For  the last few years I’ve done a big post, featuring all my favourite Black Friday deals, for ladies who love vintage style and just pretty things in general. I keep updating the post over the whole Black Friday weekend as more sales start. So keep checking back to see what new deals I’ve added. I’m not just including vintage and retro brands, but all the shops that I shop at, which includes high street brands.

My Favourite Black Friday Deals:

Lindy Bop:

Lindy Bop currently have a pre Black Friday sale, with hundreds of gorgeous dresses as reduced prices. So if there’s something you’ve had your eye on for a while, now is the time to snap it up. Check out the Lindy Bop Sale.

Peacocks:

I always find dresses I love in Peacocks, at the moment I’m loving their 70s inspired dresses and the velvet evening dresses that I liked at their last press day. I love creating vintage and retro inspired looks with their clothes. They currently have 20% everything. Check out the Peacocks SaleNew Look:

New Look currently have a warm up sale, before Black Friday. Many items are currently 20% off. I’ve spotted some cool 70s and 90s style pieces, that I think would work well for everyday looks. Check out the New Look Black Friday deals.

Hotter Shoes:

As I’m sure you all know by now, I’m a huge fan of Hotter shoes. They have a pre Black Friday other with 25% off everything. Use the code EARLY25 at the checkout. Take a look at the full range from Hotter.

House of Fraser:

HOF is one of my favourite places on the high street for vintage style pieces. They stock some great brands with gorgeous fun and classic style dresses. They have up to 40% off selected lines, with new deals being added daily. I’ve picked out some of my favourite little black dresses, perfect for Christmas parties. View all the gorgeous dresses from House of Fraser.

Top Vintage:

Top vintage have others all week, with 20% off Collectif clothing today. See the Black Friday deal at Top Vintage.

Joanie Clothing:

Joanie have 30% off everything in their amazing Black Friday sale. I love all their gorgeous dresses and separates. Check out the Joanie Clothing sale.

Dolly and Dotty:

This lovely vintage style brand currently have 25% off everything. Use code blackcyber  Check out the Dolly and Dotty sale.

Miss L Fire:

One of my favourite brands for vintage style shoes. Miss L Fire have up to 30% off their gorgeous footwear. Take a look at the gorgeous Miss L Fire offers.

H&M:

Club members currently get the Black Friday 20% offer now. I imagine everyone else can use it tomorrow. There’s a few stunning dresses I’ve had my eye on, so I’m book marking them before the sale starts, to make sure I don’t miss out. Check out the H&M website.

Monsoon:

Monsoon have 20% off all dresses, so if your looking for something extra special to wear over the festive season then this. might be the one for you. Shop the Monsoon sale.

Topshop:

Topshop have up to 50% off in their Black Friday sale. Check out the Topshop offers.

Miss Selfridge:

There are some lovely things in stock at Miss Selfridge at the moment, I’ve bought a couple of retro style dresses there this season. They are also great for classic coats. They have up to 50% off everything in their Black Friday sale. Take a look at the Miss Selfridge Offers.

ASOS:

Asos have 20% off everything! Check out the Asos bargains.

ChiChi:

ChiChi clothing currently have 30% off on their site. Perfect for pretty prom dresses and classic feminine styles. Choose something pretty on the ChiChi website.

I’m going to keep adding and updating this post over the next few days. So keep checking back for updates as the offers come in. Let me know if you but anything nice.

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There’s been so much going on at the moment, with me not being very well and Jess starting at her new school. Getting into a new routine, while trying to take care of myself and everyone else has been challenging to say the least. This definitely hasn’t been the easiest few months at all. But I’ve taken each day as it comes and celebrated every day that goes well. I feel much more settled now. With everything thats been going on, we shelved our plans to go abroad for the autumn half term and instead booked a couple of nights in a beautiful Air BnB cottage in a little village in West Sussex.

The idea was to pack food, clothes and a pile of board games and just chill for a couple of days. I love West Sussex having spent a lot of my childhood there. My grandparents lived in Chichester and had a beach hut at nearby West Wittering and I have so many happy memories of exploring all the local sights and being with them.

Choosing Our Accommodation

We didn’t really mind where we stayed, as long as it was in The South Downs National Park. We browsed Air BnB looking for somewhere really perfect. As we wanted to spend quite a lot of time in the house, we wanted somewhere that would feel like home, not just a base to rest our heads. Eventually we found the most glorious cottage in the village of West Ashling. This was the most perfect setting, for being in the country while really close to Chichester for convenience.

West Sussex Cottage Air BNB South Downs Nation ParkThe village is absolutely beautiful. Filled with a mixture of very old houses and cottages, your typical postcard village with thatched cottages and a beautiful pond. The village is surrounded by fields and farmland and is perfect if like me, you enjoy exploring and long walks. How gorgeous is the little house below with the yellow door, definitely somewhere I would love to live!

