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Shopping: Urban Outfitters Wedges

Oh look, another new and exciting weekly installment! Every Thursday I'll be posting up my latest bargain, whether it's an item of clothing, something on my food list for the week, or an event I've been to. Let's get back to the root of this blog and remember it's all about me being poor, and bargains are what I live for!

This week's bargain are these Kimchi & Blue burgundy wedges from Urban Outfitters:

I've been wanting to bridge the big gap in my shoe collection between massive stilettos and pumps/boots. I love seeing girls wearing heels in the daytime, just with jeans or something casual, but I can never find a pair that I don't feel overly dressed up in.

Enter these beauties! Reduced from £48 to £30, they're also available in brown and black, but I adore this berry colour for this season - it's everywhere and I can't get enough of it! Hopefully these will be my easy transition from daywear to nightwear, from work to a restaurant, and they look pretty comfortable to shop in too. Definitely check out the Urban Outfitters January sale, in store and online riiiiiiiiiight..........NOW!

Life: How to Prepare for New Years Eve

People seem to be split between two groups when it comes to New Years Eve. The first love it, and cannot wait to dress up, hit the town and drink into the early hours. The second can't stand the bother, knowing that it will nearly always be a disappointment and ridiculously overpriced. I'm in the latter. Don't get me wrong, I like a night out, I like getting dressed up. But New Years Eve just seems to be a chance of any idiot available to shout, puke and get in my way. I don't want to pay £50 to get into a club or bar that's usually free, and pay even more for drinks that are already hiked up because I'm in London. And the biggest thing is the expectation. People EXPECT that it will be the best night of the year, and in my experience, the more you plan an evening the less chance there is for spontaneity and therefore less chance for fun.

I've had a couple of great NYEs though. And today's To-Do List Tuesday is a little guide on how to make the last night of 2011 a good one.

1) It's all about timing
Don't plan too far in advance, but don't leave it until the last minute. I reckon optimum time is about 9 days beforehand. That way you don't make a rash decision to go to that bar with that person you hate, but you also don't end up staying in alone eating Ben & Jerry's from the tub watching Jools Holland in your pjs.

2) Wardrobe decisions
Despite not having any firm idea of where you're going, plan your outfit well in advance! If you're anything like me and leave it until the last minute you'll either end up wearing something you hate, or refusing to go out at all (This has happened to me. In fact I have been known to go home and get changed once I'm out too, but that was in my student days of being fickle and within walking distance of my house). Oh, and if you wear heels, cram some flats in your bag. No high heels are still comfortable at 2am. NONE.

3) Strategic Drinking
This works threefold: 1 - the important aspect of pre-drinking. Get your vodka jacket on and get you in the mood for heading out into the cold. 2 - take a hipflask. No harm in saving in a bit of money and keeping yourself topped up. Always good if you're heading out to fireworks or something outside! 3 - Pick a time and just drink water afterwards. Sounds prudish, but I'm not going to condone binge drinking, plus I am Queen Hangover and would be a billion times worse if I didn't have a self-imposed water o'clock.

4) Company
I've spent NYEs with 1 person and 25 people. It's difficult if you're like me and have friends dotted all over the country, but ultimately it's the company you keep on the evening that make the whole night. Don't get forced into going to a party with someone who will ditch you when you get there. Christmas is about family, NYE is about friends. 

I'm aware I sound like a moany old trout in this post. I'm not fussed about going out at all. But that doesn't mean I want to be sat at home alone when the clock strikes midnight! This year I'm going to one of my best mates' flats for a few bevvies. Warm, cheap and friendly - onto a winner!

Whatever you're up to this NYE, I hope you have a Happy New Year! Thanks for reading my little blog and I hope you come back in 2012!

Explore: Winter Wonderland

It's the now annual pop-up festive event that people flock to every Christmas. A beautiful sight? Uh, no. Happy tonight? I guess. Yep, walking in the Winter Wonderland is essentially the lovechild of a dodgy German Christmas market and Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Full of fairground rides that charge a crazy amount of money for otherwise useless tokens, but you know what? People go crazy for it! It must be an overdose of Christmas cheer or something.

