Autumn/Winter Wishlist: Retro

It feels a bit odd writing this post considering how un-autumnal the weather has been in London recently. I packed away most of my summer things at the start of September and am desperate for the temperature to drop so I can break out the opaque tights and my beautiful red swishy coat. Though I'm sure I'll be complaining once it's finally cold and rainy...

I really liked writing my previous autumn/winter wishlist post so today I thought I'd do a sequel on the beautiful retro clothes I'm eyeing up this month. Hope you like it!

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Lindy Bop is one of my favourite retro brands because their clothes are so affordable - you can't get a £35 dress in many places on the high street these days, so to get a repro dress for that money is amazing! This gorgeous butterfly print dress would be great for a day when you want something smart yet relaxed. Its navy background adds a wintry touch to the bright butterflies and the sleeves mean you shouldn't get too cold.

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I'm also loving this black boat neck dress from Lindy Bop - wouldn't it be fabulous for a Christmas party with high heels, high hair and a slick of red lippy?
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Collectif are outdoing themselves this season with the array of pretty things on offer. I'm a little bit in love with this awesome baseball jacket - it would go with loads of things and the cherry motif is a nice little girly touch against the usual sports look of these types of jacket. (Plus, y'know, the blog name and all that.) I'd pair it with their Monroe jeans and my trusty Converse.

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Continuing the cherry theme, this would be a fantastic evening bag to accompany a vintage-style outfit. Having seen it in the shop it's pretty roomy so you'd be able to carry all your essentials, and I like the Lucite-esque detailing on the handle.

I'm a big fan of leopard print and this long-sleeved blouse would be a great addition to your work wardrobe. It'd go just as well with a black pencil skirt as with trousers and heels and the sheer fabric adds sexiness whilst the long sleeves keep it the right side of appropriate. There's also a short-sleeved version if you'd prefer.

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OK, I'm cheating a bit here because this is two items, but both of them are big favourites of mine. The Liesel mini skirt has an adorable cute cheeky flirtiness about it, especially with the braces, and is offset nicely by the Dolores top (which also comes in red) - I love the button detail on the front and the sweetheart neckline. This is the kind of outfit I could see myself wearing to dance the night away in a rock'n'roll club.

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Finally, if you've got any weddings or other big events coming up, this Lady V London dress would be a brilliant pick. It's got a gorgeous Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's-style shape, a lovely summery print (more butterflies!) in autumnal teal and purple, and would look just as good with black tights as with bare legs.

There is way too much lovely vintage stuff out there right now to share with you in one post, but suffice to say I'm also liking 20th Century Foxy's Rizzo shirt and Peggy dress, as well as Vivien of Holloway's amazing range of 1940s-style swing trousers - perfect for when it does finally get chilly and skirts and tights won't quite cut it in the office any more.

What do you think of my retro AW14 wishlist? What's your favourite piece? I might also do a 'Autumn/Winter Wishlist: High Street Part 2' post as more stuff starts coming in so let me know if you'd like to see that!

My Night in the Strictly Come Dancing Audience

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am a huge fan of Strictly Come Dancing. Every autumn from now until Christmas, most Saturday nights will see me welded to the couch drinking in the gorgeous costumes and intricate footwork. I've also been trying to get tickets to the live shows for years, but no dice - you have to go into a ballot and they get something like 1.5 million applications for 5,000 tickets. So imagine my shock and delight when I got an email telling me I'd got two tickets for the Saturday live show of the opening weekend!

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I went with my friend H (sadly Nick could not be lured with the promise of Ola Jordan in a small sequinned outfit) and we met up at St Pancras very, very early - despite the fact the tickets say doors open at 3 PM for a 6.30 PM show, I'd been told to queue as early as possible if you want to guarantee yourself a space in the studio.

After a 20 minute train journey and getting slightly lost on the way from the train station, we made our way to the queue. There were quite a few people in front of us including some who'd been there since 6.30 that morning!

We waited for about two and a half hours before a nice man from the BBC turned up to validate our tickets, ensuring we would get a seat to watch the show.

Then it was off to Caffe Nero for a spot of lunch and to get ourselves glammed up.

All the make-up! (plus a scabby tissue and the Times Magazine).

At 3 PM we went back to the studio to wait in the holding area for a while before being summoned to our seats. At this point the queue was ridiculously long - you can see how many people there were there and this was just those guaranteed a seat!

We then had to go through security where sadly they confiscate your phones and cameras so I couldn't take pictures in the studio, but once you are inside it is everything you imagine it to be - ridiculously sparkly and so many lights. We were squealing like excited five-year-olds at a birthday party who'd had too much sugar.

