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Latest Purchases #48 – A Huge Dotcomgiftshop Haul

This may be stating the obvious but I love my half term holidays! Not only does it provide a much needed break, but it also allows me to spend a few days getting my house and life back in order and I always seem to get my blogging mojo back too as I have time to write every day, take photos in good light and also think up some new and interesting posts.

Today I wanted to share a rather large haul from one of my favourite online shops. Dotcomgiftshop is my go-to place for presents and treats for the home (their vintage kitchen accessories are my favourite!) Once a year they have incredible sales and I always make a few purchases, stocking up on birthday presents and of course a few items for our house too.

Despite getting daily emails telling me about the sale, I hadn’t even gone onto the website to browse until my colleague showed me some of the amazing things she had ordered so I blame her for enabling me!

Anyway, here is the huge box that arrived:

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And the goodies inside:

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First up, the Christmas stuff – yes, I realise I am way out of season but I always buy festive stuff in the sales and put it away until next year (oh dear…that sounded so old!)

Two pretty Christmas tree decorations – a vintage looking silver bell and a scandi print heart.

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Some lovely printed baking cases for individual lemon drizzle cakes or something equally as tasty.

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Some fairy cake cases and matching napkins with a lovely snowy print.

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A pack of vintage-style paper lanterns to hang and brighten the place up.

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Now, some foodie/ kitchen items:

My Dad has a new wood-branding kit so I thought a couple of plain wooden spoons would be ideal for him to create something personalised for me and Ian!

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I love hanging signs around the house and this ‘Bon Appetit’ one is great for the kitchen. My Dad, who is a chef, used to work in an Italian restaurant of this name too so I bought one for my parents to remind them of all the nights we spent there over pizza and pasta!

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These adorable measuring spoons are pretty and practical.

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You can never have enough nice cupcake cases and I love this retro design…so much so I also bought the matching bunting and paper chains!

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I am forever spilling tea and dropping crumbs when I bring them through from the kitchen so hopefully this tray will solve this problem!

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These glass bowls are so handy – I am always running out of Tupperware to keep leftovers and work lunches in and these are just a bit prettier than our plastic ones.

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I love having nice tea towels hanging up and these two floral designs will fit right in with our kitchen.

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I also bought a matching oven glove after Ian left my Cath Kidston one on the hob and burnt it!

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I am determined to put more art up around our house and bought four pieces. I love this heart design, made using various pieces of pretty floral paper. I still have the protective wrapping on but I think you can see how delicate they look. I saw these for about four times the price in Covent Garden recently too.

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These would look great in a child’s bedroom but I couldn’t resist them either! I remember reading books with these retro style covers when I was younger and think they will be a unique and colourful addition to our walls.

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This little heart frame was only £1.95 and I am sure I can find a little corner for it.

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Finally, some completely random but useful bits and bobs!

I always need pretty cards so these birthday and thank you cards were a steal at 50p each.

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This floral washi tape will look great when used for wrapping presents.

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As a teacher, it can get very expensive buying presents for your class throughout the year. I always keep my eyes peeled for cheap and cheerful items and these packs of rubbers were reduced to 10p each so I bought enough for all my kids.

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These two patchwork cushions look like so much work has gone into them. The fabrics used are lovely and they even came with the cushion inside too as opposed to just being the cover.

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We currently keep all our medical stuff in one of my old make-up bags and can never find the things we need. This vintage-style medicine cabinet will hopefully get us a bit more organised and looks wonderful too.

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These his and her desk calendars will make a great gift and are handy for people like me who can never remember the correct date!

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Finally, I love bird cages and have several of them dotted around our house. This large cream one can be hung up and has a great little candle holder inside it too. I will hang this outside over the summer but that feels a long way off at the moment!

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Phew…so that’s everything and I now have the not so exciting challenge of putting everything away and clearing up the huge amount of packaging left behind!

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Tea and Cake Pops

A rather beautiful package was delivered on Saturday afternoon which I couldn’t wait to rip open, despite not wanting to ruin the lovely bow on the front. tea6 The wonderful people at Twinings sent me over some samples of their new green teas to try and three delicious cake pops to complement them. The teabags are part of their new ‘Sweet Green Teas’ range and I thought that the flavours sounded delicious. tea7 I have to admit that whilst I am slightly obsessed with cups of tea, I am not really one for fruit and herbal teas. Often I find that they sound amazing on the box but are never quite strong enough to deliver on flavour and can have that slight ‘dishwater’ taste to them, with the exceptions being Charbrew and Teapigs whose teas I love.

Anyway, I guess this made me an ideal guinea-pig to see if I could be persuaded to change my mind on the fruit tea front!

I roped Ian into some sampling with me as he is rather partial to a herbal tea and will never turn down the offer of cake either!

tea5 The three teas I received were Gingerbread, Caramelised Apple and Salted Caramel…see, I told you they sounded good! tea10 To accompany then I had a Gingerbread cake pop with gingerbread crumbs, a Caramelised Apple cake pop with dried apple pieces and caramel chips and a Salted Caramel cake pop with caramel chips and Maldon salt flakes.

