Monday, 1 September 2014

Birkenstock.


It may be the first of September, meaning that Summer is well and truly on its way out, but my toes are still making the most of the last of the Summer air. Ugly seems to be the new black this year as Birkenstocks have well and truly taken the fashion world by storm. A shoe like marmite, I admit that at first I wasn't sold; they were just too reminiscent of the kind of footwear associated with dads and socks on holiday, but after seeing the likes of the Olsen twins, Alexa Chung and many of you stylish bloggers out there making these sandals look somewhat cute, I decided to give it a go myself. Enter the Birkenstock Arizonas.

I was surprised at how easy they are to style, adding a rugged and androgynous finish to boyfriend jeans, floral shorts, summer dresses and even tailored suit pants; the possibilities are endless with these dark horses of the shoe world. Not to mention how friggin' comfy they are. Seriously guys, the well-thought-out, contoured footbed makes it feels as though you are having a foot massage with every step you take. They may not the prettiest shoes in the neighbourhood, but they get tens across the board for comfort and practicality, that's for sure!

If you are a narrow-footed girl like me, I would recommend sizing down as these sandals do have the potential of making even the most dainty of feet look like they belong to a clown, even when the adjustable uppers are tightened to the last hole. 
When it's time to retire these shoes in favour for boots and my trusty Nike Blazers, I think my Birkenstocks will still find themselves being my around-the-house companions, and the quality of them means that they will definitely be making an appearance next Summer for sure, and maybe even the Summer after that!

Are you a fan of Birkenstocks?

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: PR sample. All opinions expressed are 100% honest and my own.
Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Lifestyle: I passed my driving test!


These days, being able to drive is the fine line between your utmost freedom, some jobs or whether you pick up a KFC on a Friday night or just settle for what's in the fridge. I had every intention of applying for my provisional license and getting stuck in to it when I was seventeen, however a slight fear of getting behind the wheel and maybe a hint of laziness saw me only taking the plunge when I was 21. Ten months later, last Friday, I had just done a brilliant job of straddling the bay upon my return to the test centre car park, and I was sat beside a driving examiner awaiting my fate. And I PASSED. The feels were real, guys.

On the run-up to my test I had scoured the internet for bloggers who had shared their driving test experiences (what can I say, I trust you guys for moral support!) but I couldn't find many, so I thought it might be useful to share mine for any of you who may have your test coming up. 

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The morning of my test was pretty hectic; I was working at Creamfields over the weekend and I had to be on site for my briefing at 10:30AM. I wouldn't recommend running around like a headless chicken on the day of your driving test; with my driving instructor booked for 12:30, making it there and back with the possibility of festival traffic was only my first hurdle, but it kept my mind off the actual test at least. My last lesson with my instructor went pretty smoothly, if you don't count the fact that I botched up my parallel park manoeuvre four times and neither of us could figure out why (I'll give you three guesses as to which manoeuvre I was asked to do on my test as well), but after a pep talk and a quick reminder of all the "show me, tell me" question answers, I was ready as I would ever be. 

I think I was quite fortunate to have a driving examiner who made small talk with me at points throughout my test, as after ten months of having conversations with my driving instructor about music, football, our mutual fear of flying and his 'dad jokes' about how every speed limit under 50 was the same as his age *rolls eyes*, the thought of driving in silence next to somebody I had never met before was terrifying. 

The biggest piece of advice I could give to anybody taking their driving test is just to stay in the moment. I went in to my test with high hopes that I would pass, as does anybody, but I kept an open mind about it and I didn't anticipate the result, either before or during the test. Did I drive perfectly? Of course I didn't, but the examiner isn't looking for a perfect driver, they are looking for someone who can drive safely. I made mistakes; I started rolling back on a hill at a busy stop junction, and then immediately after I got the car moving forward again, I stalled. Not the most nerving situation to be in- I had no idea how serious this mistake was as I had queuing traffic behind me, plus I must have been messing around at this junction for a good minute or two (and I may have uttered a swear word under my breath), but I concentrated on correcting myself safely and this was the difference between a minor and a fail. If you make a mistake, forget about it. You are not the examiner. Don't let what could have been a minor error be turned in to a major one later on in your test. I learned this the hard way on my penultimate driving lesson a couple of days before my test, which just so happened to be the worst lesson I had ever had (I won't go into details, I'm still slightly traumatized, haha), but looking back I'm glad it happened.