Despite being numbers 162 and 163 in the queue, we got incredibly good seats on the second row right behind the judges (though sadly I didn't make it onto the TV as there was a light in front of my face!). After everyone got settled in we watched the filming of the professional group dance that will be in next week's show - I don't want to spoil it but suffice to say it is completely spellbinding and seriously impressive.

Tess and Claudia came out just before the show to say hello to everyone and practise the intro and were both lovely. I can safely say that Tess is super-tall and ridiculously gorgeous - she had the most amazing smoky eye make-up - whilst Claudia is brilliantly funny and a lot taller than she seems on telly (though the high heels might have been part of that). I also got a 'Hello love!' from Anton - here is where I out myself as an Anton fan having been to a few of his and Erin's shows in previous years - and a hello from Kevin who is just completely adorable.

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There were also a ridiculous number of gorgeous frocks on the celebs and pros - I particularly loved Frankie's emerald green prom dress and Kristina's red and black number, as well as her awesome hair and red lipstick.

My favourite routines were Steve and Ola's tango (OK, I will admit Steve's arms played a large part in that), Alison and Aljaz's infectiously fun cha-cha-cha, Frankie and Kevin's beautiful waltz and Simon and Kristina's high-energy jive. But even for the routines I wasn't so keen on, the atmosphere was so incredible I couldn't help but get swept up in all. It does go slightly panto but it's so much fun I honestly didn't care!

If you're a Strictly fan then I really recommend applying for tickets - it might take forever to get one and it's a long day with lots of waiting around, but it is so, so worth it. Even though I've heard the music for years, there's nothing quite like being there when the band starts playing 'da da da da da da da' and everyone is clapping along...

Autumn/Winter Wishlist: High Street

I don't know about you, but I always get much more excited for autumn fashions than I do for the spring collections. There's just something about the prospect of new coats, boots and knitwear that appeals to me a lot more than shorts, sandals and vest tops. With this in mind, I've pulled together a wishlist of the many lovely things I have been coveting for AW14 - are any of these on your lists?

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A good pair of boots is the foundation for a lot of my winter looks, whether that's with skirts in the office or jeans at the weekend. These brown leather riding boots from Marks & Spencer are perfect - not too high, smart but not overly fancy and will go with everything. Plus, they will actually fit over my wide calves (curse you hill running!) which is always a bonus in boots.

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I am a little bit in love with this beautiful ASOS bird print dress. It looks really easy to wear but dressy enough that it could work for loads of different occasions. Because it's chiffon and floaty it would also work really well for spring dressing on those days when it might still be a bit too cold for no sleeves.

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There is a lot of 60s-style stuff around this season and, whilst I'm the wrong shape to pull a lot of it off, one thing I can wear is a princess coat. This lovely grey one from Miss Selfridge has a cute Peter Pan collar and flared skirt, and would look fabulous swishing through the snow with a white furry scarf - very Grace Kelly. To keep the girly look going I'd wear it with this embellished pink beanie.

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Speaking of coats, one of the main things on my wishlist this season is a casual jacket, as I love my red princess coat to pieces but often it feels a bit too dressy to wear with jeans. This parka jacket from Topshop (which Cara Delevingne modelled for their AW14 campaign) would be perfect - I love the fur-trimmed hood, the drawstring waist and the fact it has loads of pockets.

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I'm really trying to get out of my weekend rut of wearing T-shirts and jeans and trying to make a foray into nicer tops. This one from Oasis is a good start, as the baseball top style is quite casual but the floral print makes it a bit girlier. They also have this utterly lovely yellow bird print top which again would be really versatile to wear to work or at weekends.

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Finally, white lace shirts are going to be a key item this season and this one from Dorothy Perkins is a great example. It'd be great to wear with a black pencil skirt and Mary-Janes in the office or black skinny jeans and killer heels on a night out. Incidentally, Dorothy Perkins have also brought back their 3/4 sleeve scoop neck tops in a variety of colours, which makes me very happy as they are great for pairing with my various printed skirts.

What's on your AW14 wishlist?

#2014BloggerChallenge: New Beginnings

September is always one of those months that feels like a new start for me. I don't know if it's because of the associations with going back to school, the new season's clothes in the shops, or simply that it's only a month away from my birthday, but it's always the month when I start to plan for the coming months.

