TOO COOL TO BE COLD




It's a Friday night, ten years ago to the day, Timbaland is blasting from the radio and the blue WKD is flowing. I'm about to head out with the girls wearing a strapless mini dress and nothing else. I choose to risk hypothermia instead of ruining my outfit with a coat. There's something about being in your teens and being oblivious to the near freezing weather, I was cold but I had a unbelievable knack to 'just deal with it'. Fast forward ten years and I'm all about the layers. Sock less feet in ballet pumps have been replaced with thick socks and ankle boots, strapless mini dresses are only worn in winter if accompanied by a large faux fur coat and tights; they are worn 99.9% of the time. I practically danced naked through the streets (of course I didn't, it would have been far too cold!) when puffer jackets were first seen on the catwalk and very quickly stocked up. Do you really need another down puffer coat? Yes mother, I really, really do. Incredibly comfy, unbelievably warm and they give any outfit instant street cred. I think even my 16 year old self would have come around to the wonders of the puffer.

CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE: A LITTLE LUXURY




Putting this Christmas gift guide together has taught me three things. One; I seem to be having a shearling moment. Two; it turns out I want a lot for Christmas! Three; I am so excited for Christmas.

Before the pumpkin lights had dimmed it seemed shops everywhere had jumped on the Coca Cola Christmas train with Christmas coffee cups launching, windows enjoying a festive make over and that aisle in supermarkets, you know which I'm talking about, growing two sizes in a day and I love it! I have been well and truly caught up in the festive spirit. I've started my Christmas shopping and thought it was time to share my gift guide for those getting ahead as well.
 
I thought about breaking up the guide into sections e.g. fabulous finds for fashionistas, best buys for beauty boffs etc. but sometimes you just want an all encompassing guide with a little bit of everything. I think, in an ideal world Christmas presents should be things you want not necessarily need. A little bit of luxury that you wouldn't/couldn't necessarily buy yourself. I have scoured the Internet to find a little bit of luxury for every price point, from stocking fillers to blow out gifts. There's something here for every lady in your life or simply inspiration for your own Christmas list!

THE DESIRE TO DO...SOMETHING




Have you ever played that game where you read each other's palms; ultimately ending with one hooligan spitting into the others palm exclaiming 'you’re going to have a big house with a pool in the back garden.' Well on a particularly long and boring drive I decided to google palm reading and see what all the lines really meant. Of course this is all gospel! After “reading” a few lines I came to the life line; a straight line with no branches coming off of it, no kinks or twists, incidentally exactly the line that I have, means you will have an uneventful life. Well…that stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t want an uneventful life. Uneventful to me meant boring, safe...uneventful. Why I took so much notice I will never know. Why this little titbit off of the internet has stayed with me all this time I will never know. Palm reading, to my brother, is total and utter codswallop but to me, an avid reader of horoscopes, a believer in all things astrological it makes complete sense. I was a little bit wounded. Why? Because everyone else is having the time of their lives…or so social media would have us believe. 

After wallowing for what was potentially too long over a could be mythical bit of information I decided to metaphorically throw on my tweed jacket and do something.  Whilst uneventful could actually be seen as a good thing, with uneventful there's no outstanding bad moments as there aren't any outstanding good. It is smooth sailing all the way and there is something quite comforting about that, however I have always worked best when under a little bit of pressure and there is something exhilarating about being out of your comfort zone which is when I realised something. I rarely put myself out there and I never shout about my success, or share with others for fear of what people will think and looking like that person that boasts about everything. By not putting myself out there  I missed out on a lot, friendships, adventures, getting ahead at work. Silly me, thinking hard work and simply 'getting on with it' would be enough to get you noticed. Unfortunately not, she who shouts the loudest will reap the rewards; trying to find the balance between believing in you and having the confidence to push that and being plain old obnoxious is the tricky part. In a nutshell you have to do something in order for something else to happen. Sitting on your sofa scrolling through social media getting a little more green eyed with each swipe isn't going to get you in your favourite restaurant photographing that incredible cocktail. Resting on your laurels doing the same thing day in, day out isn't going to get you that trip to number one on your bucket list and sitting at your computer quietly working away (keeping everything to yourself) isn't going to get you the promotion you most likely deserve. Trust me on this one, I learnt the hard way! Whereas going to that party where you only know one person could lead to the meeting of a lifetime, shouting about the success the of the latest campaign you ran in a meeting with your boss will put you on their radar and sometimes social media screening can lead to a light bulb moment of inspiration to help you create an incredible piece of content. Or even just a killer outfit for your best friends birthday.

