part of fabric with a few layers right where I needed to sew one, so it was also difficult - I ended up using less than they tell you to simply because I was fed up of them!
The main fabric is actually the same as I used for the lining of this dress (although you can't see it there) - it was some that my grandma found and was about to throw away, but I claimed it. The collar and bias binding are cut from some fabric that bought on eBay - I actually made a halter top out of it, but it was one of my very early projects and it doesn't fit me very well, but I can't bring myself to get rid of it or reuse the fabric since it's actually fairly neatly finished, with all the seams hidden away inside a lining.
So what's next on the sewing agenda? I recently made a pair of pyjama bottoms for my sister (really easy to do) out of the most amazing fox print fabric, so I'll try to get pictures of those, and I've got my corset to make plus I'm joining in with the Watson Bra Sewalong at Cloth Habit since Ben bought me that pattern for Christmas - I'm planning to get started this weekend! I'm also planning on a few makes for Ben too - possibly something simple like a wedding cravat like these to start out with as we've got several weddings coming up at the moment, but I also have a pattern for a pair of boxers to try out for him. I'd intended to start those a few weeks ago, but it was a printed PDF pattern, and Ben printed it at work for me on the wrong scale, then I realised I didn't have the right needle for it. I've now got the correct needles for stretch fabric (for the Watson sewalong), so I'm ready to go. I had huge problems finding those, since I wanted them on next day delivery or to buy them in person, but Hobbycraft didn't have them, and neither did Amazon or anywhere else online. Amazingly I managed to find a little mail order company in Ripon called Barnyarns literally a 5 minute walk from my office with absolutely everything I needed - amazing considering the fact that I couldn't even get these things in a proper chain store in York! I'm so pleased I've found it - it's really such a tiny town that I was surprised they had anything like that!
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Revamping a Bathroom

I thought I'd give a bit of an update today on how our house buying (rather than house hunting!) is going now since I haven't talked about it for a while. At the end of November, we finally got our offer accepted on the house we loved, and since then it's been all sorts of paperwork, meetings, back and forth with all sorts of different people. I'll hopefully do a full post soon on how it all works (since I didn't have a clue beforehand really!), including mortgages and solicitors, but for not, we've been accepted on our mortgage, all the searches are being done, and we're just waiting for a date for completion now. Not having a moving date yet hasn't stopped us from shopping for our new house though!

Our new house is slightly bigger than ours now, with an extra bedroom, 3 more bathrooms (2 are en-suites and one is just a downstairs toilet, but still!) and some extra room, which means we're going to be a bit sparse on furniture. Much of our current furniture is pretty cheap stuff from IKEA that we just grabbed for our last home, since we were moving from unfurnished to furnished in a short space of time. So now we're on the lookout for things that are more durable and sturdy, but that means they're slightly more expensive and need a lot more decisions making! We've already bought a new bed - that's a story in itself! We ordered it from Groupon, and also ordered a new memory foam mattress to fit it since we'd decided to upgrade from a double to a king size. There was a small incident in that I accidentally ordered the bed to my office before realising it definitely wouldn't fit in my tiny Nissan Micra - oops! That was all sorted though, and we finally managed to unpack it, after taking down and rebuilding our bed in the spare room, since the mattress needed time to rise, we planned to sleep in the spare room while we waited for it. What we didn't bargain for was that the fixings kit, ie. all the screws, bolts and hinges, that we needed to build the bed would be missing. Fortunately I managed to track down the company that Groupon had got the beds from, Sleepsoftly, then emailed and Facebooked them. I was a bit uncertain because they had not so great reviews for their customer service, but they were actually fantastic, replied in less than 24 hours and 2 days later we received the fixings kit completely for free! We were also given a partial refund for the bed since it had a massive chip out of one corners of the headboard and they couldn't exchange it - that we can live with though.

The house itself doesn't seem like it needs a lot doing to it, but we'd like to make it our own, so in time we're planning to revamp bits here and there - the kitchen is definitely on our 5 year plan list, although I'd like some new tiles sometime soon for it, and the family bathroom is up there too since it has a bath without a shower.

January is a great time to re-vamp a room in your home since the sales mean you can purchase some fabulous bargains, whether it is furniture or accessories. Some people have the misconception that the January sales are full of ‘junk’ that shops haven’t been able to sell throughout the year or what they seem to have too much stock of, but the amount of quality things I’ve seen or bought in the sale this January already have been impressive. So here are some ways that you can revamp your bathroom, without spending an arm and a leg.


