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Winter walks, fresh flapjacks and Radio 3: a simple way of life at The Painswick

It’s a Monday morning, and while others are sat at their desks doing the same old 9-5, I’m fortunate enough to be off on a Bridget Jones-style mini break in the Cotswolds. I’ve never been before, but I can’t wait to get snapping buttery-coloured buildings and sit by an open fire with a glass of red wine.

We pull up in Bibury, having fought with other tourist BMWs to get a parking spot – don’t judge my sister in a Skoda, she is fierce. Bibury is everything I imagined and more: there’s a post office that sells postcards and fudge, ducks waddle over quaint wooden bridges, and autumn leaves cascade down pretty cottages with uneven roofs. I dream of what it would be like to live here: a simple life where I can have my own vegetable patch and chat to Cedric next door about what a scandal it was that Margaret’s turnip wasn’t picked as ‘best in show’ at the local village fête. Outrageous. But then I notice all the tourists (me included) taking pictures of the cottages and remember that I always forget to close the curtains when I’m getting dressed. Maybe it’s not the simple life I desire after all.

I forget that it’s winter and the sun only rises for practically 2 hours a day, so by 4pm it’s dark and we haven’t even made it to our destination yet. Although it’s only a half an hour drive to The Painswick, it’s so dark that we manage to get lost down country tracks and at one point my sister even drives over a village green. After a daunting ascent up a road with a 45° angle, we arrive at the welcoming sight of The Painswick.

As we go inside the typical Cotswolds hotel, we’re hit with the thick, smoky smell of a wood-burning fire. With only 16 bedrooms, The Painswick feels more like a luxurious B&B than a large, corporate hotel. Our room ‘Griffin Mill’ is the epitome of cosy. There’s a hot water bottle lying on top of a gold, herringbone wool blanket. We’ve been left homemade flapjacks from the chef, there are giant square pillows embroidered with the letter ‘P’ and Radio 3 is playing Vaughn Williams’ The Lark Ascending. We boil the kettle so we can sit down, have a cup of tea, and take it all in.

What to do first: have a bath? Read my book by the fire? Order a glass of Malbec to my room? It was just all so inviting! I run a bath while admiring the pencils-come-paintbrushes that are left on your bedside table (in case you want to do a sketch and then a watercolour, because that’s what you do while on a mini break in the Cotswolds).

After a solid 30 minutes of post-bath-and-nap selfie-taking, we head down to the lounge to sample ‘Merry Mondays’: half-price cocktails until 8pm. We peruse the dinner menu (one of my favourite pastimes) and nearly choke on our Pornstar Martinis as we spot ‘beef wellington with buttered greens and dauphinoise potatoes’. Oh, the delight of a chunk of meat wrapped in pastry!

Previously a vicarage, the restaurant – once a Parish room, is beautifully snug with original features such as arched window frames and tiny wooden doors perfect for escaping a tiresome Sunday School session. It’s warm and inviting with rustic hessian napkins, studded leather chairs and sturdy, solid wood furniture. My sister and I note how nice it is that all the furniture is matching. We’re so bored of this strange mis-matching furniture fashion.

We decide to share an ox cheek ravioli with beetroot and a grilled octopus to start. Formerly beetroot’s arch enemy, I apprehensively try the roasted delicacy, preparing myself for the worst. Whether it was the Guinness reduction, or the sprinkling of parmesan, the earthy root vegetable seemed to melt in my mouth in wholesome goodness, and I instantly retract any hatred I ever had towards the purple produce. The dinner was faultless and we finish off (as we always do) with a fresh mint tea.

It’s the details at The Painswick that make it so special. Local walking routes have been written, rolled up and stuffed in pigeon-holes for you to choose from. Whether it’s a 1 mile, 5 mile or 10 mile walk you’re looking for, they all start from the door of The Painswick. And don’t worry if you’ve only got leather loafers or white trainers with you, there are welly boots in every size to borrow.

We’re suffering from post-breakfast blues as we pack our bags. It’s not just the luxury of fresh linen or the delicious madeleines in our room that we’ll miss. It’s The Painswick’s all-consuming sensation of total relaxation. Walking the Cotswold Way, sketching the view, sipping tea while reading the next chapter of our page-turning novel: a slow way of life that all of us crave and few seem to achieve.

When we return home we light a fire, sit under blankets and read our books. No phones or TV, only green tea and my sister’s company. We’re one step closer to that simple life we all desperately want, and that’s thanks to The Painswick.

