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Sale Selection

Every time the sales roll around I wish I’d had the foresight, and self-discipline, to set aside some pennies to indulge in cut-price goodies. Needless to say, this summer is no different and so, instead of shopping, I shall entertain myself by building extensive, imaginary wishlists… until payday at least.

Here’s my pick of this season’s offerings:

1.Topshop Unique black and white striped top. Find it here.

2.Topshop Unique off-the-shoulder top. Find it here.

3. Equipment silk star-print camisole. Find it here.

4. Pamela Love Lapis necklace. Find it here.

5. Olivia Von Halle silk eye mask. Find it here.

6. J.W Anderson wool crepe slit skirt. Find it here.

7. The Case Factory snake print iPhone case. Find it here.

8. Prism high-waisted bikini. Top and bottom sold separately. Find them here.

Have you scored any unmissable sale bargains yet? Or know of any I should hear about…? I’m all ears.

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Down House 5

Down House 8

Down House 1

Down House 23

Down House, the home of Charles Darwin, has been on my ‘to visit list’ for a long time and so I couldn’t believe my luck when our trip coincided with one of the warmest days we have experienced so far this spring. I still can’t get over how intensely blue the sky appears in these pictures – certainly not something we are accustomed to in the UK.

Downe is a picturesque village in Kent, a twenty minute bus ride from Orpington train station. It’s possible to use your Oyster card on the bus as it falls within London’s zoning system, however it does feel rather strange to ‘tap in’ on public transport in such a remote, rural location, especially as the bus required only runs once every two hours(!). My advice is to plan your arrival to coincide with the next bus departure to avoid a lengthy wait at Orpington station or alternatively, as we discovered, you may be able to share a taxi with other day trippers, similarly stranded at the station. (As a rough guide, a taxi costs around £10-15 each way.)

Charles Darwin lived at Down House for forty years, from 1842 until his death, with his wife, Emma, and their ten children along with a modest number of domestic staff and an assortment of pets and livestock. It was here that Darwin developed his theory of evolution by natural selection and wrote his groundbreaking work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859).

The extensive grounds were remodelled to create a sheltered garden which Darwin used as his open-air laboratory. He cultivated plant specimens in his greenhouse and devised botanical experiments to study plant adaptations, often encouraging his children to assist in collecting evidence to support his theories.

I found the greenhouse particularly charming, photogenic and intriguing to explore: the shelves crammed with exotic specimens imported from Kew Gardens, rows of carnivorous fly-trapping plants and, overhead, makeshift hanging baskets housing vivid orchids and trailing succulents.

Down House 22

Down House 9

Down House 10

Down House 2

Down House 19

Down House 3

Down House 24

Down House 18

Down house 26

Today, the ground-floor rooms of the house have been recreated to look as they did in Darwin’s time, complete with Arts and Crafts wallpaper and furniture. It was unfortunately not possible to take pictures inside and so you must visit in person to experience Darwin’s study, painstakingly recreated with the aid of photographs taken in the 1870s and artefacts returned to the house when it became a museum in 1929.

Visitors can now experience the house and grounds that Darwin so loved, and follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest scientists and thinkers of modern times. And remember, entry is free for members of English Heritage.

Down House 29

Wearing a navy suede skirt by & Other Stories that I recently won on eBay (similar here), a vintage cream knit sweater, A.P.C tweed coat (similar here), vintage bag and navy Ferragamo pumps via Etsy.

Down House 7

Down House 27

Down House 6

Down House | Luxted Road, Downe, Kent BR6 7JT | 01689 859119

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Biscuiteers, Notting Hill

Biscuiteers, Notting Hill

Biscuiteers, Notting Hill

My dear mother, affectionately known as Wendell, and I were invited to Biscuiteers in Notting Hill to sample their afternoon tea for two. I was intrigued to visit as I had heard lots about Biscuiteers through Jian Wei’s friend George, master baker for bespoke orders and the brains behind much-admired designs such as the lobster, plus any excuse to potter around Notting Hill on a gloriously sunny spring afternoon is always welcome.

