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Christmas Gift Guide: Splashing the cash

5 Dec

Gentlemen, if you’re reading this, please take note. You see, us ladies like uber pretty things.Don’t know if you knew that? We’re simple creatures who work hard- giving birth, baking cupcakes… that kind of stuff. And if there was anytime to whack a pressie for your beloved on your credit card, well, now is the time!

And women of the world, sod what you’re mother would say if she knew who much that cashmere jumper or sparkly heels cost! It’s the season of good will and- as they say- charity begins at home!

Here’s my pick of the top 5 gifts for women from £100 to a whopping £2600!

This J.Crew silk shirt is a modern-day must-have! Wear tucked into a pencil skirt for the office or paired with leather look leggings and an embellished clutch for a night on the tiles.

J.Crew shirt, £100, Net-A-Porter

 

The Christmas jumper is having a chic revival this year and what better way to celebrate the return of this old favourite with Markus Lupfer’s sequined version.

Sequin merino wool jumper by Markus Luper, Net-A-Porter, £295

 

Treat yourself or the one you love to these Mulberry Postman’s Lock Ankle Boots this winter. Come rain, snow or shine, these classic tan boots are sure to make you feel like you’re walking on cloud 9.

Postman's Lock Ankle Boot, Mulberry, £475

 

Sticking with Mulberry, this beautiful Effie Tote shows that handbags- not diamonds- are certainly a girls best friend!

Effie Tote, Mulberry, £595

Treat your angel this year to the ultimate in bedtime luxe. Rosamosario’s Feathers On My Mind chemise is the perfect things for both you and the woman in your life to unwrap this year.

Chemise by Rosamosario, Net-A-Porter, £2600

Update: Keeping Calm and Staying Cosy

4 Dec

I hope that, by now, you’re all snuggled on the sofa in your favourite pjs and slipper socks and ready to watch the X Factor in all its full on craziness. December brings a lot of positive thoughts for me, although that’s not always been the case. Surprisingly, for many years, I was always of the “Bah! Humbug!” clan but recently times have changed and I am decking my halls and tucking into mince pies like there’s no tomorrow.

I love the positivity of Christmas. The sparkling wrapping paper, the first flurries of snow and the whimsical delight in getting a Starbucks Christmas drink. For me, nothing says Christmas like a good old fashioned turkey sarnie and an afternoon of card writing in front of me.

This year has been an odd one for me. “Year of the Brain Transplant”, I’ve been calling it. You see, long gone is the disorganised chick who leaves her lecture notes at home and forgets to always have change for the bus. Nope, I am now a fully fledged member of the Grown-Up Girls Society (if such a thing exists!)

This Christmas I am celebrating the difference between myself last year and myself now. This time last year I started to notice my body not working right- I was so tired it was unreal, I’d constantly be hot, have trouble sleeping and would experience worrying hair loss. For the sake of my barnet, if nothing else, I finally took myself to the doctors in January. After almost twelve months, I can safely say I am done with blood tests and operations. Thanks to a few doctors who actually believed me and the warmth of friends and family, I am confident that I won’t let menopause get me done. And yes, you read that right. At age 22 and a half, I’m going through something women twice my age go through. Whilst I’ve dealt with the issues surrounding fertility, it’s often the smaller things that get me down. I find myself crying when Little Mix sing a ballad or when we have no hot chocolate left. I feel sad every single time I see more hair falling out and I am so sick of waxing my legs that, quite frankly, I’d happily look like a gorilla for the rest of my life.

Quite a few people have told me to write about it but I’ve always been concerned it would hurt me to much to speak out. Whilst I don’t intend on turning Florals and Cupcakes into a blog for me to moan about hot flushes and the lack of Dairy Milk in the fridge, I do intend on upping the pace into the new year.

2012 holds some remarkable things for me. First off, I’ll be celebrating five years with my other half of the 6th of Jan. I think a good Italian meal and breakfast in bed is in store! The 7th of January will see me wave goodbye to my love as I head off to London for two whole weeks to intern at More! magazine. And then there’s the holiday in September, not to mention a planned spa day in March and the inevitable fun of summer.

I feel like I’ve left Florals and Cupcakes to the side a little, lately. And for that, I feel bad. But I’m still here and still want to bring you some beautiful finds from the high street and online. I’m always available on Twitter (@hollieanneb) and there’s the Floral Wishes Tumblr too (www.floralwishes.tumblr.com)

And as there’s still a few weeks until Christmas, I’m going to be compiling some gift guides to get you through (including a super-luxe gift guide for all those dreamers, like myself, who love a bit of excess!)