Day One

On our first day we headed out for a meal at Smith and Weston. I love this American Western themed restaurant chain, but we don’t have one near us, so we’ve got a little tradition of popping into the Chichester branch whenever we visit. The food is lovely and the kids love all the themed decorations. We even got to eat out dinner in a jail cell! We spend a relaxed evening playing Monopoly and even got Jessica to play for a bit. She’s at that age where hanging out with her parents and little sister isn’t that appealing! Our first night in the cottage was so comfortable and I slept like a dream, in our huge super king size bed.

Day Two

On the second day we headed to one of the places I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was little. Fishbourne Roman Palace is one of the main attractions in the Chichester area. It hasn’t changed a bit since I used to go there in the 90s! This is a great place to see a bast array of original Roman mosaics and artefacts. There are also lots of fun activities for kids to take part in. Despite her broken foot Jess managed to try her hand at sword fighting! Lila preferred the craftier activities and made a lovely medallion out of clay.

After that we headed into Chichester for a meal at Wagamama. Since we were in the area we popped into Chichester Cathedral, another place I have been numerous times and love. Its such a beautiful place, with lots to see and plenty of history to absorb.

The evening was spend playing National Trust Monopoly, which went on so long, we didn’t manage to finish it, but it was still very fun.

Day Three

The last day came round so quickly! I didn’t feel ready to leave our beautiful West Sussex cottage. I decided to head out early, for a long country walk. I found a route on an app called iFootpath. The walk was about 4 miles and took in some absolutely stunning fields and villages. I’m going to art a new series of blog posts featuring walks, so I’ll go into this one in a bit more detail in a separate post.

When I returned very muddy but feeling refreshed, it was time to pack up and leave. I was ad to say goodbye to the cottage after such a short stay, but I know I will be back very soon. We headed straight out to another of my favourite local spots.

Bosham Chichester Harbour - West Sussex Cottage HolidayBosham is one of my very favourite places, this beautiful area is part of Chichester Harbour and looks especially beautiful at low tide. I’ve always enjoyed a little walk around the village, looking at all the boats and taking in the beautiful view and the fresh sea air. I went here so much when I was younger, but this is the first time I’ve shared it with my own little family. We couldn’t walk around for too long, because of Jess’s foot, but we stayed just long enough. It was perfect. There was time for a quick lunch in the local tearoom, before heading back to London.

We drove home through the gorgeous South Downs, its worth choosing a longer more scenic route rather than just speeding down the A3. It takes much longer, but its so worth it. It was a gorgeous foggy day, not too foggy to drive in, but just enough to make the world look atmospheric and interesting! I made Rob pull over a couple of times so I could take pictures!

What a lovely way to spend a few days together! It just goes to show that holidays don’t have to be long, far away or expensive to be perfect. This year has been all about short UK trips for me and its definitely something I would like to do more of.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our little West Sussex cottage break. I’d love to blog more about travel and some of the places I go and I always say I’ll write more posts and never get round to it! I’m definitely going to try to more in the future!

If you’re interested in using Air Bnb I have a refer a friend link, which gives you money off your first stay. Woohoo! Click here!

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I can’t believe its already that time of year! But Christmas is just a few weeks away now and its time to start thinking of lovely thoughtful gifts for our favourite people. I’m planning to do all my shopping online and in good time. There’s nothing worse that getting stressed about something as lovely as Christmas! I like to give useful gifts that can be enjoyed and used. As a big tea drinker myself, I thought some gifts for tea lovers, would be a great place to start.

I know in my house, tea and mugs are something that are constantly being used and enjoyed. I love creating that perfect cuppa, with a combination of an excellent blend and a gorgeous mug. I’ve searched out some Christmas treats from a few of my favourite shops, so you can find the perfect gift for the tea lovers in your life.

Christmas Gifts For Tea Lovers

Top Row –

Whittard Christmas TeaCath Kidston Snowman MugFortnum and Mason Spiced Tea

Second Row –

Laura Ashley Reindeer MugCrabtree and Evenlyn ShortbreadWhittard Mulled Wine

Third Row –

Fortnum and Mason Ruby Red InfusionWhittard BaubleHarrods Christmas Mug

Fourth Row –

Twinings Spiced ChaiEmma Bridgewater Tiny Initial MugTwinings Christmas Tea

Fifth Row –

Laura Ashley Snowman MugHarrods Spiced Black TeaT2 Christmas Breakfast Tea

I hope you like my choices. These are all things I would love to give and receive myself. I always think its nice when tea comes in gorgeous caddies that I can reuse and I absolutely adore some of the gorgeous tins featured here. I also can’t resist a novelty mug. Do you have a tea lover in your life? Which tea do you think would make the perfect gift for them? What other gift guides would you like to see on the blog?