Wendell and I were warmly received by our host Becky, whose enthusiasm for Biscuiteers was joyfully apparent, and we enjoyed a very charming selection of mini scones, macaroons, finger sandwiches, iced biscuits, naturally, and at least a gallon of English breakfast tea served from T.G Green Cornishware. My mum was gifted an adorable Mother’s Day teapot biscuit which she was reluctant to eat due to the wonderful artistry of the icing.

Biscuiteers, Notting Hill

Biscuiteers, Notting Hill

Biscuiteers, Notting Hill

With more sugary designs than you can shake an icing syringe at, plus Next Day or International delivery services available, why not send a dainty tin of biscuits as a special gift this Mothering Sunday? From the endearing characters of the much-loved Beatrix Potter stories, to London landmarks, sewing paraphernalia and teacups: all biscuits are hand iced by artists in London and presented in lovely decorative metal tins, perfect for storing future home-baked goods, or even stationery and odds-and-ends.

The expert icers and bakers can also craft bespoke, custom-made orders, bringing your most imaginative designs to life for an unforgettable, tailor-made present. Why send flowers when you can send Biscuiteers?

Biscuiteers, Notting Hill

Biscuiteers, Notting Hill

Spot the lobster?

Biscuiteers have biscuits for every occasion and make adorable Mother’s Day gifts. Enjoy 10% off your first order by entering BESTMUM10OFF at the checkout. Offer expires midnight 12th March so hurry!

Biscuiteers, Notting Hill

 Biscuiteers even hand-ice chocolates too! Sweet-tooth heaven.

Biscuiteers, Notting Hill

Biscuiteers | 194 Kensington Park Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2ES | 020 7727 8096

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Kenwood House, Hampstead

A.P.C Coat

A.P.C Coat

kenwood House Hampstead

A.P.C Coat

kenwood House Hampstead

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to visit one English Heritage property per month using the English Heritage Membership my parents bought me for Christmas. With mine and Jian Wei’s irregular shift patterns, it has been rather challenging to stick to this resolution and February was the first opportunity we had to visit one of the many historic destinations we had planned for 2015. It just so transpired that Kenwood in Hampstead is actually free entry, making it a very thrifty day out, however I now feel much more confident about our commitment to maintaining our pledge.

A.P.C Coat

A.P.C Coat

kenwood House Hampstead

A.P.C Coat

I wore my new Topshop Mom Jeans which I am really pleased with. My short-legged pear-shaped body has always struggled to find jeans that flatter and most styles that accommodate my hips end up bagging horribly on the calf. These are made from a rigid denim, with a high waist and pre-sewn turn ups – great for creating the illusion of an extra few inches to the limb. I purchased a 28″ inside leg which I feel is a good length for spring. I am also rather pleased with the cream cashmere turtle neck I won on eBay for a mere £12, although admit I rolled the neck down to look less as though I was wearing a neck brace. The ‘monk shoes’ are also Topshop, but several years old, the coat is A.P.C, the scarf is M&S and the bag was £1 from a charity shop.

kenwood House Hampstead

kenwood House Hampstead

kenwood House Hampstead

kenwood House Hampstead

An early example of a ‘gouty chair’, a forerunner to the modern wheelchair.

kenwood House Hampstead

kenwood House Hampstead

kenwood House Hampstead

kenwood House Hampstead

You may recognise Kenwood House from the film Notting Hill as well as from various other appearances in television and cinema. The former stately home dates to the early seventeenth and boasts a collection of old Masters including Rembrandt’s self-portrait, while the landscaped gardens are home to a rather curious ‘fake bridge’, sculptures by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, ancient woodland and, so I am informed, the largest roost of Pipistrelle bats in London. It’s the perfect stately home for art-lovers to explore before embarking on a bracing walk on Hampstead Heath.

kenwood House Hampstead

kenwood House Hampstead

kenwood House Hampstead

All photographs by Jian Wei and myself.