Adding a splash of colour to your walls is a great way to re-vamp your bathroom. A bright colour in your bathroom will help you to wake up in a better mood than you would with gloomy shades on your walls.


Look out for unique accessories that will transform your bathroom and make it look more impressive. Whether it’s a porcelain soap tray, clever ideas for storage or a funky bath mat, the little things are sure to create a fab revamp to your bathroom. We're trying to work on getting some matching towels at the moment since ours are all over the place!


Instead of boring, plain-looking tiles why not purchase coloured or patterned ones? You could create a feature wall in your bathroom with the tiles and it will make your bathroom look totally different.

Look out for clearances

Both retail stores and online will be full of sales items in January such as Ideal Standard stock clearance that features a range of baths, sinks, taps and showers. Make sure you search the entire market to find the deal that’s right for you.

Utilize wall space

If you have a cluttered bathroom, a great way to re-vamp your bathroom is by utilising your wall space. You can add shelves or look at other bathroom storage solutions for inspiration. Not only will it make your bathroom look more elegant, it will help to organise all of your clutter.

Bring the outdoors in

Add some greenery to your bathroom. No-one likes a bathroom that exudes bad smells.  A nice plant or bouquet of flowers will help to keep those odours at bay without using the overpowering sprays that you can buy, such as air fresheners.


Lighting is key to any room and especially important in bathrooms. It will make the space seem larger and it is practical too. You can install a dimmer in your bathroom, so that you can change the type of lighting depending on the mood you are in. If you want to enjoy a relaxing soak in the bath, you may choose to dim the lights slightly.

