Saturday 29 November 2014

Event: Aloft Hotel Liverpool Launch Party.

If there's one thing that I miss from my teenage days, it's going to concerts. Before I gained adult responsibilities, most of the money that I had was spent on trips to Manchester to see my favourite bands and artists perform. These days, I am lucky if I am able to enjoy the sound of live music once or twice a year, so when Franchesca dropped me an email about the launch party of  Liverpool's new Aloft Hotel, which would fulfill both my duties as a blogger and my love for music all at once, I was RSVPing before I even knew the details.

On Thursday, armed with my blogger event essentials (my camera, my phone and my two blogging pals, Deni and Hollie), I hot-footed it down to Liverpool's swanky new 4-star hotel. Based in the former Royal Insurance Building in the heart of Liverpool City Centre, Aloft have taken a stunning, Grade II listed building and put a modern twist on it, with lots of minimalistic designs, neon lights and sleek seating areas contrasting against the ornate ceiling and suspended candle light chandeliers.
Aloft decided to pay homage to Liverpool's cultural status and music heritage for their launch in the city by teaming up with unique music movement, Sofar Sounds, whose mission is to bring the magic of live music back to life by creating a unique music experience through hosting secret gigs in intimate venues around the world. Together, they brought forward a night filled with small intimate gigs in various rooms throughout the hotel (yes, that included inside guest rooms, conference areas and the hotel lobby). Between glasses of champagne, photobooth fun and the best sliders in the world, the girls and I had the chance to explore different areas of the hotel and enjoy the secret gigs being performed by some of Liverpool's emerging local talent. Highlights of the night for me were the soft and meaningful sounds of James Canty (check out one of his gorgeous songs, Putney Bridge here) and his acoustic guitar and banjo, and JC and the Two-Steps, a Merseyside-based cover band who tore the hotel lobby down with their own versions of songs by Michael Jackson, The Coral, Johnny Cash, BeyoncĂ© and more.
When Aloft Liverpool isn't being turned in to a venue for secret gigs, celebrity hangouts and glitzy-glam launch parties, it is a 4-star hotel (the fourth Aloft Hotel to open in Europe) housing 116 modern, loft-like guest rooms, with the W XYZ bar located on the ground floor for guests who fancy sipping on a cocktail or two whilst enjoying some live entertainment, or an all-day New York-themed restaurant for anybody visiting the city who want a stylish bite to eat. They are currently offering rooms with up to 20% off for stays completed before March 2015, so if you're planning a little weekend getaway to Liverpool City Centre, check out Aloft Hotel's deals here.
Have you had the chance to visit Aloft Liverpool yet?
Frances x

Thursday 27 November 2014

Review & Giveaway: Baker Days

 Seasons Greetings Letterbox Cake: Baker Days, £14.99*
You can't have a birthday (or any special occasion, I'd say) without cake, so I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone and review one of Baker Day's Christmas letterbox cakes.
If you haven't already heard of them, Baker Days are a company specializing in compact cakes that can be slid right through your letterbox, meaning that you don't have to worry about somebody being at home to receive their surprise. Baker Days make cakes for any occasion, from birthdays and christenings, to Graduation and simple "thank you" cakes. Each one can be personalized with your own special text and the recipent's favourite kind of sponge, including classic vanilla sponge, chocolate chip or even gluten/dairy free options.
I chose the Seasons Greetings cake to get in to the Christmas spirit, though I am not a fan of the classic festive fruit cake so I opted for vanilla sponge. Sure enough, a nice, slim box thudded to the floor in my hallway, and inside was my letterbox cake, wrapped in plastic to keep it fresh (for up to fourteen days, Baker Days claim, but mine didn't last that long!) and housed in a little tin (which will probably be recycled to hold cotton wool balls on my dressing table or something), along with a little Christmas card, a paper hat and a mini Christmas cracker.
Although small, the cake is the perfect size for two to three servings, and whilst I'm no Paul Hollywood, I'd say it tastes pretty darn good too- It isn't dry at all, which is what I half expect from most cakes that are delivered by snail mail.

If you're looking for something to cater for a larger number of people, Baker Days also make full-sized personalized cakes and cupcakes. They have also been so kind as to offer you guys the chance to win a letterbox cake of your own to personalize and enjoy, so follow the rules below and use the Rafflecopter form to enter! :)

-This giveaway is open to the UK only (sorryyy)!
-Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. There are plenty of options for extra entries!
- Giveaways on my blog are intended to say thank you to my readers. Entries made by accounts solely created for the purpose of entering giveaways will be disqualified.
- The giveaway will run for one week, and will end at 11:59PM GMT on Thursday, December 4, 2014.
-The winner will be picked at random and contacted via email and/or Twitter and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is picked.

