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Villa Honig - 7 dream hotels and how to get the best deals when bookingHolidays are my achilles heel. My friends and family roll their eyes when they hear that we are off on another one of our adventures, saying that we are in a constant state of either on holiday or planning one. The best way to be in my mind!

Getting away from daily life is great for so many reasons – it reminds us to slow down, to savour the day and turn off. We learn so much from being out of our familiar zone, seeing how other people live, what other countries are like, and what we are like ourselves whilst there. It allows us to reflect on our own circumstances. It widens our horizons, educates us and refreshes us all at once. And without fail, no matter how good the trip, returning home is the best.

However, in my mind there is no reason why all of the above can’t be achieved whilst staying in delicious surroundings! And a girl can dream right? So with that in mind, I’m sharing the hotels that are on my dream wish list…. keep scrolling to read my tips on how you can get the best deals to make that dream in to reality.


7 dream hotels that are on my wish list


1Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, New York

1Hotel Brooklyn Bridge - 7 dream hotels and how to get the best deals when booking

When we visited New York earlier this year we stayed at the gorgeous 1Hotel Central Park (read more about that here) and fell in love with its cosy industrial style and mass of greenery. Our super friendly and helpful concierge told us about the just opened sister hotel across the bridge and we promised to head over and take a look. Alas, we didn’t get a chance but I know enough to say that my next trip to NYC will involve a stay at this hotel. With views of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the bridge FROM YOUR BED….a rooftop pool and hammocks, this place is interior-lovers heaven and the place to stay!

Belmond Caruso Ravello, Italy

Belmond Caruso - 7 dream hotels and how to get the best deals when booking

It is the setting of this hotel that makes it so spectacular. Perched on the top of the dramatic Amalfi coast, the little town of Ravello is an otherworldly place. We stumbled across this hotel whilst exploring and stopped for cake and coffee – cue day dreams of staying here and floating on that pool for days!

Villa Honig, Switzerland

Villa Honig - 7 dream hotels and how to get the best deals when booking

I stumbled across this hotel thanks to Pinterest and it is the mountain location that caught my eye. Situated high above Lake Lucerne, the clouds are below you and the terrace and pool have views to die for. This looks like one of the most relaxing places on earth.

Giraffe Manor, Kenya

Giraffe Manor - 7 dream hotels and how to get the best deals when booking

Want to feed a giraffe through a window at breakfast. I do! I really, really do! So many things about this hotel have captured my imagination, from the colonial interiors, the safari lodge and family run ethos … but it is without a doubt the giraffes that are the main pull.

Lime Wood, New Forest

Lime Wood - 7 dream hotels and how to get the best deals when bookingI’ve wanted to stay at Limewood for years. It is the big sister of The Pig hotels and friends who have stayed have raved about it. As they say, it is laid-back luxury at its best…and they have a cookery school which means I am sold!

Soho House Barcelona

Soho House - 7 dream hotels and how to get the best deals when booking

Ever since stumbling across Soho House’s Chicago offering (read about that here), I have been a little obsessed with this hotel group. The Barcelona house has only recently opened and with a rooftop pool and a cocktail cart that comes to your room every evening to make you a little tipple, I can’t imagine a better way to explore one of my favourite cities.

La Mamounia, Marrakech

La Mamounia - 7 dream hotels and how to get the best deals when booking

Self described as a palace-hotel, just looking at the pictures tells you why. Moroccan tiles, pillared halls, a ice cream parlour in the grounds – it sounds like the perfect antidote after a long day in the bustling Medina.


My tips on how to get the best deals


Stay mid week

Often times hotels have a much reduced rate during the week than they do on the weekend so if you can be flexible about when you are visiting, you can get around 1/3 off the price.

Consider how long you can stay 

Depending on the hotel the length of time you stay can have an impact on the cost. Some hotels have a reduced rate if you are staying over two nights long, it also gives you bargaining power for a better room. However, if you simply can’t afford a full trips worth stay at your dream hotel, consider breaking your trip up across two places. Perhaps you can stay in your dream hotel for one or two nights and the move to a more affordable Air BNB for the rest of the trip. We did this when staying in Santorini and it made the trip feel longer than a week.

Be flexible on timings

If you have your heart set on visiting a specific hotel but can be flexible at the time of year then spend a bit of time testing how the timings affect the cost. We have found January to be an amazing time to travel and get good deals – it is a time when most people are hibernating after the busy festive season and hotels are crying out for some business! Plus, I can’t tell you how nice a trip in January is to give you something to look forward to and lift your spirits.

Compare the deals on different booking sites

When we are looking at booking somewhere to stay, our first port of call is of course Booking.com. We also check Mr & Mrs Smith and other booking websites. Whilst the prices may not always vary, what you will find is the different sites might offer different incentives. For example for our honeymoon we stayed at the breath-taking Monstera Santa Rosa (read al about that here) and booked through Mr & Mrs Smith. They offered a voucher for the spa – which we knew we wanted to use – and a bottle of wine so we saved about £100 in total on things we would have bought anyway.

Always check the hotel’s own website

Whilst the above sometimes works out best, don’t forget to check out the hotel’s own website. They probably won’t be cheaper per se than the booking sites (I think they are bound to sell at the same price) but you may find incentives or deals – such as three nights for the price of two, a better room or breakfast thrown in.

Let them know it is for a special occasion

Are you celebrating? Call and let them know! Good hotels tend to love making a fuss of their guests and if they know it is a birthday/anniversary/honeymoon etc they will tend to do something to mark it. Be it chocolates and a card on arrival, an upgraded room or a free cocktail at the bar.

Book separately or in a package

It is best to explore both options as sometimes one can be better value than the other.


Do you have any hotels on your wish list?
What are your tips to get the best deals?


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10 of the best online home interior shops - House CuriousHappy Sunday lovelies! I hope your weekend has gone well so far and you have a good day ahead planned.