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Smoothie Making in Bulk

Strawberry, mango & banana smoothie
I've started doing something new recently - let's pretend I made a New Years resolution in which I said I was going to be super organised and prep everything, so that I had plenty of snacks, smoothies and food to keep me going through the work week. I'll tell you who is the queen of this, Charlotte - seriously, check out her Instagram for her super productive weekends where she makes ALL the food and preps ALL the snacks. As I was saying, let's pretend I made this resolution, because I'm pretty proud of myself - I've done 3 full weeks of prepping fruit and veg in freezer bags for smoothies during the week, woop!
Okay, so that's not huge, but it's a step in the right direction. I've also succeeded in not having to buy my lunch once so far this year back at work - we've managed to have enough leftovers, or made up a batch of stuff in advance which is in the freezer, so that I've had something ready every day without having to go into town and buy something.
Fruit/veg for smoothies
This week's fruit & veg ready to get sealed up in freezer bags - apple, cucumber, melon, carrot & banana
I'm no smoothie expert, I'll admit that much, but I thought it would be fun to talk about my smoothies anyway. I got my Russell Hobbs Mix and Go Blender for my birthday, after insisting that I get a juicer, using it a total of, um, maybe three times and realising it created very little juice from a lot of fruit, and that juice also didn't keep very well either. So smoothies were the way forward I decided! Now, my birthday is in September, and between then and the beginning of this year I probably only made two or three of smoothies - woops. Seemed like the smoothie plan was out of the window too.
But no! A couple of days before I returned to work, Ben had already returned to work and I was bored. I noticed that we had a box of nectarines that I'd bought on a whim (noticing a theme here yet?!) that were looking like they were reaching the end of their lives, so I wondered what I could do with them. Then it hit me, smoothies of course! I went to the Coop, grabbed any fruit and veg I could find that was fairly cheap (this meant apples, bananas, spinach and blueberries on this occasion), chopped it all up, shoved it in freezer bags with a spoonful of coconut milk in each, and stuck them in the freezer. All the next week I had fresh smoothies every single morning at work!
And it's now become somewhat of a routine for me (as much as doing this three times can be...). Last week I ended up with frozen raspberries and some frozen mango I found in the freezer too, and this week I've branched into including more veg in them, so I've got various mixtures of melon, frozen spinach, cucumber, apple and a single carrot (it was lonely!), plus coconut water this week. So I thought I might give you some tips on smoothie making (from my point of view!), then a quick review of my smoothie maker.
  • Make sure to include veg as well as fruit. The fruit smoothies might be yummier, but they've got more sugar in. Sure, it's all natural sugar, but it's still a lot in one go. I find spinach is pretty inoffensive (aside from the colour), and cucumber is good if you like the flavour.
  • Use frozen fruit and veg - it's much cheaper! Frozen spinach was our revelation a couple of years ago, but things like frozen raspberries, mango, mixed fruits and various types of veg are a lot cheaper and widely available. It also makes sense for more since I make smoothies in bulk and freeze them for the week, so the fruit is frozen when I buy it and goes in frozen - easier to handle too!
  • Take your smoothie mix out of the freezer the night before. I found the mixture went a little bit pulpy in my blender when I tried to use it straight from frozen and took a lot of watering down to get everything mixed in - I also did find a stray bit of apple that hadn't been caught when I did it straight from frozen.
  • Add plenty of water to your chopped fruit and veg. It gives the smoothie a better consistency as well as helps you up your intake of water. I do drink a lot of water on a daily basis anyway, but it's easier to remember to have it when it's hidden in your smoothie!
  • Top it up with something a bit more interesting! In my first week I used coconut milk, second week was coconut cream, and this week is coconut water (bit of a theme again!). Coconut water is more healthy than the other two, and is apparently really good for you anyway, but you could also stick in a spoonful of yoghurt, a small handful of seeds or almonds - I've tried ground linseed, which was nice and made the smoothie a bit more filling, but beware not to go overboard or else you end up with a smoothie the consistency of jelly :/ Even use a spoonful of honey if you want to sweeten it up a bit without going down the sugar route.
Russell Hobbs Mix & Go
So, onto my smoothie maker itself! As I said before, it's the Russell Hobbs Mix and Go Blender one. Ben says it's not the nicest looking one (although I disagree, I think it looks fine!), but has a really good warranty. I was so surprised when I found it on Amazon too - it's only £20?! I could have sworn it cost more - the quality is fantastic! I'm not sure why ones like the Nutribullet are selling for £99 when this one works just as well?!
It came with two 600ml bottles with lids that have a flip open top. I'm not entirely sure if this is to drink directly out of, or just for pouring, but I don't generally use it anyway as I unscrew the lid to pour (I tend to make a mess...). You simply chuck your fruit/veg and liquid in the bottle, screw on the blade lid, then turn it upside down, click it into the base and away it goes. You then, obviously, swap the blades for the proper lid and it's done.
Smoothie mix
One of this week's mixes (admittedly, it has no veg!) - banana, frozen strawberries, frozen mango and coconut water.
The bottles, lids and blade are all dishwasher safe, again another plus for lazy me, and the base is easy to wipe clean (for times when you accidentally forget to screw on the lid before turning the bottle upside down...what?!).
russell hobbs smoothie
Do any of you ever make smoothies? Have any tips for great recipes for me? I'll maybe do a post in the near future on some of my favourite recipes, if anyone's interested!
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Marianne & Caroline

Collectif Marianne Jacket & Caroline Skirt
Collectif Marianne Jacket & Caroline Skirt
Collectif Marianne Jacket & Caroline Skirt
collectif outfit
Collectif Marianne Jacket & Caroline Skirt
Jacket: Collectif Marianne Jacket | Skirt: Collectif Caroline Skirt | Gloves: Vintage (gift) | Heels: ASOS
I don't usually go for buying things in sales, except the occasional piece of underwear, and that's mostly because I want to find what I can in my size at a cheaper price - although I don't agree with buying all my underwear at clearance prices because it then appears to the designer that there isn't enough demand for it when clearly there is, plus a lot of lingerie has huge amounts of work going into it, especially in a size that's less in demand. Anyway, that was a tangent I wasn't planning to go down...let's start again!
I don't tend to buy many things in sales, mostly because I buy things when I want/need them, and that's not usually during sale time (typically!). But this year, I managed to remember about the post-Christmas sales and to look at them for once. I only ended up purchasing a few things, some of which has gone back (okay, yes, that was underwear, but I ain't paying no full prices for Agent Provocateur in the wrong size!). Collectif was one place I decided I'd take the plunge and put in an order from. I already own the Penny Dress from them which, although I've worn for an evening out, I haven't featured on the blog yet, but hopefully will soon. I bought three things from Collectif - this skirt and jacket which are seemingly a matching set but have different names (Marianne and Caroline) as well as this top just because I'm always lacking in pretty tops. I'm actually secretly wearing it here, but you obviously can't see it under the jacket!
The matching jacket and skirt themselves are awesome - they look to me as if they're a modern take on a very vintage look. We've been watching Father Brown recently - it's a BBC series set in the early 50s featuring a Catholic priest (played by Mark Williams) who solves murders and crimes, and yes, it is as strange and crazy as it sounds! My point is though that I spend half my time trying to figure out who's done what and keeping up with the jokes, the other half watching what the ladies of the 50s were wearing, and this outfit feels like it's something Lady Felicia might wear!
I was a bit worried about the sizing when I ordered these - the Penny dress I have is a size 8 and is only just fitted enough for me on the waist, so I assume it must run a bit big. With this skirt and jacket though, the material is wool and very non-stretch (with a gorgeous floral lining). Being somewhat larger on the top, I decided to go for that in a size 10 and the skirt in a size 8 to ensure that it was fitted on the waist. Strangely though, I could do with the outfit sizes being the other way round! The jacket is a little roomy and the skirt is certainly on the tight side - it takes more than a little wiggling to get into the skirt, but once it's on, it's least until I try to move anywhere fast - it doesn't have much give on walking!
Also, have you noticed how my hair has already grown?! It's been less than a month since I had it cut, but I think it's already got at least another inch back on it - I'm thinking next time I'll get it done slightly shorter (eep, I know!) so that I won't need it doing again so soon!
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Food: Emily Fruit Crisps Review

