LAURA STAFFORD-SMITH

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4.4.18

YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE.


In what has been a rather challenging set of personal circumstances lately, I've been taking all of the little victories in life wherever I can find them, and so when I stumbled across this tee on ASOS for £9.99 I think my heart genuinely skipped a beat.

It's yellow, and it's a slogan tee, and honestly there's not a great deal else I can say to describe the t-shirt; fundamentally, it does what any other t-shirt does, but it makes me feel so much brighter than your average grey, white or black tee. Apart from the actual day Spring started, the weather has been gloomy AF of late, as has my mood; I've never had a diagnosis of SAD, but I would bet a lot of money that it is something I suffer from and so this t-shirt has been doing me the world of good.

If you've never felt this way about an item of clothing, you probably think I'm a total loony (and to some extent you'd be right) but it's proving to be so versatile, and I've been wearing it a lot. I actually threw this outfit together on a total whim, and in a blind panic on the morning of a shoot with Laura and Shelley but it's turned out to be one of my favourites. Sadly, the shoes gave me the mother of all blisters, despite never having done so in all the months I've worn them thus far, and so now I'm waiting on some warmer days so I can start stepping into sliders again.

For some reason, when I look at this outfit, I get serious 70s vibes ~ perhaps it's the fringe ~ and I have been digging it. I've fallen into a serious rut lately, and items of clothing that make me feel 'cool' have been few and far between, hence the lack of blog content! I seem to have spent literal hours scrolling through ASOS only to find nothing that inspires me (except this tee, obv...). If the weather is starting to change now, hopefully that will too.

I asked on Instagram earlier for some recommendations for other websites to check out. A couple of people recommended MANGO which has been a long time favourite, but always forgotten about, so I'm going to head on over and see what takes my fancy. Instagram is always a great source of inspiration, so perhaps I'll pop a post up soon about my favourite fashion influencers just in case you feel the same way about this awkward end-of-winter-almost-spring rut situation.

How does that sound? I get the feeling it's one of those blog posts where I kid myself that I'm doing you a favour, but we all know it's actually mainly for me...

Either way, have a terrific day, whatever you're up to!

LAURA 
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9.3.18

The pleated midi skirt of dreams

It may not have seemed like it last week when we were wading through snow and trying to avoid frostbite, but Spring really is just around the corner, and I for one have been getting super excited about what that means for fashion. Not by total coincidence, I've also been feeling a little spendy of late, and so it felt like the stars had aligned when the lovely Intu Chapelfield PR team got in touch and asked if I wanted to take part in their latest blogger challenge. 

The task was simple: pick out a key fashion piece, and style it in two different ways using items already in your wardrobe. Armed with a gift card, I accepted the challenge, although I'll admit it wasn't as easy as I'd expected. Turns out there were so many amazing SS18 pieces in the centre already (and I shopped before the snow came, so god only knows how much temptation there is in the centre now...).

After more trying on than I think I've done in actual years, several moments of hanger-induced crisis, and some seriously static hair, I finally found the midi skirt of dreams in H&M. I've really been loving the  fashion for midi dresses and skirts and it's something I've been on the hunt for for a while, so naturally this was the perfect fit. It has an elasticated waistband (perfect for big meals), asymmetric hem, and a pleated navy and cream pattern which somehow manages to be both classic and eye-catching.

CASUAL:
The brief was to style the skirt up and down, and I knew exactly which items from my wardrobe I would style the skirt down with as soon as I set eyes on it.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with trainers, and I can never work out with these particular ones whether I prefer them bright white or a bit dirty; either way, I always prefer the opposite to how the trainers are when I grab them from the wardrobe. Knowing I would probably have the same response on this occasion, I opted to embrace the lilac trend (not that you can really tell from the photos) and picked out some lilac socks to wear with the trainers, so that whatever state they happened to be in, they wouldn't look as dirty as they would with a pair of white socks - does that logic make sense to anyone else but me?

As the colours in the skirt verge on monochromatic, I injected some colour into the outfit with this amazing yellow shopper from ZARA; unfortunately this is now a few years old, but it is the perfect sized bag for the weekend, particularly as the weather is starting to warm up - if you're anything like me you'll be carrying round spare layers for the next couple of months just in case, so this is ideal.