For more tea related posts, check out my Tea section.

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This week I was invited by the V&A to preview their fabulous new exhibition. Unfortunately I was unable to attend due to a hospital appointment, so my lovely brother Matthew went in my place. Luckily he’s an Opera enthusiast and as a curator, he knows a thing or two about what makes a good exhibition. Today on the blog, he shares his impressions of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics.

Before I start, I better be honest: I love opera. Not just a little bit – I’m a complete fan, and go whenever I can. I’m going to 23 operas this year, and that’s a quiet year for me! So I was so excited when Catherine asked if I could go and review the latest exhibition at London’s V&A Museum, Opera: Passion, Power and Politics. Could the exhibition teach something new to a super fan like me, and more importantly, would it be a good introduction to somebody who’s never seen an opera? I’d say the answers are yes, and yes.

If you’re interested in history, then this would be a great exhibition for you. It takes seven opera premiers in seven cities to show how opera is a vital part of the story of European politics and culture. It starts in Venice in 1642 with beautiful objects showing the luxury of the most sophisticated city in Europe and the site of the premier of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea), an opera about desire, intrigue and political scheming. We then go on a tour across history in London, Vienna, Milan, Paris and Dresden all the way to St. Petersburg in 1934 where Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was so controversial it was banned just two years later. The exhibition really shows that opera isn’t safe or cosy, but is full of politics and history that are just as exciting today as when they were written.

However, I’ll confess, I was mainly swept away by the immersive experience the V&A has created in the exhibition. When you go in you’re given a pair of headphones which use near-field technology to play the right music wherever you are in the exhibition. So when you’re standing next to the piano Mozart played and looking at his handwritten score for a piece of music from Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) you hear the music itself being played. For an opera fan like me, this was really exciting, and it’s easy to just get lost in the beautiful music and forget you’re meant to be learning about history!

The piano played by Mozart. (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

For all the fashion fans, they have some beautiful historic clothes, as well as stunning costumes from modern performances of the operas. The very rare 18th century opera costumes are covered in sparkling silver embroidery that must have looked incredible in a candle lit theatre.

18th Century opera costume from the V&A’s collection.

A tiny bodice worn by the Empress Eugénie of France shows the fashions of Paris in 1861 when Wagner’s Tannhäuser played in the home of 19th century grand opera.

Empress Eugénie’s bodice from the Bowes Museum. 

My favourite part was the reconstruction of the 18th century stage of Handel’s Rinaldo. The ropes and pulleys created the special effects of their day, with descending clouds, rolling waves, a ship and a mermaid! Watching it work is like going back in time.

The reconstruction of the 18th century theatre. (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

As an opera fan there were certainly lots of exhibits and ideas I thought were new and exciting. However, what if you’ve never seen an opera and are going to this exhibition to learn? Well, certainly you’ll realise that opera has the power to move and even shock you – the excerpt of Strauss’s Salome on show proves that opera certainly isn’t always beautiful and romantic. This exhibition isn’t a history of opera, and because of its approach to show seven premiers that happened at important moments in European history, many famous operas are not included. Verdi’s La Traviata is represented only by one costume, and you won’t see any of Puccini’s greatest and most popular operas, like La bohème, Madama Butterfly or my favourite, Tosca. These works define the passion and romance of opera for many people, so if this exhibition leaves you wanting to see more opera then go and check those out.

Violetta’s ballgown from the Royal Opera House’s production of La Traviata. (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The exhibition ends with an installation showing that opera has now spread out of Europe to cover the whole world. More opera is performed now then ever before, and composers continue to write new and extraordinary pieces. So if you’ve never seen an opera then you’re living at the perfect time to give it a go!

The Royal Opera House in London is showing two of the operas featured in the next few months, Salome and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. If you live in Britain then check out some of the great companies across the country, from Opera North to Welsh National Opera. English Touring Opera and the Glyndebourne tour both take amazing opera all over the country. My advice is to get online as soon as ticket booking opens to get the best value tickets, it’s the only way I can afford to see 23 operas in a year! If you can’t make it to a live show then check out screenings in your local cinema.

The reason I’m such a fan is because nothing else gives me a thrill like hearing the music and the voices of the singers, and the V&A’s show succeeds in showing the real passion of opera.

Thanks so much Matthew, for stepping in and writing such a lovely piece. I’ll be checking out the exhibition myself as soon as I can.

Matthew Storey is a curator and art historian with a specialism in historic art and decorative art. 

Opera: Passion, Power and Politics runs from now until 25th February 2018. You can find out more about the exhibition on the V&A website

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