Emily Fruit Crisps review
emily fruit crisps
Emily Fruit Crisps Crunchy Apple
Emily Fruit Crisps*
One thing that I cannot leave the house without, whether I'm going to work, shopping, driving in the car a couple of miles down the road, is an emergency snack in my bag. I'm one of those kinds of people who, when they're hungry, are very hungry, and must eat immediately. I get a bit panicked if I don't have something on hand to eat at any given time - I know, I'm a bit weird. I also tend to get very cranky when I'm hungry too (and tired, essentially I'm just a 3 year old), so if you want me in a good mood, bring me food (hey, that rhymes - new motto for meee!).
I'm always on the lookout for slightly more healthy snacks that take little effort on my part, because generally I'm pretty lazy (what did I tell you about that 3 year old thing?!). I mostly either grab a cereal bar or some breakfast biscuits on my way out the house, and most of my friends and family can tell you about the "emergency biscuits" I keep in my handbag. Unfortunately, these are not the most health-friendly of snacks. I'd love to be able to have homemade things every day, but by the time I'm out of bed, chopping up carrots and roasting vegetables is just completely out of the question! I'm doing pretty well at the moment prepping smoothies at the weekend and keeping the chopped fruit in the freezer until the day I need it, but snacks is another matter.
So, getting to the point of this post - Emily Fruit Crisps! When I was offered the chance to try a few packets of these, I jumped at the chance. I thought they'd be along the lines of the dried fruit you can buy in supermarkets - I used to get the dried mango, but it's pretty expensive for what it is. But I was completely wrong - these actually are like crisps in their texture. No idea how they manage it (the website explains that it's something to do with them being made in a vacuum, yum sciencey!), but the effect is definitely up my street. I also wondered if they might have that freeze-dried fruit kind of flavour like the little strawberries and raspberries you get in cereal - nothing wrong with that, just a bit strange. But again, I was wrong - they honestly taste just like the fruit they are. I tried all three flavours: Crunchy Banana, Crunchy Pineapple and Crunchy Apple, and I'm pretty sure the apple is my favourite. All are very strangely addictive too - I tried to save some of the apple for Ben to try, but they were there on my desk one minute, then when I picked the packet up to go was empty! Shock, horror - definitely nothing to do with me and my insatiable greed :/
And there are even more upsides to these crisps than just the taste and crispy crunch - they're healthy. They have no preservatives, additives, added sugars or E numbers, and they're apparently gluten free too (not that that makes much of a difference to me, but it'll be good to some!). And on top of that, have you seen the packaging?! So pretty - I'm proud to have these on my desk.
The only problem? Nowhere near me currently sells these, boo! Possibly a good thing for my bank balance though if that magic disappearing act is going to happen with every packet of these I buy...You can buy these in Selfridges and other places though (check out the map to find your nearest distributor). I'm still just wondering how I'm going to get my fix at the moment...
And I'll leave you with one final thought, quite possibly borrowed from a popular television advert of late:
They're not Emily's, they're mine.
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Revooly Review: Get Paid To Write Reviews