Good luck, lovelies! :)
Frances x
*DISCLOSURE: This post contains PR samples and the giveaway prize has kindly been provided by Baker Days.
Wednesday 26 November 2014

Review & Giveaway: Chantel Martin Candles.

If there is one thing I really love about blogging, it's being able to discover, collaborate with and support local brands. It's no secret that I love to have a nicely-scented candle burning on my bedside table, so when family-run business, Chantel Martin Candles contacted me regarding a collaboration I was thrilled, and what's more, they are based a twenty-minute walk away from my house so I was able to take a visit to their warehouse to see it for myself.
Chantel Martin Candles is owned by Paul Martin and his wife, Chantel, and their little candle workshop is based within their bespoke furniture store in Warrington, Cheshire. Upon arrival, I was greeted with a warm welcome by Paul, plus the amazing scent from the batch of watermelon sorbet votive candles that he had just finished pouring (which smell delicious, might I add). He showed me to the back of his furniture shop, where there stood a glass cabinet full of his medium and large sized candle jars, plus a huge round table displaying votive candles of eighteen (!) different scents in candy shop-style glass jars- It was truly like being a child in a sweetshop.
The beauty of the Chantel Martin brand is that they are passionate about their products and each one of their candles is handcrafted with care and precision- Paul was happy to take me in to his workshop and talk me through his candle-making process, from melting the paraffin wax in a slow-cooker and adding in the coloured wax and fragrance oils to bring the scents to life, to the attention to detail he applies to each one, using tools that he has crafted to ensure that each wick is glued directly in the centre of each container and that every label sits straight on the glass jars. He also told me about his experiments of trial and error with different sizes and styles of wicks to ensure that his candles burn for as long as possible, and to help eliminate that annoying, sooty line that accumulates around the edge of many candle jars (Yankee, I'm looking at you!). Who knew that making candles could be so much work?!
Paul was so generous as to let me take home one of each of his votive candles, plus I was allowed to select three of my favourite fragrances in the full-sized jars. As a huge fan of Yankee's Clean Cotton candle, I naturally opted for Chantel Martin's version of the same name, plus the luxurious Whitewood, Vanilla & Patchouli scent and the Hot Apple Pie scent which smells just like a freshly baked apple crumble (I am super excited to set fire to this one now that we're a little closer to Christmas!). Of course, this is a lot of candles for me try out, so I shall be writing more detailed reviews of them in groups over the next few weeks, where I will talk a little more about burn time, burn quality and scent likeness, plus which rooms in the house each candle is perfect for. I have currently been burning my Clean Cotton candle for around fifteen hours and it is still going strong (Chantel Martin's large apothecary jars should burn for 40-50 hours), and I am happy to report that each time I light it, it quickly fills my bedroom with the scent of freshly washed linen. Heaven.
As well as large jars (240g, classic and luxury scents, £15.99 and £19.99 respectively), Chantel Martin also sells medium jars (160g, £9.99) and votives (60g, £2.50). Just in case you're stuck for Christmas presents ;) (you can find a full list of their scents here).
So, now that I have made you sit through all of that writing, here is the best bit. Paul has been ever so lovely as to contribute some of his candles for a giveaway on my blog, and he is offering my readers the chance to win not just one candle or a couple of votives, but a large candle, a medium candle plus ten votives! That is around £50 worth of candles in your choice of scents for one of you lovely lot! All you have to do is follow the rules below and enter using the Rafflecopter widget.
-This giveaway is open to the UK only (sorryyy)!
-Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. There are plenty of options for extra entries!
- Giveaways on my blog are intended to say thank you to my readers. Entries made by accounts solely created for the purpose of entering giveaways will be disqualified.
- The giveaway will run for one week, and will end at 11:59PM GMT on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.
-The winner will be picked at random and contacted via email and/or Twitter and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is picked.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck everyone, and a huge thank you to Paul & Chantel Martin for making this possible! :)
Frances x
*DISCLOSURE: The prize for this giveaway has been very generously provided by Paul & Chantel Martin.
Tuesday 25 November 2014

Giveaway: Wicker Wings.