I am afraid I don’t have a career profile for you today as planned (although if that’s what you’re after, did you read Sarah from Floribunda Rose’s and Jennie from Lois Avery’s?), but don’t worry, I have some lovely interiors goodness for you instead. Namely, my 10 favourite online interior shops.

I buy almost all of my interiors stuff online now, preferring to spend my time at home on the sofa with my laptop and a glass of wine in hand rather than trawling through the crowds paying a fortune for parking.

If you are the same and are looking for some new places to spend your hard earned cash, you’ve come to the right blog post!


My 10 favourite online home interior shops


Swoon Editions

I came across Swoon Editions reasonably recently have already ordered two pieces of furniture…and believe me, I could have bought more! Swoon source direct from the makers and sell only a limited number of each item. They have unusual pieces that will make your home stand out, and at good prices.

My current favourites are of course the two pieces I have ordered: This gorgeous brass shelving unit and this industrial chest of drawers. I also have my eye on this amazing cabinet… I just need to work out where to put it!

10 of the best online home interior shops - Swoon Editions

House Curious

Living Etc alerted me to House Curious; the amazing home of Sommer and her family, workshop space, shoot location and base of interior and lifestyle store. I was instantly smitten especially as Sommer uses her own home to beautifully display the carefully curated selection of furniture, accessories, art and more that she sells.

I have already ordered these lovely brass pendant lights, this seriously helpful diary and have a long list of other items I would like to buy but I am trying to restrain myself somewhat. I don’t think I will be able to resist these marble side tables for long though, and if budget was no option I would definitely be getting this statement peacock chair.

(Main image is from House Curious)

Amara

Amara is the perfect place to head to if you want some luxury home style. They have 300 of the world’s most luxurious home fashion brands available on their site and are well ahead of the curve when it comes to trends. In fact, they are so on point they host the UK’s most hotly anticipated interior blogger awards. 

I have a few of their indoor plant pots winging their way to me to me to house my growing collection of house plants, including a few of these Hay versatile pots. On my wish list is this cool pendant light, the whole Kate Spade desk accessory range and this amazing table lamp.

Cox and Cox

Cox and Cox is one of my most visited online stores for home accessories and whenever I am looking for something in particular I normally head straight here.

I have this gorgeous brass cutlery set, these brilliant faux peonies (you can see more of those in my dressing table tour blog post) and these concrete planters.

On my wish list now? This string of lights for the garden and these gorgeous linen bed sheets.

10 of the best online home interior shops - Cox and Cox

Graham and Green

I love Graham and Green’s beautiful stylising and quirky home interior accessories and items. I have recently bought this industrial hook rack for my porch renovation (read more about that here).

If I was forced in to saying what I would like now 😉 it would have to be this gold and marble bar cart and this amazing Moroccan inspired rug.

The White Company

I couldn’t write a post about my favourite online home interior shops without including The White Company. This shop barely needs introducing but in case it is new to you (where have you been), as does as it says on the tin and sells beautiful products mainly in white, with a pop of grey thrown in.

If I write all the things I have bought, this would become an essay so to keep it brief my most recent items are this large round mirror (which you can see in my kitchen tour), these gorgeous stone planters and I have to mention the hydro cotton towels which we were bought as a wedding gift and I love so, so much!

10 of the best online home interior shops - The White Company

Cult Furniture

Cult Furniture is brilliant for affordable modern furniture. Our lovely industrial bar stools came from here and they have a great range of iconic inspired pieces. I am loving this simple glass pendant light and these funky geometric side tables.

West Elm

I have recently become obsessed with this shop! It is an American brand that has opened up in London and luckily they sell online too for us peeps that live outside the big smoke.

I recently bought two light fittings, and sorry to say I cheated and picked them up on my recent trip to New York (read about that here) as they sadly don’t stock all their products in the UK. But never fear, there is plenty to get your mouth watering this side of the pond. My next buys are going to be these bedside tables, this side table, and I may have already bought this planter.

10 of the best online home interior shops - West Elm

sofa.com

No online home interior shops list would be complete without Sofa.com I know many people would be afraid to buy a sofa without having seen it first but sofa.com do such a good job of providing you with all the information you need online that you don’t have to be. We have the Oscar chesterfield in Prussian blue velvet and love, love, love it. It is so comfy, really well made and looks incredible.

Made.com 

Another one (possibly the first in fact) to go straight to the makers and cut out the middlemen of high street stores and expensive designers. Made.com do have a showroom but everything is beautifully presented on their website.

We have this shelving unit as our bar ‘cart’ which is predominantly gin! So much in fact we could probably open our own bar! However, it is this pink velvet sofa of dreams that has really caught my attention, and talking of pink velvet seats I wouldn’t say no to this beauty if it came knocking at my door!

Made.com


What do you think of my favourite online home interior shops?
Are any of these new to you?

Do you have any online interior shops to share with me?


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5 ways to get the Californian Cool interiors look in your own home

Have I got a treat for you in store for you today! I  am so excited to be sharing this post with you as it is my first ever blog takeover and I am delighted to introduce Victoria from the very gorgeous interior and lifestyle blog Apartment Number 4. Vic has got the most gorgeous interior style and a brilliant knack of finding amazing home buys that are affordable and stylish. Today she is sharing her brilliant tips on how to get the laid-back Cali vibe in your very own home, right here on The Green Eyed Girl. 

So without further ado, I shall pass you over to Vic. I do hope you enjoy!


Happy Sunday lovelies, and welcome to my first guest post on The Green Eyed Girl. A meeting of minds and general love for interiors brought Claire and I together online and we thought it would be a great way to share our tips and tricks by blog swapping for the day.

