Monday, 29 February 2016

Review: Noisemakers Club birthday stationery subscription box

Noisemakers Club birthday stationery subscription box service

How many times have you checked your phone in the morning only to have Facebook alert you to a birthday that completely slipped your mind? Happens to me ALL THE TIME.

Honestly, I never used to be a birthday-forgetter. Before I had kids I was infuriatingly organized and prompt. But now I’m not, and no matter how hard I try to get it back I'm beginning to face facts and think that this skill, like bag-free eyes and bikinis, is just gone for good.

This is why Noisemakers Club is such a brilliant idea. Each month, Nina Camacho hand-picks cards, wrapping paper and other beautiful fripperies, packages them up into a letterbox-friendly box and posts them out to subscribers. As you can see, the quality is so high and these glorious designer stationery items are both beautiful and useful. Lifesaving, you could say.

In the box I received (pictured), there are three greetings cards – not overly birthday-ish or gendered, which is handy – plus a sheet of wrapping paper, three kraft paper heart stickers and a luggage label.  My favourite is the sweet cat card by Rosehip for its characterful face and pretty pastel colours.

As well as helping me to get organized, I love that this service supports small, independent businesses and designers. Go Nina!

Want to sign up? Or get a one-off sample box? Both cost just £12.50 and you can sign up to the Noisemakers Club birthday stationery subscription box here.

Take a look at my latest vlog for a review of this box plus two others, and don't forget to subscribe to my channel and give me a thumbs up!



Disclosure: Nina asked me to write copy for her website and in return she gave me this box free of charge. 
I chose to write about Noisemakers Club as I love the idea and the product and thought you lot would enjoy hearing about it.  


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Friday, 26 February 2016

New year, new home: IKEA LiveLagom

IKEA LiveLagom project | Oyster & Pearl blog


Over the past eighteen months, I have lived in four different homes. It's not exactly how I planned things, but it is the way things have worked out.

Late last year, I found out that I'd been chosen to take part in a new IKEA project around Lagom, which literally means 'enough, sufficient, adequate'. Not necessarily perfection, but a Goldilocks-style 'just right'.

LiveLagom means working alongside IKEA to select products for our home to improve our daily lives. This isn't about ostentatious luxury purchases, rather an opportunity to make the most of what we've got. With a budget of £500 to spend, our shopping list had to reflect the reality of our current family situation and that meant taking stock of where we are now.

Where we live right now is seven of us in a modern house that was chosen for its four bedrooms, and its proximity to school and train station. Turns out there aren't many houses that fulfil these criteria within our budget! Rewind a few months and our housing requirements were different - three of us living in a three bedroom period house.

So when we approached the IKEA project it was with some trepidation, in that we didn't know quite where we'd be living this year. That meant that any product choices had to be flexible enough to come with us wherever we ended up.

IKEA LiveLagom project | Oyster & Pearl blog


With that in mind, our decisions were based on the following three areas.

1. Eating


With kids living here only half the time, meal planning isn't easy. We either had too much food that didn't get eaten or we had nothing in the house and hungry, complaining children. Enter IKEA's amazing kitchenware: Kilner-style preserving jars, glass food storage boxes, lovely containers in a range of sizes and colours.

Resolutions: 

Planning and shopping in advance
Having a better idea of what food is in the house
Preparing food for the freezer
Preserving seasonal foods for the larder
Reduce the amount of food waste by making better use of leftovers


2. Growing


A long time ago, we had an allotment. We were useless at it and were asked to leave! Whoops. Because of that, I've always thought of myself as a terrible gardener and haven't really bothered to attempt to grow anything much. My kids, however, are really into the idea of growing from seed.

Resolutions:

Give it a go using IKEA’s easy growing kits
Spend more time in the garden
Plant a small fruit tree or two
Help a friend out on her allotment


3. Rented house quick fixes


Our landlord is fairly relaxed about what we can and can’t do in this house. As a result, we plan to paint and decorate, to hang pictures and to do what we can to make over the kitchen. But we have a budget and so it’s important to choose to invest in things that can come with us next time we move.

Resolutions:

Build storage that is transportable
Use what’s already in the house, complemented with items such as the Sinnerlig bench that allow for flexilbility
Change all lightbulbs to energy saving bulbs
Reduce reliance on central heating by investing in curtains and blinds, blankets and rugs

IKEA LiveLagom project | Oyster & Pearl blog



So we’ll be back in three months to let you know how we’re getting on in our efforts to LiveLagom, and in six with our final thoughts on the project.

Meanwhile, do you have any tips for our three resolutions?


Disclosure: We are working with IKEA on the LiveLagom project for six months, and have received products in order to be able to fulfil this brief. 
Thank you for supporting the companies that make this blog possible.


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Monday, 22 February 2016

Travel: The best of beautiful Bath, UK | Top five shopping, eating and drinking tips

Shopping, eating, drinking tips for Bath, Somerset, UK
Roman Baths image: Harington's Hotel

The weekend before last, I was invited to an afternoon in beautiful Bath at Harington's Hotel and Apartments. Living so close to Bath means it's usually a day trip destination, so having a look behind-the-scenes at Harington's was a special treat. The beautiful townhouses are a brilliant rental option for big groups and the main living space in the City Loft is my favourite space - have a look.

