Clockwise from top left:
How to be a Woman, Caitlin Moran
Silver satchel, The Cambridge Satchel Company
Sailing ship jumper, Topshop
Orange Blossom cologne, Jo Malone
Antler hair grips, Woodland Belle

Clockwise from top left:
Teacup, saucer & plate set in Duchess design, Royal Albert.
Birdcage hanging storage
Teacup candle
Ginger & Neroli candle, This Works
Vintage fabric tote, Poppy Valentine
Arthur Rackham's Fairy Tale Illustrations
Aveda Damage Remedy collection

I hope everyone had a beautiful Christmas! I'm very sad it's over for another year, I get a sort of post-Christmas blues which lasts until the end of January so I might need a bit of cheering up over the next couple of weeks.

I've been busying myself by sorting out the flat and taking photos of the pretty things that both my and Ed's lovely family bought for me. I know these sort of posts are loved and loathed in equal measure but I, for one, am always hugely nosy to see what other people received.
The satchel was my present from my parents and how happy I am to finally have it in my possession. It's just the right size, not too big, not too small, with a discrete company stamp on the back and very very shiny. I'll be writing extra special thank you notes to everyone this year.

What is everyone up to for New Years this evening? I'm going to my friends flat in East London for a dinner party and a night of cocktails and boardgames. I just can't handle the crowds and expense a New Years night out generally entails but if you're braving the outside world tonight, good luck to you.

From tomorrow morning a new look Pretty Much Penniless will be on show for all to see. New year, new beginnings and all that so I'll be doing a little rundown of 2011 to celebrate what, after all, was a good old year.

I hope everyone has a fantastic night and that heads aren't too sore tomorrow! I'm already dreading mine after a dozen Mojito's.

Finds and fairy tales.

Only two sleeps to go until the big day and I've mainly been dashing around for a little bit of last minute shopping and seeing family. Thought I'd do a quick run down of the past few days because everything is happening so quickly at the moment! My Auntie and her children came down to see us for some pre-Christmas fun and with her, brought a huge amount of vintage furs from a house clearance that she is helping to sort out. She kindly let me keep one so I chose the mink/musquash stole above.

I know that not everyone will agree with real fur, but it's something I've always loved, probably since reading The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe as a child and imagining walking through the snow in a full length mink. (Apologies for all of these camera/mirror shots, being Edward-less has deprived me of my photographer!)

My parents live in Luton and, as I've mentioned before, every time I'm home I make sure I have a quick scout around the charity shops. I always seem to find something good and being used to the over-priced London ones, they always seem very, very cheap.
I managed to find an over-sized wooly bobble hat to keep me warm and, one of the holy grails of charity shop finds, a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo pumps that actually fit me. Total bargain of the month at £4.99.

Also got my hands on the gorgeous velvet heart slip-on's from Topshop after a little twist of fate. I hovered over them in Topshop for about ten minutes but with a heavy heart I left them behind after deciding I couldn't afford them. When I got home, my mum walked into my room saying 'Would you like these? They're too narrow for me' and pops the very same shoes on my lap. Fate indeed.

Sarah sent me a beautiful hand-drawn Christmas card which is always such a pleasure to receive. Every year she draws a new character and I love waiting to see what she's come up with. Thank you Sarah!

And finally, I dug out my copy of Oscar Wilde's fairy stories, in particular The Happy Prince, ready to read in bed on Christmas Eve. There's nothing like making up your own traditions- falling asleep reading fairy tales will be one of mine!

All the support you need.

At this time of year, the feted party dress gets a bloody good publicising in every magazine, paper, website and blog. Shall you go to ball in sequins or silk, bold colour or monochrome? I try not to buy a new dress just because someone's telling me I'll be a work party outcast if I don't, but a new dress is always nice regardless. Especially one that packs a secret metaphorical punch.

Marks & Spencer asked if I'd like to trial one of the dresses from their new Secret Support range for the party season and with a Christmas 'do on the horizon, anything that promised to smooth my curves whilst giving me a little kick of confidence was a must-try.

On first inspection, the dress is a beautiful shape and material. A classic pencil dress with a peplum ruff around the waist and in a polka dot texture, the material is stretchy but thick enough not to be overly clingy, something I hate in clothing. The magic really lies, however, in the lining. An inbuilt support of tight lycra with it's own inner zip pulls everything in seamlessly and once the outer zip is closed, there are none of those unsightly glimpses that support separates can give you.

I wasn't expecting miracles, as I don't with any sort of wonder product, but I loved what the dress did to my waist. There were no lumps or bumps and I felt securely held together enough to not even think about it. My only gripe is that their range of dresses are all short-sleeved/sleeveless which, for someone who loathes their upper arms, (this is the only time you'll ever see them so naked on this blog!) is a bit of a downer.

I ended up pairing mine with a little sparkling cape and flats to get very, very drunk on mulled wine which made the double-zip scenario a whole other challenge later in the evening!

Motel Secret Sale...

In the beautiful, snuggly Leah cardi*

Motel have provided me with a cheeky little link to their online sale preview for anyone who actually has any wages left to spend this month! Just click here to have a browse at the dresses, tops and playsuits on offer at some very reduced prices.

In other news, I'm back in Luton today, ready for some full-on mince pie gorging, festive telly watching and other general Christmas shenanigans. I'll be catching up on blogs over the next few days and trying to blog as much as possible before the whole period comes abruptly to an end as it always does.

Also, listen up Secret Santa participants! Can anyone who hasn't received their Secret Santa yet please let me know! I'll be emailing the senders to make sure they've been sent, but do be a little patient as the post is horrendous at this time of year.