I was surprised at how fast the driving test was over; I expected 40 minutes to feel like a lifetime but I found myself glancing at the clock for confirmation as my examiner told me to turn left on to the road that the test centre was on after what felt like twenty minutes of driving. There is honestly nothing like the relief you feel as you put the car in neutral, apply the handbrake and switch the engine off for the last time. I barely had time to gather my thoughts together and open the door for my driving instructor before the examiner turned to me and said, "So, that's the end of the test, and I'm pleased to tell you that you've passed". Sorry, what? I gaped at my instructor for a moment and then cried like a little weirdo as I had my report read out to me. 

It's such a surreal feeling to know that in the space of five minutes, whilst your examiner fills out all the documents and hands you your certificate, that you go from being a learner to a fully licensed driver. I am now able to go wherever the heck I want to, whenever the heck I want, and I can make playlists of all my favourite songs and hold concerts for everyone on the M62. And best of all, no more public transport. Hallelujah.
To anybody whose test may be approaching, I know it is difficult (I'll be the first to admit that I had many nervous breakdowns in the week approaching the big day) but just treat your driving test as though it is a lesson. Check your mirrors, have confidence in yourself, don't be afraid to ask your examiner if you don't understand something and enjoy driving. 

I studied and revised every single page of the Driving Test Tips website in the few days prior to my test, and I believe it made a huge impact on my confidence, so I would definitely take a look if your test is coming up. Good luck, lovelies, and my fingers are crossed in the hope that you get the result you are hoping for!

Have you passed your driving test? Is your test coming up?

Frances x

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Outfit: Put Your Pretty Dress On, It's Time For You To Go To the Dance.

Photo credit: Shane Murray
Dress: C/O Chi Chi* | Rings: Hummingbirds C/O Jana Reinhardt*, others: Rare London

Hello lovely ladies (and gents- I know you're out there)!

First of all, I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who entered my Chi Chi giveaway last week. I have been in touch with the lucky winner and a stunning Chi Chi dress will be winging its way to her very soon! Not to worry if you didn't win this time, keep an eye on my blog next month as I will be hosting a giveaway for another fabulous brand in September! :)

Today, I wanted to show you the latest dress in my ever-expanding Chi Chi collection. I own two more of their maxi dresses (featured here and here) and my, are they special. Chi Chi's dresses are by far some of my favourite to shoot as it isn't every day I get to prance around in a gorgeous evening gown (mind you, getting strange looks off people walking their dogs in the park on a rainy afternoon isn't quite the dream I had in mind... Somebody take me somewhere fancy?). I love the beaded bodice and halterneck design of this pretty number that gives it a slightly Egyptian/Roman feel which I couldn't help but finish off with a braided up do and gold jewellery. Just call me Venus ;)

Do you have any special occasions coming up? Will you be sporting Chi Chi? ;)

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: Starred items are PR samples.


Monday, 18 August 2014

Jewellery: Souksy London


Featured on my blog a few times in the past under the name Chic La Chic, one of my favourite online jewellery boutiques has gone through a more sleek and sophisticated rebranding and when I got an email in my inbox I barely recognised them! Back as Souksy London, I am loving the new, vibrant looking website which so well reflects the chic and unique pieces that they stock. I am so glad to see that they have retained the tribal inspired vibe that I adore, as seen in this cool, tasseled necklace that I picked out (and haven't stopped wearing since; it looks fab styled with a plain black or white blouse), whilst also introducing more typical designs with an edgy twist like these gorgeous cross earrings that have been completed with wire knotting (I am also lusting over these gorgeous numbers). 