This year is even more so for me as I have a lot of big changes coming up - I'm getting married in seven and a half weeks, and we're hopefully moving house next year as well. It's definitely got me thinking about what I want to achieve between now and the end of the year, so here are a few things that I want to get done in the next few weeks:

Finish my wardrobe detox
After deciding I have a ridiculous amount of clothes, I have had a clear-out of my wardrobe. All my summer clothes have now been put in a box under my bed (possibly a rookie error given the mini-heatwave we've been having in London this week!) and I've cleared out a few things from the wardrobe. The next job is sell them - so keep an eye out for those going up on my blog sale in the new couple of weeks!

Pass my theory test
As the nights are drawing in I've accepted it isn't going to be practical for me to aim to pass my driving test by Christmas, but I am hoping I'll be able to pass my theory test. I'll look into booking a slot with the test centre and then work towards that, with a view to taking the practical next summer.

Restart my novel
So as I mentioned a few weeks ago I had a bit of an IT disaster which essentially meant I lost most of the second draft of my novel :( Whilst there may still be hope to recover it, I think in the meantime I might start it from scratch. I have the notes I made when I was backpacking so all is not entirely lost - it's annoying more than anything else - but hopefully I can work on it over the winter and get close to where I was before.

Get back into blogging
I really want to get back into blogging regularly - the last few months have been a bit nuts for me because work has been so busy and then I've had lots of last minute things to do for the wedding, but now the decks are relatively clear in both regards I've got some more time to dedicate to the blog again. I'd also like to start filming more videos as I've just got a new laptop with a much better webcam and microphone so look out for those too!

Get healthy
In the last couple of weeks I've had a couple of moments where I've felt like I've been putting on weight and, as well as wanting to be in shape for the wedding, I'm also aware that I need to start being healthier. So my current aim is going to parkrun every week possible between now and Christmas, walking/running home from work whenever I can and yoga at least twice a week. I might also add some strength/resistance training in there too but will see how I get on. The other thing I really need to sort out is my diet - I'm trying to give up processed sugar and caffeine and eat more fruit and veg, but it's not going that well at the moment! We are starting online shopping from next week though so hopefully that will help.

Keep saving
The savings have taken a bit of a hit recently because we had quite a lot of wedding expenses all come at once and had to pay for our honeymoon, so I haven't been able to save as much as I'd like in recent weeks. However, from September's pay packet I will be doing my best to save a bit more money with Christmas on the horizon and hopefully buying a house next autumn, so I might do a spending challenge again in the run-up.

Wish me luck guys! Do you have anything you'd like to achieve this autumn?

Book Review: The Good, the Bad and the Furry

I've always loved animals - to the extent I briefly entertained thoughts of becoming a vet or a zookeeper when I was a kid before realising I was rubbish at science - but in recent years my love for cats has come to the fore. I blame the Internet and its mild cat obsession; some days it seems like every second thing posted online is cat-related. One of those things is the MYSADCAT Twitter feed, 'written' by The Bear, an 18-year-old cat who belongs to writer Tom Cox and has won fans the world over with his maudlin outlook on life. Tom has also written three books about The Bear and his other cats, and his latest is The Good, The Bad and the Furry.

This is the third of Tom's books about life with his cats and picks up after the end of his relationship with his former partner, who has taken two of their cats with her, leaving him with The Bear, tarty tabby Ralph and sweary Shipley. During the course of the book, Tom moves to rural Devon, acquires a kitten named Roscoe (this is not a spoiler as she's mentioned on the back of the book) and finds new love, along with many other animal-related adventures.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is that it was really easy to dip in and out of, so it's a brilliant read for those of you who, like me, often only have a small window in your day to read. I also think that one of Tom's key strengths is being able to capture characters - from the cats, whose personalities shine through (there are some wonderful descriptions of them in this book), to Tom's dad, who speaks ONLY IN CAPITALS and is very concerned about the toad living in his shoe in the shed. Finally, the observational humour is lovely - very gentle, and always meant in an affectionate way. Tom's not out to mock but rather to celebrate the little quirks and foibles that make us human and those moments of everyday life that raise a smile and a chuckle. If you're a laugh-out-loud-book type of person this might not be for you, but at least it helps with the aforementioned bus reading...

Overall I really enjoyed The Good, the Bad and the Furry. I think it does help a little if you've read one or both of the previous books (I've read Talk to the Tail - you can read my review here - but not the first book, Under the Paw) or follow Tom or one of the cats on Twitter - Ralph and Shipley are at MYSMUGCAT and MYSWEARYCAT respectively - as that will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of style, but if you're an animal lover I think you'll enjoy it just as much if you're a newcomer. Definitely one of my favourite books this year.