We have to create our own eventful and after throwing on my actual tweed jacket this is exactly what I intend to do, on the days where a Netflix binge isn't imperative! 



The tweed jacket has been all over Instagram for quite a while now and with so many options on the high street I really took my time in finding the perfect one. I didn't want to end up buying multiple jackets in varying shades of brown so I kept on looking until I found the one. This Zara version (which incidentally is one of many Zara tweed jackets available) is super soft, the perfect wear with everything colour and most importantly to me the perfect fit. Tailored but roomy enough for a jumper and long enough to cover the bum, think boyfriend fit! I've pulled together some of the other jackets that almost got me to part with my cash and if I had an endless pot of gold I would of course buy multiple jackets in varying shades of brown.

LIGHTENING STRIPES




Life is a funny old thing, it moves along at lightning speed and if you're not careful great big chunks of it have passed you by and all you have to show for it; an ass print in the couch from the multitude of Netflix binges and possibly a bit of a headache. Where does the headache come from you ask? Well my friends that would be from the chronic illness that is currently sweeping the nation; taking down almost every female and a few males when it feels like a change of pace, overthinking. It is something that I have always suffered from, my mind moves at a million miles an hour, flitting from one thing to the next. Sometimes I have concocted whole, completely unbelievable, scenarios that play out like a movie in the space of a few minutes. We were burgled about a year ago, whilst we were in the house, and a whole six months later I set off out of the back door to walk Watson and by the time I had reached the car, this little two part series had taken place in my head.

As she (me) went to open the back gate a man with a beanie pulled low over his head barged through and stabbed the women three times, twice in the stomach and as she hunched over in agony, again in the back. Then, he ran off, his senseless act complete. She lay in a pool of her own blood, the gate banging back and forth against her stuck out leg as the wind blew, her dog whining and licking her face. She fumbled for her phone and just before the last ebb of energy stopped flowing through her body she pressed 999.

Why, six months later, did I decide to have a mini freak out in my mind? I couldn't tell you, that's just the way I am baby. Sometimes I like to think it's simply an overactive imagination. My boyfriend laughs at me on the odd occasion I decide to share my little screenplays, not really understanding how or why I create them, they keep him entertained at least. On this occasion it didn't affect my life in any way, I had the thought and then it passed. Sometimes however those niggly thoughts just don't go away and they are much more destructive. I can be bumping along this life train nicely when lightening stripes strikes and I am hit with a thought so unfounded it baffles even me. This thought will linger for a day, days, weeks, it will make me feel anxious, it will put me a bad mood, so much so those around me see the effects and it's all because of something I have made up, yes completely fabricated in my own mind. Other times it will simply stop me from doing something. I will have talked myself in circles thinking up every possible reason why I should or shouldn't do that thing to the point where the thing has passed and I've missed it. This I need to work on. Life today moves so quickly that if we do stop to smell the roses even we will have missed it, let alone stopping to overthink. We simply do not have the time and yet this is part of the problem. As we don't have the time to stop and take a breath, slow down and have minute our minds are constantly playing catch up. They are thinking of every possible outcome to come up with a solution ahead of time so as not to waste time when said made up problem happens. So on this Sunday gone I threw on this striped top for the fourth time that week with my shoes that never leave my feet and did nothing. We ambled, we ate, we fell asleep on the sofa watching Jurassic Park and we stumbled across a back street that was perfect for a couple of photos. No extensive planning, a spur of the moment happening that turned out to be one of my favourites. It was a day of rest, a day to regroup and switch off. A day to realise that there is life outside of social media, and life does indeed happen even if you don't take a photo of it.

The only problem with slowing down is the inevitable having to start back up again, when slowing down feels so good why do we insist on speeding through life?

FROM ONE BOOKWORM TO ANOTHER: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD



From the tales of Peter Rabbit to the tales of Cora in The Underground Railroad, I cannot remember a time when I haven't had my nose in a book. Even during my teenage years when reading was decidedly 'uncool' I still feverishly devoured literature, albeit secretly. This I now find very sad. Why is reading something for the nerds and bof's? Why is reading seen as something boring people do? I feel sad for people who choose not to read, who don't have the joy of books in their life. Their power to effortlessly transport you to anywhere but where you are is something everyone should experience at least once in their life.