Whilst Souksy has a higher price point than I would normally be happy spending on a piece of jewellery, I cannot fault their pieces for their intricate, one-of-a-kind designs that you wouldn't find on the high street and the bright and weighty materials which definitely don't feel look or feel cheap. Souksy is definitely a retailer to consider if you are looking for something a little special and very statement; every one of their pieces is sure to turn heads and add a finishing touch to your outfit.

Have you checked out Souksy?

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: PR samples. All opinions expressed are 100% honest and my own.
Friday, 15 August 2014

I love Liverpool.

Photo credit: Shane Murray
Outfit: Blazer and Shorts: Lavish Alice via BANK* | Blouse: Glamorous | Shoes: C/O BANK

About four years ago, Liverpool was, to me, just another city that was famous for their distinctive accent, good stew, football and The Beatles. In fact, it was only my dad's enthusiasm for the fact that Brian May was the Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University that induced me to select that University for my chosen place of study for the next three years. So perhaps it's my dad's life-long obsession with Queen that is to blame for my infatuation with this city. But I'm glad it happened.

It is a common misconception for readers of my blog that I was born and bred in Liverpool, and it is only when I meet people at events for the first time that I am asked why I don't have a strong accent. I actually reside in a town called Warrington, slap-bang in the middle of Liverpool and Manchester- which means, yes, I am a woolyback, a scanc (an unfortunate combination of the words Scouser and Manc, FYI, not a skank)... But I consider myself a Scouser at heart as I have since developed a deep adoration for the city and a desire to move back there as soon as possible.
So, when BANK Fashion contacted me asking if I'd like to represent Liverpool and talk about some of my favourite things about the city for their upcoming campaign, I was honoured to take the opportunity. I perfected my eyebrows, put on my best BANK outfit and dragged my best friend in to the city to capture the essence of the place I now like to call my second home.

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Whilst I can't say a lot of positive things about my time at University, I can't fault Liverpool for being a fabulous student city. With three main universities situated in the heart of Liverpool, the city is buzzing with people between the ages of 18-25 and it has a nightlife to live up to all the expectations. I have many a memory of covering myself in body paint for themed student nights, taking advantage of queue jumps and discounted shots, losing my voice to the classic dance tracks circa 2010/2011 and ending my night sharing under-baked chicken dippers and chips with my flat mates. I mean... study hard, kids.

Something about Liverpool that I have come to respect a lot more now that I have grown up a little is the effortless beauty of the city. Whilst it has been a long while since I visited any of the museums and galleries there and I am by no means any expert on the history of the city (although I've heard many stories from my grandad), I can appreciate the contrast between the elegant Victorian buildings and the more modern architecture. Something that I really admire about Liverpool is it seems to do the whole "major city" thing without being overstated, and maintaining the culture seems to be of more importance than staying up-to-date. Did you know that Liverpool has more public sculptures than any other place in the UK besides the City of Westminster? No matter what street you turn down, there is a piece of art to look at, often with a story behind it.

What most people venture in to Liverpool City Centre for on a day-to-day basis is the shopping. With Liverpool's open-air shopping district, Liverpool ONE, housing over 160 high street stores, there isn't a shortage of places for you to blow your wages or student loan. However, if this isn't enough for you, Metquarter caters for your high-end and designer needs, St. Johns Shopping Centre is great for shopping on a budget and Bold Street is perfect for thrifting and quirky, independent boutiques. A great thing about shopping in Liverpool is that all these places are within a ten minute walk from one another.

Finally, I have to give a mention to the people of Liverpool. There isn't a single Liverpudlian who I have met who hasn't been able to make me belly-laugh out of pure wit. Not only are they natural comedians with an impressively unique accent and vocabulary, but contrary to the typical stereotypes, they are also some of the nicest people.

