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I love this time of year. Cosy nights in front of the fire. Festive holiday lights are being put up everywhere. Bella and Bear are getting super excited about their elf arriving (I'm enthusiastic about the sudden improvement in behaviour his arrival heralds). The promise of silly amounts of food to eat is tantalizing and on top of that… GIFTS!!! In short Christmas is just around the corner and it's wonderful. 

You won't find a 'Bah Humbug' on Bella & Bear. This Sunday I will be hauling the Christmas boxes down from the attic and decking my halls, but before then there is a little something called Black Friday to enjoy. Now, this is a relatively recent introduction to the UK which has it's origins in the USA. Traditionally Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving celebrations and is basically a massive retail blowout. Retailers are keen to kickstart the holiday season shopping so they slash prices to entice you, the paying customer (and therefore Holy Grail of personages in retail terms) into their establishments for the sole purpose of parting you with your hard earned. So far so material and I'm sure a few people will be thinking noooooo-way, uh-uh, I am NOT going to wait in line overnight only to be trampled, prodded and pushed all for 30% off and if that is you well I have only two words for you… Cyber Monday.

These are the deals and steals that I have my eye on over this most exciting weekend.

Coast are offering 40% off glamorous heel and 30% off accessories. I love the deep blue hue of these heels and the gold accents are perfect for the holiday season but it's the gold laser cut Isadora shoe candy that is making my eyes pop. Yes they are impractical for cold winter weather but they'll go with everything and I think they'll look ha-amazing with white skinnies come spring. Oh and they're currently reduced to only £65!!

Miss Selfridge have slashed a huge 50% off everything from Black Friday until Cyber Monday AND there's free shipping on any order over £50. This beaded lace pencil dress ticks all the boxes for me. It's incredibly elegant with long lace sleeves and the hemline sits below the knee. Pop a cardigan on for work and belt it around the waist, then for after work parties ditch the cardi add a pair of classic black courts (to stop the look becoming cutesy) and accessorize with a black clutch. This season's run away piece, the pink oversized coat, will finish off your look.

Every girl needs a little sparkle in her life and if you'd like to add a little to your arm party this season may I suggest heading over to Folli Follie this weekend to take advantage of their 20% off offer. Just enter the code Grazia20 at the checkout.

There are thousands of deals to be had, so if you haven't started your Christmas shopping yet it's a great time to start and pick up a bargain for yourself or a special someone at the same time. I've included some links below to some other offers that may be helpful in your search.

Kurt Geiger / 25% off for Family&Friends (enter F&FKG25 at check out)

Free shipping with Melissa & Doug (use code FREESHIP999! at check out) Over 2,000 Unique and Exciting Toys for Children of All Ages! Click here!

Black Friday deals and steals

I love this time of year. Cosy nights in front of the fire. Festive holiday lights are being put up everywhere. Bella and Bear are getting...
Friday, 29 November 2013
Gender equality is not an issue I choose to read about often, in spite of the fact that it gets a lot of press. Mainly because it makes my blood boil. The idea we need to state that the genders are equal and should be treated equally rather than it just being so frankly gets my goat. It's been ninety-five years since women were given the right to vote in the UK and even less time since it's been considered acceptable for women to wear trousers. Try to imagine a world where Katherine Hepburn was considered scandalous for wearing wide leg slacks; or being shocked by an image of Marlene Dietrich in a tailored tuxedo. These ladies were mavericks of their time. It's ironic therefore that although wearing trousers coincided with the evolution of gender equality it wasn't until it was endorsed by celebrity status and popularized by the fashion houses of the time that women truly embraced trousers as a wardrobe staple. 

Personally I'm not sure what to make of that, at least not within the brevity of this post. I may come back to it another time. I do know that I love a wide leg slack on a woman. They are nonchalant, comfortable, beautifully tailored and oh so subtly sexy with a heel. They look equally good paired with a feminine top or a structured shirt; throw a cropped jacket on and smoulder. I like to keep accessories minimal for this style. If you're looking to update your wardrobe I suggest taking a peek at Reiss, they are exceptional when it comes to adapting masculine tailoring for women. 