So, a quick introduction – my name’s Victoria and I basically live and breathe interiors. If I’m not blogging about home décor, I’m searching for interior bargains and styling my apartment over and over again. The whole ethos behind my blog, Apartment Number 4 is that having a stylish home doesn’t have to cost the world – there are so many ways you can create a Pinterest-worthy home on a budget.

With that said, today I’m sharing some ideas of how to replicate a popular Pinterest trend in your own home – the Californian bungalow. If you’re a fan of interior stylist Emily Henderson, you’ll know exactly the sort of vibe I mean. So here are my five tips on creating a similar look within your own home, even if you’re a million miles from the sunny climates of Cali.


5 ways achieve that laid-back Californian vibe at home


5 ways to get the Californian Cool interiors look in your own home

Neutral walls

Keep walls light and fresh to create the perfect backdrop to statement pieces of furniture, prints on textiles and colourful artwork. This doesn’t necessarily mean white walls throughout, but perhaps consider a blush pink, mint green or the lightest of greys. Whatever hue you choose, keep it on the warm side as you’re trying to steer away from that modern clinical feel.

5 ways to get the Californian Cool interiors look in your own home

Mid-century inspired furniture

The trend for mid-century furniture on Pinterest has absolutely sky rocketed in the last year or so and it doesn’t look set to die down any time soon. Which is great if you’re looking to add a little retro flair to your home, as the high street and more affordable stores create replica pieces with a more affordable price tag. The key to creating a Californian vibe within your home is to not be too matchy-matchy. Yes, of course, create symmetry within a room – there’s nothing more stylish than two matching chairs within a room against a statement sofa – but look for pieces which have personality behind them, remembering to keep a similar wooden theme running throughout the room.

5 ways to get the Californian Cool interiors look in your own home

Natural textures

When you look inside a Californian bungalow you’ll be able to spot a plethora of natural textures, from untreated wood to rattan furniture and plant life. It’s about bringing in the sunny outdoors that Cali is famous for and integrating it effortlessly into your own home. I love the addition of cacti around the room in woven baskets, with rattan seats and wicker lampshades.

Californian cool interiors

Prints and patterns

With a neutral background as mentioned earlier, it’s easy to add pops of colour and interest with the use of cushions, throws and rugs. Tribal prints, Persian rugs and Moroccan patterns can all work amazingly well in this style of interior. You can also layer rugs throughout the room, which works well if you live in an open place space and need to define each area for living, dining, working etc.

5 ways to get the Californian Cool interiors look in your own home

Decorative accessories

From woven wall hangings to vintage maps and accessories picked up vintage fairs or flea markets, decorative additions really do tie the room together. Pieces that you’ve discovered while on your travels work well within this scheme, as do eclectic finds that you wouldn’t necessarily find in your every day trip to Ikea. Create vignettes around the room, remembering the rule of three, add pops of colour with fresh flowers and make sure your personality shines through to create a warm welcoming part of your home.

If you enjoyed this post then make sure you check out my blog for weekly does of interior inspiration, and don’t forget to sign up to my free monthly magazine, 4, which will help you create a beautiful home on a budget. Plus, everything single thing featured is completely shoppable and with issue 02 landing on Thursday be sure to check your inboxes this week.

Images courtesy of Styled by Emily Henderson.


It’s Claire here again.

So what do you think? Pretty gorgeous! Are you inspired by the Cali look? If so I have found loads of gorgeous Cali-inspired items that can help bring the Cali look to your own home. Just scroll to the right to browse.

And if you’d like to read the post I have written for Apartment Number 4, my 3 essential interior styling tips,  head over there now.


Shop the laid-back cali look


 

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It is only in the last six months or so that I have actively started listing to podcasts. I had been hearing more and more about them but hadn’t gone as far as seeking out the little purple icon on my iPhone to see what they would mean for me. However, as soon as I did I became hooked!

They are great for commutes – be it in the car or on train, tube, bus or plane or even if you are walking. You can immerse yourself in a drama, learn something new or just feel like you have friends right there with you on your journey.

Day to day, I don’t get that much time to listen as I only spend about 30 minutes in the car on my commute (there and back – I am SO lucky) so I don’t get to hear every episode of the podcasts I like but get me on a long journey and the marathon begins!

Here are some of the best podcasts I am listening to:


For career inspiration and advice


She means business

I listen to this podcast most frequently as it always fires me up to think I can achieve anything. Carrie Green is a successful entrepreneur who set up the Female Entrepreneur Association and wrote the book She Means Business. In the podcast episodes Carrie interviews other successful female online entrepreneurs – they talk about their journey and how they got to wear they are. It has opened my eyes to what is possible!

Soulful PR with Janet Murray

I used to follow Janet Murray when she wrote for the education press and I worked in a college…fast forward a few years I am back to being a fan but in an altogether different way. Having worked as a freelance writer for years, she really knows her stuff and she isn’t afraid to share it. Expect to learn bucket loads about PR, writing and marketing that is relatable for everyone from small businesses, personal brands and corporates.

Goal Digger

This was one of the first podcasts I subscribed too and if you follow Jenna on Instagram you can expect much of the same on her podcasts. She talks authentically and straightforwardly about creating a successful small business and leveraging social media.

IT girl radio

Jessica Nazarali is a business strategist and coach and she shares her journey, tips and lessons as well as interviews from other successful women entrepreneurs.

Hashtag Authentic

Sarah Tasker is a writer, photographer and creative who also happens to be an Instagram genius. She blogs at Me & Orla and in her podcast shares strategies and tips for being successful online, as well as interviews with other successful onliners. She is so relatable and up to date with what is going on especially on Instagram, it is definitely one to listen in to if you are interested in improving in that area.


Lifestyle


Let’s discuss

Monica Beatrice Welburn from The Elgin Avenue and Ella Gregory from Cocos Tea Party have joined forces to create the lovely Let’s Discuss podcast. Talking about subjects such as quarter life crisis to relationships it is quite honestly like having two friends in the car with me when I listen.