I popped a grey jumper on with the outfit to allow the skirt and bag to take centre stage, but I'm thinking it would also look fab with a bright orange jumper. Perhaps the bag will need to be toned down just a little as I'm not usually ~that~ extra, but you get the gist - any suggestions, hit a girl up.

Skirt: H&M* | Earrings: Lisa Angel* | Jumper: H&M | Bag: ZARA | Socks: H&M* | Trainers: Adidas

FORMAL:
If you've seen my previous blog post, you'll know I'm a lover of ankle boots and ever since I picked these up online, I've been obsessed. Naturally I wanted to use them in a more dressed up look, but I really struggled with what to wear on the top half. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I'm more of a cosy night in, than a wild night out kinda girl and so I don't actually own a lot of 'nice' tops. I had intended to pair this with a beautiful white shirt, but as the skirt is actually cream - something I didn't fully realise until I was in a changing room with 8 different white shirts and blouses - a white shirt made the skirt look dirty. Having failed to find a bright top with the right kind of silhouette (owing to the fact that I am a perfectionist to the extreme) I opted for this one from ZARA, which taps into the 80s trend due to the ruffled sleeves and slightly exaggerated silhouette. 

I completed the outfit with a bag from New Look which was already part of my wardrobe, and bought the most amazing earrings from Lisa Angel to go with it all; I kid you not, they've left my ears on only a handful of times since buying them. They're the kind of wink face statement earrings I've lusted after for a long time, and as they were the last pair in this colour in stock, I'm calling it fate. 

Skirt: H&M* | Earrings: Lisa Angel* | Top: ZARA* | Necklace: Missoma | Bag: New Look | Boots: Lily Lulu Fashion

Come summer, I'm looking forward to wearing these outfits (without the jumper) with some heeled sandals (the more minimal the better) and possibly also with some backless mules; the jury is still out on that one though, so watch this space. 

In the more immediate future, I'll be wearing one of these outfits at the Norwich Loves Fashion event on the 17-18th of March at Intu Chapelfield. If you're stuck in a bit of a new season rut, or just fancy picking up some fashion tips, come along! There'll be lots of inspiration and lots of brand specialists on hand to help put you in the right direction! 


(This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with Intu Chapelfield. I was very kindly provided with a gift card to pick out a SS18 staple, however all styling and opinions remain my own. All items purchased with the gift card are marked with an asterisk for clarity.)
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Winter boot collection

I am an avid boot wearer. My single biggest pet hate in life is being cold, and so exposing the old ankles (unless it's the height of spring/summer and actually warm) is a bit of a no go for me, hence why you will very rarely see me wearing anything other than boots come autumn/winter.

As much as I love boots, I do actually find it tricky to find the perfect pair, which look great but also don't break the bank. I get bored of things easily (for my sins), so I typically tend to buy them cheap and wear different pairs often. Saying that, I was very surprised to learn I only actually own 8 pairs of boots right now! Definitely means there's room for more though, right?

I actually went to a charity fashion show at Topshop in Norwich earlier in the week, and I've already got my eye on another pair of boots which, believe it or not, are not black. They're in fact pretty much as opposite as you can get from a dark black pair of boots, as they're bright orange and I am living for it. Saying that, I've not tried them on yet so they might not fit properly but I have high hopes, and because they're so brightly coloured, it means I can almost definitely wear them throughout Spring, and maybe into Summer too? Jury's out on that one - sweaty feet is an absolute no go. 

Anyway, here's a little run down of my current collection, featuring Topshop, ZARA, ASOS, Lily Lulu Fashion and a few others. If I buy the orange pair, I'll pop a separate blog post on so you can see what they're like. Where I can, I've left links in the description box to the boots, or similar ones if I can find alternatives, just in case you see something which takes your fancy!

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3.3.18

The (real) best night's sleep you'll ever have...


Long time readers of my blog might remember a blog post written many, many months ago titled "The best night's sleep you'll ever have...", written in collaboration with the guys over at Panda who had sent one of their Bamboo memory foam pillows for me to try out. I absolutely raved about the pillow back then, and continue to use it to this day; in short, I am utterly obsessed with it and so you can imagine my overly-enthusiastic response when Panda got in touch again and asked if I wanted to try out one of their memory foam mattresses.

Just to put you in the picture, our set up before the memory foam mattress topper of dreams arrived was that we already had a memory foam mattress, but it's several years old (i.e. probably overdue for replacement), and on top of that we had a teddy bear mattress topper.  Not gonna lie, we were both convinced it couldn't get any better, but boy were we wrong...