Being in Bath reminded me - there are so many awesome places to eat and shop and I loved working there so much. So here are my top five tips for shopping, eating, drinking and generally hanging out in Bath:

Canary Gin Bar

Shopping, eating, drinking tips for Bath, Somerset, UK
Image: The Bath Gin Company


Such a great place to drink (and opposite Harington's!), the Canary Gin Bar specialises in gins - hundreds of them. Which makes it right up my street.

This is an intimate bar best experienced when the weather is cold and the skies are dark outside. Fantastic cocktails, too.


Spotty Herberts

Shopping, eating, drinking tips for Bath, Somerset, UK
Image: grubbylittlefaces.com

'A shop for children', Spotty Herberts won a CWB magazine award for best new store last year and it's easy to see why.

With a colourful mix of kitschy toys and bright clothing, this little store is a gem. And also on the same street as the gin bar and the hotel.


Cross Bath

Shopping, eating, drinking tips for Bath, Somerset, UK
Image: Thermae Bath Spa
One of Bath's main tourist attractions is Thermae Bath Spa, where you can swim in the rooftop or basement pools, get steamed and enjoy spa treatments galore.

But less known is its little sister, the Cross Bath. Just over the way from the main site, this petite and private pool takes a maximum of twelve bathers and you can't book, but it's worth turning up and trying your luck as at quieter times you might even get it to yourself.


Holburne Museum

Shopping, eating, drinking tips for Bath, Somerset, UK
Image: The Spectator

Beautiful art in a glorious setting, the Holburne is a Grade I listed building recently extended with this bold glass extension pictured above.

The exhibitions on show are broad ranging and appealing to many, while the original galleries are worth visiting whatever the content thanks to their grand plasterwork, lovely wooden floors and high ceilings.


Green Rocket Cafe

Shopping, eating, drinking tips for Bath, Somerset, UK
Image: The Green Rocket Cafe
At the intersection of healthy and delicious lies the friendly Green Rocket Cafe.

Plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes dance on this menu, none of which forgo taste in the pursuit of purity. Well worth a visit either to quickly fuel a shopping trip or to linger over your meal, bright in both appearance and flavour.


Do you know and love Bath? What are your favourite haunts? If not, is it somewhere you'd like to visit?


Disclaimer: Harington's invited me to spend the afternoon at their hotel. 
All words are my own. 
All images sourced online and credited.

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Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Interiors: The dining room - before and after



Super quick post!

Check out the dining room before:


Been in the house two weeks and this was the first thing we did - four Billy bookcases and a whole heap of Pinterest-esque tinkering = a brand new dining room

.
I love it!
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Thursday, 11 February 2016

Beauty: Perricone MD skincare review + vlog



You know that phrase If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got? Oh,  how I wish it applied to my skin!

It's only now that I'm approaching my late thirties that I can appreciate what good skin I had in my younger days. Not entirely sure why or how but I managed to avoid getting any spots as a teenager (although they are making something of an appearance now) and the worst I had to contend with was a few dry patches.

This genetic jackpot meant I really didn't take care of my skin at all. I was that person who went to bed in their make up and it never seemed to negatively affect me in any way.

But those days are gone. A few years back I discovered micellar water and I also do a bit of hot cloth cleansing. In terms of moisturising, after reading Sali Hughes' Pretty Honest I realised my skin isn't just dry (as I'd always thought) but dehydrated. Plus, I think my skin is verging on being described as 'mature' (sob!).  Time to bring in the big guns.

Perricone MD skincare review - cold plasma, re:firm, face finishing moisturizer, no foundation serum


Enter Perricone MD. Last month, Debenhams sent me four products for review from this new range that I've been using for a few weeks. Here's how I got on.

I began my skincare routine with Perricone MD Cold Plasma, which is designed to combat ten signs of ageing and 'represents the culmination of Dr. Perricone's most comprehensive research to date.' It's an unusual product but one that appears to have made quite a difference. My skin feels plump and soft after application, and so I'm going to give it a go for the foreseeable future (despite Cold Plasma's rather odd smell!).

Next, I've been applying one of two products - Re:Firm (not yet available - coming soon!) or Face Finishing moisturiser, kind of alternating between the two. Re:Firm breaks from a gel to a serum as you apply to your skin, which is something of a novelty. The Face Finishing Moisturiser is more of a traditional product than the previous two, and has a very lovely rose fragrance. This is my favourite product from the range.

Finally, the No Foundation foundation serum, which is a very light (in texture) product. I have to say I wasn't convinced it would give me the coverage I'm used to but I was wrong. I have no idea whether this is what anyone else does but my usual drill is to apply foundation or tinted moisturiser and to then take the colour down a bit with a layer of powder before applying the rest of my face. With this serum, I can imagine losing a couple of stages which would save so much time in the mornings! It gives a good, even coverage and I don't feel too bare (which can be the case with tinted moisturisers).