So, that is why I love Liverpool in a nutshell (It is impossible to write about everything in detail, this blog post was getting painfully long!). I find that Liverpool is such an underrated city and I am always surprised at the amount of people who say they have never visited, so I hope that this blog post has sparked an interest in getting to know it a little more. Below, I will leave you some of my personal recommendations for things to do and see if you ever visit. There is still so much for me to experience in the city so if you have any recommendations that I haven't mentioned, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

Have you visited Liverpool? What do you love about the city?

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: Starred items are PR samples.

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Shopping
Liverpool ONE | Bold Street | Metquarter | Cavern Walks | St. Johns Shopping Centre

Food/Drink
Liverpool ONE (for restaurant chains) | Nolita Cantina: Bold Street | Moose Coffee: Dale Street | House: Bold Street | LEAF: Bold Street | Cuthbert's Bakehouse: Mount Pleasant | Mooboo Bubble Tea: Liverpool ONE |  Almost Famous: Parr Street | Alma De Cuba: Seel Street | Concert Square | Etsu Japanese Restaurant: The Strand | Amalia Italian: Campbell Square

Landmarks/ Famous places
Radio City Tower | Liverpool Cathedral | Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral | Royal Liver Building | Albert Dock | Echo Arena | Liverpool Big Wheel | Chinese Arch/China Town

Public Art
John Lennon: Mathew Street | Billy Fury: Pier Head | A Case History: Hope Street | Eleanor Rigby: Stanley Street | Queen Victoria: St George's Hall | Bessie Braddock & Ken Dodd: Liverpool Lime Street Station | St. Johns Gardens | Superlambanana 'Eight for 08': The Strand | Yellow Superlambanana: Tithebarn Street

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

What's In My Bag?


It has been a long while since I last wrote a "What's In My Bag" post, and since I recently got a new bag I thought it was about time for an update. I got this rather androgynous-looking bag by Mango from House of Fraser*, and whilst it is supposed to be a weekend bag, I thought it was a little on the small side for this purpose but perfect for housing all my every day essentials. It was only as I was preparing this blog post that I realised that men are quite right when they shake their heads at us and say we're like Mary Poppins whilst shoving their keys and their wallet in to their pockets. But when they need a tissue, or a pen, or somewhere to put that bottle of coke that they bought and can't be bothered carrying, who is there to provide? Us!

I haven't photographed all the items that I carry in my bag but I will mention everything that comes with me on a typical day out. Firstly are the things that I never leave the house without; my phone, my keys and my purse/coin purse (you can buy the pug coin purse here!), which houses my I.D., my bank card, my rail card, a handful of my business cards and my money. I also never leave without my Futurocks powerbank- this little box, girls, is a blogger or social media addict's best friend- It will provide your phone with a 200%-300% charge and has saved me from many a boring train journey! A 3 metre iPhone cable and a pair of earphones are also a must.

I usually carry a notebook and pen with me (if only to trick people in to thinking I'm really organised... I'm not.) and when I attend blog-related events or places that I know will have wifi, I like to pop my iPad Mini in my bag as an alternative for social media coverage.

I don't normally carry a lot of beauty items with me, but if I know that I am going somewhere where people will be taking photographs, I'll bring my mascara and my lipstick -if I'm wearing one- for touch-ups (a girl's gotta look good, right?). However I will always have my compact mirror, a lip balm, my Tangle Teezer, a couple of hair ties, a hand sanitizer and a pair of sunglasses (I own about eight pairs of sunglasses and the British weather is unpredictable, so why the heck not?!)

So, that is everything that I currently carry in my bag, except the small heap of train tickets and receipts that seem to compile in the bottom each month! Let me know what your handbag essentials are, and if your fella asks if he can borrow your compact mirror and a tissue because he has popped a spot and it's bleeding everywhere, say no ;)

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: Starred items are PR samples.