As I'm writing this post, we've been using the memory foam topper for a few months now and I can honestly say it is incredible. Every single night when get into bed, we're like a walking advert for the first letter of the alphabet, which is probably the biggest testament to the topper itself, albeit bloody tragic to watch.

So, specifications... 5cm thick, including a one of a kind Hydro Foam layer which is designed to regulate temperature so you don't overheat through the night. The topper is encased in the signature Panda bamboo cover, with a super cute embroidered panda on one of the corners. I'm pretty sure that next to nothing could make me enjoy changing the bedsheets, but the little panda in the corner sure does help!


In terms of the memory foam itself, I was at first a little concerned that it wouldn't be particularly comfortable, as the foam seemed to sink a long way when pressed and memory foam sometimes gets a bad rap on that basis. I can honestly say that I've never slept better since using this mattress topper, and if you know me, you know that's a huge deal as I've always been a pretty deep sleeper anyway. The topper is highly supportive and feels incredibly luxurious, so if you like five star hotel beds, this is the mattress topper for you.

Yes it maybe seems like a lot of money for a mattress topper, but if your mattress is on it's last legs and you don't want to fork out for a new one just yet, this would be a great option instead. Since the start of the year, whenever we've had guests, we've taken the mattress topper off of our bed to put on the second bedroom sofa bed. The difference is genuinely CRAZY, and I'm always left impatiently feeling like I can't wait to get a bit of that memory foam action back in my life. Once you go foam, you never go...home...?

As always with Panda, you get a 30-day trial (not that you'll need it), so if it's not for you, it's not the be all and end all. Why not give it a try? I promise you won't regret it!

LAURA
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1.3.18

The high street loafer edit: 2018

I had a bit of a blog redesign at the start of the year (courtesy of Kotryna Bass Designs) and so now on the homepage, the top 5 posts of the last 7 days are highlighted. I'm totally in love with the new theme, and as I don't really track my stats anymore, I've found myself being really surprised by the posts which are popular. 

One of the most popular 'older' posts which seems to be doing very well is a post I wrote in early August 2016. Ordinarily this would be great, but with the new theme, the post is looking hideous! I don't believe I have OCD but there's something about this post being featured which sets me on edge, and so I thought I'd post a new round up of the best high street Gucci-inspired loafers, which you can actually buy right now if you fall in love. 

Here I am painting this as a really nice thing to do, but the truth is I also really want a new pair of loafers as mine from last year have seen better days as I wore them SO MUCH. They're the Topshop Karter loafers and they were a brilliant buy; I'm hoping Topshop have something similar this year too, as they were really reasonably priced! 

There are a LOT of amazing loafers out there at the moment, so these are just a few of my favourites. They're a little more varied than the 2016 post, but they're all so beautiful ~ can you tell I love shoes? If you have any of these, please leave me a comment below if they're comfortable! 
MANGO Appliqu├ęs Velvet Loafer, £17.99 (Sale!), & Other Stories Horsebit Buckle Loafers, £79.00, Topshop Key Trim Loafers, £46.00, Dune London Guilt Metal Saddle Trim Loafers, £75.00, ZARA Leather Loafers with Chain detail, £55.99, Topshop Lemonade Slingback Loafers, £29.00, H&M Slip-on Loafers, £17.99, NEXT Softee Leopard Print Loafers, £45.00

All we need now is for this snow to disappear so we can start getting those ankles out again - happy shopping, and roll on Spring!



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28.2.18

CLOSET CONFIDENTIAL


Going through my wardrobe in Spring is one of my favourite things to do; I've no idea why I find it so therapeutic, but being totally honest, it's such a good feeling. I know we're not exactly in Spring yet (one look out of the window today and we've got about 18cm of snow covering the ground) but a couple of weeks ago felt like the right kind of time and as I was pulling some absolute corkers out of the wardrobe, I thought it would be the perfect time to finally film a Closet Confidential video.

Watching the footage back when I edited, and in fact also while I was going through my wardrobe, I'm going to admit I got the wardrobe guilt. The blue suede jacket in particular was what gave me the most guilt and so from this video on I've resolved not to save anything for best anymore, because honestly, I just don't use them and chances are they'll fade anyway OR i'll bloody go and ruin them the first time of wearing them.

