The pursuit of...10 things that make me happy

This week, I am thinking about what makes me happy.
Sometimes when you receive sad news or stumble upon little glitches in life, you need to remind yourself that in order to be joyful, it is the little things in life that count.

Here is my list of things that make me happy....

1.  Lazy Sunday mornings/afternoons in bed - flicking through the Sunday papers with a hot cuppa and breakfast in bed....bliss! (above).

2.  My nephew.  He really is a bundle of joy and spending time with him always brings a massive smile to my face...Love him!

My gorgeous nephew and I 

3.  Blue skies and Autumn days - it sounds a bit grandma-ish, but I really enjoy sitting outside in the garden and gazing up at the sky alone with my thoughts.  Having some me-time is muy importante!

The perfect way to relax

4.  Fresh flowers.  I love arranging fresh flowers in vases and seeing them develop into full blooms.  It really brightens up a room and is my little gift to myself every now and then.

Peonies are one of my favourite flowers
5.  A clean house! - there is nothing I like more than to see my house clean and tidy.  I must admit, I am a bit of a neat freak (!) so it never really gets overly messy...but a big spruce up every now and then is very satisfying indeed!!

I've gone a bit OCD with my colour co-ordination in the kitchen!
6.  Netflix.  Need I say more?  I have just discovered it and have been watching back to back episodes of Orange is the New Black (...completely addicted! Why have I never watched this before now?!?!) and re-runs of The Office and Extra's. - Subscribe at your peril...staying in is the new going out!

Why, hello Netflix...!

7.  Cosy winter knits - I have already written a post about how much I love winter fashions - nothing makes me happier than to buy a new chunky wool cardigan or scarf....soft, luxurious and seriously lustworthy...Zara always have my pick of favourites.

Love, love, love super soft cosy winter knitware
8.  Food.  Yes, food makes me happy.  I am a self-confessed foodie and going out to dinner and trying new cuisines is my favourite thing to do.  I am also always interested in what other people are eating so perusing over the hastag #foodporn and #instafood on instagram is always a winner for me!

Had this delicious Paella while out with my friend in Thalassa Seafood Restaurant in Southgate
9.  Christmas.  I love it.  Like a kid, it really does make me happy the nearer we get to Christmas time.  I love the seasonal adverts on the TV, the Christmas lights in the streets and shopping centres, the Christmas films that always come on during the lead up....and with 85 more's not far off!!

Westfield always have pretty Xmas lights

10.  My blog.  I never realised how much I would enjoy writing this blog when I first started just over four months ago.  It has become a really exciting little project for me and has given me a chance to reignite my creative side which I had previously neglected.
I am constantly inspired by some of the great people and blogs that I follow that have gone on to do some amazing things (Zoella, Lily Pebbles, Negin MirsalehiCupcakes and Cashmere and Patricia Bright to name a few that inspire me regularly).
I must admit, I have had moments where I feel insecure about my little blog compared to others or I wonder if all the time and effort I put into it is worth it...but then all it takes is a lovely little blog post comment from someone, or a few new followers via Bloglovin and then I remember that there are people who like to hear what I have to say.
I've also found that the blogging world is a small, extremely supportive and friendly network of people and I am so happy that I finally built up the courage to open up my laptop and press 'publish' on that first post.

What makes you happy?

Love, Ivy George x 

The pursuit of...Fabulous flats

I do love heels. 
You're more likely to see me in a pair of points or round toed heels than a pair of converses or vans!
However, recently I have had to wear flat shoes more due to an injury and my eyes have become opened to the many fabulous flats that are out there! 
I've found out that flat shoes can still look elegant and classy rather than frumpy and there are many different styles to choose from other than the classic ballet pump!

The style that has grabbed my attention is the 'slipper style' flats -also dubbed 'smoking slippers'...(think Hugh Hefner...he seems to be the person best described to wear these!). They look like traditional gentlemens style slippers, which were designed to be worn around the home, but this style has crept into women's fashion and seems to be everywhere and is outselling every other style of flat.

