Sunday, 28 September 2014

sunday style: boden special

I first came across Boden when I had Ben in 2008; I was searching for kids clothes that weren't plastered in slogans or animals or cartoon characters, and they ticked every box. While we don't have the budget to buy everything from there, they're now my go-to place for those extra Christmas and birthday presents (admittedly not much of a present for the kiddos, but the only way I can justify spending more than we usually would!) - the quality is always top-notch, they wash marvelously and seem to last forever. They also do great gender-neutral jumpers and t-shirts, which are great because I can buy for Ben and then keep them for Daisy. Result!

These days, I get equally excited about the womenswear as well; the new season pieces are amazing, and include quite a few things that I've had on my wish-list for ages; I've been searching for the perfect metallic and leopard print boots for almost my entire twenties, and now Boden have produced both in the same season *squeal*. The yellow cardigan is pretty much the ideal shade (mustard-y but not too close to tan), there is a jumper with pom poms, and let's face it - who doesn't want a chevron coat?!

They've also launched a blog recently, which is a great read, and includes Olivia Purvis and Sasha Wilkins as contributors (two very stylish ladies who write great fashion blogs). My favourite feature so far was the piece on five different bloggers and their personal style; as well as discovering the fabulous Stylonylon blog, they also included the lovely Kat from Kat Got the Cream and her smashing daughter Flo. If you've never read the blog - check it out!

PS I've had a quiet few days working on some exciting magazine pieces, and also some not-so-exciting copywriting assignments, but I've got some great posts lined up for this week; another fantastic Bloggers Homes feature, a DIY project and a peek inside our own house (only two years after we moved in!).

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

bright and cheerful kids wall art

Helen Dardik Circus Print : The Pippa and Ike Show // Soft Green Lemonade by Jessica Nielsen : Hus & Hem //
Cat Print by Anna Kovecses : The Pippa and Ike Show // Ingela P Arrhenius Tivoli Poster : Hus & Hem // Confetti Garland Stickers :  Molly Meg //
Ingela P Arrhenius Print : Hus & Hem // Reading is Cool Print : Houzz //
Raindrops, Boats and Triangles Stickers : Molly Meg // Tad Lapin Poster : Molly Meg
Continuing on with the kiddos shared room theme, today I've rounded up a selection of my favourite pieces of wall art; I've got loads of postcards and little prints already, but want to find one big one for the main wall in their new room.

I love Ingela P. Arrhenius as much as anyone else, and the 'Be Nice to the World' is my favourite, mostly because it sums up nicely what I'm tying to teach the littlies (although after watching them wrestle ferociously over the wooden play food, I'm not convinced it's working). The 'Reading is Cool' print by Studio Mela has been on my wanted list for absolutely ages (because, you know, reading is cool), and I love the cat print by Anna Kovecses for its smiley face and beautiful simplicity. I've also been thinking about some wall stickers; I'm tempted to get some to create a kind of mosaic somewhere, but then I spotted the amazing designs on Molly Meg - boats and paper planes, how cool are they?!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

bloggers at home: tigerlilly quinn

There are a few bloggers homes that I'd give my right arm for a rummage inside; Hannah from Seeds and Stitches always has the best fabrics and upcycled furniture, Natasha from Candy Pop includes the most amazing snippets of her home on her IG feed, and Rebecca from Futurustic is the master of that wonderful simple, contemporary style that I aim for but never quite manage. Today, though I've been lucky enough to be able to bring you a little look inside the gorgeous home of Fritha from Tigerlilly Quinn; one of my oldest blog favourites, she covers fashion and style, interiors and pregnancy and parenting. With an Instagram feed full of colour and pattern, her home has been at the top of my list to nose around for a long time, so I'm excited to bring you a little peek into the home she shares with her fiance Tom and little boy Wilf. Enjoy!

I love living in a Victorian home because they have so much character; I love the high ceilings and detailed fireplaces the most. We live in a cul-de-sac and all of our neighbours live in identical houses; it's really lovely to see all the Victorian architecture on the street and everyone paints their doors lovely bright colours. Our living room and bedrooms are really large and spacious and give us lots of scope for interior design, and I love that we have both a front and back garden which is a rarity in the city.