There have been a number of books along the way that have stuck with me, books so good and so gripping upon finishing, you wished you hadn't read them so you could enjoy the whole experience once again. The aforementioned Peter Rabbit was ever present in my childhood years. Noughts & Crosses, Harry Potter and any and all Jacqueline Wilson novels littered my teenage years. Whilst anything from Little Women to Pulitzer Prize winning fiction to Fifty Shades Of Grey (yup I read them along with the rest of the female population) are framing my adult life. Some are simply a guilty pleasure, a quick 'easy read', others, like The Underground Railroad are all consuming. A book I will forgo the latest episode of Liar to read, a book that was read in two days and a book that I have been telling anyone that will listen about. It was the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner and counts Barack Obama as a fan meaning my endorsement kind of pales in comparison; I'm going to give it to you nonetheless. 

Cora, the story's main protagonist, lives a hellish existence as a slave on a cotton plantation. An outcast even amongst her fellow Africans it doesn't take long for Cora to take up the offer of escapism from a slave new to the plantation. The story follows Cora at each stage of her journey; just as she seems to have found a safe haven she is dealt another blow pushing her further into the unknown during a particular dark period of history.

Within minutes your heart is with Cora, you hurt with her and feel her hope as though it is your own.  Cora's is not the only story told and Colson Whitehead manages to effortlessly move back and forth ensuring the stories of the other characters build upon Cora's own. It is completely unapologetic; choosing not to hide any of the harrowing details of the time. This is done with such skill as to not feel forced but necessary. It does make you wonder about the world that we live in and, quite frankly, the brutality of mankind. I know this may sound daunting but don't be put off! It is a thoroughly gripping tale that will stay with you for all the right reasons. 

Can Cora ever find true freedom?

I hope you have a read and if you have read this book already please do let me know what you thought of it in the comments below! 

LOOK MUM, NO HANDS


FLARED SLEEVE JUMPER - ZARA (OLD)


Sometimes fashion isn't sensible however when a jumper has sleeves so long it negates the need for gloves I think it is actually, rather sensible. Despite its lack of practicality, especially when eating, this jumper is seeing it's second winter and my love for it hasn't waned a bit. Paired with my new favourite jeans the whole look achieves a 70s preppy vibe that I am particularly loving right now. When fashion seems to be constantly looking back it's amazing to find pieces that can travel across eras.  A wide leg jean will do just that, they will instantly turn any outfit into a retro dream. Worn with a striped crop and Stan Smiths and you've got a 90s look to rival the Hadid's. Team with a sparkly knit and a sock and heeled sandal combo and you're screaming 80s. Want to achieve a 60s vibe? Add some large muted florals and a wedged sandal. There's no decade these jeans can't work for and for someone whose mind and style is ever changing; they are a perfect fit.

THE PUFFA JACKET




There is nothing I love more than when September rolls around. The cosy evenings, heart warming food and the fashion, oh the fashion. AW style excites me like no other, the chunky knits, the layering, the boots and of course, the coats. My collection is getting a little out of control but after dipping my toe into the puffa pool last year this particular puffa ensured I jumped straight in. Usually preferring to stick to a neutral colour palette when it comes to jackets and coats; adopting a 'they'll go with everything' mentality I just couldn't resist this pop of a puffa. Whilst it might initially conjure up memories of your mum bundling you up before the school run the puffa has enjoyed a refresh and is very much here to stay. AW16 saw the return of the puffa with a little modernisation and by AW17 it was back with a vengence. Look in every store and you'll see at least three different variations of the 90s classic. From satin to velvet, short to maxi, hooded to bomber style the options are quite literally, endless. I actually love the nostalgia, it's like walking around in a comforting hug. Which is even more the case with this coat that is practically a cloud. Well done H&M...well done.

H&M's puffas, sorry padded jackets, are so on point this season I'm heading back to pick up this black padded jacket and this cropped camel number.

