Friday, 18 April 2014

[BETTY SNAPS] Five Things of the Week - Sunshine, Day's Off and Pink Co-ords...

Top UK Lifestyle Blogs, Five Things of the Week

It's the bank holiday weekend! Huzzah! Normally, as a freelancer, bank holidays mean very little to me but this month I've miraculously managed to time things so that I'm off at the same time as everyone else is off, and so it's all very exciting! GB hasn't been too well this week, a nasty bout of man flu, so we don't have anything too strenuous planned but it's day one of the four day break and the sun is already shining so I'm hoping for bicycle rides, picnics and general spring time fun!

Anyway here's five other things which have been making me smile this last week...

1. Run London Run...
I say it every year, but the London Marathon is always one of my favourite days to be in London. It's a truly magical event which sees the city come together in force to cheer on the brave souls who make it through that epic distance for whatever reason. Watching it now still reminds me of four years ago when GB ran it and I'm still so so proud of him for accomplishing such a feat. This year we were cheering on one of GB's friends who managed to injure his ankle at mile 9 but still kept going to complete it - I mean c'mon, amazing right? This was actually the first year that I noticed the injuries, we stationed ourselves around Embankment for the last leg as we couldn't get anywhere near Westminster and this was the point where the runners had only 1 mile to go. 1 mile isn't that long but when you've already run 25.2 miles it must seem like the longest distance in the world. Seeing so many people with truly painful injuries struggling with every step to just get to the end brought a tear to my eye every time. I just marvel at anyone who has the willpower to keep going. If you've never been to see it, In 2015 plan a trip to London that weekend and join in the cheering, you'll thank me for it.

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2. Guerilla Gardening...
It seems as soon as you attach the word guerilla to just about any activity it becomes automatically cooler. Last week on a beautiful sunny morning I was treated to tea and pastries outdoors in one of Grow Wild UK's newly funded initiatives.. The campaign is set to encourage us all to grow more wild flowers and transform unloved spaces into blooming masterpieces with the help of their funding, know how and seeds of course. The area I visited in Elephant & Castle was once just an empty pit of gravel behind some industrial work but thanks to Grow Wild's funding and the vision of guerilla gardener Richard Reynolds and his team, it's been transformed into a beautiful oasis for the whole community to enjoy and get involved in. I certainly could have sat there all day marvelling at the beauty of the place so I hope the folks of Elephant & Castle get as much out of it as I did. Fully behind this project and as you can see from above, I've already planted some wild flowers of my own to try and transform my sad balcony into a similar calm oasis.

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3. Ferris Bueller's Betty's Day Off...
This week has actually been a really lovely and relaxing one, so much so that I could have easily named this post 10 things of the week or even 20. After a really busy March and start of April in my freelance business, I finished up most of my projects at the start of this week and decided to just take a breather before launching into the next round of work. On Tuesday, I took the whole day off. And yes, by that I mean OFF as in the first day in forever that I've done nothing, not one single iota of work related activity, not even blogging. At first it was strange, and I felt a little guilty but then the sun came out and I took myself to Westfield for a little retail therapy and the guilt slowly ebbed away. I treated myself to a few new bits and pieces which I'll share soon but overall it was lovely to just switch back to the old worry free me for a few hours. Ferris Bueller had the right idea it seems!

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4. Bare legs in April...
Compared to the above three points this one seems rather silly, but hey not wearing tights this week and letting the pins see a bit of sunshine has made me happy too! It's the little things in life... the above pic is a little casual weekend outfit which will make it's way onto the blog in full soon but it's the kind of thing I'm living in at the moment - baggy tee, leather jacket, bright skirt (or more often than not boyfriend jeans) and converse.

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5. This Body Wash...
I'll end with my most frivolous of joys this week, this Bjork & Berries White Forest body wash which I was given at the Varg PR Press days. It smells divine, it feels divine and it really does make me happy to use it when I wake up in the morning!

What's made you happy this week? Have a lovely bank holiday all.



Thursday, 17 April 2014

[GIVEAWAY] Win A Vintage Satchel from Mero Retro...

Giveaway - win a mero retro satchel

You may remember a few weeks back I payed a little visit to the lovely folks at new vintage store Mero Retro in Clapton and was treated to an afternoon of good company, sweet treats and vintage shopping?