First up the teas: tea9 I let them brew for a good few minutes and I have to say I was quite impressed at the strength of flavour from each one.

The Gingerbread one really did contain all the elements of a warming ginger cake. It wasn’t too overpoweringly ginger-flavoured and I could also taste a caramel/ toffee-like flavour. This tasted really indulgent which is not a word I would use to describe green tea and my only niggle is that the final few mouthfuls were very strong and almost peppery on the tongue.

The Caramelised Apple tea was reminiscent of apple crumble as opposed to being a fruity apple tea. Again, there was a warming toffee taste with a hint of cinnamon too – I think this one was my favourite.

Finally, the Salted Caramel tea which I was most excited about trying seeing as I LOVE salted caramel! I have to say I didn’t really get any salt from this but then again that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I don’t think anyone would fancy salty tea! This seemed sweeter than the other two flavours and captured a warm, sweet and slightly sickly caramel flavour.

The cake pops, provided by Bianca Benn of Cake Pop Princess (winner of the 2013 Cakemasters Cake Pop Award – how do I become a judge on that panel?!) were absolutely delicious…moist, full of flavour and topped with delicious goodies. tea2 tea3 Overall, this was a wonderful little package to receive – tea and cake are possibly two of my favourite things!

The new Sweet Green Tea range from Twinings has definitely converted me. Whilst they will not replace a normal cuppa for me, at only 4 calories and with such a tasty range of cake-inspired flavours, we will definitely buy a box or two to enjoy something a bit different.

These new flavours will be available from February 2014 at Tesco and Waitrose – they get a big thumbs up from me! x

Latest Purchases #35 – New Baking Tins

Ahhhhhh Home Sweet Home. I am back at home now after staying with my parents by the sea for a few days and it feels good to be back. Obviously I missed my hubby, but I also start back at school on Monday so I felt like I needed to be home to start to get myself sorted for a new school year and a change to my rather lazy summer holiday routine!

Today I wanted to share a recent-ish purchase I made at a little homeware shop in Bath that was closing down. This set of three gorgeous tins was reduced from £25 to £10 and you know I can’t resist a bargain!

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I had been after a large tin to transport my cakes for a little while and the largest of these three tins is the perfect size.

A lot of my baking items are very pretty and floral but I thought these were a different vintage style and I loved the fact that the three didn’t really match and have very cool and quirky designs on them. They also aren’t covered in cakes meaning I could use the tins for keeping a variety of bits and bobs in.

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Despite not being my usual ’Cath Kidston-style’, I love these new tins and they are a welcome addition to my baking bits!

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This Week’s Nails – Purple Roses

This week I was testing out a new Essie nail varnish that I bought in San Francisco. I couldn’t believe what a bargain Essie polishes were over there so I of course stocked up!

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I bought the shade Go Ginza which is a beautiful pale lilac colour. I think it is a very clean and fresh colour and looks great with a tan (which I unfortunately don’t have!)

I was a bit worried about the formula of this after the first coat which dried very patchy and streaky.

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But after a third coat, it looked perfect and dried to a very even finish. I have nail varnishes from a variety of brands but Essie remains one of my favourites.

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In fact, I have another new shade from them on my toes at the moment too – a bright coral colour called Braziliant.

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I wasn’t planning on doing any nail art this week and was quite happy to just wear this lovely new shade alone but I couldn’t sleep yesterday and found myself wide awake at 5am so I thought a cup of tea and a bit of nail painting would go down a treat!

I have done roses on my nails before but I decided to stick to a purple theme this time. For this look I used three shades: Frozen Yogurt by MUA, Lilac by ELF and Prickly Pear from the Barry M Gelly range.

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First of all, I used the middle shade of Lilac and a dotting tool to draw some large circles on my nails.

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Once these had dried, I used the darker shade of Frozen Yogurt and a very fine nail brush to draw some abstract letter Cs.

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Finally, I used the lightest shade of Prickly Pear to add some highlights.

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I finished the look by painting on some small leaves using Rimmel’s Green Grass.

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I sealed my nails with a layer of Seche Vite and this ensured my nails had a smooth and even finish. I cannot recommend a clear top coat enough when you do any sort of nail art. Not only will it make it last longer but it also smooths any lumps and bumps that can happen when you are using different brands of nail varnish which will inevitably all have different formulas and finishes.

I only did my left hand because it was so fiddly and I just don’t have a steady enough hand to attempt this nail art on my opposite hand! However, I am very pleased with the finished result and think the colour combinations work well with my new Essie shade.

This Week’s Nails – Roses

I am really proud of this week’s nail art as it was the trickiest effect that I have tried to date! I have been calling them my ‘Cath Kidston’ nails as I used my favourite print by this brand for inspiration.