Say bonjour with Christian Lacroix

30 Sep

Whether you’ve just moved away to university and are missing your friends already or just want to say thank you to a loved one, these Christian Lacroix postcards are the perfect way to say bonjour! The boxed notecards contain six different designs and would make a wonderful gift or, indeed, framed and hung up on a bedroom wall.

Now, where did I put those blasted stamps…

Christian Lacroix postcards, £13.95 for 12.

Topshop Print O’rama!

28 Jul

There are some people who like wearing dresses and there are some who do not. There are some people who like loud prints and there are some who do not. And then there’s this dress.

Blue vintage inspired floral print mixed with leopard? Are you mad?! Well, actually, I quite like it. And I think you should too. Topshop are the creators of this statement dress and it’s also available as a tee if you prefer to flaunt you legs in trousers or skirts. This dress just needs very simple shoes and delicate jewellry to complete the look.

Topshop print dress, sizes 6-16, £50. Go on, I dare you!

La Cerise Sur Le Gateau Liberty print cushion

24 Jul

Whilst I admit £62 is rather a hefty price to pay for a cushion cover, I do believe prettiness is worth paying for! Anne Hubert, better known as Parisian brand La Cerise Sur Le Gateau, is the designer of this Alice Liberty print cushion cover which would look amazing in any bedroom, living room or even as a colourful comfort in your study. The vintage fabric, the modern digital print… it’s certainly a conversation starter.

Start saving your pennies and purchase from Selfridges online.

Fruity Tutti

30 Jun

I’ve just moved in with my boyfriend (Hurrah!) but, sadly, that means I’ve had to “downsize”. Now, as a girl with more shoes and handbags than Selfridges, it was really tough. Beloved leather handbags were given to my mum, beautiful shiny shoes long past their wear-by date were binned and cosy jumpers were tossed in a bag ready for winter.

And now here I am in my new home and missing the clothes which have been transported back to the North East. My boyfriend very kindly bought me two rails to display my polka-dotted, frilly, pretty dresses on but it kind of looks empty. Where’s the Quality Street purple silk dress? And how about that lovely pink top with the pearl neckline?

So I’m on a mission. A mission which my boyfriend will hate but a mission no less. Out with the old… And in with the new! That rail needs to be filled with midi-skirts, maxi dresses and floral print blouses. And I’ve fallen for a dress which will take pride of place on my rail whether my other half likes it or not!

Ruby Rocks, which is sold via Evans, produce some rather nice dresses but nothing stood out for me until I spied this seasons hottest print in my favourite colour. Ruby Rocks red pineapple printed dress ticks all the summer trends for fruit prints and bright colours. Priced at £40, there’s currently 20% off. Wear with bright yellow nails and a straw sun hat for summer frolicking in the park!

More, More, More!

30 Jun

I am here with some rather exciting and thrilling good news. I, Hollie-Anne Brooks, have been selected as a More magazine Mini Blogger! Avid fans of the mag will have seen the mini blogger competition run over the last few weeks. The idea was simple- tell More magazine what you’d blog about and you could be in with a chance of blogging for the fab More website over the next three months. But with hundreds upon hundreds entering and only 10 bloggers being selected, I never thought I was in with a chance!

But last week I received a Facebook message from More’s assistant editor asking if I’d got her emails… It was about the mini bloggers comp, apparently! And with that I tried to log on to my Hotmail account via my iPhone but it just wouldn’t connect. I grabbed my Macbook off the sofa but the battery had gone. Feeling more and more tense as the seconds went by, I raced upstairs to plug my Macbook in whispering under my anticipated breath “It must be me! It must be me! Why would they email and message me if it wasn’t me?”

And there it was. I’d been selected! An immense sense of pride came over me and I had a few tears in my eyes. After a few difficult months dealing with illness and surgery and just plain bad luck, this was the karma I needed!

So I want to say a huge thanks to More magazine for picking me! You can have a look at what I’ll be writing about and what the other gorgeous bloggers will be entertaining you with on the More magazine website. My first post will be online on Monday so keep a look out!

Taking part in Nottingham Food Festival 2011.

30 Jun

Hello! Long time no blog. I’ve been such a busy bee of late due to loads of W.I engagements, my summer job and lining up some PR work. I swear, I’m ready for a holiday! I really wanted to share with you some photographs of the super delightful tea dance that took place in Market Square, Nottingham, as part of the Nottingham Food Festival. Nottingham City W.I were invited to bake cakes and share them with the lovely members of the public, all in aid of raising awareness of the scrummy festival which takes place until 10th July.