My living room is my favourite room in the house; I think my home style is quite retro, and I'm really drawn to mid-century and vintage items. We often scour vintage warehouses and carboots for one-off pieces but we also like to mix them with vintage inspired modern items - I'm very much influenced by the sixties in terms of my clothing style, so I'd definitely say that my interior design tastes and fashion tastes are very much suited.

When we brought out home it was quite a wreck, so we literally had to start from scratch by concreting floors and plastering walls - it was originally in the worst shape of all and now it's the room we're most proud of.

Our living room is the place we feel the most relaxed in. It's actually two rooms cut through to make one, so is very large - I tend to work from one side of the room, answering emails whilst Wilf will play with his jigsaws on the rug, or on the weekend we read together on the sofa. Our bookshelves are full of all sorts of things, there really is no order - I love that it is full of all the things we love, and that make up our home and lives together.

Huge thanks to Fritha for taking the time to join in with the Bloggers at Home series; to see more check out her blog, shop or Instagram feed.

Monday, 22 September 2014

written: the top five myths about having two children

When I was pregnant with Daisy, I lost count of the amount of things people said to me that filled me with hope about how simple and joyous life with two children would be. She was due at the end of March, so of course my head was full of lovely spring adventures; visions of trips to the park, Ben racing ahead with Daisy snuggled to my chest in her sling; the three of us lying on a blanket, bathed in dappled sunlight glinting through the trees; glorious afternoons spent baking cakes with Ben while Daisy slept peacefully in her basket in the lounge. What actually happened was that I had a post-partum hemorrhage that left me weak and anaemic, Daisy had tongue-tie and couldn't breastfeed and it rained almost constantly for the entire month of April. I can't remember ever going to the park, and the only cakes we ate were the ones soaked in my tears of disappointment; 'this,' I thought, 'was not how it was supposed to be.'

I felt cheated, more than anything. People had told me that there was very little difference between having one and two children, and this was the biggest porky I heard; there is a world of difference, notably because you're suddenly outnumbered if you're on your own. To this day, they're like miniature tag-team wrestlers; working together, they'll take it in turns to cry, whine, complain, demand, shout and finally do something heart-stoppingly dangerous. My nerves are frazzled, I spend so much time counting to three that our neighbours must think I can't go any higher ("I'm going to count to three, and if you don't stop poking your bottom / picking your nose and wiping it on the sofa / burping in your sisters face there will be NO PUDDING. One. Two. Three.....") and I can't remember the last time we had a whole night's uninterrupted sleep, but I still wouldn't change it for the world.

What I would change, however, is the fact that I was duped by people and their dirty fibs about how life would be. So for a laugh, I decided to list the top five myths associated with having a second child and then bust the shit out of them with the hard truth.

1. Your second labour will definitely be easier, and the recovery will be much quicker.
I thought I'd break you in gently with something that actually turned out to be half true; my labour with Daisy was easier, and way quicker - it was a few hours as opposed to three days, and I actually don't remember ever feeling like I couldn't cope with the pain. As I delivered her, I remember thinking, 'cor! I've had worse poops than that!'.... and then came the rather bloody aftermath. A post-partum hemmorhage and a placenta that refused to shift resulted in me looking like an extra in a slasher film, and the bathroom looking like a kill-room in a Hollywood blockbuster. The thing is though, this was all down to bad luck and could have happened with the first baby, the second baby the fifth baby or the tenth baby. There's no set rules to labour, regardless of which baby you're having - likewise, if you had a terrible labour the first time around, there's absolutely nothing to say you won't sneeze the second one out. Adopt 'different baby, different labour' as your mantra, and you'll be grand.

2. The baby just 'slots in' to the routine you already have.
Err, no. Quite the opposite actually, sorry. The only way your new baby will slot into your own routine is if your day currently consists of never leaving the house, shitting yourself regularly and eating every two hours - expecting a newborn to just fit around you is like expecting Santa to pop along on a unicorn and deliver you a lottery win; it's simply not going to happen. Stock up on tinned goods and biscuits, sign up to Netflix and make no plans to leave the house until your new baby is at least school age, and you'll be fine.

3. Your older child will adore the new baby, and you'll all bond together during feeds.
Another half truth here; Ben (and quite a lot) of children adore their younger siblings, and thankfully we had no incidents of attempted smotherings, but bonding together during feeds was way out of the question. Mostly because of the truth behind lie number four.....