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This look did require a nail art brush and several pots of nail varnish but I think it was worth it for the finished look. I ended up reading several nail tutorials online and combined a little bit of everything I read to achieve this look.

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I began with a basecoat of MUA’s Bold Blue, a lovely cornflower blue which needed two coats. Now I have tried several in the range, I quite like these nail varnishes from MUA. The first layer always looks a little thin and patchy but after two, sometimes three, coats, the colour seems to even itself out and lasts for just under a week with a good topcoat.

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Given how fiddly this design was, I only attempted two nails this week! I began the nail art by painting on some random circles using MUA’s warm pink shade Amaretto Crush.

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Once these had dried, I used my darkest shade, E.L.F’s Fuschia to very carefully paint on some letter Cs in an abstract pattern. I actually quite liked the nails like this and was tempted to leave them but I decided to add a lighter colour to highlight the design.

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I used E.L.F’s Nude to add some more Cs around the roses.

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The final touch was to paint on some delicate leaves. I used Rimmel’s Green Grass shade which had a good consistency but in some lights it is slightly too light to stand out against the blue base coat I used.

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I finished this off with a layer of Seche Vite topcoat (which is as amazing as the beauty bloggers claim…review coming soon!) and could then sit back and admire my handiwork! I love how these turned out and seeing as I cannot draw or paint to save my life, I hope this tutorial shows you how easy it is to achieve this look!

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Latest Purchases #29 – More Baking Bits

It is our village fete this weekend and it looks like the weather will be glorious for it. There will be farm animals, plenty of Pimms and lots of food…I can’t wait!

My contribution is something for the cake stall. I haven’t decided whether to make a large occasion cake or lots of smaller cupcakes but I knew I wanted to make whatever I made look special.

I picked up a few baking-related items at the weekend which I think will help give my baking efforts a summer-fete style twist and will no doubt come in handy for BBQs over the summer too.

First up, these gorgeous paper windmills.

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I love the polka-dot and rose prints on these and they make great little cake toppers.

Next, some cupcake wrappers.

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I have lots of gorgeous paper cupcake cases but they always seem to come out of the oven having absorbed some of the grease of the cakes while cooking. These pretty spotty wraps will make any cupcake or muffin look great and there are some vintage-style rose cake toppers included in the pack too.

These pretty paper bags and stickers are a great way to package your baked goods. I may not use these this weekend but I am always looking for ways to transport slices of cake and cookies for friends so these will come in handy!

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Finally, I really liked the prints from this ‘Vintage Tea Party’ range so I bought some bunting in the same pattern. This may go up in the house or the garden…you can never have too much bunting!

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Does Vintage Style Have to Mean Vintage Views?

Second-hand, up-cycled, pre-loved, old, vintage…call it what you like, I love it!

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Both my fashion and my home echoes a vintage style and I really enjoy tracking down pieces, old and new, to wear or add to a room. I love how clothes from the 50s celebrate an hourglass shape and how bright and pretty a lot of the fabrics and prints are. At the weekends, I am always on the look-out for vintage tableware and other items to use in the kitchen.

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Anyway, I digress…you can see I am fan of the style of days gone by!

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To continue with this post, I now have to admit a dirty secret to you…one of my guilty pleasures, along with buying nail varnish, eating cheese and drinking red wine, is the Daily Mail Showbiz page! Yes, I know there are much better news sources available but I cannot resist some trashy celeb gossip and it was during my daily sneak at this website that I came across an article that made my blood boil.

In a nutshell, it was about the designer, Cath Kidston, and how she doesn’t fill her home with her own products. Does Marc Jacobs wear the dresses he designs for women?! No – quite often a designer will keep their personal life separate from their product and surely one can see why. I love the Cath Kidston stores and always have an item or two from there on my wish list, but of course it would be slightly odd if you packed your home full of their products and tried to emulate the shop floor.

However, that part of the article was merely the tip of the iceberg. The idiotic writer of this article, Yasmin lbhai-Brown, went on to accuse all of those women who like vintage style of wanting to hark back to an era where women stayed at home and simply cleaned, cooked, looked after children and served up dinner at the end of the day in a piece of pretty tableware!

Excuse my French, but what utter bollocks! The implication that if you shop vintage then you must want to live like some sort of 50s housewife is so insulting to stylish women who choose to dress or decorate their home in this way.

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Guess what, we do know how tough it was for women back then and we have no desire to go back to this bygone era. We are simply appreciating the design element and buying things with our own hard-earned cash.

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I follow lots of style blogs and know that whilst some may find the Cath Kidston/ Emma Bridgewater trend rather twee, there is a plethora of strong, successful and intelligent women who aren’t writing about their dreams of being a housewife but just expressing their personal style choices.

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Now, some will say that I have completely fallen for the Daily Mail antagonistic style of writing but I simply had to ‘respond’ in my own way to this piece of dreadful, misinformed journalism.

As you will probably glean from this blog, I love vintage style but I also have a career and am an equal in my relationship…see it can be done!

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