I really love the Kenzo 'Tiger' flats (above and below). Kenzo have completely reinvented themselves with the introduction of the tiger motif which has become a cult classic with the fashion crowd-particularly their tiger motif sweatshirts. - The green coloured Kenzo flats (my favourites!) are sold out everywhere.

Charlotte Olympia.  Another label after my heart. Again, their smoking slipper flats have gained a cult following. Charlotte Olympia have given them a quirky makeover with cute kitten faces, the infamous Charlotte's Web and there are also a range with starsign and Chinese New Year signs.

Apart from the designer options, there are many of these slipper flats on the high street including Office, TopShop and even the supermarket brands like Tesco and Asda etc.

I love the ones in luxury fabrics like velvet and suede, but there are also neoprene, metallic snakeskin and leather versions.
Wear with tailored, cropped trousers or play it girly with a short flirty dress.

(* Photographs courtesy of Net-A-Porter, Harrods and Selfridges)

Love, Ivy George x

The pursuit of...Budgeting! My Top 5 Tips.

Thinking........"shoes or food?....."

Budgeting....the bane of my life! 
I have tried and tried to be good with money but I must admit, I can be very frivolous with it at times.
When I brought my house a few years ago, I realised that it was time for me to get serious with my spending habits - no longer was it feasible to blow my salary on a designer handbag when I had a mortgage and bills to pay!....there are ways around this....Bicester Village anyone?!!

So, I've put together a few tips that have worked for me, to share with you.

Receipts, receipts and more receipts.... 

Tip 1: Write all your expenses down.

I know it sounds boring, but taking the time out, maybe once a month, to write down all your outgoings will give you an idea of what disposable income (extra money, in other words) you have left at the end of every month.
It's a good idea to have any regular direct debits or standing orders come out as soon as you have been paid - that way you don't have to worry about getting caught short later in the month.

Set time out to write down your expenses

Tip 2: Use cash instead of your debit or credit cards.

Once I've worked out my disposable income, I take out a portion of this extra money and use the cash rather than my debit card.  It means I can keep track of what I'm spending without just whipping out my card all the time which is so easy to overspend with.
Try not to use your credit card if you are able to for grocery shopping or petrol etc. If you don't pay off your balance each month, it means that you will end up spending far more for those purchases in the long term once interest is added on.  Instead use credit cards if you have to for big purchases only.

Tip 3: Use those loyalty cards.

Loyalty or Reward cards can be really handy as they can provide you with lots of  special offers.  I have a Boot's Advantage Card, Tesco Clubcard and Sainsbury's Nectar Card.
Boot's and Sainsbury's are particularly good as you can rack up credit to spend within their stores. 
Sainsbury's Nectar card are also aligned with Homebase and whilst I was home renovating I surprisingly found out that I had reached £20 on my card which I immediately used to take off my shopping! - brilliant!
Tesco and Boot's also send out vouchers every now and then to get money off products that they recognise that you buy regularly....very useful.

Tip 4: Find out what benefits your bank account offers.

I recently found out that with my bank account* I can receive a complimentary TasteCard (below).
It gives you 50% or 2 for 1 discounts on thousands of UK restaurants.  I recently used it and all I had to do was search by area to find out which local restaurants participated.
I also get free European travel insurance which is really handy.
I used to get free LoveFilm membership and free HMV music downloads too so it's really worth finding out what your bank offers in conjunction with your account.
* I am with Natwest bank.

The brilliant tastecard....great food at half the price!