Anyway I'm personally a bit fan of these videos, and was also intrigued to see what I'd held onto unnecessarily so here you go.. I hope you enjoy!



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12.2.18

Perfect pancakes & dreamy topping combinations


I figure this might be quite a controversial thing to say, but I've never been much of a fan of pancakes.  Once the novelty of making pancakes for dinner wears off, I've always found myself feeling distinctly underwhelmed. 

That was until I discovered Jamie Oliver's American-style pancake recipe last year. Since then I've made these pancakes semi-regularly for weekend brunches whenever I've felt like doing something fancy and they are so easy. Literally, they've never gone wrong and it's amazing. 

I've always made crepe-style pancakes on pancake day, and I daresay I'll be making some again this year as they're Harvey's preference, but you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be having some American-style pancakes for myself. It'll be an interesting one for me as I've always preferred savoury pancakes (bacon and cheese if you want details, and trust me when I say that they're insane) but I'm most looking forward to the dessert course this year. 

I've upgraded and decided to 'treat' myself to some asparagus to add to my savoury pancakes this year, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little concerned about the lack of sauce and the thicker pancake combo. If you've got any suggestions as to a sauce which would go well with bacon, cheese, asparagus and pancakes, hit a girl up, otherwise I might have to settle for creme fraiche or copious amounts of melted cheese - pretty sure I already know which I'd prefer...

Anyway, I am for sure having these chocolate chip pancakes with red berries and white chocolate for dessert. Seriously what is not to like? I just use frozen mixed berries and defrost them in the microwave so you get warm berries and that gorgeous coulis-type juice to pour all over the top. Probably increase the amount of white chocolate shavings on the pancakes though, if we're being honest, because white chocolate and berries are one of my all-time favourite flavour combinations. 

I stick to these flavours every year, because I genuinely only tend to have pancakes for dinner once a year ~ despite every year suggesting we should have them more often ~ and it got me thinking about some other combinations I'd like to try. Here are some other suggestions I like the sound of: 


Do you have a favourite combination (or two, or three!) you make every year? I would LOVE to hear some other suggestions!

Happy pancake day x
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2.2.18

Is being busy always such a bad thing?



We've all been there. Your mum has sent you the fifth message in as many days asking where you are, whether you're alive and whether you're ignoring her intentionally. When you finally get round to responding, it's something along the lines of: 

"Sorry, I've been so busy!" 

"Oops, saw this message mid-meal and then completely forgot to reply!" 

"Yes I'm alive - my feet just haven't touched the ground all week, sorry!"

BUSY. BUSY. BUSY. That catch-all word which excuses pretty much any poor messaging/social etiquette - right? 

Hopefully it isn't just me that has found myself in this position one too many times. I used to be so addicted to my phone and so quick to respond to every single message I received, but over the course of the last year, it's as though I've dropped off the face of the earth every day come 5pm. 

I realised that when I do eventually respond, it's usually with an apology and an excuse, which nine times out of ten, is just that I've been mega busy, no further explanation required. Now it's no secret that my life has undergone a lot of change in the past 12 months, and I am genuinely a lot busier than I've been since 2013-2014 , but why do I always feel the need to apologise? Are you the same?

I am one of those people who thrives off of having lots of fingers in many different pies. I like to have a long to-do list of tasks, which I like to cross off periodically throughout the day and I like to keep things as varied as possible. If I don't make those lists, I literally get ~nothing~ done all day, and wind up feeling really crappy and demotivated by the end of it. Busy, therefore, is best and I don't end up remembering important things I should've done when I'm getting into bed later that night. 

So why do I feel the need to apologise for that? And why does the word 'busy' have such negative connotations to me? 

A quick scroll through Instagram on pretty much any day of the week will guarantee you coming across at least five or six people with to-do lists as long as their arms. At this point, I have to confess I'm guilty of exactly this, and the phrase is taken directly from a pre-Christmas post of mine. I find lately that there's so much pressure to be omnipresent, particularly on social media; you don't post on Instagram for a few days in a row, you take a huge hit on follower count and you feel the need to explain yourself on your return. I don't really understand that pattern of behaviour, and I try not to take any notice because ultimately, it's just a bit of fun, but I can't help but feel the pressure to post, the pressure to be present and the pressure to look like I'm doing something interesting with my life. 