SheerLuxe

Find out about the latest trends in everything fashion, beauty, interiors and food and drink. The SheerLuxe team talk through the highlights of the week from their website and invite in guests to join them.

At Home with…

Newly launched and hosted by  bloggers and vloggers Lily Pebbles and Anna Gardener, this podcast takes you on an audio tour of beautiful homes. Did I need a way to integrate interiors in to my car journeys – HELL YEH!

Desert island discs

The one and only classic, this radio 4 feature turned podcast is such enjoyable, easy going listening I had to include it! Kirsty Young interviews notable guests about what music reflects stages within their lives and she always seems to extract little nuggets of info never heard before. And don’t tell me you can listen to it without picking your eight tracks…!


So what do you think? Do you listen to podcasts? Have you got any recommendations? I’d love to hear from you!


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New York travel guide - Manhattan skylineThis New York travel guide is perfect if you are a first-time visitor if you haven’t visited for many years! 

I first visited New York over ten years ago and loved it – I was wowed by the vastness of it all, and the feeling of opportunity. My husband had visited once fifteen years earlier and we both knew we wanted to visit together. Now returning after so long, it almost felt like we were first time visitors again. We knew we wanted to spend our time enjoying ourselves and soaking up the atmosphere, but there were a few touristy things that we both really wanted to do again – mostly that we hadn’t done the first time round, wanted to do again or that didn’t even exist on our first visits.


 New York travel guide


 New York travel guide


Where to stay


New York travel guide - 1Hotels Central Park

One of my favourite little luxuries in life is staying in good hotels. I just love nothing more than beautiful decor, to-die for bathrooms and a huge comfy bed. Our New York Hotel met and exceeded all my expectations.

1 Hotel Central Park is perfectly situated in mid town New York, a block from Central park and right next to a subway station. It was within walking distance to Times Square, the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Centre as well as being one avenue across from 5th avenue (and the infamous Tiffany’s).

The hotel was so beautifully done and in a very New York industrial style-they had used a lot of crittal, polished marble and rustic wood teamed with heaps of plants and greenery. I loved it! Our room had the most dreamy marble shower room and a perfect window seat for watching the busy streets below. It was the perfect spot to retreat to after a long day exploring and we often sat relaxing for half an hour with a drink in hand watching the world go by. 


What to do 


Walk the high line

New York travel guide - the High Line

New York travel guide - The High Line

We absolutely loved this. The high line was a freight railway line that was built above the city to move heavy goods from the docks into the city. After years of disuse it has been turned in to a park, complete with plants and trees and art installations. It is very cool and very New York. It starts in the meat packing district which is also a great area to explore.

Row a boat in Central Park

New York travel guide - Central Park

I am forever seeking a boat trip and managed two in this trip-one being a paddle about the lake in Central Park. It is surprisingly cheap and a lovely way to spend an hour. We combined this with a really good exploration around the park-it is so vast that at times it is hard to imagine you are in the centre of Manhattan!

Visit the 9/11 memorial

I was initially against going to the location of the World Trade Centres as I felt uneasy that it should become a tourist ‘attraction’ however after even a few hours of being in the city I began to understand just how much 9/11 had affected and shaped the city itself.  I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before as I think it reshaped the whole world, but for some reason I hadn’t considered the effect it would have on the very place it happened. The memorial is a very touching and sobering place which I appreciated visiting. It gave us a chance to stop and reflect during our trip, remember the people that lost their lives and their families that continue without their loved ones and feel gratitude for the lucky lives we are living. 

Head to the top of the Rock

New York travel guide - top of the Rock

On my last visit I went up the Empire State Building….however, going up to the top of the Rockerfeller definitely beats that! Not only do you get great views of the Empire State Building itself, but you get clear, unobstructed views of the whole island. Take yourself up as early as you can – we arrived at about 9.30am, only had to queue for about ten minutes and then had plenty of space to get pictures without too many people getting in the way of them.

Have a drink in Grand Central Station

This is such a cliché I know but it is such a gorgeous building. Sit at the Cipriani bar and order a drink and settle in for a bit of people watching! You can try and list all the films that have shot scenes right there in the concourse too.


Where to eat


We ate almost all our meals in the Nolita / Noho area of New York – we didn’t plant it, but pretty much every place we read about and wanted to try was situated there. I would really recommend exploring that area especially if you are hungry as we didn’t have one less than fabulous meal there.

Breakfast and brunch

The Butcher’s Daughter

New York travel guide - The Butcher's Daughter

An Instagram favourite, this little cafe serves up healthy vegan juices and breakfasts. I had the avo toast (naturally!) and Will went for the egg sandwich. Mine was delicious but I definitely had food envy as his was exceptional!

Bubby’s

This restaurant is right next to the start of the high line so we fuelled up before we went. It is a more traditional style American deli and serves up huge plates of delicious food. It has a great atmosphere and a real mix of people – we saw office workers debriefing after an early morning meeting, friends meeting for breakfast and tourists like ourselves.

I ordered the pancakes which were amazing and so massive I barely scratched the surface, and Will went for eggs benny. Again, he won on the ordering stakes as I have never tasted hollandaise sauce quite as good.

Jack’s Wife Frieda

New York travel guide - Jack's Wife Frieda

Another Instagram favourite – a small cafe with hip waiting staff and an ever hipper clientele. The food was good and decor nice but you could definitely tell that it had become social-popular and it was sad to see an equally lovely looking cafe next door sat empty when people queued for this one. 

Lunch

Tacombi

Got a fancy for a taco? Make your way to Tacombi – they have a number of locations across New York and it is so worth a visit. Order the  nachos and guacamole, fish tacos and spicy shrimp. Yum!