 

 

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A Parisienne Tights Subscription: Gambettes Box

 

 

So here’s a little story about why I love Twitter. My sister asked for some patterned tights for Christmas, but not being quite up on the hosiery market, I had no idea where to look. When I tweeted asking for advice, the absolute babe that is Georgia replied and said I should check out Gambettes Box*, a subscription service that delivers 2 pairs of tights through your letterbox every month. So I signed up, ordered a box, and the minute the tights came to my flat, I fell in love.

 

What is a Gambettes Box? 

 

Designed in Paris, Gambettes Box delivers two pairs of beautiful tights every month. And I’m not talking cheap, snag-on-the-first-day tights.  These are beautifully made with a unique design, and the most Parisienne packaging you’ve ever seen. When I received my first box, I wanted to pull my new tights on, grab a café au lait and skip gaily down the Champs Elysées (instead I pulled them over my sausage legs and took photos round the corner from my flat, making sure the local Greggs was not in shot).

 

What do you get in a Gambettes Box?

 

The joy of a Gambettes Box is that you don’t quite know what you’re going to get every month! The tights are a complete surprise, but from the two boxes I’ve received so far, they’re always elegant and stylish. The packaging is absolutely beautiful too, complete with French quotes, and postcards of models styling the tights. They make great presents for your gal pals’ birthdays and they’re an absolute bargain at only £13.90 per box (I even have a cheeky discount code below too!).

 

Where can I buy a Gambettes Box? 

 

Gambettes Box is a subscription service, so you get a box monthly but if you just want to buy 1 box, you can! You sign up to the subscription and then cancel the service when you’ve collected enough beautiful tights to last you a lifetime! If you don’t cancel the subscription you’ll still be delivered a box a month, but it’s pretty much a rolling contract. And the brilliant thing is guys, that because I’ve teamed up with Gambettes Box, you can get £2 off your first order! All you have to do is use the code:

GAMBETTESEMMA

Click here to order your first box: https://www.gambettesbox.com/#ae165  

 

I can’t wait to see all of your beautiful patterned legs! (not in a weird way…)

Emma x

*Features press sample, see disclaimer

 

 

Outfit Details

Olive Clothing khaki wool mini skirt £48

Gambettes Box patterned tights £13.90 (for two pairs)

Hollister black turtle neck (similar)

Accessorize black wool beret £12

Primark black loafers (similar)

 

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A weekend in Dorset

Walking along jagged cliffs, breathing in sea air, and drinking lots of wine in cosy pubs with open fires. Have I just described your perfect weekend? Because I have definitely just described mine.

There are so many beautiful places in the UK to explore, and Dorset is one I’ve barely touched (despite living just down the road… #embarrassing) I spent last weekend with my boyfriend’s family in West Bay, which I was very excited to find out, was where they filmed Broadchurch!

We went on the most beautiful walk along the cliffs on Sunday morning (photos below) and I wore my fave new FILA colour-block sleeve jumper, which you can buy here. I hope you like my photo diary below!

Emma x

Outfit details

ASOS Fila Sweatshirt with colour block sleeves £55

Patagonia Grey Recycled wool hat £25

Accessorize Sterling Silver earrings £10

 

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Exercise and Mental Health

I’m not a big exercise person. I don’t LOVE the gym, I don’t get a rush from doing a HIIT workout and the last thing I want to do is sign up to a bloomin’ marathon.

Having said that, I’d rather be doing a Pilates class, or spend 10 mins in a steam room than sitting at home in a mess of misery and Kit Kat wrappers, watching reruns of The Apprentice.

We all have the odd down day, some of us more than others, and it’s so easy to slump into that all-familiar downward spiral of doom and gloom. When you’re knackered and can’t be bothered with life, the last thing you want to do is put lycra leggings on and go to a circuits class. BELIEVE ME, I know.

But sometimes I ask myself, what is sitting around feeling miserable going to achieve? Is it going to make me happier? No. Is it going to make me feel better about my life? No.

So I FORCE myself (with a bit of added motivation from my mum and boyfriend) to get off my bum, throw on an old t-shirt and do some exercise! Whether it’s a 10 minute walk round the block to get some fresh air, or a proper sesh in the gym (I use the term ‘sesh’ lightly…), I will now nearly always try and do at least 10 mins of exercise when I’m feeling rubbish.