Olympia Le- Tan: Queen Librarian

All photos: Olympia Le- Tan tumblr

If I were a rich city kid, the heir to some country pile, a Norwegian princess or the daughter of a Russian oligarch I would be asking for a library of Olympia Le- Tan book clutches for Christmas.

Oh to have a wall of intricately embroidered felt folios to choose from and a library ladder to be my enabler!

I think I might have a little go at making my own but it will never look as fantastiche as Olympia's. What book would pick to carry your purse in? I'd choose Angela Carter's Wayward Girls & Wicked Women or Durrell's My Family & Other Animals with Achilles the Tortoise sewn on by hand.

Sound the sirens! One day 'til Secret Santa deadline!

Here it is, your one day warning signal. The deadline for the Second-hand Secret Santa is tomorrow, Wednesday 14th December.

I cannot ask enough that if you are having any sorts of problems, please email me at

Thank you so much again to everyone for taking part and I really hope that this will be a sweet little second-hand success!

Not a Project Take 10: House of Fraser

Of the twelve amazing challenges I've taken part in for Project Take 10, all have come off without a hitch. Unfortunately, the law of probability meant that one, somewhere along the line, wouldn't. Here lies the story of my House of Fraser challenge.

The House of Fraser team sent each one of us completely different dresses, picked for us individually. After the initial trepidation I felt at having one dress selected for me from the hundreds available on the website, I relaxed when I received a beautiful silk Biba one-shouldered frock. The material is pretty and delicate, it looks elegant and timeless on the hanger, but that is exactly where it stayed. On the hanger.

The dress was a size 16, the size I am in most high street shops if you exclude H&M, (and I always exclude H&M for their bizarre sizing) and yet on commencing the zipping-up ceremony, there was a gulf of at least 2-3 inches that Edward, no matter how strong he is, could not eliminate. I am too fat for Biba. Gutted.

I'm hopefully getting the dress swapped, so fingers crossed I'll have a banging party dress ready for show & tell in the next few days, but for now off you pop to drool over my gorgeous Take 10 comrades and their perfect party pieces.

Handcrafted Christmas: Wrapping in style

The Christmas tree is up, the mulled wine is simmering away on the hob and I have one week of work left until I go home for the season. The tradition I usually loathe is wrapping presents, so this year instead of using a roll of WH Smiths finest and a bunch of ugly tags and trying to get the whole charade over in the quickest time possible, I decided to get a little bit creative for very little money.

I bought a huge roll of simple red and white striped paper from Ikea for about £2 and this will be enough to wrap both mine and Ed's presents this year. I love the way that it's simple enough to add my own touches, but still looks a bit more luxe than the ubiquitous brown paper.

I've seen paper doilies used in quite a few American DIY's over the last few months so decided to crack out my pound shop pack from a couple of weeks ago, bought for a doily emergency just like this. I either cut them in half (for the smaller presents) or kept them whole and stuck them down with a small dab of pritt-stick. I raided my sewing box for oddments of ribbon, chiffon offcuts and gingham fabric to add a final flourish and then secured that down with sellotape.

The tags are made from the same book that I used for my paper bunting, which I just cut into luggage tag shapes and stuck on with tape.

So, was it worth the extra bit of effort and time? Yes. I love how they look and it was surprisingly therapeutic to sit and add whatever I wanted to customise each wrapping. I can't wait to give them all away, but for now they are sat under my tree looking (even if I do say so myself) very pretty indeed!

P.s The lovely Amy at WolfWhistle is one of the entrants of Matalan's Style Project for December, so please go and show your love by commenting on your favourite girl here.

A mixed bag: Bath, slippers & scent

We went to Bath for the night last weekend and drank our weight in mulled cider and wine at the Christmas Market, ate a candlelit dinner in the Pump Rooms, shopped until we figuratively and literally dropped (into a pub) and neglected to take many photos at all. We went to a great little flea market and I haggled for hardbacks. It's such a beautiful place, somewhere I can imagine myself living in a few years and that's all you need to know! I also bought some amazing ribbons from the indoor market which will be popping up in a DIY over the next few days...

This weekend we're dog-sitting Buster, our best friends' Shih Tzu, so today has mainly consisted of watching films, having a snuggle with him and taking advantage of their fire.

It's also given me a chance to try out the slippers that Nature Shop were kind enough to send me. By Snugs, they are pure New Zealand sheep skin and so soft I don't ever want to take them off. I can't recommend them enough. They come up smaller than most shoes, because of all the padding, so I went for a size bigger than usual. There's 15% off them at the minute so they'd make a beautiful, luxury Christmas present for the homebody in your life.

I finally received the prize I won on Twitter from Diptyque back in September! A beautiful Bakelite travel bottle with 3 refills in L'ombre Dans L'eau. Described as "...the rustling of petals and the leaves of bushes heavy with fruit in an English garden", I can't think of scent I'd rather have received. It's perfect, heavy with the smell of fresh roses which has always been my favourite. Walking past the grocers earlier, I couldn't tell if it was my perfume or the freshly cut flowers I caught a whiff of.

P.s. The deadline for the Second Hand Secret Santa is quickly approaching, Wednesday December 14th remember! Do let me know if you've received your gift already, so I can tick you off the list.

P.p.s. My wonderful Mum and Dad took part in a fantastic fundraising event for a homeless charity called LAMP last night, which involved them sleeping outside St Albans Abbey in just their sleeping bags. I have no idea how they did it, especially considering it was one of the coldest nights of the year so far. If anyone is feeling generous, their fundraising page an be found here on Virgin Money Giving.