This hand-woven wicker bag has been one of my go-to accessories this month and I was thrilled when my friends over at Wicker Wings agreed to offer my readers the chance to win one of their own to celebrate my blog turning three years old!
If you didn't already know, Wicker Wings are a Northwest-based brand owned by two entrepreneurs, James and Belinda, who along with designing these beautiful and unique bags from scratch, have created a social mission to help inspire happiness and success in children from under-financed schools in rural Asia. If you would like to read more about their vision and how the sales of these bags benefit the children of Asia, I wrote a blog post all about it here. The wicker bags are available in this lovely "Blake Grey" shade or "Lulu Brown"- the lucky winner will be able to pick their favourite colour to receive and also write an inspirational note that will be sent to a child in Asia to make their day a little brighter.
All you have to do is follow the rules below and enter using the rafflecopter widget.
-This giveaway is open to the UK only (sorryyy)!
-Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. There are plenty of options for extra entries!
- Giveaways on my blog are intended to say thank you to my readers. Entries made by accounts solely created for the purpose of entering giveaways will be disqualified.
- The giveaway will run for five days, and will end at 11:59PM GMT on Tuesday, December 2, 2014.
-The winner will be picked at random and contacted via email and/or Twitter and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is picked.
Good luck! :) <3
Frances x
*DISCLOSURE: The prize for this giveaway has been kindly provided by Wicker Wings.
Sunday 23 November 2014

Frances Cassandra Turns 3!

Happy Blogger-versary to me (well, actually it was yesterday but I was super busy so I couldn't write this post until today)!
Three years ago on the 22nd of November, I was wrapped up in a duvet in the flat I was living in at University, probably avoiding writing an essay on how digital media has changed the world (or something like that) whilst reading an old school Fleur De Force or LLYMLRS blog post and pondering over whether anybody would be interested in reading my rambles, should I start writing them down in my own little corner of the internet. Alas, as I designed my own tacky leopard print header (cringe) and took photos perched on the window ledge of my flat as that was my only source of decent lighting, never did I think that three years later my blog would have over 2,000 subscribers and 750,000 clicks.
Since birthdays only happen once a year, I am dubbing it perfectly acceptable to make this blog post sickeningly clichĂ© and say that blogging has impacted my life immensely. When I was nineteen, I was terribly shy, preferred the comforts of home and familiarity; not to mention the fact that my idea of "style" was my jeggings, converse and whichever t-shirt was clean and falling off it's hanger in my wardrobe. Now, one of my favourite things to do is meet new people at blogger events, and I have been forced to adopt two new rails in my bedroom to accommodate the abundance of clothes I own thanks to the many amazing brands that I have had the opportunity to work with and my fellow bloggers who influence my ever-changing style and urge to go out and buy another garment that I don't really need. I've also developed quite a taste for travel and rushes of adrenaline after blog opportunities have granted me the chance to tackle two of my biggest fears; travelling to another country alone and also jumping out of an airplane from 14,000 feet.

It hasn't always been thrills; there have been a few personal hurdles in my life over the past few years that have temporarily dimmed my passion for doing the things I enjoy, but it's the above things plus a plethora of other pros that have made me realize that keeping my chin up and carrying on writing is the best thing that I can do for myself. And I will be starting to make YouTube videos soon, either just before or after the New Year... It's a promise this time. ;)

Now, everyone likes to drag their birthday celebrations on for as long as possible, which is why I have prepared four days of giveaways to say thank you to you lovely lot for reading my blog; whether it be for the past three years or the past three days, Frances Cassandra wouldn't exist without your support.
So thank you very much, my lovelies and I hope that I can continue producing content that you all enjoy reading- keep an eye on my blog over the next few days for the chance to win some fabulous prizes!

Here's to another amazing year in the blogosphere!

Frances x
Friday 21 November 2014

Wishlist: Christmas Novelties.

Jumper: Topshop, £42
Christmas Pug Socks: ASOS, £3
Reindeer Antler Beanie: ASOS, £10
Christmas Briefs: ASOS, £12.99
Reindeer Onesie: ASOS, £24
Christmas is coming and that means it's okay to be seen in public wearing the tackiest jumper you own, right? I already have my fair share of over-the-top Christmas jumpers from previous years and whilst ASOS has got some winning designs in stock (I love this one and this one), I do love the simplicity and quirkiness of this Topshop number, and who knows if someone will need reminding of the date on Christmas day?!
I would just like to make it clear that I don't plan on adding the Xmas briefs to my underwear drawer any time soon ever, but I couldn't help but add them to this wishlist purely for comedy value; I'm not sure what occasion these are suitable for?! There's no hiding that VPL. I do, however, think I will be adding some antlers to my beanie hat collection, and a Christmas edition to my ever-growing collection of pug socks (which is currently 13 pairs strong. I'm not sure I was supposed to admit that).  Oh, and I'd like a boyfriend just so that I can dress him up as a reindeer. Or maybe I just need to find a reindeer onesie for myself!
Do you have your Christmas jumper ready?
Frances x
Wednesday 19 November 2014