So why exercise? Why not shopping or reading or eating?

One word: ENDORPHINS. I bloody love endorphins, I don’t really know what they are but I know they exist and I know that they’re GOOD. Maybe it’s psychological, maybe it’s not, but I know that I feel better when I’ve got out the house and moved around a bit.

It’s such an easy and simple thing to do, plus you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something that day – something more than reminding yourself of who was ‘fired’ in Series 9, episode 6 (it was Rebecca, in case you were wondering).

In the words of Elle Woods (lol I am always quoting Legally Blonde):

 

‘Exercise gives you endorphins.

Endorphins make you happy.

Happy people just don’t kill their husbands, they just don’t. ’

 

Damn right they don’t, Elle.

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A festive weekend at The Hoxton, Shoreditch

London in the Winter can be a right old sweat. Rushing in the rain to catch the next tube, ripping off layer after layer for fear of over-heating and then two stops later, putting layer after layer back on for fear of freezing to death outside.

But the minute I got to The Hoxton, Shoreditch, I instantly felt relaxed. The atmosphere is cool and chilled-out due to the bare concrete architecture and open-plan lobby complete with velvet Chesterfields, naked light bulbs and wire bookcases lined with novels.  The huge roaring fires are so inviting, it’s impossible not to drop all your bags, sink into an armchair and stay for the week. We settled down into a cosy red leather, diner-style booth and devoured a Mac and Cheese (much needed after a strenuous journey).

Our room was funky and modern with a beautiful 60s style desk complete with branded mugs and (my fave) a Roberts Radio! Ngl, we spent most of the first afternoon just chilling in the room (so lethargic after my Mac and Cheese, plus it probs didn’t help that I’d had my Christmas party the night before…). And anyway, why would you leave a room that has unlimited tea bags, pillows made from clouds and Chill fm’s soothing mix of Massive Attack and Sigur Ros (srsly tho, is this a real radio station?).

We’d decided to stay in The Hoxton, Shoreditch for two reasons:

  1. Because we were going to see a play in the evening called The Ferryman. (If you know me, you’ll know I LOVE theatre, and this was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen, hands down)
  2. Because one of my life’s hopes, dreams and ambitions has always been to go to Columbia Road Flower Market. Ohhh the hours I’ve pondered over tulips, freesias and tiny, delicate cyclamen! And as luck would have it, it was just round the corner! (lol jk this was in the plan)

Finally, my day had come.

And on that day, those 24 hours that I’d chosen, one tiny little day out of 365, it decided to bloody tip it down.

But I REFUSED to let that stop me. This was my big flower market day! (huge shout out to my boyfriend at this point who stumbled after me in the torrential rain taking blogger pics while simultaneously trying to prevent our precious new lens from getting wet lol – what a gem)

Beyond the forest of Christmas trees (not quite a forest, more cut down and popped through one of those netting machines like a french sausage) were festive displays of red berries, eucalyptus stalks, pussy willow and poinsettias all shining out in glorious, wet, Christmassy joy!

It. Was. Wonderful.

I couldn’t leave without buying a seasonal bunch myself, despite knowing it would only cause me more chaos come the rain rush, layers on, layers off, sweaty tube chaos debacle. If only there was another Hoxton Shoreditch to greet me with an open fire and Mac and Cheese when I got home!

 

Outfit details:

Zara mohair jumper £39.99 (similar)

Zara red round bag £39.99 (similar)

Mango red slingback shoes £59.99 

Hollister white turtle neck £4.99

Urban Outfitters jeans £50.00 

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Winter layering

This one time in the office a colleague came up to me and said ‘do you know what I like about you, Emma? You’re all about comfort over style.’

Er, RUDE.

But also, 100% true.

Major respect for gals out there wandering round in knee-high boots in sub-zero temperatures, but personally I can’t be bothered. I’m all about cosy knits, long trousers, and polo necks. Anyone else have the never ending nightmare of wearing a wool coat because it’s -5 outside, but as soon as you get on a bus/enter a shopping centre/have a coffee, you get terrible Winter sweats?! I’m telling you, layering is the way forward.

This rust orange jumper from Native Youth is super snug and perfect for shoving over a black turtle neck.

I fell in love with these Topshop heritage trousers, they fit really well so they’re brill for you gals out there with short legs and a big bum (like me). I love how the orange jumper picks up the colour in the trousers – just team them with some classic Topshop loafers and your outfit is absolutely sorted.