When I was younger I imagined myself to be a super successful, corporate-type adult, so busy I had to delegate tasks and employ junior staff to complete them, knowing I would then spend the evening whining about it to friends over a bottle of wine later that night. Sounds like I basically imagined I would grow up to be a total bitch, and whilst that's not the career path I've actually chosen, I still carry that stereotypical, and negative view of being busy around with me today. 

But, and this is a hard-fought lesson I've learned, being busy doesn't have to mean rushing around, at Duracell bunny pace, ticking six things off of a to-do list at any one time. Busy can be having a bath without responding to emails at the same time, it can be taking a walk or sitting out in the summer sun, hell, busy can be whatever you want it to be. Busy can be that Harry Potter marathon you've been threatening to have for the past few months, or the well overdue catch up with a friend you've neglected. Busy can be taking twenty minutes to flick through a magazine with a frothy coffee (my favourite), burning your favourite candle and singing along to The Greatest Showman soundtrack. 

Busy can be just about whatever you want it to be, and it doesn't always have to be just an excuse. I've always apologised because I've historically felt like taking time out to myself, and not always being accountable, was a bad thing, almost as though I had some some misplaced sense of duty to respond to people instantly regardless of the context and regardless of whatever else I'm doing in my own life.

I've started to see a bit of a shift from that thinking on social media lately, and and I'm all for it. Yesterday was Time To Talk day, and there was an amazing amount of positivity online; mental wellbeing really is having a moment and if you're one of those people who never allows themselves the time to just be, I'd recommend giving it a go - leave your phone upstairs, and just disconnect. It's amazing how quickly you get used to it. 

And when, later, you find yourself typing out the words 'sorry, been so busy' or something along those lines, take a second to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Do you really need to apologise? Or did you actually enjoy taking some well-earned time out?


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27.1.18

Valentine's day gift guide: UNDER £50






Shrove Tuesday, Chinese New Year, and Valentine's Day - the second full week of February has a lot to answer for this year.

I'm willing to bet that pretty much every one of you reading this post will be a lover of pancakes, be that the blogger's-favourite American-style pancake, or the classic crepe-style pancake, and most of you will be mildly intrigued by the Chinese New Year, but I can't call it for Valentine's Day, being one of those tricky public holidays which is guaranteed to divide opinion year on year.

Whether you love it or hate it, whether you go all out or you'd rather go to bed early and pretend it isn't happening, there's no denying that Valentine's Day is on the way. Ahead of the hundreds of emails we're all about to receive, and the too-good-to-miss offers about to start popping up all over the internet, I thought I'd compile a little round up of some of my favourite gift options, in case you're getting ready to start dropping hints already...

Valentine's Day

1) Bonnie Non-Padded Balconette Bra, Boux Avenue, £30.00
2) Wishbone Ear Cuff in Gold, Astrid & Miyu, £39.00
5) Amazon Echo Dot, Amazon, £49.99
6) Gold Thin Molten Ring, Missoma, £49.00
7) Black Croc Moon Clutch, Aurora, £30.00
8) Rose Bombshell, LUSH, £4.50
9) Large Geometric Copper Mirror, Lisa Angel, £12.00
10) Melting Hearts Strawberry and White Chocolate, Hotel Chocolat, £5.50

V day 2



1) Tuberose Eau De Toilette, ZARA, £12.99
2) Chestnut Suede Mules, Next, £20.00
3) Scalloped Leather Heart Keychain, Kate Spade, £50.00
4) This Modern Love by Will Darbyshire, Amazon, £12.99
5) Gold Naos Trio Star Creeper Earrings, Oliver Bonas, £22.00
6) Pomegranate Luxury Candle With Lid, The White Company, £40.00
7) Sterling Silver Textured Squiggle Earrings, ASOS, £10.00
8) Life in Pictures Photo Album, Oliver Bonas, £34.00
9) Mixed Metallic Set of Four Champagne Glasses, Oliver Bonas, £32.00
10) Lux Letterbox Flowers, Bloom & Wild, £30.00




So here's hoping you all have a Happy Valentine's Day! If nothing else, take it as an excuse to treat yourself to something special, just because (1) January is finally over, and (2) you bloody well deserve it! I'm mostly excited about the opportunity to cook/go out for something really nice to eat, but I'm sure that will come as no surprise to most of you reading this...

(P.S. I forgot to put it in the body of the post, but the Nuxe Dry Oil Prodigieuse is always a winner!) 
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