Tip 5: Shop smart

I have two tips in one for you here.  
The first is fresh flowers.  I love having fresh flowers in the house, but all too often they start wilting and dying before I can really appreciate them.
I've found out through trial and error, that for me, the best long lasting cut flowers are carnations.
Yes, they might not be the flowers that you would want a lover to bring home for you (ever since Charlotte scorned them in Sex and The City they have been a no-no!)...but if you're buying them for your home, sprayed carnations can last for nearly two weeks and do make such a lovely focal piece.  I brought a bouquet from my local supermarket for £2 that was big enough to split between two vases - even more of a bargain!

Carnations have earned the unfortunate tag as 'supermarket flowers' or 'petrol station flower bucket'  but they are still pretty and are making a comeback!

The second one is to buy magazine subscriptions.  If you are someone who without fail, buys there favourite monthly magazine each month.  Think about taking a half yearly or yearly subscription where you can get quite a considerable discount and often some sort of free gift for your custom.
It makes sense to do so and that way you get your magazine delivered straight to your door too...what more could you ask for?!

I love interior design magazines!

I don't claim to be a financial expert in any way, shape or form!...but I do hope these little money saving tips may help.
Please share any that you may have of your own in the comments.

Love, Ivy George x 

The pursuit of...Ms Lauryn Hill (Brixton O2 Academy)

So yesterday, I went to a concert that I have wanted to go to for a VERY long time.... 
The legend that is Ms Lauryn Hill - the woman who wrote one of the most iconic albums of the 90's (and the soundtrack to mine and probably everyone's teenage years) was playing two nights in London at Brixton Academy (now O2 Academy) and luckily I managed to get hold of tickets for the second night.

I've got this thing about concerts and theatre shows....I always need to be near the front...I like to see the artists facial expressions, feel the buzz, see the sweat! You just don't get that from the stands where most of the time you have to watch a screen to see anything at all! It all feels too disjointed from the live action that way, so we went for standing, with the intention of getting there early and getting front row....Thank goodness we did! - we were right at the front!

Ok, so lets get down to the nitty was a show of two halves and I'll explain why.

Lauryn Hill has still got an AMAZING voice (it made my hairs stand on end multiple times).
Lauryn Hill still looks GREAT (she looks exactly the same as she did 16 years ago).  
Lauryn Hill has IMMENSE stage presence (she knows how to perform, control her band, control the crowd...I couldn't take my eyes off of her)
However - Lauryn Hill did not sing one song from her 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill' album in it's original version.  
This was where the disappointment came from me and most of the people in that auditorium last night.  Some of those iconic songs that we were all waiting to sing along to were unrecogniseable as they were remixed, sped up and turned into a complete different song.

Now, this is where I have mixed feelings about the night, as to be in her presence and hear her distinctive voice was just simply incredible. Full stop.
She is the consummate performer, controlling her band and backing singers behind her with the flick of a hand, controlling the lights and sound with another outstretched palm.  She was orchestrating the whole show and nobody played a note unless she said so - amazing to watch.

But to not be able to hear your favourite songs being sung live by her properly was.....a little strange to be honest.  Why would you choose to remix every song from that album??
There are many rumours flying around, that perhaps she has sold the rights to her songs to help her with her known financial difficulties, which would sadly mean that she could never perform them in their original versions.  Surely though, if that was the case, this would have been BIG news. Wouldn't we have heard about that?

My sister (left) and I last night queuing outside the venue
After a brief interval, where she left the stage for a breather, she came back and took center stage with just a guitar and gave us some unplugged.  This is when the game changed.
My goodness, this woman can sing....and when it comes to spitting bars....I was feeling it like I was some old school hip hop veteran!  This was the show we were all waiting for.
She sang some old Fugees tracks which were in their original versions, some covers of Bob Marley tracks which were brilliant including my favourite "Turn your lights down low" which I took a video of...see my clip below.

This was a great moment and sent chills down my spine! Lauryn Hill singing "Turn your lights down low".

