In which a not very girly mummy blogger reviews some dresses...

I'm 52 and not glamorous. If you are a regular reader or follow me on social media you will know that I'm more about scrunging around in jeans and a geek T shirt than being girly. In fact I'm more likely to be seen wearing a a super hero costume than a dress!

But when I saw the JD Williams range (you may have seen some of their recent TV adverts)

I was tempted by the maxi dresses. JD Williams sent me two dresses to try. One was a hippy style swishy handkerchief hemmed summer dress from the Joe Brown's range. It will be perfect for summer days and festivals, easy to slip on and elasticated at the waist the size 14 fitted perfectly.

The straps are adjustable too so you can choose how high to wear the top...and also alter the length, although as the dress is only down to mid calf that's not an issue for me.

Joe Browns Hiippy style dress from JD Williams website modelled in a green and leafy garden

You can see how swishy the dress is, the viscose hangs so softly, and the colours are lovely, bright on a navy background.

Pretty floaty dress from JD Williams website modelled in a green and leafy garden

The second dress is a longer maxi dress, in a striking black and navy pattern on a white background. Perfect for days out or something more formal. Not a festival dress but nice for sitting around a beer garden and it would look lovely at a wedding.

Navy and black zig zag dress  from JD Williams website modelled in a green and leafy garden

Again the straps are adjustable so that the dress can be adjusted by a couple of inches, on me the dress skims the ground. The straps just tie at the shoulder, so I think once you've sorted the bow you'd be wise to pop a stitch through the ensure they don't come untied at an inopportune moment!

The dress is loose and really comfy but the size 14 is fairly snug at the top, even with my tiny boobs! So if you are a well endowed lady this might not be the dress for you. I'd suggest ordering a size larger that your usual size in this dress anyway.

zig zag dress  from JD Williams website modelled in a green and leafy garden

Of course there are loads of others to choose from, and if I were off to any weddings this year (I'm not) then I think I'd take a look, I like a dress that is formal, but not too formal, you know, the sort of dress that fashion bloggers say will 'go from day to night' ...not that many people ever do that, but could be useful on holiday if you were short of packing space.

I'm really happy with the service from JD Williams and with the range of dresses and shoes they have on offer (Note to self - you do not need more shoes!)  As a 'woman of a certain age' it's nice to see a good selection of fashions that are neither 'too young' nor 'too frumpy'. Take a look at the website and see what you think.

I apologise for the awkward looking model in these photos (me).

zig zag dress  from JD Williams website modelled in a green and leafy garden

I was sent two dresses to review but have received no payment for this post and the words and ideas for it (along with the dodgy photos) are all mine.

To see the dresses on professional models check out the JD Williams website.

And let me know what you think of my choices by commenting below.


Cloth bags instead of wrapping paper. An Eco craft Project.

Everyone is talking about the environment. It's as if we all woke up at once to the fact that the earth is a closed biosphere and that stuff we use has to be recycled or we are doomed! So I'm joining in, why not! I'm looking at presents and how we wrap them.

Paper is pretty easy to recycle compared to lots of things we make. And plain paper breaks down and composts nicely. But fancy wrapping paper, the shiny sort, the metallic sort, the glittery sort, doesn't. And Christmas and birthday wrapping can end up looking gorgeous but being very bad for the planet.

Some time ago I wrote about using bags for children's gifts, not because of the planet, but because children's toys are so over packaged that an impatient toddler can end up in tears of rage when 20 minutes after unwrapping their new baby doll daddy is still trying to undo all the ties and twists, and because so much toy packaging is geared towards gender.

But lately I realised that reusable bags would also be good for adults gifts, for any gifts really, and the best thing about a little bag is that it makes gifts easy to wrap, and it can be reusable too!

If you have a sewing machine they are a snap to make, but even if you hand sew they are far from complicated.

So with a doubly environmental plan that involved buying cheap clothes at Charity stores purely for the pretty designs on the material and then recycling them into bags, I set to work.

So far I have actually used new material because I found some cheap 'fat quarters', and the bags I have made are small, but I'm going to keep making them, as and when I have time, so that by Christmas I should have a good choice.