Well just so that you guys didn't feel too left out, Mero Retro have kindly given me this beautiful vintage satchel from their store to give away to one lucky reader so you too can see the quality of the items they stock for yourself. I've gone ahead and filled it with a few summery goodies to help kick start the new season in style and all you need to do to enter is fill in a few details below! Also don't forget that you can get 15% off any purchases on the Mero Retro online store with the code BumpkinBetty.

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First things first, let's talk about the bag. I fell in love with this satchel the minute I saw it in the store and am pretty jealous of whoever gets to own it in the end as it's a real vintage gem. Made from gorgeous soft tan leather (the smell - divine!) with an over the shoulder strap and two fold over pockets, it's the perfect day bag and will easily fit all of your essentials in. I've filled it with a few favourites including a beautiful black skinny belt from Swedish Hasbeens, a pair of retro sunnies and a gorgeous beaded bracelet from Next, Nail Rock sequin manicure set, This Works stress relief balm and a giant summer lolly!

The competition starts today, will run for 1 week and is open internationally. To enter simply follow the steps on the rafflecopter widget below. Good Luck!

* Please note that as this is a vintage item it is in a used condition and comes with some ready made wear and tear (which only adds to the charm in my opinion). *

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Wednesday, 16 April 2014

[BETTY WEARS] Him and Her - What to Wear to a Spring Wedding...

What to Wear to a Spring Wedding

It's pretty laughable that I haven't written a what to wear to a wedding post before, considering the amount I've been to. Any loyal readers will know that I'm somewhat of a pro when it comes to being a wedding guest, easily racking up double figures of the events over the last few years. I wrote an article about wedding guest etiquette for The Huffington Post a while back and even got interviewed on ITV's Daybreak to discuss the cost of weddings for young people. (actually correction, that was the laughable part)

Last month we attended our first wedding of 2014 and although all of the weddings we've attended have been special, this one was especially special to me, being the nuptials of a friend I went to school with and have known for around 25 years.

The day itself somewhat crept up on me, having had a busy start to the year work wise and a lot going on elsewhere and suddenly it was only a mere month away and neither myself or GB had really entertained thoughts of what we were going to wear. (totally normal behavior for GB, panic inducing behavior for me). With the wedding also doubling up as a reunion of sorts with my bestest friends and their partners, it was to be one of the few occasions we were all together in a long time and I knew there would be photos aplenty so I was determined for us both to wear something we were happy with.

And so, here is the tale of what BB and GB wore to a recent Spring wedding...


What to Wear to a Spring Wedding
BB Wears: Pink Dress - ASOS, Black Heels - Mango, Bag - vintage, jewellery - vintage

You'd think with going to so many I'd have mastered the art of wedding guest attire a long time ago and have enough dresses in my wardrobe to never need to buy anything new, but even now I still look back at photos of previous days and wonder how I got it so wrong. I've worn shoes that have cut up my feet, dresses that are way above the politically correct hemline length and tops that are almost see through when the camera lens flashes (which of course I'd only realise after the photos were published on Facebook for all to see). When you're part of someone's lasting memories the pressure really is on and finding something that you both feel comfortable in and look good in without it being OTT or inappropriate can be a minefield.

What to Wear to a Spring Wedding

Usually though I do quite enjoy the process of devising a new outfit. Even though I left it a little last minute this time I did have a fairly good idea of what I wanted to wear, but it still took three ASOS packages to be ordered and sent back before I found the right dress.

I was sure I wanted to wear something demure. I'd had my 29th birthday only a couple of weeks beforehand and I have to say this age above all others so far has really got into my head and is doing funny things to my fashion sense. Suddenly anything above midi length just didn't feel quite right for me and I wanted to look a little more grown up so I started hunting for wiggle dresses and pencil skirts in fun prints and colours so as not to be too dowdy.

It was only after dying my hair that the pink option came into play, but after going slightly blonder it was the only colour I found myself looking at. I'd sworn off bright fuchsia pink when my hair was at it's reddest as it just didn't work but now that I was on route to a blonder future it was possible again and I was really excited to get back in the colour.

What to Wear to a Spring WeddingWhat to Wear to a Spring WeddingWhat to Wear to a Spring WeddingWhat to Wear to a Spring Wedding

I scoured through what felt like every pink dress in the land online and was very nearly clicking purchase on this lovely lace number from Whistles, but at £165, on a freelancers budget I just couldn't justify it. In the end the dress I chose was found on a bit of a whim and ordered during a flash discount day on ASOS (gotta love those). I'd already decided on my bag and shoes ahead of time as I'd bought these Mango buckled stilettos in the sale a while back and was yet to wear them. Along with this spangly vintage clutch that I've had forever I was channeling somewhat of a retro vibe so when I spotted this pink pencil dress with its billowing sleeves and vintage look I thought it would go perfectly. Really though, it was the back that sold it to me (a nightmare in regards to underwear but that's another story), and I loved the idea of a high neck and cheeky open back.