I guess the thing I like most about this look is that it embraces the best of masculine and feminine tailoring. For me, the whole point of the feminist movement and gender equality is to allow women (me) to exist unconstrained, to be free thinkers and to be able to act freely on those thoughts. So I send up a small thank you to the brave people whether they be suffragette activists or maverick fashionistas who paved the way for me to have my cake and eat it too.

Trousers: Ted Baker (mine are old, but I love these) Shoes: Zara Sweater: Anthroplogie Watch: Bell & Ross Coat: Anthropologie


Thursday, 21 November 2013
I am reliably informed that 'bootcut' style trousers are making a comeback. Love them or loathe them, it is hard to deny that a bootcut is infinitely more flattering for most female figures than the skinny style we have been squeezing into for the past decade. Not only does a bootcut provide balance of form for women on the curvier side of the shape spectrum, it also completely rids the wearer of problematic cankle issues. The thing is bootcut trousers are now synonymous in our psyche with 'mum clothes'. Think about it, when was the last time you saw someone sporting an edgy bootcut? This leads me to another question I'm struggling with, did the bootcut ever really go away or was it more a case of the fashion elite choosing to divorce themselves from a look that had became eponymous with middle aged middle class style?

So how to wear this re-emerging look? It goes without saying that ankle-swayers are a huge no-no. Bootcut trousers really should be worn long, finishing at mid-heel is acceptable for wedges, ankle boots and stilettos but they really should just skim the floor, this is especially important for flats. The visual effect in either case is to lengthen the leg, not crop it.  I would suggest trying a higher waistline than that to which you are usually accustomed for a more modern look, particularly if you are shorter as this will also visually elongate your limbs leading to an extremely flattering silhouette which shows off your bottom and eliminates muffin-top, clearly a win-win. Darker shades are slimming, but with white being a key trend this spring a pair of white bootcut trousers seems like an easy way to encompass both moods stylishly. I would mention it is normal practice to have bootcut trousers tailored for length, it's inexpensive and ensures a perfect fit but I've been seeing a lot of style bloggers hacking away at hemlines recently leaving a tattered and frayed look to the bottom of trousers; so don't be afraid to customize your own at home.

I don't think I'm ready to divorce myself entirely from skinnies yet, but I'm certainly enjoying a flirtation with a wider leg. Check these out for inspiration and click the links to browse.

Le Divorce

Wednesday, 20 November 2013
It's been a little brrrrracing on the school run the last few mornings and it's started me thinking about warm woolen mittens, chunky knits, coats and cute layers I can snuggle into while the thermometer takes a dip. This is the first installment in a short series of 'winter warmer' posts that I'd like to share with you as we head deeper into winter. Let's begin with...

The must have item for A/W 2013, a pink coat. There has been a lot of press about this trend, as such the high street is awash with pink coats of all shapes and shades. For most people a winter coat is an investment piece that will see out more than one winter. As such one season wonders need not apply. So if you haven't got yours yet let me save you some time.

My personal favourite is the orchid pink Lacey Coat by Hobbs. It's sleek, directional and deliberately oversized which is great news if you love to pile on the layers in winter. It's made from a wool blend to keep it light yet warm and I love the bright colour and cocoon shape which will pair beautifully with the other must have item this winter, ankle boots. I can see myself waiting for a train, sipping a hot latte breathing out misty air into the cold morning wrapped up in this beautiful pink pop of colour. I suspect this coat will be a sell out soon especially as it's currently on sale, but only until November 20th. 

On your marks ladies, get set... Go!

Winter warmer... The Pink Coat

Friday, 15 November 2013
Is it me or did bloggers have a bit of a bad press day yesterday? Well here's a little something to sweeten any bitter feelings, from me to you with love.

When I'm invited to someone's house for supper or drinks I like to bring a little something to say thanks. Often this is a bottle of wine, but on occasion I have made something more special. Well, this holiday season I am pulling out the stops and have decided to gift lovely hosts and hostesses with homemade treats (as well as wine... I want to be invited back!). So, I thought I'd try a simple treat to start with; something that will look totally dharling in a little cellophane bag tied up with ribbon. This honeycomb dipped in chocolate is perfect and is the perfect accompaniment to coffee at the end of a meal.