My colleagues braved this!

Nice views over Hyde Park I'd imagine
The reason I wanted to visit was for the Bavarian Village. I definitely wasn't disappointed by this enormous Bratwurst I had! Nom.

There was also more places selling mulled wine than I could shake a stick at. That is definitely something I love about Christmas as an adult. When else in the year do you get mulled wine or bucks fizz in the morning? Makes up for not getting a visit from Santa anymore! The Carousel Bar was great, as it actually veeeeeeeery slowly rotated with hobby horses and everything. I can't imagine it's as much fun after you've had a few bevvies though.

The entrance to the Carousel Bar

Full of gimmicks, cheese and tat, this tourist trap is tacky, brash and overpriced. But then that's British Christmas right?! Too many baubles on the tree, everyone wearing crap paper crowns around the dinner table: standard. Winter Wonderland is all of those things + an ice rink. Be prepared to queue, be prepared to be crowded, but the mulled wine will help ease the pain.

Life: Getting Home at Christmas

I remember when getting home for Christmas meant waiting outside McDonald's at Milton Keynes shopping centre for my stepdad to pick me up from a shift at The Body Shop. Those were simple days. Then I became a student and made the wonderful decision to live 300 miles away in York. Unable to live off just my student loan, I also had a job at Lush, which I adored, but meant I couldn't travel home until Christmas Eve. One particularly memorable journey involved all trains to London being cancelled, having to get on a train to Birmingham instead so I could switch trains and get to MK but then being fined on the train as it was an 'unreasonable diversion route'. MY ARSE. Who knew Scrooge was now a train conductor?

Anyway. So now I live in London and I'm hoping that the snow won't stop me from travelling a mere 40 miles by train instead. Today's To-Do List is how to prepare for travelling back home at Christmas. Good luck!

1) Don't leave packing until the day before. You WILL forget one person's present and they WILL be upset about it.

2) Think about Suitcase Tetris. Everything needs to fit in around everything else. Don't pack that lovely squishable box of biscuits for your gran underneath the two bottles of wine you plan on necking when you finally arrive.

3) Remember your connection to the outside world. It's lovely to go home at Christmas (and any other time), but I can't be the only one that gets so bloody angry if I forget my sodding phone charger. And obviously take your laptop because how else will you be able to start shopping in the online sales at midnight on Boxing Day?!

4) Try and get an off peak train. Wrestling with commuters and shoppers while you're hauling your suitcase through Euston isn't ideal and will make you either sweaty, angry, or both.

5) Have at least 2 decent outfits. One for Christmas Day, one for unexpected fanciness.

6) Aside from that just take comfies. Slippers, pyjamas, big jumpers, anything with an elasticated waistband.

And with all that you'll be sorted and comfy, you'll arrive stress free and enjoy the festivities. I'm heading home tomorrow and I CAN'T WAIT. Merry Christmas!!

Shopping: Buying an Outfit for Christmas Day

I now work perilously close to some very good shops. In my opinion, East London has the best shopping in the city with a mixture of markets, vintage stores, boutiques and high street in a pretty close knit area. There's the legendary Spitalfields and Petticoat Lane markets and Brick Lane all within 3 minutes of my office, so it take a lot of strength to hold back from innocently wandering around at lunch time.

A perfect example is Tuesday, when I went out to stock up on Christmas cards. Needless to say I didn't buy any as I was lured into Urban Outfitters - my favourite of favourite high street stores. I bought a couple of things under the premise of wearing them for Christmas day so TECHNICALLY it was OK! I always find picking an outfit for the big day a bit stressful as ultimately I won't be leaving the house, however I will probably be photographed throughout the day, so I need something that is:

1) Easy to sit down in. This rules out skinny jeans as the blood flow cuts off my legs after 30 seconds of sitting on the floor.
2) Elasticated or easily adjusted. For when I stuff my face with turkey and Twiglets (not necessarily at the same time).
3) Not over the top. Because it's not a wedding, I'll be with my family who have seen me at my worst, but it is after all a special day.

So behold! My Christmas outfit purchases!