What to Wear to a Spring WeddingWhat to Wear to a Spring Wedding

What I love about ASOS is that their range is so large and ever changing that you can always find something that no one will guess is from there. The material of this dress was a lovely loose crepe which hung beautifully and it could have easily been mistaken for a Whistles or Reiss item, but of course the price tag was a lot lower - hurrah.


What to Wear to a Spring Wedding
GB Wears: Wool Blend Grey Slim Fit Jacket, Waistcoat and Tailored Fit Trouser- c/o Next, Peter Werth Brown Brogues - TK Maxx, White Shirt - M&S, Bow Tie - his own.

I've always thought it's so much easier for men. They buy one suit and wear it to every occasion, simply changing their shirt and tie/ bow tie accordingly to suit the colour scheme/ their girlfriends dress. They rarely have to buy anything new and never have to worry about whether their dress is appropriate compared to everyone else's. A suit is a suit after all. But as I realised when we started the search for GB's new suit this year, things are a lot trickier for guys than I imagined.

During our 'year of weddings' which lasted around 3 years, GB purchased one simple black suit from Moss Bros and that was it, it saw him through 22 weddings, 1 christening and a funeral. In terms of his cost per wear I think he got his money back twice over.

He was the first to suggest that this year was high time he purchased a new one and got himself a more dapper look for the next run of weddings we have, although I hope this one doesn't see 22! Unlike me, GB doesn't find the prospect of clothes shopping in any way exciting, for him it's more of a chore but one which he will put off for as long as possible until it becomes absolutely necessary. So for that reason I didn't think too much of the fact that March approached without any talk of suits, but as the weeks edged closer to the wedding I began to think that the Moss Bros one might just see it's 23rd wedding after all.

When we finally started the search it proved much more difficult that I'd imagined. While GB spent his lunch breaks checking out the offerings in the high street stores, I would photograph anything of interest whenever I was in the vicinity of a menswear store and send it his way. I'd suggested he go for either grey or navy as I felt a black suit would suggest corporate work attire and a different colour would give more longevity. Obviously if your not willing to pay the price that comes with a properly tailored suit from Saville Row, then you know that your choices may be somewhat skewed but I was really shocked at just how limiting the high street was.

For one, most stores only seemed to cater towards the skinny fit kind of guy. If thin lapels, just a little too short sleeves and a jacket that doesn't need to do up is your thing then you'll be able to choose from all sorts of cool patterns and checks on your suit, but if looking like an East London hipster at your friends wedding doesn't seem right then your options are simply black, or black pinstripe, and you get lumped with the not even remotely tailored fits which all but drown you.

Although GB wasn't too fussed about a patterned fabric or anything too colourful, he did want something a little different to the run of the mill office suit, and needed a style that fitted his broad build but still had a hint of a tailored fit, and that proved to be almost impossible.

What to Wear to a Spring Wedding

In the end it was Next who came to our rescue. I had always known that Next carried a large range of suiting, but when it actually came to shopping it, I was pretty amazed at just how wide their selection was. From classic blacks and blues to more fun reds and greens and various checks and patterns, they've got a suit to suit every guy that's for sure. Most of the Next styles come in a range of fit options from skinny fit, slim fit, tailored fit to wide fit and what is really great about their collections is that for the majority, you can mix and match those fits to create something that works well for you in all areas. GB was able to choose a slim fit jacket (in the correct size on Next this fitted perfectly) along with a regular fit waistcoat and tailored fit trousers, forming a suit that could have almost been made for him.

What to Wear to a Spring Wedding

We visited the Next store in Westfield Stratford to try on options and get an idea of sizes but in the end ordered online as it offered a much wider range. When it came to choosing styles I was a big fan of the checks but GB was too worried he'd look like a middle aged science teacher. There was a brief point when he fell for an electric blue suit, which did actually look pretty good on him, but with thoughts turning to my pink dress I wasn't sure it would work so I threw down the longevity card which seemed to work and instead he chose a dark grey three piece from the wool blend collection.