A couple of months ago, I heard about a site called Revooly which had the tagline: "Get Paid To Write Reviews". I managed to find a few reviews (of a review site, ha!) on the internet from bloggers who'd used the site, and it sounded pretty awesome to me. Essentially what you do is sign up to the site and review stuff to get a certain percentage of your spending on that item back - a little bit like a cashback site, except you get the payment immediately once your review has been accepted, and you can use the site to explore reviews of products you're interested in by real people (and they're going to be proper reviews too as the incentive isn't based on giving a positive review, simply just a review), plus it shows all the cheapest prices for those items across the internet. All in all, a pretty awesome website!
So, I decided I would join and give it a go to see how I got on with it - could it be too good to be true?
I tried it out on an item we already owned - a Tefal ActiFry. As you can imagine, the purpose of the site is to collect reviews for specific items and earn cashback as a reward for reviewing it. I went through the list checking out what we already owned, but you could also go through it choosing what you want to buy. To get started, you sign up for an account (really easy) and head to the Wishlist page - there are specific items that Revooly want reviews for, and you'll find these here.
revooly wishlist
Snapshot of some items currently available for review.
So, take a look through the list, and make a decision on what you own and feel able to thoroughly review, or something that you want to buy and will review after receiving it. The ActiFry I reviewed is no longer up there, but we'll use another as an example. Underneath each item you'll see how much cashback as a % that you'll receive by doing the review. If you click this, it will then show you how much cashback you'll get based on the current lowest price of that item online. You'll also see the deadline you have for the review, for example:
revooly review
So this ActiFry's best online price is £127.99, you'd receive 25% cashback on it after reviewing, which is £32, and you have 14 days to write the review - plenty of time to order it, try it out and take photos. You'll need to click: "Write A Review" in order to book your "slot" - I assume they only need so many places, so they reserve yours for only 14 days or until you've written the review.
Then it's onto the reviewing part! Revooly have some guidelines to help you write your review here, and you can take a look at my Tefal ActiFry review as an example here. They recommend that you use at least 3 clear pictures and describe the item and how well it works in at least 600 words answering questions buyers might be asking themselves such as how it was packaged, your first impressions of the item and how to use it. 
The payment system is super easy too - all you do is input your Paypal address when you sign up, and once your review has been approved, you will be sent your payment through Paypal. Mine came in less than 24 hours, impressive!
I've reserved a couple of slots on other items to review, although I'm pretty forgetful and haven't managed to do them yet - oops!  They do email you a reminder a few days before your slot runs out, but sometimes I just haven't managed to get the pictures done. But I'm definitely up for using this time and time again, as long as items I have/want are on their wishlist. It's a really easy way to make a few extra pounds here and there, and there are some big price items you can earn quite a bit on! The only criticism I would have is that there don't seem to be new items added very frequently to their wishlist, but I would imagine that as the site grows and people use it more, things will be added more quickly. I also noticed an issue with an item I wanted to review that had a pricing error (bots may have picked it up wrong off the site), but I reported it to the email address listed on the site and had a really quick response that they'd sorted it out - they also took my suggestion of adding a report button for errors like this and added it to their list - I would imagine they don't have time to check every price every single day, so it would be good for users to be able to report any obvious ones.
Have you tried using Revooly? What do you think of it?
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Christmas Party: Matalan