 

Outfit details:

Native Youth rust coloured jumper – £60.00

Topshop Heritage trousers – £39

Topshop black loafers (similar) – £45

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A date at Skate – ice-skating at Skate Southampton

Are you even celebrating Christmas if you haven’t been ice-skating yet?

Skate Southampton and Mogul’s Alpine Bar is based in the new development of West Quay. The ice rink itself is perfectly sized to not be intimidating for first-time skaters, but not so small that you’re forever colliding into strangers (I was kindly reminded of the time I pulled a 12 year old boy to the floor by grabbing his hood because it was the nearest thing to hold onto… reflexes are funny things).

You buy your tickets from the ‘cable car’ where I was relieved to see gloves on sale (I stupidly forgot mine) in case of falling on your hands and knees. Then, it’s all about 3 pairs of thick knitted socks and getting those skates on.

I cling onto the edge desperately, as 4 year olds whizz past me at speeds of 40mph. My boyfriend is too busy skating backwards and doing twirls across the rink (despite never skating before, typical) to notice my inherent fear of falling on my bum like a poor little beetle on his back, legs waggling frantically in the air.

But 20 mins later, I’m hurtling round the rink on my own with the confidence of Lewis Hamilton at the F1 Grand Prix.

Such is the emotional roller-coaster that is ice-skating.

Mogul’s Alpine bar is the best place to cosy up in afterwards! I felt like I’d just come off the slopes and found shelter in the nearest log cabin. Twinkling lights, wooden stools, fur throws and of course, the heavy aroma of mulled wine makes for the perfect festive hideaway.

Skate Southampton is the best day out: hours of fun on the ice, mulled wine in the snug alpine bar and why not treat yourself to a meal at WestQuay afterwards too!

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Pork Crackling and Apple Sauce at The Pig, Brockenhurst

It’s hard not to feel autumnal as you walk up the gravel track among the firs and the conifers, pine cones scattered over the dewy lawn. Despite me getting overexcited at a sign for the ‘Kitchen Garden’, it is FREEZING, and the smell of a woodburning fire entices us indoors, enveloping us in warmth.

The Pig in Brockenhurst is a small hotel with a focus on food. Nearly everything on the menu is grown on site or foraged-for nearby, so whether it comes from the forest or the coast, you know it’s as fresh as possible.

The interior is traditional with an informal twist. Boars’ heads frame the walls and colourful crystal glasses are lined up on antique dressers, but the menus tied up in garden string and napkin rings made from newspaper make for a ‘homemade’ feel. The sun-filled conservatory with bright, mis-matching floor tiles covered in potted plants is reminiscent of my Grandpa’s potting shed, though probably a bit more elegant.

But the real reason behind The Pig’s popularity, is the food. Their 25 mile menu (the idea being that most of the produce comes from within a 25 mile radius) boasts lamb and pork from Romsey, fresh Lymington crab and tomatoes from the Isle of Wight. All the herbs and most of the veg come straight from the Kitchen Garden, hence one section of the menu being called ‘Mostly Picked This Morning’. Try the curried cauliflower and Brocks Eggs – you won’t be disappointed – and whatever you do, don’t leave The Pig without trying some pork, or at least some crackling and apple sauce! The ‘Tomahawk’ pork chop is so flavoursome and you can mop up the sauce with a chunk of warm bread and Garden Herb-Infused Oil.

The Pig manages to combine simple, natural ingredients with an elegant, quirky touch that leaves your tastebuds tingling for hours. If, like me, you dream of roasting parsnips and boiling beetroot fresh from your vegetable patch, head to The Pig for inspiration. And while you’re at it, grab an armchair in front of the fire, and order yourself some ‘Piggy Bits’ (how do you expect me to dream about my Kitchen Garden, when I haven’t even tried  the pea and ham hummus yet?!).

 

 

 

Outfit details:

ZARA checked dress – £29.99

ACCESSORIZE black wool beret – £12

PRIMARK black wooden heel boots – £20 (similar ones from Office if you click this link!) 

 

 

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Happy glamping in Dorset

As much as I loved Ibiza, Santorini and Rome, sometimes you just need to hold off from booking an expensive flight and explore places closer to home. I am the keenest instagrammer/blogger/twitterer you’ll ever meet, but occasionally I feel a desperate urge to put my phone down, grab a scruffy jumper and embark on a countryside adventure.

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