The Plaza Food Hall

The Plaza was just around the block from our hotel and the food hall is incredible. There are dozens of different food stalls serving everything you could dream up from Italian to sushi. It took us several laps to decide on what to eat. We opted for Luke’s Lobster lobster rolls and sides of clam chowder. SOOOO delicious. We followed it up with New York cheesecake and a coffee, naturally!

Chelsea Market

New York travel guide - Chelsea Market

Another amazing place full of different delicious options of where to eat. The market is right next to the High Line so another great food option of you visit that area. We didn’t eat as we had overstuffed ourselves at breakfast but if we were going to The Lobster Place had my eyes standing on stalks and my mouth watering. The sushi in particular looks excellent.

Dinner

Emporio

New York travel guide - Emporio

We ate here on our first evening and despite being a little wide-eyed with lack of sleep we had a lovely evening. We loved the buzzy vibe in this restaurant and the delicious seasonal food. We opted for fresh gazpacho and fish after our long flight but if I went back I wouldn’t hesitate to order a pizza, which looks amazing.

Il Buco

I have never been so wowed in a restaurant as I was here. The ambiance is like nothing else…when we arrived we were lead through the dimly lit, bustling restaurant that was and full of amazing smells and laughing people, to a steep wooden staircase lined with wine bottles that led to the basement. At first I was disappointed to leave upstairs, but not when I saw our destination: a wine cellar lit with candles and only a handful of tables. The service was excellent and the food exceptional – the waiter recommended something off the menu for me – a simple dish of spaghetti with black pepper and parmesan and it was one of the best meals I have eaten in my life. Please, please visit this restaurant if you go to New York.

Gato

New York travel guide - Gato

We spotted this very trendy restaurant whilst walking to Il Buco and booked for the next night. We weren’t disappointed. The service was excellent, ambience lively and the food delicious. I loved the choice on the menu with interesting flavours and ingredients. Another must visit.


 There were many things that were recommended to us that we didn’t get the chance to do  and so have sadly not made it in to this New York travel guide including:

  • Eat at Beauty and Essex
  • Visit Smorgasburg Flea Market on a Saturday morning
  • Drinks at the Rose Bar in Gramercy Park Hotel
  • Visit any museums (bad tourists!)

Do you have a trip to NYC planned or do you have any tips or recommendations to add to my New York travel guide?


 Thinking of visiting another US City? I highly recommend Chicago. See my previous posts Arriving in Chicago, A Night out in Chicago and Exploring the Windy City.

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Lois Avery career interview

I am so excited to share this interview with you today. I found Jennie whilst down an Instagram rabbit hole and instantly fell in love with her whimsical Italian pictures. But what I didn’t know was that she was in the process of launching the most dreamy business – combining her love of Italy and cashmere into a very beautiful product. In the past twelve months or so I have loved following her journey and seeing her business flourish.

I had the pleasure of being able to meet Jennie in person and hear her business story at Big Small Business. She has made it look very easy, although it is clear how much thought, hard work and attention has gone in to every detail of Lois Avery. Read on to find out more –  I think you are going to love both Jennie and her business.

*Title picture: Carla Coulson


Career profile with Jennie from Lois Avery


Lois Avery career interview Image: Carla Coulson

Tell us about Lois Avery?

Lois Avery is a brand of dreamy Italian cashmere shawls. The entire collection is made in Italy from some of the finest cashmere in the world. Our cashmere is a beautiful and simple product that elevates travelling we do every day to work, school, or the coffee shop and the travelling we do to more exotic far flung destinations – it’s the ultimate luxury comfort blanket.

The name is a combination of my Grandmother’s and my daughter’s names, and I just love the sound of it. My Grandmother was Margaret Lois and my daughter’s middle name is Avery.

Where did the idea come from?

The idea comes from many, many, years of dreaming of a happier career. I’d always loved travel, particularly Italy, but with three young children a career in travel was never going to work. My other great love has always been fashion, and connecting with kind and intelligent women in fashion was eye opening. I hadn’t realised how these two loves were entwined until I reviewed some old photo albums and realised that every holiday I’ve been on has been characterised by a signature scarf! Over time these ideas came together as Lois Avery.

Lois Avery career interview cashmereImage: Carla Coulson

What were you doing before hand?

In my old life, I was a construction and engineering lawyer working in the City of London.

What made you want to take a career change/ set up your own business?

I was never happy working as a lawyer. It was something that I fell into because I couldn’t think of a better alternative … until that is the idea of Lois Avery crystallised.

I was inspired by brave and bold women that I know setting up their own businesses. To see Laura Turner set up the beautiful boutique Hero, in Stockbridge and Maleeka Robb and her business partners set up the spectacular hair salon, Four, in Mayfair gave me real impetus.

The way in which they executed their business dreams inspired me – every detail was true to their values. I finally thought “I can do this”!

Career interview Lois AveryImage: Marlene Lee

How did you take the plunge?

The idea of Lois Avery in its current form came to me in October 2015. I gave myself one year to launch, and I set about learning as much as I could in that time, including attending courses at The London College of Fashion and reading lots of books.

Were your family and friends on board? If not, how did you bring them round?

I am very fortunate to have a tremendously supportive husband and family who often have more faith in me than I have in myself. When I announced my career change, there was not one person who wasn’t on board with the idea. I kept waiting for someone to warn me against leaving my “sensible” job, but instead they all said “It’s about time!”

Lois Avery career interview ItalyImage: Marlene Lee

What has been the greatest challenge so far?

There are a lot of challenges! Juggling my working life and my family life remains a challenge. It’s wonderful to be able to work flexibly, and take my children to school, but the price of flexibility can be that you are always working, whether that be evenings or weekends.

Learning about the workings of textile production has been a huge learning curve. I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning, because I had no knowledge of the industry. One of my biggest mistakes was not appreciating that 25 metres of cashmere was actually 50 units. So when I received the invoice it was double what I had budgeted for – I have not made that mistake again! But I think that mistakes are part of the process, and that’s how you learn.

