How's your Love Leaf?

If you or anyone you know is a tea fiend, then I might have something of interest today!

Love and Leaf are a new tea company, based in North London and run by Emma Jowett, which specialise in unique, quirky flavours of brew and come packaged beautifully in vintage-inspired wrapping.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love independent sellers and craft queens! I wanted to find out a bit more about how Emma got started, as I find it really inspiring to see someone starting up a small home-run company with fantastic results.

I spoke to Emma briefly about how the company came about:

Basically, I've always loved tea and always loved vintage styles - so I wanted to combine the two! I also wanted to make a tea that felt like a real treat to have that came in unusual flavours (inspired by classic treats). With the help of my supplier, I designed the blends myself so I got them just right for me - and hopefully for other people too. I was also keen to design a tea that could be given as a gift - as I know so many people who love tea. I wanted the packaging to feel special and feminine...unlike everyday tea bags you'd find in the supermarket. I was lucky to have the help of some very talented friends in both designing the packaging and setting up the website/online shop.

What is your favourite blend?

Mint chocolate is my personal favourite - the warm chocolate black tea and fresh peppermint makes a great cuppa. What's nice is that everyone who has tried the blends has had a different favourite.

And I can centainly vouch for that! Emma kindly sent me one of her four-blend giftboxes and each of the flavours has been warming my cockles over the past few chilly days. My favourite is the Petal Pink Lemonade, a sweet and floral infusion to which I add the tiniest drop of honey. This is it, Banana Split is a real treat for when I get home for work and Toffee Apple Ahoy tastes amazing when cold with some ice and lemon. The gift set would be a lovely, original Christmas present for someone who you know loves a good cuppa and delivery is currently free! Have a gander at the Facebook page here for more news and offers.

The exciting bit is that I'm going to be giving away one of the gifts sets in my Super Duper Hamper giveaway which will launch this Saturday 1st December, so make sure you come back then to sign up!

How to wear a cape...

I was asked by Lands' End, along with four other lovely bloggers, to wear and photograph a key piece from their Autumn/Winter collection and give my take on the style for their AW Outerwear Style Guide. 

I was sent this beautiful, cleverly reversible, cape which I paired with a simple black Hobbs dress, suede Bertie wedge boots and a vintage mini check holdall- the only sort of bag that works in a cape with no armholes. Now, I love a good cape, but they do terrify me. All that material! I think the key is to tone it done and keep everything else simple. I wore it for a walk around Primrose Hill and to the cinema- it was lovely to snuggle up in when the dreaded cinema-chill creeped up on me! 

Here's what I said about the style:

Worn since medieval times and with a surge in popularity over the last few years, the cape has certainly proved it's longevity. The silhouette a cape creates is a familar one and although some are daunted by swathes of unstructured fabric, paired with the right items, the cape can be a versatile piece in your autumn/winter arsenal.
Firstly, I would suggest finding one that's the correct length- don't let it swamp you. Also, choosing one in classic tones and fabric means that you'll be able to wear more varied outfits underneath. Because of the traditional, almost theatrical, shape I like to keep it simple and dress it down with a pair of jeans and black leather boots. I, for one, am glad they've stuck around. There is nothing nicer than going for a wintry walk, wrapped up warm in a cape and gloves!

Land's End also commissioned this amazing illustration by Natalie Lines which was a fantastic surprise. From left to right: Me, Amanda, Kat, Jen and Rachel.

Are you daunted by capes or are you a fan? Would you have chosen one of the other styles? Do let me know what you think!

Disclosure: I was sent the cape by Lands' End as a review item and I was commissioned to contribute to the Lands’ End outerwear guide.

Daniel Mikhael: Salon Review

I hate going to the hairdressers, have done ever since I was about 12 and my mum took me to our local salon for a trim and I walked out of there looking like the elusive fifth Beatle. 
I used to do everything I could to actively avoid appointments, including cutting my own fringe (resulting in fringe-wonk) and, until a year ago, using shop-bought hair dye (total disaster). It's a conundrum for me because although it's much, MUCH cheaper to colour my own hair, it hasn't looked better since I started having it done in a salon. I decided that even if I can only afford to have it professionally coloured five or six times a year, at least I'll be much happier with it in the interim weeks.

It was obvious then, that when the team behind Daniel Mikhael offered to colour my hair at their beautiful Porchester Place salon just behind Marble Arch,  I would not be turning them down. 