Matalan Christmas Party Dress
Matalan Christmas Party Suit
I know I already shared my outfit from the evening of my work Christmas party, but unfortunately (I think Ben would actually say "fortunately" to this), I didn't manage to get a single picture of Ben, despite the fact that he'd got himself all dressed up in a lovely suit from Matalan! He was so pleased when they got in touch offering a suit to him - all the suits he's owned in the recent past have been from Matalan and he's loved them all. Unfortunately, a few of these had got on the, ahem, tight side (let's say that's due to my washing skills rather than anything else!) and he'd recently had to purchase a new suit for a funeral so had grabbed one at ... He was really disappointed that the suit wasn't brilliant quality from there, even though he'd spent quite a bit of money - it just wasn't up to the quality of his old Matalan suits. So he jumped on the opportunity to try out another Matalan one for the Christmas party! So, we'll take a look at the detail of Ben's outfit first before moving onto mine, but first, apologies for the awful indoor photos! As I said, we've been waiting for a day time where we actually are home in the light to get some photos since I didn't get any at the party, but with Ben working Saturdays and us not being home till after 6pm on weekdays, this was our first opportunity - and if you know what the weather's been like in the UK (particularly the North) recently, you'll know why we're inside! Our wheelie bin managed to make its way down the path, round a corner, up a step and round the back of the house the other evening, if that's any clue for you of the sort of storms we're having!!
Matalan Ford Suit
Matalan men's suit
Matalan trousers & shoes
Ford Regular Fit Suit Jacket: c/o Matalan | Ford Regular Fit Suit Trousers: c/o Matalan | Checked Shirt: Next | Shoes: c/o Matalan
It took us a while to make a decision on the suit that Ben chose from Matalan - we weren't quite sure on the sizing, and he didn't know whether he wanted a plain one or something more interesting. I was all in the more-interesting camp, thinking a crazy checked jacket would look awesome with jeans too, but he wanted something a bit more conservative since he did just need a smart suit - so we met somewhere in the middle with this grey checked suit, and I think he really liked it! We ended up going to our most local store so he could have a look at the suits in person and try some on, so we got the sizing spot on in the end. The shoes are also Matalan - some nice sensible, smart ones. Ben says that they're pretty comfortable, although I think he did have an issue with the bottom of them being very smooth and having no grip whatsoever, putting him a little bit in the danger zone on the dance floor (not that he would get up and dance!). The shirt he actually wore to the Christmas party was a plain white one, but he wanted to dress up a bit more for these pictures so added in a new checked shirt from the sales at Next - our current go-to shop for pretty much anything (home and clothing-wise) at the moment. Oh, and the other awesome thing about Matalan suits? They always have an awesome contrast lining!
Matalan dress, leather jacket
Matalan Abbey Clancy dress
Matalan Christmas party
Leather Jacket: Matalan (old) | Cut Out Mesh Dress: c/o Abbey Clancy at Matalan | Cross Belt: c/o Matalan | Necklace: Eclectic Eccentricity (old) | Heels: c/o Matalan
So here's the Christmas Party outfit I picked out from Matalan, plus my trusty leather jacket thrown over the top for warmth, making an outfit pretty much complete from Matalan, aside from jewellery! I didn't realise that until I went to put up the outfit details! The Abbey Clancy range at Matalan caught my eye a while ago, so I was really pleased that I was getting to try something out from it. The dress is a good staple little black dress, but with the added cut outs with mesh, just makes it something slightly different. I'm glad I chose to get the belt too, as it looks a little bit plain without it, and is also slightly too big in the waist, so brings it in. I chose a size up from what I'd normally buy in this, thinking that it would be one of those skin tight dresses, and I was worried about the cut outs being positioned, ahem, wrongly over the chest for me if it was too tight, but actually the material was quite loose, so it wasn't as fitted as I would have liked in the waist. Definitely a good length though I think, especially with the mesh at the bottom adding that little bit extra length for security. The shoes are fairly comfortable - at least as comfortable as stiletto heels without a platform can be! They're just slightly wide on my narrow feet, meaning my feet slide down a lot in them (hence the gripping with my toes!), but for a sit down meal at a Christmas party, they're no problem.
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Christmas Day Holly Dress