You will need:
100g castor sugar (I used golden castor sugar)
4tbsp golden syrup
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g dark chocolate (70 to 75% cocoa solids)

Prepare a baking tray with baking parchment.

Using a heavy bottomed pan stir the castor sugar and golden syrup together on a medium heat (you want the sugar to melt but not burn). Allow the liquid to come to a slight boil and stir continuously. Take the pan off the heat and quickly add the bicarbonate of soda, stir this into the liquid with a wooden spoon. The liquid will froth up rapidly to make the honeycomb. Again quickly add the mixture to the lined baking tray and leave to set at room temperature. Once it has set remove the baking parchment and smash the honeycomb into pieces.

To melt the chocolate, prepare a bain marie (a pan of water with a bowl balanced on top of the pan, do not allow the water to touch the bowl) and start to heat the pan. Put the chocolate pieces into the bowl and stir until all the chocolate is melted. Carefully remove the bowl with the melted chocolate from the pan being mindful of the steam that will be released when you do so.

Dip the honeycomb into the chocolate and place on baking parchment to set. Once set keep cool, or in a fridge for up to a month.

A small caution, one piece will never be enough.

Today we made... honeycomb dipped in chocolate

Thursday, 14 November 2013
Prints have been around for many a season now. I'm a big fan, but then I find that in life excitement begins at the end of your comfort zone. The same is true for fashion. The current craze for prints encompasses almost every pattern we can put a name to. There are floral prints (big right now), digital prints, ikat, tribal, chevron, stripes, dots, animal, paisley, checked, tartan, photographic, geometric, plaid, gingham, liberty, houndstooth... I have many of them in my wardrobe, but it's these cropped trousers that marked the beginning of my love affair with modern print.

Before these trousers I only ever wore prints up top, trousers and skirts were a print no-go. I didn't think I could carry off such a bold look. Utter nonsense of course. A little conviction and daring is all it took, much like jumping off a cliff into the sea (again Faye, I apologise for breaking the circle of trust) it's scary at first, thrilling to do and completely addictive once you get going. I'm very comfortable wearing prints now. The only thing is I don't often mix up different prints; for me, that is the end of my comfort zone... but I've been thinking about it and do you know what? It's exciting.

Trousers: Anthropologie (find similar here) Coat: Benetton (find similar here) Jacket: Anthropologie (similar here) Blouse: J.Crew Necklace: Accessorize Sunglasses: Marc by Marc Jacobs Shoes: Anthropologie (similar here).


Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Helen Fielding really does write very amusing characters. Who can forget Bridget's new year resolutions? Or (in the film adaptation) the view as she slides down the pole? I adore Bridget Jones, always have, always will and there have been times when I've felt as though my life is a parody of the same, although never really quite as laughable. At least not at the time. Then, I bought a teeny-tiny leather mini-skirt...

I haven't dared wear it without tights yet. The thought of someone getting an eyeful as I stride up the stairs at Clapham Junction is as horrifying as it is mischievous. In fact the first time I wore this skirt I spent most of the evening standing for fear it would ride up beyond polite boundaries if I attempted to sit. I also repeated this mantra to myself over and over on the way to the train station "if you drop it, leave it".  All well and good until the vodka starts flowing. I awoke the following morning with the distinct impression that the skirt had misbehaved.

Skirt: Asos Sweater: River Island Coat: Anthropologie Boots: Kurt Geiger Belt: from a selection at Feather & Stitch Necklace: River Island Watch: Bell & Ross

Is skirt off sick?

Tuesday, 12 November 2013
If you follow the Bella & Bear Facebook page or Twitter account you'll already be aware at just how thrilled I am to have reached the goal of 100 Facebook likes! My goal was to reach this by Christmas but thanks to the support of family, friends and the awesome bloggers out there who are happy to share the love we have far exceeded expectations.