                                                "Loving you is like a song I replay
                                      Every three minutes and thirty seconds of every day 
And every chorus was written for us to recite 
Every beautiful melody of devotion every night
It's potion like this ocean that might carry me
In a wave of emotion to ask you to marry me
And every word, every second, and every third
Expresses the happiness more clearly than ever heard
And when I play them, every chord is a poem
Telling the Lord how grateful I am cause I know him 
The harmonies possess a sensation similar to your caress 
If you asking then I'm telling you it's yes
Stand in love, take my hand in love, God bless"

I think the whole crowd must have sung the above lyrics together!....truly spine tingling.

My other absolute favourite song which is "Doo Wop (That Thing) was the show closer and everyone...I mean everyone, went wild!  And although, yes, she did change it up a bit, it still sounded close to the original and it was the perfect end to the show.

The obligatory 'mosh pit' selfie!

So, it was a show of highs and...rather than lows, I would say bemusement.  
The remixes, once you accepted them and realised that you weren't going to hear the song how you wanted it to sound, were actually quite good.  
Redeeming features were The Fugees classics, Bob Marley covers, those Miseducation songs that you could sing along to....and just that voice.  Lauryn Hill in my opinion, still has it.

Would I see her again live? Yes.  If I knew for certain that I would hear original versions of her songs.
Michael Jackson once said, that when fans come to your concert, they want to hear every note and every bar played like how it is on the album....he wasn't wrong.

Lauryn Hill is playing another SOLD OUT event in London this weekend at the Brooklyn Bowl (Sun 28th/Mon 29th Sep).

Love, Ivy George x

The pursuit of...Winter knits

Ahhhh! I love winter fashion!....there's just something about cosy winter knits that I adore - the textured wools, soft cashmere's and fluffy mohair.  I love the bold, dark winter colours of burgundy and bottle green, the leather accessories (bags, boots, shoes etc). - Autumn/Winter is my playing field and I can't get enough of it!...I think it is because I am a winter baby!

I love big, oversized chunky cardigans and I always prefer to wear this style instead of an actual coat.
I saw this gorgeous one (above) from H&M the other day which is so warm and cosy and perfect for this season.
This style is everywhere at the moment and we probably have to thank the lovely people over at Burberry for that - their monogrammed poncho/blanket coat (below), was for me LOVE at first sight!

From left: Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Cara Delevingne, Olivia Palermo

OK, blanket coats or poncho's are not going to be to everyone's taste! But I have always liked an oversized wrap coat - it is just so effortlessly cool but still looks very chic at the same time.  Perfect for in-between weather when you don't need to wear a full coat but still need some sort of a cover up.
I have had these two below for a few years now....the grey one is from Kookai (remember them!) and the darker one from ASOS. Without fail, I always get compliments when I wear them.

My 'vintage' blanket coats from Kookai (L) and ASOS (R)

So if you are looking for something different to wear this autumn/winter, bag yourself one of these.
There are plenty of versions on the high street aswell as some fabulous designer ones.

I'm going to see Lauryn Hill tonight in concert, so I'll be back with my review tomorrow.

Till then,

Love, Ivy George x

The pursuit of...Soft winter lips

I haven't done a beauty review in a while, so I thought I would share these gorgeous little lip care beauties that I purchased from Boot's with you.

As soon as the weather changes, I always see the effects on my lips and they were feeling a little dry and tight over the last few weeks.
I normally always have a Carmex or Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Lip Balm in my make-up bag in case of emergencies but had run whilst perusing the shelves in Boot's I came across these Lip Butter's from Nivea (above).

Just like the cute Vaseline Lip Therapy tins, these are roughly the same size, but more of a flatter shape and matte feel than the rounded, shiny tins from Vaseline.