Christmas Day dress with red cardigan
Holly dress
Handmade Christmas dress
Full Skirted Dress holly fabric
Great British Sewing Bee full skirted dress
Shrug: Nomads Clothing (blue version) | Holly Dress: Memade (Great British Sewing Bee book; fabric from Hobbycraft) | Heels: ASOS
Yep, another dress using my favourite Great British Sewing Bee book pattern! This is the exact same pattern (the Full Skirted Dress) as the red gingham dress I made about a month ago, but I changed it around a tiny bit by using exposed bias binding on the neckline instead of facings (which always flip up, no matter how much I press them!). I picked up the fabric on a whim in Hobbycraft because I'd been thinking about making a Christmas dress for a while and spotted a few different colours of holly fabric - they had it on a green and a red background too, but I went for the cream background so it wasn't too over the top. This version is much neater than my gingham one, since I rushed that one a bit (oops), but it's not my favourite I've made (although Ben said it was his, strange how we always disagree on these things!).
I actually ended up wearing the dress on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - we always have a sort of family party on Christmas Eve which includes lots of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins coming round, so I thought I'd "dress up" in something I'd made for the first time. On Christmas Day, I wore it with a new Hell Bunny cardigan (which I'd received off my parents that morning) buttoned up over the top. That cardigan will inevitably feature soon on the blog - I have basically not taken it off since I got it as it's the perfect length and shape for me and has long sleeves! And they come in different colours...this could be dangerous!
Christmas Day was spent as it usually is for me nowadays, with a little bit of a change this year - my sister and I spend the night together having a "sleepover" in my room with a Christmassy film before going to sleep. When we wake up, we open our stockings together, before heading downstairs to greet the parents, before going into the living room where our "Father Christmas sacks" are, full of presents! Depending on how much time we've given ourselves, we all swap presents with each other as well as others from other friends and family members from under the tree, but usually there's only enough time for some as we have to get started on lunch! My dad and sister go off to the bakery (work on Christmas Day!) to sort out a few things while my mum and I prepare for lunch. This year, my grandparents from my mum's side came over for lunch with us, providing us with a turkey to go with our chicken (I know...chicken on Christmas Day, ridiculous!!). Normally after lunch we go for a walk, but we were a bit tighter on time this year, so I headed over to Ben's grandparents - I go over there for a couple of hours, to play with William (who's nearly 4 now!) and swap presents with them. We then head back to my house where we finish opening presents, and Ben and I swap ours (so many presents apparently!), then we sit down with the grandparents and have turkey sandwiches. Wow, crazy day! 
I won't go through all the presents I received, but I was very lucky again this year! My main present is a trip to London with my sister to see Matilda the Musical - we're going down in February for a couple of nights. Living up in North Yorkshire, London is a pretty big trip for us, and one we don't get to do often, so it's very exciting! We were planning to see the Harry Potter Studios too that weekend, but unfortunately the only day we can visit is the only day it's completely fully booked - typical! But there are plenty of other things we can do down there anyway, so I'm sure we'll be fine.
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What I've Read: December

After a couple of months of abandoning reading almost completely, I've managed to get back into it with the Christmas break away from work - although those long days I'd anticipated reading for hours and hours on seemed to quickly get filled, so it hasn't been quite as much as I'd hoped! I originally set my Goodreads 2014 challenge at 65 books, since I'd read 62 the year before, and 65 was the next logical number to me. I'd forgotten to take into account though that I'd ended up reading a lot extra because that year was the year of gallbladder illness and operations! So in the end, I knocked it down to 52 (to match one per week of the year), but only actually read 50, better than none I suppose! So this year, I've set my 2015 target at 50 to match last year's - we'll see how it goes. Unlike last year, we don't have any holidays planned yet, although we're in the process of sorting one out for September, so hopefully my reading time will get squeezed in then.
Anyway, on with December's books:

A Study In Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Arthur Conan Doyle - 6/10 (Kindle version)

I don't like to admit when I'm taken in by things that are hugely popular, but I have to admit, I was taken in the BBC's version of Sherlock, but only recently! I'm certain I watched at least part of an episode when it was first aired, but Ben and I only sat down recently and watched our way through it all recently, and I'm obsessed! I'm ashamed to admit though, that I'd never so much as read an Arthur Conan Doyle short story - a thing which needed to be rectified! I downloaded the full collection of Sherlock Holmes to my Kindle and decided to read through every story contained within slowly, starting at the very beginning, to see if the Sherlock portrayed in the series is true to the original.
And I wasn't disappointed at all by the characters and the story I found in this. The first Sherlock episode is based on A Study In Scarlet, but obviously with all the modern twists ("A Study In Pink"). Holmes and Watson came across just as I'd imagined they would in writing, and I'm really pleased to see that the series kept true to their characterisation in the books. But, and this was a big but for me, the story was great all the way up to the point where you get the "back story" - something that isn't interpreted in the modern version. It rambles for almost half the story about the background of the "villain" and how he came to be who he is today in old time Utah as part of the Mormons - while I love a bit of a back story, it was far too much for me! I ended up bored and skimmed through pages and pages of it, hoping to get back to Victorian London soon. I am looking forward to my next Sherlock story though.