If you don't follow Bella & Bear on Facebook or Twitter however, you may not be aware that I promised to run an awesome giveaway when we reached 100 likes! Oh yes I did! This is one of my favourite things, a win-win. I'm only sorry I won't get to see the smile on the winner's face, unless you tweet it to me, or share a picture on the facebook page... oooh pleeeeease!!!

So without further ado, here is Bella & Bear's first giveaway. There are £25 of ASOS vouchers to be won. I chose ASOS as they have a fantastic selection of both men's and women's apparel and they ship to over 190 countries worldwide. If ASOS will ship to you, you can enter the competition. The winner will be contacted within 48 hours of the close of the giveaway and the prize will be delivered by email. In the event of the winner failing to collect the prize another winner will be chosen at random seven days after the giveaway closes.

The giveaway goes live at midnight tonight (UK Greenwich meantime) and ends in seven days.

Best of luck.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bella & Bear's first giveaway... not just for girls!

Sunday, 10 November 2013
Gardeners love to chat. We will happily chat to you about the season, what plants are coming up, what's doing well, what's not working at all and also what jobs need to be done in the garden. Chats are often conducted over the garden fence and accompanied by tea and biscuits. During one such chat this week, a friend started to lament the loss of summer in her garden. The roses were done, the perennials were dying back and the annuals were a little lacklustre. While it's true that the flowery fireworks of the summer are behind us there is still a lot to be seen and take heart from in a November garden. If you take time you will notice a plethora of winter flowering shrubs, trees and flowers vying for your attention.

I enjoy November because I am a planner. I love to plan, design and organise and for me nowhere is more rewarding to do this than in the garden. Year round interest is the goal. In some respects, having been away from my garden for two years while we lived in the USA I am starting afresh. Coming back to it with new eyes. This is both a boon and a hindrance. It's meant I haven't done much in the garden this year as I've been waiting to see how it's faired. The dicentra spectabalis I grew from seed and planted the year before we left had a remarkable year, but the grasses had a poor start because of last year's wet winter.

Dicentra spectabalis

I like to take pictures throughout the year to act as a memory jogger for the following season. It's easy to forget where perennials are once they've retreated underground for the winter. So as well as photos, after I've cut back the dying stems in autumn I mark the place with a bamboo stick and a colourful ribbon. Then jot down what the colour represents in my notebook. If you have any old tennis balls you can make a small incision in the ball and push it onto the top of the bamboo pole, this will prevent you from impaling your body parts on the pole (it happens more often than you think).

If you're wondering what my garden looks like, you've already seen it... it's the location for most of my personal style posts. I built it from scratch as it was a neglected tangle of nettles, blackberries and brambles before I took charge. It remains an ongoing project.

The curved path I built between two flower beds.

Bear playing choo-choo trains on the deck in spring, just after we moved back.

This weekend I will be tackling a LOT of jobs in my garden and with all this to do as well as the planting plans for next year I find there is no time to mourn the loss of summer. In fact this is a time to get busy!

Jobs to do in November:
Lawn care: remove moss with a rake. Aerate the lawn by driving a fork into it repeatedly to make little holes every foot or so (this improves the drainage quality of the soil and will help prevent water logging over winter), brush sand into the holes. Remove any perennial weeds. Top dress the grass with a winter feed and have your lawn mower serviced for next season.

Perennial plants: cut back dying stems to ground level and remove the debris (this prevents pest and diseases overwintering).

Roses: Shorten overlong shoots to prevent damage from wind rock and remove and dead or diseased stems. Remove leaf debris from the soil.

Annuals: remove faded annuals and replant with wall flowers or winter flowering pansies if you would like a pop of colour here and there.

Bulbs: there is still time to get your spring bulbs in the ground. I am planting Allium 'Globemaster' this weekend. Replant pots with layers of spring bulbs and top with plants for winter interest such as ivy and cyclamen coum.

Protect: in frost prone regions protect your vulnerable plants (tree ferns, bananas, cannas etc) with hessian and bubble wrap) before the first frost! If you have a greenhouse or large enough cold frame you can dig them up and overwinter them in there. 