4. Breastfeeding a second child is ALWAYS easier.
Ha! Ha ha! Ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! No. I posted elsewhere about my breastfeeding woes, but the sad truth is that no, breastfeeding is not necessarily easier the second time around. Granted, if you successfully managed it the first time, you'll have a better idea of what to expect and how to deal with any problems, but if you didn't get to grips with it then you might find it just as tough the second time around. I thought everything would magically just work out, and at first it was fine - but then all the old problems started to surface again; the agonising latch, the cracked and bleeding nipples, the constant hunger (her), the desperate sobbing (me). It turned out that she had tongue tie, and nobody had thought to mention it to us or offer the corrective surgery - so at six weeks I popped a bottle in her mouth and we never looked back. I guess my point is that breastfeeding is almost never easy, regardless of whether you're expecting your first or fifth child - you can do everything they tell you and sometimes it's just not meant to be. And that, my friends, is that.

5. They just entertain each other - if anything, life with two is easier than with one!
Hilarious! Oh, how you joke. First off, a newborn can't even work out that it has hands, let alone how to play with anything successfully. Once they're a few months old, they'll be crawling, dribbling monsters, interested only in offensively loud, garish plastic toys and bumping into things, and after that, they turn into toddlers that want to have everything their older sibling has RIGHT NOW IF NOT SOONER. I can count on one hand the amount of times my two have played the same game together nicely, with no shouting / screaming / clobbering each other with wooden saucepans, but the fact of the matter is that those few times make my insides turn to mush. I'm a sucker for cute, what can I say?

I realise that I might have made having two (or more) children sound pretty stressful and tiring, and I suppose it is - but isn't parenting always a bit like that, no matter how many children you have? There will always be good and bad days, but when I see their two blonde heads nestled together, sharing a book or giggling at something, it makes the failed breastfeeding attempts, the nightmare mornings and the tantrum Olympics more than worth it. Now, pass the wine...

Friday, 19 September 2014

written: an open letter to first time mamas everywhere

When I was expecting Ben (and probably Daisy too, if I'm honest), I read so many blogs, books and magazines that gave me conflicting advice; if you eat this when you're pregnant, your arm will fall off; if you don't use cloth nappies, you'll single-handedly destroy what's left of our ozone layer; if you don't breastfeed, your child will grow up to be a sociopath... the list was pretty endless. So, in honour of all my friends that have just announced that they've got one in the oven, I've written an open letter that includes five of the things that I wish someone had told me - but if you're looking for advice on placenta recipes, you're pretty much going to be out of luck....

Dear Mama,

First up, let me give you a frickin' big high-five; you only went and made an actual human being! Admittedly, depending on what stage of pregnancy you're at, it might be the size of a biscuit crumb / fingernail / grape but still, you're building a person - you're like Dr. Frankenstein, but, y'know, less freaky. Fist bump!
Now we've got the celebrations out of the way, I'm going to dispense some advice. I know, I know, since you announced you were t'up the duff, you've had nothing BUT advice; from well-meaning Auntie Jean to that one friend who ALWAYS thinks they know best, nobody is ever backwards in coming forwards with advice for a pregnant lady. But the thing is, I'm going to give you a few pieces of information on the things that REALLY matter; like what biscuits are best to eat one-handed while feeding and where to buy leggings that accommodate the biggest of bumps and don't give you a camel toe (because, let's be frank, you've got enough to worry about without showing off your lady-bits).

1. Leggings are a more than acceptable wardrobe staple for pregnancy.

I've had lots of friends who swear by pregnancy jeans, but I just couldn't bloody well stand them. With their stupid elastic panels that made you feel like you were being slowly suffocated from the waist up, to the fact that the only place they fitted properly was round the ankles, by the time I had Daisy my thoughts on maternity jeans had gone from indifference to hatred. I also suffered terribly with hot flushes, which meant that denim was a complete no-go - remember that episode of Friends with Ross and the leather trousers? That was me, but I was fatter, and crying. Leggings were their softer, cooler, easier counterpart, and the best thing was that I could literally just wear them all the time. Work? Leggings with a dress or tunic. At the weekend? Leggings with an oversize t-shirt or long top. At home? Pyjamas... but you get my drift. You can buy special maternity leggings, but just try buying a normal pair in a size up and wearing them under your bump first - I challenge you to tell me this isn't more comfortable that squashing your thighs into hot, sweaty denim. Some people are sniffy about leggings, but when you're smuggling a beach ball, being comfortable is the most important thing.