The range has 4 products:

  • Lip Butter Original (Plain Blue tin)
  • Lip Butter Raspberry Rosé (Pink tin with raspberry's)
  • Lip Butter Caramel Cream (Beige tin with caramel sweets)
  • Lip Butter Vanilla & Macadamia (Cream tin with Vanilla pod and Macadamia nut)

After much deliberation (!) I bought the Raspberry Rosé and Vanilla and Macadamia (below):

As soon as you remove the lid from the Raspberry Rose you are hit with the gorgeous sweet raspberry smells like sweets! It has a pretty, pastel bubblegum pink colour and the texture is velvety smooth.  It is quite a thick creamy consistency and makes my lips feel plumper and smooth.
It is a great base for lipstick I've found.

The Vanilla & Macadamia smells good enough to eat too!  It actually has a cocoa butter smell, with a subtle hint of vanilla.
The consistency of this one is not as creamy as the one above, however it is still more of a butter than a Petroleum Jelly texture.

These Nivea Lip Butters are a winner for me as they are so nourishing and moisturising.
I have never been a fan of the Vaseline Lip Therapy range as I have found that they are not long lasting, they are too greasy and also I think they become addictive to many people do you see with their tins of Vaseline glued to their hands, constantly re-applying because the staying power is non-existent?!

As I normally wear lipstick or lip-gloss during the day, these Lip Butters are perfect in the evening for when I have removed my make-up but still want to have gorgeous soft lips.  I find that one application is enough for a couple of hours (I actually haven't timed it but it feels that long....or longer!) and I normally just re-apply before bed.

At approximately £2.10 per tin, these are a good little beauty bargain.

Love, Ivy George x

The pursuit of...Fabulous cities (Part 2)

PARIS....yes, it deserves to be in capital letters.
Every Spring and and every Autumn, if I am not dreaming about New York, I'm wishing I was in Paris.
I just love it...the style (which is effortless), it's culture (which is enriching), it's history (eye-opening) and then there's the food...(mouth-watering!).

Parisians, are just a different's almost as if they are cut from a different cloth and you only have to be in the city for a few minutes to feel that.

When walking the streets of Paris, you almost feel as though you should be in something incredibly chic.  It's not a myth that the Parisian women truly know how to dress.  Simple tailoring and classic styling is what stood out for me.  I never spotted anyone who wasn't immaculately put together - no worn down, scuffed shoes or ill fitting clothes. From young to old, the styling was impeccable.

I just loved how the waiters casually put out this table in the middle of a road so these Parisian ladies could lunch....trés chic!

I did not know this before but Paris is also known as "The City of Carousels".  
These, almost majestic, ornate carousels are strategically placed around the city and when you stumble upon one as I did (above), it almost feels surreal. 
Steeped in tradition for many generations of Parisian children, finding one is a must see on a visit to the city.

Then there's the landmarks. Like London and New York, you can't visit Paris without doing a bit of sightseeing.

Arc de triomphe
The Arc de triomphe, the most famous monument in Paris. It is also in the centre of the most busiest, craziest roundabout - how anyone is brave enough to drive round this twelve exit roundabout is beyond me!

La tour Eiffel
The Eiffel Tower. One of the most recognisable and iconic structures in the world. When I saw this for the first time, again it was quite surreal - an image I had mostly only seen on postcards and is really quite impressive in real life.

Louvre Musuem
I really wanted to go inside The Louvre - the worlds most visited museum where Leonardo da Vinci's most famous portrait is held...Mona Lisa.  Sadly, I run out of time on my visit....there is sooo much to see and do in Paris!

River Seine bridge

Big sunnies are a must whilst in Paris! My friend and I on the bridge of the River Seine

France is famous for its patisseries and some of the best can be found in its capital city.
The window displays in these patisseries show intricate, delicate, showstopping creations and when you walk into one of these places, you feel as though you are getting a truly authentic 'Paris' experience.

Laduree is definitely worth a visit (above). See my previous post The pursuit of...The perfect macaron for my review.....A real treat!

Delicious french liqueur coffee

Doing our Sex and The City walk through the streets of Paris...I was Carrie of course!!

So here ends the second instalment of my favourite cities. (For Part 1, Hong Kong, click the link here)

Love, Ivy George x 

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