I have used ribbon for the 'drawstring' on my bags so that they can have a bow tied at the top.

The simplest design require no finishing of raw edges, just a simple rectangle of material, wide hems sewn at each narrow end for the drawstring (ribbon) , fold the rectagle into a square, and then a quick sew together of the sides.

Two loops of ribbons are threaded through the hems and ... ta da! a drawstring bag.


Why your restaurant needs vegan options

I'm not a vegan, I'm not even a vegetarian but I think all restaurants, cafes, clubs, bars, and anywhere that serves food should ensure there are vegan options on the menu.

I don't think that because  it's not nice to eat animals (it may not be, but I still love steak and bacon), I don't think it because it's good for the planet (debatable if you look at what plants can grow where and why sheep may sometimes be the best protein creators..but also farts...) I think it because it's good business sense.

Many people are vegan these days, whether as a hipster lifestyle choice, a deep rooted love for living things or just not really liking meat, the reasons don't matter to a business, what matters is getting customers through the door.

Some cafes seem to think that one veggie option is enough. "Oh we have jacket potatoes with beans if you like, we can leave out the butter if you are vegan". The idea of 'leaving out' the meat or dairy or egg bits seems a common theme. "hmm vegan? well I think the veggie burger might be vegan, I'll leave out the brioche bun and the cheese"  Well let me tell you straight, leaving things out is not a menu option, it's lazy and it looks lazy. It also looks mean, "we'll make you a special meal by leaving stuff out and not replacing it with anything" doesn't look like you are happy to help, it looks like a begrudging afterthought.

Some eateries think it doesn't matter, after all less than 1% of the UK population is vegan and only 2% of the population is vegetarian. But if you miss those choices from your menu you don't only exclude the vegans, you exclude groups of friends where one of the group is vegan. "Shall we have Jake's party at *Umbertelli's? oh no, they have no real vegan options and Jessica won't want to come, let's go to *Palmita's instead" And the number of vegans is increasing, and they tend to be younger, more likely to eat out with friends.

It's not only vegans that benefit either, with increasing awareness of allergies a person with a dairy or egg allergy is going to opt for places with good vegan options too. Religious food restrictions can also affect people, in a multicultural society many religious people struggle to find a place to eat out that caters for them, but vegan is halal and kosher, problem solved. When I'm looking for a location for a works party or a meal out with friends I might include vegans, Muslims, vegetarians and Jews...and some allergy sufferers, it's not being 'precious' to want to be catered for at a restaurant and it's not a lot to ask for the menu to be clear about it either.

Vegan options are not difficult! Add a vegan section to your menu (and mark them as such, use a different symbol for Vegan than for Vegetarian). Examples of vegan meals include falafel wraps with salad, salads with tofu, stir fries with noodles (egg free) , vegetable soups, hummus salad sandwiches with either no spread or a dairy free spread, olives, fancy breads made with oil, pasta dishes (vegan pesto, tomato sauces etc), risottos with either no cheese or vegan cheese, vegetable burgers, stuffed peppers, garlic mushrooms (use oil or dairy-free spread),  Jus-Rol puff pastry is dairy and egg free! so you can even make some puff pastry treats with fruit or roasted vegetables. Pieminister have a vegan pie option. Vegan pizzas, lentil curries. Don't forget to add some vegan desserts too, lots of sorbets are lovely and there are plenty of vegan ice 'cream' varieties to choose from, and exotic fruits in syrup can be a lovely end to a meal.

Anyone can eat vegan, so including some vegan options on a menu doesn't restrict the menu, it expands it. Now I have a vegan daughter I can really see what a pain it is to eat out when 99% of the menu is off limits, so come on caterers, make it easier, step up and add some vegan goodies to your menus.

Are you vegan?  Where is good to eat out and which vegan things do you like to see on a menu?  I recently ate at Zizzis and they have a brilliant menu, clearly set out with vegan options. Are there other good examples out there?

The best Vegan and Vegetarian Sunday lunches in London.

Vegan and Veggie Roasts in Brighton

*not real restaurants