2. You won't need three novels in your labour bag. Or a crossword book. 

Packing a labour bag is like packing for a month long mystery holiday - because you know literally nothing about what's going to happen, the temptation is to just put everything you've ever touched into a suitcase. This is pretty much what happened when I was expecting Ben; I had a suitcase, a holdall, a pillow, two dressing gowns and a pair of slippers - and my labour had three false starts so we spent almost three days just loading and unloading the car. When I arrived home with him, a good 80% of everything in the suitcase hadn't even been touched; from the sixteen bottles of Lucozade and the healthy 'energy' bars to the book about Kate Moss and the three back issues of Elle magazine, I didn't use any of it. Instead I spent most of the time sucking on the gas and air, laughing and weeping intermittently. My top essentials are:

  • Comfy pyjamas or nighties with a button-front top. I'd pack three - chances are you won't need any more than that, and you can always have someone pick you some up from home.
  • Your favourite juice or flavoured water - hospitals are HOT, so ditch the sugary energy drinks and just go for something refreshing instead.
  • A book or magazine, or if you have one, tablet, kindle or iPad. You might need some sort of boredom-buster until things get going, but put it this way - you won't be working your way through war and peace.
  • Straws - if you're having an active labour (and quite a lot of people do), you might find yourself in a variety of positions that make drinking from a cup or bottle nigh on impossible. Find the longest, bendiest straws you can and you'll be well away. Plus, you can always ram them up your partners nose if the mood takes you. Result!
  • A camera and charger or spare batteries. 

3. Your labour probably won't go according to plan - but that's OK!

I know a lot of parent bloggers who have very different ideas about how labour should be; some like homebirths with no intervention, while others like the safety of the hospital and the chance to get off their faces on every form of pain relief for miles around. The thing is, you can plan and plan and plan for L-Day as much as you like, but the chances are that things won't go as you expect; if you're keen on a natural birth with no pain relief, and you end up with an epidural, don't worry. If you're adamant you're going to have a homebirth, but end up having a C-Section, it doesn't matter. If you don't get time to have the pain relief you were so set on, then chest-bump to you lady, because I didn't manage to be that hardcore. If things don't go according to plan, don't beat yourself up about it; however your little round-cheeked milk monster gets into the world, you should just concentrate on the fact that you MADE A HUMAN BEING. Like, from scratch. You're spectacular. Come here, give me a high five.

4. Breast isn't always best. Except when it is.

Crikey, I could write reams and reams on the subject of breastfeeding; not because I'm a huge boob expert, you understand, but because if anybody has failed spectacularly at breastfeeding, it's me. *Stands up and waves* I wrote my own story about breastfeeding here, where you can read in detail about why I didn't manage to feed either of my children for more than six weeks, so I'm not going to rehash all that - I'm just going to say that you should decide on a feeding method that works for you. Yes, breastmilk is the best option, but no, your child will not grow another head / turn out to be a sociopath / hate you forever if you ditch the boob juice for formula - I formula fed both of mine, and they're both (fairly) well adjusted, bright, happy children who are ill incredibly rarely *frantically touches wood*. I spent a long time feeling guilty about my decision to bottle feed which was ridiculous; they were both much happier with bottles, as was I, which ultimately made me a better mother - seriously, I've done a bit of both, and nobody gives a shit how you feed your child, as long as you're both happy. If you do decide to breastfeed and it works out well for you, that's great - just don't let ridiculous corporations or people tutting force you into feeding your baby in a public toilet. You have every right to breastfeed in public, regardless of what anybody thinks - whop that boob out and be proud!

5. Not using cloth nappies doesn't make you an environmental criminal.

Again, another guilt inducing subject that gave me sleepless nights. As someone who is fairly concerned about the planet, I'd decided that I was going to cloth nappy Daisy as soon as she was big enough; I stocked up on various sizes, found liners and boosters, sorted out the bucket and the cleaning liquid.... and we used them for a week. I had roughly three different brands, and could not get them to stop leaking - one time it was like a leakage in a shit factory, and I couldn't find the source, it just kept on coming. It could have been that I wasn't putting them on right, or packing them in the right way, or that the covers weren't tight enough around her legs, but either way we gave up and switched to disposables - Nature Babycare for a while, but they were pretty pricey and in the end we swapped to a supermarket brand which did the job perfectly adequately. Do I feel guilty about the environmental impact? Yes. But not so much that I would have kept Daisy in nappies that weren't working for her, just to limit my contribution to landfill - my priority was her being happy and comfortable, and she certainly wasn't either of those things in nappies that constantly leaked. There are other ways of offsetting the carbon from using disposables, such as using the car less and walking more, composting household and food waste and about a hundred other things - so it's not all bad.