Members of the public and participants alike were allowed to indulge in free tea and coffee and a whole host of cakes from us W.I girls. We had my madelines, gorgeous chocolatey fridge cake, 2 beautiful victoria sponge cakes and so much more. Everyone from the elderly to young tots ended up with sticky fingers and big smiles and they all left with a programme detailing the fantastic events of the forthcoming food festival.

Oh, and I was snapped for the Nottingham Evening Post! You can read the article on the This is Nottingham website. I hope you’ll enjoy my quick snaps from the day!

American chewy peanut butter cookies

22 May

I haven’t baked cookies in forever so I thought it was about time I got my wooden spoon out! I was supposed to be baking the

Sorry for rubbish iPhone photo!

gorgeous peanut butter and jam cookies as featured in issue 6 of Baked and Delicious magazine but, stupidly, I have gone and misplaced issue 6. I made these cookies as a surprise for my boyfriend coming home for a 4 day business trip and my word did they go down well!

I used a basic cookie recipe and then added around 4 sticky heaped tablespoons of peanut butter goodness. The recipe is in cups but, if you don’t have any, you could easily use a standard mug. It should make around 10 fat cookies.

You will need:

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 3/4 of a cup of melted butter
  • 2 cups of caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups of crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup of chopped nuts
How to:
  • Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees. For a fan oven, pre-heat to 170 degrees.
  • Mix the melted butter and sugar together until smooth.
  • Add the egg yolk, egg and vanilla extract and mix well.
  • Sift in the flour until a slight doughy consistancy has formed.
  • Add the peanut butter one cup by one. At this point you may have to get your hands in there and mix. I used a pair of St Tropex self tanning gloves to avoid the mess!
  • Sprinkle over the chopped nuts.
  • Roll the mixture into a small ball and place on a pre-lined baking tray. I managed to fit 6 on one and the remaining 4 on the other.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.
  • Turn off the oven and leave the cookies to rest for 5 minutes with the oven door open.
  • Transfer to a baking tray and allow to cool.
Let me know if you make these and how they taste!
PS/ As a thank-you, R bought me these gorgeous pink lilies so the cookies must have been super delicious!

Be Optimistic!

12 May

To celebrate the launch of Optimistic, the latest fragrance from legendary designer Paul Smith, I thought I’d delve into exactly what I think optimism is. It’s a bit of an unusual word, isn’t it? I mean, is it simple pleasures or is it having a Disney smile every day of your life? It is an outlook on life or something you experience here and there?

As many of you know, I spent my teens struggling with crippling depression and bi-polar disorder and many people are often surprised when I tell them that because I’m so happy-go-lucky these days. As I began to get better, I had to work really hard to be optimistic that things were going to be ok so I think optimism has been a huge part of my recovery. To me, being optimistic is believing in oneself, an inner peace that can out weight the negative thoughts (sounding a bit like a buddhist here!)

Often, it is people who make me optimistic that life is flippin’ brilliant. It could be a carer, a teacher, a child.. I’m sure we all know someone who just makes us smile.Or perhaps it’s a sunrise, a really good piece of cake or a dip in the sea.

Paul Smith have launched two competitions and I’m hoping the above might inspire you. The first competition is brilliant. Paul Smith are asking you to upload one of your photographs which you believe is optimistic. The key is to get as many people to like the image so make sure you forward the link to all your family and friends! The top 50 photographs win VIP entry to a super swish Paul Smith Optimistic party with a DJ set from Joe Goddard of Hot Chip (one of my favourite bands of all time!). The top three photographs win a whopping £500 to spend on Paul Smith goodies. Hello, beautiful handbags! The deadline is midnight on 20th May so get your camera out and get snapping! With this in mind, I thought I’d share 4 of my photographs which make me terribly optimistic about life!

Baby you're a fiiiiiiiirework!

Mother and daughter.

Romantic days out...

Kasper-Jo

The second competition allows one lucky person a week to win a fab prize just for answering a question on Optimistic Monday. This week you can win tickets to The Big Chill Festival (I’d kill for these babies!)

Check out the Paul Smith Optimistic Facebook page to enter and let me know exactly what you think optimism means!

Paul Smith Optimistic for Her is available now from Boots and other stockists and is priced at £28 for 30ml. A feminine fragrance with top notes of pink berries and sweetpea,it’s perfect for summer.

Paul Smith Optimistic for Him is available from £25.