A Winter Book by Tove Jansson - 6/10 (Kindle version)

This was our chosen Book Club read for the winter months - we like to try and be a bit seasonal around Christmas! It was another book of short stories, which I always enjoy because you can just pick the book up and start off at a whole new story. The problem was that I started the book quite a while back, then no one else got a chance to read it (aside from Charley who read a bit), so I forgot a lot of it, since there are quite a few stories!
Tove Jansson is also the creator of the Moomins and is from Finland, so I knew the stories would be entirely different to what I normally read. They are both taken from and inspired by her childhood - stories that seem to be everyday, picking up in the middle of nothing, and often ending, as short stories do, in what seem to be the middle of nothing too. They show the world shown from a unique perspective through a child's eyes. To be honest, some didn't mean a lot to me and I didn't find them all particularly interesting, but others, such as the iceberg one, were lovely. It was definitely a good book to pick up and read to get a look at a different culture through different eyes.

The Vines by Christopher Rice - 6/10 (Kindle version)

This was a NetGalley read - I was taken in by the description talking about a restored plantation house near New Orleans and mentions of the supernatural, plus the fact that the author is a New York Times bestseller. We visited an old plantation house years ago near Charleston, and I was taken by the history, so I thought this would interest me.
While the background was good, the storyline itself wasn't so great. Spoilt rich girl sees her husband with someone else at her party, gets angry, awakens something supernatural beneath her house, and everything turns into chaos. Obviously there is more to the story than that, but it didn't really keep me gripped - possibly the fact that there was too much action?! I felt like the story reached its peak a long way before the end, so the rest seemed to keep adding on for me. Despite this, I did enjoy reading it and finding out what was going on - I can't resist a bit of history especially when it's combined with supernatural aspects!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - 8.5/10 (Kindle version)

This was another advance copy from NetGalley and will be available to buy on the 15th January, so make sure to remember that (or pre-order it!) if you like the sound of it!
I read the blurb for The Girl on the Train on NetGalley and clicked to request it as quickly as possible. Why? Because it was compared to Gone Girl and had been reviewed very positively by S. J. Watson, author of another of my favourites, Before I Go To Sleep. In the past I've chosen books based on their apparent similarities to old favourites - sometimes I'm disappointed, sometimes not; this time it was definitely a not disappointed.
The story is told from varying points of view, but our main character is Rachel - a woman who commutes daily on the train into London, watching the commuters around her and staring at the houses as she passes. There is one in particular that has always piqued her interest where the train stops at a signal every day, and the people that live there interest her even more, in fact she gives them names and imagines the perfect life they have. It isn't until one day when she sees something that turns this imaginary life on its head that we realise all is not as it seems, even (or perhaps especially) in Rachel's life. She feels its her duty to report what she's seen to the police, but it only serves to make things worse for her, dragging her ex-husband with his new wife and baby into the picture too.
There is of course the twist you always expect in a psychological thriller, and while it wasn't for me as huge as the likes of a Gillian Flynn novel, it was definitely still a good one. The characters in the book are fascinating because not one of them was particularly likable, and at different times you suspect them all of different things. And of course, it's one of those books you can't describe without giving anything away , so I'll try to be brief - this was a very good read, one of my favourites in a long time, and I'd definitely recommend it. It isn't yet available for another week, but if you're interested, pre-order it so you don't forget!!

Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle - 8/10 (Kindle version)

A couple of months ago, I had a Waterstones gift card so I decided to buy a few "real" books as opposed to Kindle books for once, and this was one of them - it was strange to read a real book again, but I got through this in about 24 hours in the end as a combination of liking the book and having some free time!
Vivian Versus the Apocalypse is a young adult novel set in the near future in an almost dystopian type world - yep, one of my favourite kinds of books! The Church of America has slowly taken over most of North America, taking over not only religion but also many commercial aspects of life including food and clothing. People are divided into groups of Believers and Non Believers, until the day of the "Rapture" comes, and everyone starts to rethink what they believed in. The story follows Vivian Apple who wakes up on the morning at the start of the Apocalypse to find two holes in the ceiling above her Believer parents' beds, and that they, along with a few thousand others, have disappeared, seemingly to heaven as the prophet had predicted. The nation is thrown into chaos - was he really right? Vivian sets off on a journey with her friend Harp, and stranger they meet called Peter, and eventually an old Believer friend, now heavily pregnant, Edie, to find answers and family across America. Of course, we have all the usual aspects of a world thrown into turmoil and revolting tribes of people calling themselves the New Orphans.
I did really enjoy this book - despite it being a fairly heavy subject (end of the world and all that), it was an easy read to get through. As you'd expect, not all is as it might seem, but you'd need to read it to find that out!

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