Daniel is a wonderful man, full of chat (the easy-flowing kind) and wit. He welcomed me in to his art-deco styled salon and gave me the tour, full of pride at the space he has created. I settled into the chair,  plied with a large glass of red wine, to chat with colourist Mariola about what I wanted. We decided on something a bit richer and semi-permanent. I love semi-perm colours because of the shine they provide and because they are much less damaging, which in my case, is a must. Mariola was funny and warm- none of that awkward hairdresser chat here. She applied to colour speedily and talked me through everything she was doing, reassuring me that it might look darker as it developed but that I shouldn't worry. 

When it was time to wash out the colour, she led me downstairs to the basins and I was surprised to see the chairs were fully horizontal. You might be able to see in the photos below, but you basically lie on your back in these incredibly comfortable leather recliners, as opposed to sitting up and tipping your neck back. These were a revelation for me. Every time I visit a normal hairdressers, usually 3-4 days later, I suffer with spasms and a very painful lower-back. It took me a while to figure out what was causing it, but without doubt, it was the awkward and prolonged time spent in those godawful hairdressing chairs.

Daniel gave me a great blow-dry and the final colour was revealed. It was slightly darker, but more even and still now, weeks later, the colour is still vibrant with none of the dreaded regrowth you get from perm dyes. Thank you to Amy from Katch and the whole team at Daniel Mikhael for such a lovely experience and for making me a little less nervous about my next session in a salon!

Busy Lizzies

Or to give them their latin name, Impatiens Walleriana, the familiar, colourful perennial flower that the print on this H&M dress reminds me of. 
I get to this time of year and desperately miss blossoming flowers and warmth, light evenings and sitting outside. I'm trying to focus on mulled drinks, cosy evenings in slippers and blankets and pub quizzes next to a roaring fire but I always find winter hard.

I bought this dress in an attempt to wear more summery prints and colours, to try and actively push away the cold, dark days with a shop-bought busy print that reminds me of spring's garden borders.

I own two of these jersey H&M dresses now and if they release them in more colours, I'll buy more. They are £14.99, not too short, just warm enough and the easiest option to chuck on for work in the early, early mornings. 

How are you coping with this weather? Or are you suffering like me? I'd love some cold-weather tips because I currently feel like hibernating for the next four months!

Pick 'n' Mix Pastels for M&S SS13

I don't blog about the press days that I go to very often. Sometimes they're a little too manic to take photos and sometimes I just don't feel the things on offer for the next season are very 'me', but I couldn't not let you have a glimpse of  the SS13 range from M&S. Oh boy, I just wanted everything. I still can't quite believe this is all by Marks and Spencer- mecca for traditionalists all over the country.

Brightly coloured lace for shirts and dresses and skirts, candy-coloured bags, beautiful necklaces and yes, vintage-inspired longline bras in sizes above a 34C (looking at you Topshop!) I'd quite like it all if that's ok?

My top picks would be the powder blue handbag, the metallic knits and mint-coloured lace shift. Pastel-lovers heaven. Can you see anything you fancy? There were some brilliant monochrome pieces on offer too but I prefer the fluffier stuff!

Project Take 10: Zalando (take two)

Almost a year ago, we worked with Zalando for Project Take 10 and now we've teamed up with them again for another dose of their in-house Zalando Collection.
Both Vicki and I chose the leather Cowboy/Biker boots from the range, in tan and black. I chose these particular shoes because a) I like black leather things (oo-er!) and b) because I like flat boots. Simple. However, I do worry with ankle boots that, just like Gok Wan used to preach, they'll cut my calf in two and I'll look like a tree stump, but because these have quite a substanstial, chunky front with all that silver hardware, they seem to balance out quite well.

If I'm being totally honest with you, I haven't taken these boots off for the last two weeks. I wear them to work, I wear them at the weekends, with trousers and dresses and skirts, I'm wearing them as I write this. They are really simple, very comfortable, smart and most importantly of all: they don't slip and slide all over the place when a millimetre of water falls from the sky. Seriously, I have a huge issue with modern high-street shoes never having any grip on the soles. For someone who is a monumental clutz in most social situations (see: setting my hair on fire, breaking toes and just generally falling on my ass most days) having some sort of non-slip sole is a huge benefit for me and anything breakable in the near vicinity.

So far, the boots are looking well made. After two weeks of consistent wear the logo on the insole is starting to fade but the bottom of the sole is looking fresh. Another good thing about these boots is that they needed no breaking-in period at all. I am not a fan of Dr Martens and their whole 'oh, but when you've worn these around in absolute, piecring agony for a month they'll be the comfiest shoes you own!'  Nuh-uh, that is not happening, I like my feet too much for that. There's none of that tough, blister-producing leather here, this leather was soft from the get-go and the boots were really comfortable the first time I wore them out.