What to Wear to a Spring Wedding

Although originally against a waistcoat, I'm so glad that I managed to persuade him to go for a complete suit as I think it really brings the whole thing together. GB's always been a fan of the bow tie and braces look so kept his style pretty retro with a classic white shirt, black bow tie and a pair of brown brogues which were Peter Werth at TK Maxx.

I don't think I've ever seen him and his ginger beard look so smart...

What to Wear to a Spring Wedding

So that's what we wore, and we had a wonderful day, to see more pics from the wedding, see my round up of the weekend.


All photography © Jaclyn Craig and Stuart Watt


Sunday, 13 April 2014

[FELLOW BETTY'S] Weekend Reading #007

Weekend Reading, Bumpkin Betty

Hope you've all had a wonderful weekend! I've spent mine chilling out and enjoying the sunshine with GB and today we toured London to cheer on some friends running the London Marathon - a bloody marvelous achievement from everyone!

Anyhoo here's five links I've enjoyed reading this week and hope you will too this fine Sunday evening!

1. It's official! Alexander Wang will be the next designer to collaborate with high street giant H&M and Vogue has the lowdown. Still not entirely sure how I feel about this. Considering how much I love his designs I have no doubt I'll be queuing up with the best of them come the launch later this year but also can't help but wish that he didn't go down the collab route for a while yet. Jury's out, let me know your thoughts?

2. Behind every great fashion blogger is a great photographer boyfriend who gets none of the credit. Fashionista spills the dirt on the beau-tographer's behind some of the most influential fashion blogs. Made me realise I need to thank GB more for his part in this blog!

3. Jen's post on growing up online really rang true with me. I started this blog when I was 24 and still finding my feet in London and it's very much been an online diary that has documented the changes in both myself and my life since then. Looking back at my early entries is almost like reading about a different person but I'm just so proud of myself for keeping it up this long and hope I continue for years to come. I guess 24 is actually quite old to start a blog these days so I do sometimes wonder what it must be like for the generations below - I can still remember a time when life wasn't documented on the internet and people wrote letters and developed photos at Boots on the weekend - but for them it's always been the norm. Food for thought, thanks Jen!

4. Thanks to another Jen, I've discovered a new brand that I'm a little in love with. Check out her post on Another8 and tell me if you agree - that jacket! Swoon!

5. One for all the freelancers (and actually anyone who gets distracted easily by things online) is this 'Art of Procastination' post by Michelle. I've got pretty damn good at procrastinating since going freelance, and definitely value it as an art form. This post is priceless, will make you laugh and you can procrastinate a little more just by reading it!

And in case you missed anything here on BB, I shared some snaps of a fab hen weekend in York, talked trying new things with my review of Wagamama and reminisced about New York some more with my final photo diary!



Friday, 11 April 2014

[BETTY TRAVELS] NYC Photo Diary - Jumping on the Brooklyn Bridge, Flea Markets and Mac and Cheese...

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Our trip to New York seems like so long ago (I guess it was!) but its never far from my mind. A lot of people have said since that they've never quite 'got' the appeal of the city but for me it was magical and we had the best time. Ever since, whenever I eat a burger or a side of mac and cheese, its always compared to the burgers and mac and cheese we ate in NYC, whenever I find a new vintage store it's always compared to the flea markets we visited in NYC and whenever I persuade anyone to do a jumping photo with me, it's always compared to my favourite jumping photo location of all, the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC.

As a little flashback Friday, today I'm sharing my final photo diary from our trip to the big apple, incorporating the best bits of the last three days (day 4 was a snow blizzard and photos were limited, day 5 we ate lunch, had a cocktail and got on a plane...). Here's some of what we enjoyed on our final few days...

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Crossing Jumping the Brooklyn Bridge...

I've spoken about my experience on the bridge a little already in this New York outfit post, but I'll re-iterate. Being in the middle of that bridge was possibly the coldest I have ever felt in my life! It was fierce, yet beautiful at the same time, as is so often the way with mother nature. Anyway after a sunny farewell to Manhattan at one side, the winds came for us and almost all but blew us away, but we surrendered in order to take in the magnificent views that this fine bridge offers. Its a must in my book, no matter how touristy it may become, there's something pretty special about walking across.