THE YEAR OF THE NIPPLE


Call me prude but my nipples will not be seen poking abruptly through a semi sheer shirt. Call me prude but my nipples will not stand erect uncovered for the entire world to see. Call me prude but this trend, largely set by the ever present Kardashian Klan, is one that I will not be following. Don’t get me wrong I don’t judge the whole ‘Free the Nipple’ movement; in fact I completely understand it and support its message. It isn’t simply about wanting the world to see our nipples. It is women empowering women and there is nothing better that. It is claiming our bodies and our choices back. We can do whatever we want with our bodies whenever we want. Our bodies cannot be censored and they cannot be owned, used or abused by any person without our consent. This is a message I can whole heartedly get on board with.

Here, I am talking about the growing trend of the celebrity crowd bearing all in a shocking moment to gain more column inches. The problem is…it isn’t actually shocking anymore. We’ve become desensitised to nakedness that those willing, have to go further and further to shock and awe. It is now socially acceptable to bare ones naked ass on a platform accessed by billions. We don’t bat an eyelid when next doors daughter thrusts her crotch into the mirror in a Baywatch esque bathing suit. When your second cousin twice removed nipple pops up in your feed you glance and move on, not giving it a second thought. I’m going to put it out there; this isn’t about empowering women. This is about popularity. Sex sells has long been the mantra in the entertainment industry and yes that first semi-naked photo you post will garner a hell of a lot of interest but what will you post next time. How far are you willing to go to keep that interest up? 

The confidence it must take to put yourself out there like that, for everyone to see has to be admired. However think how much more shocking it would be for there to be story about Theresa May’s policies; not her length of skirt. Think how much more shocking it would be to see a story about a Kardashian fighting for human rights not because their top shows their bare breasts and erect nipples. We are constantly fighting to be taken seriously as women, to have a voice that is listened to as acutely as a man’s voice. Putting our bodies out there for all to see at the click of a button is a little contradictory no? I can assure you when a naked body is involved no one is listening to the voice behind it.

Nipples have been around since forever. We all have them. Never have they been as prevalent as in 2017. 2017 is quite simply, the nipples year. Will this trend continue into 2018? Or will they be a one season wonder like extreme ripped jeans? Either way it is a trend that I will not be wearing and just can’t quite understand. 

N.B. I am not referring to the sometimes nipple poking through a top a la Rachel Green, sometimes it’s cold and we’re wearing a triangle bra, this cannot be helped!

THE NED, LONDON


I'm not sure which part of The Ned I loved more. The jaw-dropping foyer with constant live band and the most beautiful marble pillars or the idyllic roof top with heated pool and views of The Shard and St Paul's Cathedral (where photos are strictly not allowed)...I just couldn't help myself! Thanks to the beautiful weather in London on the weekend of our visit this roof top felt like a real escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life I can see exactly why people pay the membership fee; from delicious food to tasty cocktails to the most fabulous sun loungers where I spent a considerable amount of time relaxing. If it wasn't for the spectacular view of St Paul's I could have been laid by the pool in Spain.

Now let's talk about that foyer...


With nine restaurants to choose from, an aforementioned live band and the most exquisite decor my breath was quite literally taken away on entering this building. I knew I was excited to stay at The Ned and I knew it was going to be pretty cool but it completely exceeded my expectations. When Dan couldn't stop gushing about the place I knew it was somewhere special. Our 'cosy room' continued the feel of the entire place, like stepping back in time, to a time I did not ever want to leave. A hallway complete with wardrobe, mini bar, straighteners, hairdryer, umbrella and leads onto a boudoir and bathroom fully stocked with complimentary Cowshed products (just don't take them home) packing light is easy when it comes to The Ned. They even have a catalogue of Net A Porter and Mr Porter products, just in case you happen to forget something!


The final area of this vast building that we visited was the basement, if you can call it that. The basement contained the bank vault turned bar still with its original 20 tonne vault door and all the original deposit boxes. A spa, barber shop, gym and a Cowshed beauty parlour. You really needn't ever leave and some people don't. I met two people in the two nights that I spent there who actually lived in The Ned. Me, jealous? No...


Maybe it was that I was in desperate need of an escape, that what I needed more than anything was time away from the day to day to relax, recoup and get things in perspective, or maybe it was simply the decadence of this expansive old bank, either way I had the best weekend in a while in the best hotel I have stayed in and one that I will most certainly be revisiting.

© LIZ NOTES

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