I wore the boots with my new H&M forest green t-shirt dress (a bargain staple at £9.99) and Whistles leather jacket (much less of a bargain, but I'll keep chanting 'investment' whenever I freak out about it).

What do you think? Like the shape? Or do you agree with Wok and the whole leg-shortening thing?

Top 10 Etsy Christmas Decorations (and some just for the lolz)

I've just bought a set of the vintage mexican tin ornaments to make a garland with but have had to restrain myself when it comes to Etsy purchases. It's very addictive, especially when you don't know exactly what you're looking for, and I tend to procrastinate on it for hours.

Wasting time on Etsy also led to stumbling onto this random bunch of oddities. If you've heard of Regretsy, you'll know exactly where I'm coming from. 

What could possibly say Merry Christmas more than a felted set of bacon and eggs?! And what better way to show your loved one's that you care than by hanging a bloody dismembered finger on the tree! Or even better, a boob! 

My favourite is the Narwhal. Narwhal's have been forgotten for far too long at Christmas, it's about time they got the seasonal recognition they deserve. He sure does look pretty doesn't he? All silver and shiny!

I have no words for this one. Actually I do. Why would you want One Direction manically grinning at you throughout the festive season? WHY?

Narwhal/One Direction 

Pharmacy Freebies

I live on a road with a fantastic pharmacy located about 20 metres from my front door. This is bad, very bad. For my bank balance that is. For my skin, it's brilliant. It's looking better than it has done in months. 

At the pharmacy near me they stock Avene, La Roche-Posay, Phyto, Dr Hauschka, Lierac and Nuxe- all brands you've probably seen raved about on beauty blogs from here to eternity. I've discovered something about them recently and it's something I think you'll like. But first, here is what I actually bought on a recent trip down the road:

Avene Cold Cream- This is a massive staple in my winter skincare routine. It's unapologetically thick and rich but sinks in very quickly and leaves just a slight layer of moisture. I use it to remove make up in the evening with a warm cloth and then reapply a little bit before I go to bed to moisturise. It retails at about £9 for 100ml.

Phyto Paris Phytokeratine shampoo and Phytobaume Reparateur conditioner: I've recently run out of the huge stock of Aussie I accumulated as an Aussie Angel (I recently decided to hang up my wings, *sob*) so I decided to treat myself to an expensive new haircare set. Well, £10 a bottle in my book is expensive but I know some would disagree. This Phyto range is made for damaged hair as the added keratine is there to resurface and restructure the strands apparently. 
Firstly, it smells amazing! Like a spring garden just after the rain but if you don't appreciate similes, then it's just very fresh and natural. It's a thick shampoo and takes a while to lather but it washes out easily and leaves my hair feeling smoother straight away. I use it every other wash, mainly because I don't want it to run out, but also because I don't think my hair needs it every time. 
The conditioner on the other hand, I am not a fan of. It's very strange. Thick again but this time it says on the back of the tube to 'wash out immediately'. Strange for a conditioner, non? Anyway, I've followed this a couple of times and washed it out quickly and thoroughly, but each time I've dried my hair afterwards there is very noticeable residue. I'll probably give it another go, but to be honest it's too much faff.

Anyway, the whole point of this post is that every time I've bought something from this pharmacy, they've heaped samples and trial products on me. Whether I've spent a fiver or £30, I've been allowed to help myself to a basket of generously-sized Avene mini's and have recently been gifted with two 15ml tubs of Lierac's Coherence Anti-aging Infra-red Moisturiser when I spent £10 on a cleanser. This retails at £66 for 50ml. This means that I've effectively been given £39.60 worth of free product plus all of the other bits and bobs. 

I'm dreading the day I run out of this cream because, yes, I'm only 26 but I have some pretty deep laughter lines due to generally loving life (and*cough*beingasmoker) and this product has made a considerably big difference to them. As in, half an hour after I've applied it, they've almost disappeared. Crazy stuff. 

Now obviously, my local pharmacy may just have very generous staff, but I genuinely recommend getting to your local ASAP to see if it's a nationwide phenomenon. I'm assuming all stockists of these brands are sent a bulk of samples so it just depends on how the shop want to distribute them. This is also one time that shopping locally in-store, rather than online, is more beneficial and allows you to invest in your community.

Let me know if you find similar and also, have you found any great beauty freebies recently? They make great stocking fillers for Christmas!