And the greatest success?

The volume of positive customer feedback has been amazing. The wonderful thing about being a small brand is that people really connect with you. I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have taken the time to send beautiful emails telling me how much they love their cashmere, or how well received their gift of our cashmere was.

Lois Avery cashmere shawlImage: Yeshen Venema

What’s a normal day for you?

I’m not sure that there is such a thing as a normal day in the world of Lois Avery, well not recently anyway. In the last six weeks I’ve been to Italy twice, hosted a press dinner, launched our new Spring colours, refreshed the website, spoken at my first conference (Big Small Business), and held our first stand alone Pop Up!

What is clear is that my working day is so different from that of my corporate life– as a start up I have to wear a lot of different hats! The Finance Director, Chief Stylist, Marketing Director and Creative Director are all me. Dealing with orders is key of course, but there is lots more to be done. One day I might be in a studio in North London styling a product shoot for our cashmere shawls and the next meeting with suppliers in their mills in Italy to discuss developing new products.

On a personal level I get to take my children to school most days and pick them up, and that is a huge bonus of this new life.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I’m a people person so connecting with others is such a wonderful thing. I love people contacting me to tell me how much they love their cashmere, to seek general fashion advice, ask which shawl to buy (I’ve discussed hair colour in depth over email), or where they should go on holiday in Italy. I love all of these questions, and it’s such a privilege that people value my opinion.

Lois Avery cashmereImage: Marlene Lee

Do you have any future plans for Lois Avery?

I think that strategic wholesaling is key to our future and visibility, so right now it’s all about wholesaling for AW17.

Do you have any tips for my readers who are thinking of setting up their own business?

Start building your community as this will form the basis of any viable business. It’s so easy to connect with people through social media these days. It’s never too early to start building relationships with potential customers, mentors, and peers.

Jennie Hogg Lois AveryImage: Carla Coulson


AND JUST FOR FUN


What are your favourite flowers? Roses. A dusty pink rose melts my heart every time and reminds me of my wedding bouquet.

Favourite thing to do on a Sunday?  Tea in bed with my husband. I bought my first teapot around a year ago and I swear that it has changed our lives! We take it in turns to make tea and our three children usually join us. It’s bliss!

Favourite travel destination? Italy obviously! But where? I change my mind on this most days because there are so many special spots to choose from, but if you pressed me, I would say somewhere with cliffs and water. I have very happy memories of Ponza, Stromboli, and Tropea.

Favourite way to relax?  I am a fan of the long alfresco lunch. Great food, wine, and company is definitely my favourite way to relax.

Favourite blog or Instagram account?  There are so many! I’m always looking for Italian daydreams, so right now I love the Instagram accounts of @italyonmymind and @masseriamoroseta for food and travel inspiration. My all time favourite account is probably @lucylaucht – I love Lucy’s style and her dreamy travel photography.

Which is your favourite Lois Avery item?  This is like being asked to choose between my children! I think that the Pleat in Noir is the most elegant, the Classic in Slate the most useful, and I am wearing the Italian Days in Prosecco to a very special birthday lunch in Sicily next month.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?  My Dad gave me the one piece of advice that has really resonated with me many years ago when discussing his own principles he said “Don’t be greedy”. It’s simple but applies to most

Lois Avery Italian cashmereImage: Marlene Lee


Are you as hooked as I am now? Have a look at Jennie’s beautiful cashmere shawls and newly relaunched website here. They make the most delightful gift to others or yourself!

You can also keep up with her on Instagram @loisavery, and I encourage you to do so as her images are dreamy!

Or follow Lois Avery on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Thank you to Jennie, Marlene Lee, Carla Coulson and Yeshen Venema for the beautiful photography.


Inspired much?


Let me know what you think in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts!
Have you thought about setting up your own business?
Feel inspired to reinvigorate your career?

I know you all love reading about these inspirational women so I am going to be bringing you a career profile on the first weekend of every month. I already have some brilliant ones lined up and I can’t wait to share them. Stay tuned for next month.


And finally, If you don’t want to miss a post, you can now sign up to my newsletter (using the sign up form on the right hand column) and get the latest post direct to your inbox.

And as an extra  thank you, I have created an exclusive guide for my subscribers: 8 interior stylist tricks you can use in your own home. 

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Porch inspirationImage: Pinterest

Until recently, I hadn’t really given our porch much consideration until one day I realised that it is the first impression people get of our home…and just now that is certainly not a positive impression!

Porches can be really beautiful spaces that welcome people in to your house, but so often become a bit of a dumping ground for unwanted post, muddy shoes and creepy crawlies.

We believe our porch was added to our Edwardian home sometime in the 50s or 60s. It is functional, helps keep the cold out and it is brilliant for receiving packages … but it is not pretty. It has no period features bar a red quarry tiled floor and leaves me feeling a bit forlorn when I enter my home.

So, we are taking action!

We have commissioned a joiner to create a beautiful new porch which has a little more detail to it and is more in keeping with our Edwardian home, and we are giving the interior of the porch a make over too.

Currently, the bare brick is painted white so we will plaster and repaint in bright white. I am really in to contrast and monochrome interiors at the moment so we’ll be repainting the front door in Railings and adding some gorgeous brass hardware. We’ll add a decorative skirting board, so we may even paint that in Railings too.

To create a really beautiful statement we have picked some gorgeous patterned floor tiles (you may have seen my round up of the best patterned floor tiles here) and replace the current, horrible flush light fitting with a simple pendant.

We need some storage to hide away the ever-growing pile of shoes that are taking over the hallway and I love the idea of using a chest of drawers that shoes can be tucked in to out of sight. A little bit of (probably faux) greenery to make it homely and ta-da! A stylish, welcoming space that I won’t want to drag my guests through quickly!