£20 in the sale

It's red therefore it's festive. I'm going to pair it with high denier black tights too. Not even thinking about shoes as I intend to wear Christmas socks or slippers to keep my tootsies toasty.

Silver collar necklace £18

I think I'll probably wear a plain black top, or a vintage jumper with silver threading when it gets colder. Either way this collar necklace gives it a bit of oomph.

WIP nail polish £6

And finally I got lured into buying this at the till point. I don't own many statement silver rings so instead I'm bringing the bling to my nails and decking them out in this glittery beast. Perfick!

(All photos from the Urban Outfitters website)

Music: Christmas Playlist

I'm obsessed with making lists. Apparently it's a Virgo thing. Maybe it's because I have to organise everything from my meals to my outfits weeks in advance. So obviously the next logical step is to share these lists with the lovely readers of this here blog, one each week (on a Tuesday), to help inspire some organisation into your lives, or at least to share some attempted wisdom.

As it's Christmas NEXT WEEK, the first To-Do List Tuesday is dedicated to festive songs. That's right, tunes to have on in the background while your basting the turkey, or passing out from too many mince pies. Here are my must-have downloads for Christmas 2011:

1) It's Christmas (And I Hate You) - Paloma Faith & Josh Weller

It's not as miserable as it sounds, the tune is pretty jaunty, and it's funny more than anything. Perfect for singing at the other half when you've had too much mulled wine.

2) All I Want For Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey
Now normally, Mimi makes me want to self harm, HOWEVER, it can't be denied that this is a classic that is guaranteed to make you hurt yourself attempting the high notes. The ultimate girls night in sing-a-long.

3) Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - She & Him
The devine Zooey Deschanel paired up with M Ward are constantly in my 'Favourite Bands Ever Ever' list, and their album 'A Very She & Him Christmas' is so traditional it'll make your granny reminisce about the good old days.

4) Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - Michael Buble
Another cover, but Michael Buble's Christmas album is just so........Christmassy! He's a suave old motherlicker and those dulcet tones and videos of walking through snow are just the cherry on the Christmas cake.

5) I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday - Wizzard
I don't care if I look uncool dancing to this around my kitchen (and my housemates can testify that I did indeed do this at the weekend), this song is my childhood Christmas memories wrapped into one. I always remember watching the video on Top of the Pops 2 on Christmas Day with the lead singer and his multi-coloured beard and paper streams in his hair. Aces.

6) Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
I have two memories of this song. 1) It being heavily featured in Home Alone. 2) Dancing to it in silver hotpants that my mum made me on stage at a school production when I was 11. Despite the small amount of trauma induced, I still love the song.

For my full Christmas playlist on Spotify click here (but beware, there's some naughty words in there!).

Explore: Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum

Ah Christmas, the time of year where everyone in the country gets that Torvill & Dean feeling and heads off to the local ice rink. And they are local - I don't remember it being this way when I was younger, but as soon as the festive mood hits, temporary ice rinks now pop up all over the place, and are sprinkled all over London at some of the city's top tourist attractions.

Last year I went to the rink at the Tower of London, this year I hit the Natural History Museum. Turns out if you want to go to the famous Somerset House rink at a time that isn't bedtime or in the middle of the working day then you have to book in advance in October. However, the setting of the NHM was stunning. The whole building was lit in blue lights, there were fairy lights in the trees and the obligatory Christmas tunes piped into the air. 

So we strapped into the standard painful toe-pinching, ankle-destroying ice skates and took to the ice (remember to take an extra pair of thick socks)! The most important thing to note is that I did not fall over. My cousin who I was with did a spectacular treble spin, legs splayed style fall which caused me to shriek like a banshee with laughter, but aside from that we were relatively unharmed.

It was about £14 for an hours worth of skating (which is more than enough), and there's stewards who help you out if you're struggling (when they're not flirting with sexy Europeans in tight tight leggings!), and make sure you can get back up again if you fall. It's a great atmosphere with all levels and ages there, and it's definitely made me feel more Christmassy! 

Take a look here for a full list of all the temporary rinks up in London over the holidays.