Kenwood | Hampstead Lane, Hampstead, London, NW3 7JR | 020 8348 1286

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Mid Length 60s Hair Cut

I finally took the plunge and underwent a radical – if only to me – haircut, lopping off a good four inches or so of dull, straggly ends in the hope of achieving an Anna Karina-esque bouncy long bob. Or a de rigeur single-length ‘lob’. Either way, I am jubilantly happy with the results and keep asking myself the critical question – why didn’t I do this months ago? I feel much more myself, it’s super-quick to dry on bitterly-cold, dark mornings and requires a quarter of the amount of shampoo and conditioner I was previously getting through.

I had my hair cut at the Aveda concession at Liberty of London so that I could make the most of my staff discount. The counter offers a dry cut, which I actually prefer as I feel you have a little more control over the end result, and you get to redeem the value of the hair cut against products. So yes, for all of £33, I walked away with the sixties’ hairstyle of my dreams and a armful of luxury products worth considerably more, in theory, than the cut itself. (I am still struggling to figure out the maths but it’s certainly one of the most generous deals I’ve ever encountered.) When combined with the added appeal of Liberty Loyalty Points and further mini product samples, I quickly realised that there’s really no excuse to take the kitchen scissors to my fringe ever again.

Aveda

I have been experimenting already with the the Phomollient Styling Foam, which is lightweight and non-sticky, when blow drying to create bouncy, inward-turning ends. The Damage Remedy Daily Hair Repair leaves my hair noticeably softer after merely a pea-sized application and I am looking forward to sampling the protein-enriched Shampure Shampoo and Conditioner.

Isn’t it remarkable the impact a haircut can have on your state of mind? I am already feeling more enthusiastic about Spring fashions and rediscovering all of my old threads. All of my existing fail-safe outfits feel refreshed, and considerably more chic, now that I have lost those unnecessary lengths of hair.

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paul and joe

Here is a rather belated showcase of some of my Christmas presents that are simply too pretty not so share.

My sister and sister-in-law treated me to these gorgeous Paul and Joe goodies. I am head-over-heels in love with the beauty products this brand creates, every piece has the most wonderfully kitsch packaging and evokes vintage glamour. This truly is is nail varnish remover in its most decadent form, deserving to crown a dressing table and never be used. (Although you could always sneakily refill the gorgeous bottle with the cheap stuff and no one would be any the wiser.) The make up brush holder is beautifully cast in a heavy plastic, reminiscent of Bakelite, and is patiently waiting for me to invest in some equally lovely brushes.

vintage cat garland

I spotted this wonderful kitty garland at my parent’s home in Norfolk and knew my life wouldn’t be complete until I had row of pudding-carrying cats hanging from my own mantelpiece. I just wish that I could keep them up all year round.

anya hindmarch

I treated myself to this luxurious Anya Hindmarch leather pouch in the Christmas sale. I was able to use my staff discount on top of the sale price which brought this long-coveted item to just within my reach. It’s beautifully made, with a pistachio-green leather lining, and remarkably hard-wearing: it still looks brand new despite being lugged about in my handbag next to a particularly jagged set of keys and a leaking lunch box.

kay bojeson monkey

Jian Wei bought me this adorable little wooden monkey. It is in the style of the classic midcentury design by Kay Bojeson and looks so cute just hanging out on the bookshelf.

larsson and jennings watch

After much deliberation, I also treated myself to this gold-plated watch by Anglo-Swedish duo Larsson and Jennings. I felt it was time to own a proper adult watch and this stylish unisex design is destined to never go out of fashion. The strap is adjustable and can also be replaced with a leather strap however I really like it in gold as it almost doubles up as jewellery. You may also have noticed the particularly striking edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned, a gift from Jian Wei which I will begin reading once I have finished Tender is the Night.

What did you get for Christmas?

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