Here is my porch inspiration board:

Porch inspiration

 

For more porch inspiration, visit my Pinterest board here.

 


Shop my porch inspiration board


Patterned floor tiles from Fired Earth

Pendant light from Cox and Cox 

Star doormat from Amara Living

Paint colour in Railings from Farrow and Ball which will be the main front door colour

Doorknob in brass as well as other door furniture from Willow and Stone

Industrial style drawers to store shoes in from Swoon Editions

Faux eucalyptus hanging plant from Wayfair

Industrial style luggage rack from Graham and Green


What do you think? Do you have a porch and what do you use it for?

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Simple stylish outfitWhen I was looking for something to wear to a day time event recently, I knew I wanted something that was easy and yet still looked like I’d made an effort.

Which got me to thinking, what makes up a simple stylish outfit? I realised for me, there are four key elements to dressing in a way which will ensure you look pulled together in a natural, stylish way.

Simple stylish outfit


My four essentials for a simple stylish outfit


Elevated every day essentials

We all need a good selection of essentials in our wardrobe, but an elevated essential will make a simple outfit stand out and create an understated stylish look.

Think embellished t-shirts, embroidered shirts and denim, leather trousers and knitwear with a bit of detail. These items will be able to be worn for so many occasions from relaxed weekend looks to party wear when worn with different elements.

When I saw this embellished tshirt in Topshop, I knew I had to have it as it is so versatile. Teamed with jeans and a blazer it creates a smart casual look, but I can’t wait to wear it with a skirt and heels for a night out. This cactus embellished chambray shirt from Hero is case in point as is this gorgeous colour block cashmere jumper.

Simple stylish outfit

Quality handbags and purses

They say that accessories finish an outfit and I couldn’t agree more especially when it comes to handbags and purses. I prefer a structured handbag as I think the slouchy ones can look a bit worn, and I tend to go for classic items in a good leather rather than buying cheaper, more fashion-led pieces.

Simple stylish outfit

When Radley got in touch with me and asked if I would like one of their new season purses I couldn’t say ‘yes please’ quick enough – my existing purse’s zip had just broken and I kept spilling coins all over the place. Not to mention Radley’s new sleek, contemporary look which perfectly accompanies a simple stylish outfit. I love a large purse to keep my thousand loyalty cards (tell me I am not alone here – where do they all come from?!) and also love doubling a large purse up as a clutch when all that I need is some money, my phone and a lipstick! The Cheyne Walk (now in the sale) is right up my street with gold detailing and a fun lining.

Simple stylish outfit

A smart blazer

Doesn’t everything look smarter with a blazer? Jeans and a t-shirt suddenly looks pulled together and not just pulled on, and they look great over dresses.

J.Crew have a gorgeous selection of blazers; my favourites are this Chambray frilled one, this classic navy blazer and this fun gingham one.

Simple stylish outfit

Versatile footwear

Shoes that can take you from the office to the weekend are winners. I love these Topshop sling backs as they look great for work teamed with black pencil trousers and a crisp white shirt but as equally as great with jeans and a t-shirt.

I also have my eye on these tie-up ballerinas from Zara and these espadrilles which I think could work in both a smart and a casual outfit.

For a little bit more of a splurge, I would love these nude flats which would pretty much go with anything.

Simple stylish outfit

What you’r take on simple, stylish dressing?

Do you have different essentials to achieve the holy grail of style?

 


This post was created in collaboration with Radley.  
Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.


 

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11 life rules I learned from Kristina Karlsson, founder of kikki.KI had the good fortune to hear Kristina Karlson, the founder of global stationery brand kikki.K, speak at the brilliant Big Small Business conference last week. The day was full of incredibly talented and successful people who offered so much wisdom and inspiration.

Kristina was a particular highlight, and she talked us through her story sharing the lessons she has learnt along the way and the life rules she tries to follow as a result.

Kikki.K was born after Kristina was trying to find her perfect career. After making a list of what her ideal career path might look like, she embarked on setting up her home office.  However, she quickly realised she couldn’t get the stylish stationery products she wanted and so kikki.K was born. Her stylish stationery products marry Kristina’s love of Swedish design with helping others fulfil their goals.

She is an incredibly humble and inspiring woman who has a clear vision for her life and business.

11 life rules I learned from Kristina Karlsson, founder of kikki.K


11 life rules Kristina lives by


During her story, she weaved in the 11 life rules she said she tries to live by each and every day, which are just as useful in general life as well as business.

  1. Love what you do – you only get one life, make the most of it.
  2. Set goals – and break these down in to small achievable steps. Each year Kristina sets herself three big goals, and breaks them down into bite-size steps in which to achieve them.
  3. Never say no and don’t take no for an answer –  seize opportunities that come your way and if you want something, make it happen.
  4. Never stop learning – you are never too good or too successful. Everyone can improve.
  5. Work hard, but work smart – don’t focus on to many things. Pick what you need to do to reach your goal and focus on that. Kristina sets aside 1-2 hours of every day to work on her top three goals for the year so she is always working towards them.
  6. Get up early – Kristina wakes at 5am every morning to meditate, journal and exercise and this sets her up for the day ahead.
  7. Surround yourself with great people – don’t spend time with the people who drain your energy or provide a negative influence. Get a mentor; someone who you look up to, who you can bounce ideas off and who can support you in your goals.
  8. Be grateful – regardless of how challenging some days or periods of time are, there is always something to be grateful for.
  9. Be healthy – treat your body like your best friend. Health is important; if you don’t have your health, you don’t have a lot.
  10. Take notes – you won’t remember everything  in life so take notes, look back at them and take action.
  11. Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously!

11 life rules I learned from Kristina Karlsson, founder of kikki.K


These life rules are so simple, but I find it very helpful to have them written down and to go through them a bit like a tick list, asking myself:

What am I doing?