Outfit: Blue Vanilla

Photo credit: Dad. Thaaaanks!
Cape: C/O Blue Vanilla* | Leggings: Topshop | Shoes: C/O Chi Chi* | Scarf: ZARA | Bag: C/O Wicker Wings* | Hat: Primark

One of my favourite things about Autumn/Winter is being able to layer up, and I think my outerwear collection says it all. I own more pieces of outerwear than any girl needs, whether they are winter coats, leather jackets or blazers, but this is the first cape in my collection and possibly the start of a new obsession. I love the way capes can be styled as a classy cover-up with an evening outfit or teamed with a pair of boots and a cosy blanket scarf in the day time for a more bohemian finish.

I am definitely not the kind of girl who struts around town in sky scraper heels on a casual day out, but I didn't know when else I would get the opportunity to show you these beauties from Chi Chi. Definitely not for the faint-of-heart (or those who are exceptionally accident-prome), but my- they are killer.

What are your favourite Winter wardrobe pieces?

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: Starred items are PR samples.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Event: #SouthBeachMovieDay

Pictured above with the lovely Ellie (Your Daily Dose of Style) and Tasha (HELLOTASHA) :)

Yesterday, I was rollin' with my homies down to the Cornerhouse cinema in Manchester for a special screening of any 90s kid's favourite movie, Clueless, in celebration of South Beach's new collections. We were shown to our own private viewing screen to enjoy an hour and a half of checkered print two-pieces, over-exaggerated Californian accents and lots of cringe-inducing laughs before being taken upstairs in Manchester's contemporary visual arts and independent film centre and treated to an abundant amount of pizza (no complaints!), candy floss and a table of pick-n-mix, where I took a classic sweetshop pink-and-white striped paper bag and the opportunity to stock up on my personal favourites; flumps, gummy bears and chocolate nonpareils (which I am currently devouring as I type up this post).

It had been a little while since I last browsed the South Beach website (back in March prior to my holiday in Singapore to be exact, when I purchased two lovely pieces of swimwear from them), but I found myself clicking on to their freshly made-over homepage as soon as I got home yesterday, after falling in love with a couple of pieces from their new fitness range (which haven't made it online yet, my bank account will be relieved to hear). I was also impressed with their super affordable range of swimwear as always, particularly their structured two-pieces reminiscent of Triangl's most sought-after Milly bikinis, but for a fraction of the price at only £28. I also believe that South Beach's fleece hooded robes are a must-have for the cold seasons after having the opportunity to feel how soft the are- Definitely snuggle material!

Thank you to South Beach for the 90's throwback and for my quickly-approaching sugar coma!

Is anyone lucky enough to be jetting away over the winter?

Frances x

Thursday 13 November 2014

Event: #FDXMasParty, Fragrance Direct.

Last night marked the beginning of all the Christmas festivities in the Blogosphere, with Fragrance Direct's Christmas Party at All Star Lanes in Manchester Deansgate. With Christmas decorations, Christmas crackers containing little surprise samples from Fragrance Direct's range and lots of amazing cocktails and food (including mini burgers, corndogs and breaded parcels of macaroni cheese- yes, you read that right), it was everything that a Christmas party should be; not to mention the strong waft of perfume we were greeted with when we entered the room, from the display table of Fragrance Direct's featured perfumes for the festive period. After a spritz of a few bottles it was decided that YSL's Black Opium, Valentina by Valentino and Lola by Marc Jacobs (mainly because of that beautiful bottle) were the firm favourites. As the event took place in All Star Lanes, of course we had a couple of lanes booked to show off our bowling skills, which seemed to progressively get worse as each glass of prosecco was consumed (though it was already established a long time ago that I am shockingly bad at bowling anyway, nor do I look good in those sexy silver bowling shoes).

Not only do Fragrance Direct stock perfumes, but they have also branched out into makeup, haircare and bath & body products, and us lucky bloggers were sent home from the event with a Christmas goodie bag filled with treats from the likes of Ciate, Fashionista, Essie and Schwarzkopf to name a few. Thanks for an amazing evening, Fragrance Direct! :)

Do you have any perfumes on your Christmas wishlist this year?

Frances x