Once regrouped, we found ourselves shivering at the Brooklyn side and in need of a hot drink. If it hadn't have been about 10am I might have suggested a hot toddy! Before that of course there was just one thing left to do... the obligatory jumping photo! Myself and GB are becoming rather well known in the jumping photo realms as we take one just about everywhere we go. I think I'm the main instigator (love a jumping photo) but GB always ends up jumping twice as high and looking tonnes better than me, as evidenced in the photos above - humph! I like to think that one day when we are old and grey we'll be able to look at some sort of jumping montage commemorating everywhere we've travelled together and have a good giggle. It's pretty hard not to be happy when you're jumping right? And if you don't look happy in the photo (GB), you usually look pretty damn silly (me) so either way it's smile inducing to look back on.

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The best burgers in town...

After a little wander around Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill (great vintage stores, check out my shopping guide) and a hot drink to warm the cockles, we made our way to Williamsburg as this was the main area we wanted to check out having had good recommendations of bars and eateries. Our first port of call was the legendary Dumont Burgers, renowned in these parts as one of the best burgers you will come across, which of course was a statement we had to demystify. A tiny little establishment, as soon as you walk through their little green curtain you know you are somewhere cool. It screams downtown hipster vibes with its humble wooden benches and blackboard menus. But luckily the food lived up to hype too, and they had mac and cheese on the menu - winner!

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Weekend Flea Market...

We actually visited Brooklyn twice during our trip. That first visit, after our Dumont food coma came on, we spent the rest of the afternoon scouring all of Willamsburg's vintage stores (my idea) before hitting some of the bars we'd read up about (GB's idea). You can read about all the vintage stores and designer boutiques we visited in my lazy girl shopping guide and bar wise I'd definitely recommend checking out Barcade - a beer / arcade mecca.

My favourite Brooklyn experience however, had to be when we returned to Williamsburg on the morning of our last day to hit the amazing Flea Market (its only on at the weekends). There were two venues on the weekend we were there, a smaller set up housing local designers and handmade pieces such as jewellery, paintings and crockery, and a larger warehouse filled with what you'd associate with flea markets; trickets, antiques, vintage clothing, and random things you never knew you needed until then. It was my idea of heaven and it actually saddened me that I couldn't take anything home with me. I would have kitted out my whole flat from this place if I could have, from the giant steel lettering to the gorgeous fabrics and the unusual antiques. It's the perfect place should you want to take an unusual gift home to friends and family too. We picked up some unusual chutneys from their food and gifts section plus some good old salt water taffy (I'd never tried before it but wasn't all that keen I have to say). Their food market was also epic and we ended up eating beef wraps (GB) and mac and cheese (me) for a mid morning snack before grabbing a giant chocolate doughnut each to take back with us.

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Mac and Cheese overload...

I might have mentioned already but as a bit of a mac and cheese addict I set myself a little challenge while in New York to try as many varieties as possible, they do it so well after all. As our last day approached I was failing rather miserably having so far only tried two versions - Hoboken's Mac Daddy and Dumont Burgers offering. I'd read up about Sarita's Mac and Cheese before we left, and as luck would have it it turned out to be just around the corner from our apartment. Even after that mid morning cheesy snack at the flea market, I was adamant that I was not leaving New York without trying it so after we'd packed up our stuff and had a couple of hours to kill in the afternoon we headed out for cocktails (I still hadn't had a Cosmopolitan the whole trip and was also pretty adamant about that) and S'Mac.

Obviously a favourite in the neighbourhood, Sarita's was heaving, with queues piling up both inside and out so sitting in was unfortunately a no go with our time being strictly observed by my stressy traveller partner. Instead we ordered from their takeaway joint next door and took it back to the flat to eat. As far as Mac and Cheese goes, this was the most elaborate I'd seen so far. You could choose up to three different cheeses and up to five different meats and the portion size choices were like big, bigger and humongous! I made a faux pah and went for spicy sausage which pretty much overpowered everything but you'll just have to wait for my Mac and Cheese diaries to see where this one ranked on the list.

And just like that it was time to head to the airport and say farewell to our NYC experience, oh and guess what was our dinner option on the flight? Yup that's right Mac and Cheese - fail.

Want to see what else we got up to? Check out my first two photo diaries; Rockefeller, Times Square and Madison Gardens, and Chelsea Market, the High Line and Hoboken.

If you're planning a trip to the city then you may also find my city guides useful, with where to stay and what to do and the top shopping destinations. The above gives you a little taster but I'm still planning to put together an eating and drinking guide for all the best places to visit on the food map.



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