Explore: Cointreau Prive by Dita von Teese

On Friday night myself and two of my best girlfriends got dolled up to hit the pop-up bar Cointreau Prive in Piccadilly, London.

Open for just 3 weeks, the bar has been designed and curated by burlesque legend Dita Von Teese. Inspired by her favourite cocktail bars in LA and Paris, she has handpicked the expert bar staff to make signature and unique cocktails and make the whole experience feel intimate and a world away from the tourist traps literally right outside the door.

As suggested by the name, the drinks were all based around the Cointreau liqueur and I had the signature Cointreau Teese which was the yummiest apple concoction that tasted like pureed sweets in the most fabulous taaaaaaaaaaall black martini glass (made so large so people wouldn't steal them I'm sure!). My girls Ms O and Ms W had the Cointreau Rose with raspberries and rose wine which was sweet but not as fresh and still very tasty. For such a place the drinks weren't hideously priced, but saying that we could only really afford 2 each!

The room was underground and decorated in reds lamps and low tables with an impressive chandelier in the main section. One of Dita's own elaborate corsets decorated in feathers and crystals sat in a corner, and plush velvet sofas were available for the lucky ones that were there long enough to wait for someone else to move (like us!). 

The atmosphere was calm but fun. As entry is only guaranteed if you'd book online it assures that it doesn't get overly packed and uncomfortable. The queue for the bar wasn't horrific, and you didn't have to fight for a space to perch with your drink. The DJ was fantastic, playing a mix of classic motown, modern indie dance tunes and an immense remix of Howlin' For You by The Black Keys. Sadly we had to leave to get the last tube home at about 12.30am, but the night was still in full swing with people still arriving and moving towards the dancefloor. We even saw Paloma Faith looking more stylish then I could bear!

It was a perfectly executed experience. Cointreau Prive runs until December 17th, but bookings are filling up fast so make sure you grab your chance to go as soon as possible!

TV: The Borrowers - Christmas 2011 Preview

On Tuesday through the magical power of Twitter I won two free tickets to a preview screening of one of the BBC's big Christmas productions for 2011, a brand new adaptation of classic children's story The Borrowers.

Everybody knows the story of the little people living beneath the floorboards whether it's through reading the books by Mary Norton, the numerous TV productions or, like me, from the 1997 film starring Jim Broadbent. Despite the Borrowers not being magical the story is a fantastic fantasy tale and is perfect for Christmas broadcasting.

This adaptation has a great cast including Christopher Eccleston, Sharon Horgan and Robert Sheehan (the main reason I was interested in seeing it I'll be honest!) and has cameos from national treasures like Victoria Wood and Stephen Fry (always a guaranteed crowd pleaser!). It also has a particularly fantastic performance by young boy whose name I can't find on the normally reliable IMDB but who plays the main 'bean' role.

The Clock family hide under their jam jar lid table
The story follows the same plot as most other adaptations with the Borrowers living happily under floorboards before being discovered and being forced to move out of the comfort of their own home. It's a tale of discovery and growing-up as Arriety desires to meet other Borrowers and escape the family home, but when the opportunity actually presents itself it shows the importance of family and the strong connection between the 'little people'. It's predominantly an adventure that is great fun to be involved with and keeps you running with it, managing to keep up and waiting to see what comes next. 

The scenery is absolutely fantastic - it must be such great fun to create props that would be the right size for us, but are huge for the Borrowers. Scenes where Arriety is kept in a shoe box, and her parents are kept in a specimen jar are very cleverly done, even down to how their voices are projected from behind glass. The finest detail is paid attention to, even down to the large stitching and zips on clothes and the consistency of water, which is much thicker for the tiny Borrowers.

The preview screening was held at BAFTA and was followed by a Q&A with the writer, director and two actors. They clearly had a ball working in such an imaginative playground and seem very proud of the outcome, as they should be. The Borrowers is a great family-viewing experience for all ages and will certainly go down well after all the turkey sandwiches I'll be stuffing down my face on Boxing Day!

The Borrowers screens on BBC1 on Boxing Day at 7.30pm.
As of 20th November 2014, any products marked with an asterisk (*) have been provided as a sample for unbiased review