If you're interested, take a look at this vlog I filmed to go through the products in a bit more depth. It's my first foray into video - if you like it then subscribe to my YouTube channel and I'll make a few more!


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Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Travel | 72 hours in Paris: Art and shopping

Paris art galleries shopping Christmas blog review

More Paris, you say? Bien sur.

SHOP


Travel blog - 72 hours in Paris, art and shopping | Oyster & Pearl blog


All I ever want to do in any city or town is to go for a rummage in a junk shop or market. We'd planned to do the famous Saint-Ouen flea market, but it turns out that arriving in town at lunchtime on Monday and flying out Thursday night makes the entire trip a flea-free zone.

Instead, our host Jorge suggested investigating the Passages - covered passages and arcades woven throughout Paris, each of which has a different focus (so antiques or fashion or Indian shops etc). I'm so glad he did. We stumbled upon a few and sought out a few more (they are clearly marked on maps) and it was more luck than judgment that we found ones that suited our tastes.

Fiat 500 Merci Paris shopping


No trip to Paris is complete without a nose around Merci, the stylish 'destination store' and a complete blogger's paradise. (That little red Fiat 500 must be one of Instagram's most photographed cars!)

And with good reason. There was so much here I'd have taken home given half a chance - beautiful bed linen, the coolest kitchenware, Christmas specials including the twinkliest of fairy lights and flocked goodies a-plenty (EVERYTHING in Paris at Christmas appears to be flocked, and I particularly liked the fluffy orange or white or red trees outside each bar and boutique).

Luckily - or not, depending on the bank balance - Merci has a big ole online store and ships internationally.

Paris art shopping Christmas blog review


ART


During a stroll along the banks of the Seine, we came across one of those postcard racks and the image that leapt out at me was one I knew well: Marilyn Monroe, jumping in the air, photographed by Philippe Halsman.

One of the most prolific portrait photographers of the 20th century, Halsman holds the title for shooting the most Life magazine covers, and was the creative eye behind so many iconic celebrity images. But he also had his own psychological theory - Jumpology - developed after years of asking subjects to jump for him. The theory is, jumping uninhibits a subject, allowing the photographer to snap a truer portrait than the usual styled-and-PRed-to-the-max celebrity image.

Philippe Halsman and Marilyn Monroe, Jeu de Paume ParisAnyway, Jeu de Paume held the first retrospective of Halsman's work, a life's work, and it was sublime. From the pictures of Marilyn et al to his ongoing collaborations with Salvador Dali, all underpinned by the tangible personal story of Halsman's early life in Latvia, his move to Paris, and how came to flee the Nazis to settle in America.

I'm sorry to say that the Paris exhibition has closed but if it tours and you happen to be close by then do pay Philippe a visit.


Paris street art graffitiAnd I'm beginning to realise that there is a Picasso museum in every city, or so it seems. Back in the summer we visited the Barcelona one, and I've been to the Antibes museum as well.

The Paris Picasso museum is in the Marais and has only just reopened after extensive building work and much beautification. They've done a good job. This gallery is just so perfect, sensitively making best use of the ornate period property but generating enough white space to allow the works to breath.

And there are many, many works on view, over 5000 in this collection alone, plus any temporary exhibitions that may also be toured in. As well as Picasso's portraits and ceramics, the Picasso Intime floor features assorted personal effects that give a real sense of his private self.

Seine bridge, Paris




Paris art and shopping | Oyster & Pearl blog



A note: we arrived in Paris on 14 December, exactly a month to the day after the attacks, unsure of what to expect. Would it be a noticeably different city?

Well, yes and no. All appears normal, on the surface of it, until you turn a corner and find yourself outside cafe Le Carillon, almost buried beneath bouquets. Or the candlelit vigil surround the Republique monument. Or every department store or art gallery you visit requiring extensive bag checks and security - all part of the Vigipirate anti terriorist measures.

Paris, la Republique candlelit vigil
But it is, and always will be, beautiful, snooty, charming Paris.

Fluctuat nec mergitur.


Read more:


More Paris: Places to eat and drink

The best Airbnb apartment in London

More travel

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Dress shopping with Lyst

Emmet dress by Toast from Lyst
My favourite outfit has always been the same: dress, cardigan, boots. As a kid, one of my dad's nicknames for me was Bootsy as I never wanted to take off my wellies. Plus ca change, it seems.

The thing I like best about this combo is that it works for so many different occasions, from festivals to formal.

Recently, Lyst asked me to try out their website. The best way I can describe it is that Lyst is a little like Pinterest but for clothes. You can browse hundreds of thousands of items, designers and stores to find exactly what you're after, assemble them all in a lyst, and then click straight through to buy. Brilliant!

I bought something I've been coveting for a long time - the Emmet dress from Toast. It's a kind of apron style dress in a heavy cotton, dark grey in my case. One of those dresses, the ones that I'm not sure I ever want to take off (a bit like my wellies).

Head over to my Dresses, boots and cardies lyst to see more.

What would you choose from this enormous online store and why?


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