What am I not doing?

What do I think I do, but actually in real life don’t do?

Which of these is most important to me to consciously work on?

And which of these would have the greatest impact if I did work on them?

11 life rules I learned from Kristina Karlsson, founder of kikki.K

For me, I think I am good at ensuring I love what I do. After realising life is too short and making a leap of faith which turned out to be the best thing I have done; I now know to trust my gut and follow my dreams. You can read about that chapter of my life in my post about knowing when it is time to make a career change.

I think I am also pretty good and not taking no for an answer, being grateful and having fun.

I am already working on improving my health with a new gym regime that I am actually sticking to (hello second month), and I am currently making a conscious effort to learn more (hence my attendance at Big Small Business).

So, that leaves what I do want to focus on:

Set goals – I think about the goals I want to achieve each year, but I don’t actually write them down, let alone work out the steps I need to do to reach them. They just seem like these big, dream-like ideas that would be good if they happened. Sometimes they do happen, but this might be by more good chance rather than planning and effort.

Work hard but work smart – I am definitely afraid of a little (or a lot) of hard work, but I know I can definitely work smarter. Having goals will help that, as will my tips to be more productive which I shared last week.

Get up early – I am in no way shape or form a morning person and despite people telling me that as I get older I will wake up earlier it doesn’t seem to be coming true for me. I am a notorious repeat snoozer and it makes me so frustrated with myself how much time I waste in doing so. But when I do get up earlier than I need to I feel so great and manage to get things done I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise which puts me in such good stead for the day.

11 life rules I learned from Kristina Karlsson, founder of kikki.K


What do you think?


Do you think these are good life rules to live by? I’d love to know if you have any others, or which ones of Kristina’s you are rocking and which ones you need to focus more on. Leave me a comment below.


Habits notebook from kikki.K

I also love this notebook and this one both of which would help working towards these life rules.

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Three easy ways to boost productivityI know from my own experience, speaking to friends and family and connecting with people online that we all feel a little overwhelmed every now and again by how much we have to do and achieve each day.

From keeping our homes in order, looking after children, progressing our careers, working on a side hustle, keeping fit and healthy as well as maintaining meaningful relationships with the people we love – there is just so much on our to-do lists.

Managing this never ending list can be scary at times and leave us feeling like we are never on top of it.

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling really frustrated that I wasn’t getting enough done and whilst I was ‘busy’ all day long I felt like I wasn’t even scratching the surface.

I knew I couldn’t fit more hours in to the day without seriously compromising sleep, so I decided to try a few little tweaks here and there to boost my productivity and to help me realise how much I had actually achieved. I have still got some ways to go as I am easily distracted and a can be a pretty good procrastinator but these small changes helped me feel like I was getting things done.

Three easy ways to boost productivity


My three really simple ways to boost your productivity and help you feel like you are on top of your to-do list


1. The top three

I am definitely a list writer especially in my professional life and at the end of every day I write out a list of all the things I need to do the next day. However sometimes this list can be as long as my arm (and I have unusually long arms) and it can feel more overwhelming than helpful.  To ease this, I still write out the list but I highlight the top three things that I really must get done that next day. Then, as soon as I am at my desk that morning, it is those three things that I start on. If I get them all finished then great, I can move on to the other things on the list.

Anything that is on my list that hasn’t been achieved by the end of the day, is rolled on to the list for the next day, re-prioritised and the top three highlighted again, and so on.

It means that hopefully at some point during the day I have achieved the three most important things that I needed to, and I can feel satisfied with myself.

Of course it doesn’t always work this way. Sometimes something comes in that throws your top three right down to the bottom and that’s OK. I just write out a fresh list the next day and start again.

Three easy ways to boost productivity

2. Eat the frog

This one is linked to the above and the term ‘Eat the frog’ was introduced to me by a colleague a couple of years ago (Hi Alison if you’re reading!). For some reason, it has stuck with me and I smile whenever I think of it. Basically, what it means is you get the task you want to do the least out of the way first. You know, that task that’s a bit boring, tricky or uncomfortable that keeps being re-added to the bottom of your list. Well imagine if by 11am you were dusting off your hands and it was done? You’d feel great. You’d feel like you’d achieved something and then you could get your head down to work on the things that you enjoy more, probably getting more of that done in the process.

Your frog could be getting through your backlog of emails, doing your hand-washing or making a sales call – it doesn’t matter. Get it done early and you will feel like you are getting on top of it!

Three easy ways to boost productivity

3. Hide your phone

This one probably has had the greatest impact on me, and it is so simple. I am constantly distracted by my phone. I find myself reaching for it way too often; be it for a text message, a Whatsapp conversation, to check Instagram, to check emails, etc etc whatever. I’ll do it to fill a natural pause in my workflow but as we all know that a moments glance at a smartphone nearly always turns in to something more. An interesting newsletter, an Instagram rabbit hole, an email to respond to – none of it tends to be urgent but it is normally a pleasant distraction from the task at hand. To combat this I have started locking my phone away where I can’t get to it so easily.

When I’m at work I leave it in my car during the day, and just have a little look at it at lunchtime and lock it away again until the end of the day. My family have my work number in case of emergencies, and everything else can wait.

I can tell you this; it feels SO good! My work gets my full attention, and when I do look at my phone there is more waiting for me there, not just ten minutes of new Instagrams!

Three easy ways to boost productivity

So there you have it. Three really simple things to boost your productivity and help you feel like you are on top of your to-do list.

I know there are loads more ways to boost productivity, but the top two are my go-to’s and the last one is my new found friend.


What are your most successful ways of boosting your productivity and feeling like you are on top of it? Let me know in the comments below.


 

Daily List notebook | Aesop hand cream | #GirlBoss book | Marble laptop cover |
In the Company of Women

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