Lastly, keep on top of the weeding and keep raking those leaves...

The Garden in November

Friday, 8 November 2013
I am falling back in love with River Island. If you read my post last month about Tibi you will already be aware that I am jonesing for a full midi-length skirt (they've just added some divine new arrivals to the Tibi collection fyi, oh the paint splatter!). Anyway, last weekend my quest brought me to River Island. The store I visited was great but as I had Bella and Bear with me I couldn't spend the requisite hours going through the racks and trying on everything that caught my eye. So later that evening accompanied by a rather lovely (and large) glass of Barolo I sat down to examine the website. Oooooo-eeeee!! I have been blown away by this season's collection, it's not just on-trend it's fashion forward. I encourage you, my lovely readers, to go and have a gander for yourself, click here to link to the website.

Now, I have a big life event coming up... My divorce will be finalised in the coming weeks and to mark the occasion I am hitting Soho with a few very close friends. I toyed with the idea of wearing my wedding dress (well it's only been worn once people!) but then decided against it as I would like to embrace this new chapter looking forward and not back. So, I simply had to pick out a new outfit and where better than from my new crush? It's a little racy (lace and thigh high boots) but the skirt keeps the look demure and on the right side of sexy. 

Coat, skirt, lace-body, boots and bag all by River Island.
Crushing on River Island

Crushing on River Island...

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Oh my, you are going to want to eat this!!! It's seriously easy to make and tastes amazing.

You will need:
4 ripe peaches (stoned and sliced)
200g raspberries
5tbsp Cream Sherry
1 Madeira loaf cake (sliced)
500g fresh custard
300ml whipping cream (softly whipped)
Salted pistachios (roughly chopped)

Put the peaches and raspberries in a bowl and pour the sherry over the top, place in the fridge for anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 hours or overnight. The longer you leave it the more the fruit will take up the flavour of the sherry and sweeten the sherry in the bowl.

When the fruit is ready layer the sliced cake in the bottom of your chosen server(s). Carefully spoon the fruit and sherry over the top of the cake. I like to add a tiny bit more sherry if it looks a little dry at this point. Pour custard over the top of the fruit leaving enough space for the layer of whipped cream. Spoon a liberal layer of whipped cream onto the custard. Chill until ready to serve and garnish with the chopped pistachios immediately prior to serving.

With thanks to Waitrose for the recipe.

Simple Melba trifles

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

From the moment I saw this top draped beautifully over a stunning model in the Anthropologie catalogue I knew I had to have it. It was painful to imagine it selling out without having tried it on. When it arrived, delicately wrapped in tissue paper, I half hoped it would be a disappointment... oh, oh, oh it was not. The fabric is so light it's like wearing a wisp (you know, one of those floating lights from mythology) and it it were not for the beads adding weight it could just float off into the ether. The beading is reminiscent of the 1920's, an era I've always loved; the clothes, the architecture, the sense of joie de vivre that hovered over the emerging social scene, permeating the writing of the time. It was also a time of movement within the previously rigid class system, a social experiment played out on a grand scale.

So for me, this outfit is more than just a beautiful top paired with distressed denim, it's a nod to an experiment which has over time led to our modern culture; a melting pot of values, ideas and standards to which we hold ourselves accountable... and it looks damn cute too. The boyfriend jeans are from Gap and I've wore them consistently through spring, summer and now autumn, they sit well on the hip without a belt and without bagging around the bottom. The coat is another Anthropologie find, I love everything about it, the fresh colour is a great way to pep up winter palor and the three-quarter length sleeves mean this baby will see me all the way through spring.

Top and coat: Anthropologie (here and here). Denim: Gap. Shoes: old (similar here). Headband: similar here. Belt: from a selection at Feather & Stitch. Bag: Anthropologie. Watch: Bell & Ross. Jewelery: Stella & Dot, gifts and my own vintage finds. Sunglasses: By Marc by Marc Jacobs.

A Grand Idea

Tuesday, 5 November 2013
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