So there you have it, My only piece of advice to you is to follow your heart, and your instincts and do what feels right and makes you and your baby happy. There are more than enough people out there waiting to tell you what to eat /drink /do, so I thought I'd give you a heads up on the really important stuff like, y'know, camel toes and shit.

See you on the other side, Mama!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

super duper gender neutral bedding

From Top Left: Triangle Bedding : Wilkinsons // Arrowhead Bedding : Urban Outfitters // Cushions : IKEA //
Diamond Bedding : H&M Home // Zig Zag Bedding : Wilkinsons // Geometric Bedding : H&M Home //
Colour Splotch Cushion : Urban Outfitters // Monochrome Cushion : IKEA // Spot Bedding: H&M Home

As I mentioned a few days ago, we're going to be shuffling the kiddos together into their shared room over the coming months, and while we're not really in any rush, I've started gathering little bits and pieces slowly, so we don't have to pay out for everything in one go.

The bedding in particular was giving me a proper headache; I'd featured a star print set by H&M Home on the blog, but when I went back to actually buy it, it was sold out. Gah! So then began my long and tiring search for great gender neutral bedding that was a) not too loud b) not too age directed (I don't want to have to change the bedding again when they get a bit older) and c) was ideally not over £25. It was a challenge, to say the least, but I finally decided on the triangle set and zig-zag set, both from Wilkinsons, pictured above. As well as being beautifully geometric and suitable in a mixed-sex bedroom, they were also both only £9 each - and I guess if I'm honest, that was the real clincher!

Monday, 15 September 2014

found: ena and albert

Last week I stumbled across the most amazing shop on Etsy called Ena and Albert; full of huge, bold and brightly coloured statement necklaces, crafter extraordinaire Therese makes every piece by hand from polymer clay in her sunny Sydney studio.

I've played about with polymer clay before, most lately when I made collar clips over on Fritha's blog, but my experiments with making beads have never been very successful; everything ends up a bit squashed and lopsided, and not in a cool, arty kind of way either. Just in a 'my-two-year-old-made-this' kind of way. Therese's beads are the complete opposite; smooth, spherical, textured, colourful and perfect - I love the different shades and tones, the colour combinations that make me think of sugary candy treats and the fact that they're so unapologetically bold.

Head over to the website to take a look behind the scenes, or flex your credit card at the Ena and Albert Etsy shop.

Friday, 12 September 2014

frugal friday: diy kimono

I love a good printed jacket, so all this talk of kimonos recently has been right up my street - colourful patterns, hippy-esque fringing and enough fabric to ward off late-summer breezes, but not so much that you swelter under the September sun (the weather down here has been brilliant all week, lucky us!). The only thing I wasn't keen on was the price tags - I couldn't find any in the charity shops and even on eBay they were going for quite a lot, so I had a look online to see how tricky they were to make. Answer - very. There was talk of seams and tucks and darts, and after about half an hour I gave up and decided to search for DIY instructions. I found a great tutorial for turning a scarf into a kimono on A Spare and a Pair, but I didn't have any of the materials required (plus my scarf already had fringing), and patience is a virtue I don't own - so I cobbled together my own kimono using my old scarf and some black thread. And, err, that's it.

To make this incredibly quick and easy kimono, you will need:

One scarf with fringing (you can find these in the charity shops for pennies - I actually saw this very one in my local Sue Ryder a few weeks back!)
Some cotton in the same colour as your scarf
A needle or sewing machine

1. Take your scarf, and iron out any creases.

2. Lay it on a flat surface, then fold the top third section over and pin in place on either side - this creates the sleeves.

3. Stitch alongside the pins, for roughly two inches, then sew back over your work to strengthen it.

4. Erm, that's it.

It's nowhere near as fancy as some of the other tutorials I've seen, but if you're a fan of quick and easy projects, you can't get much simpler than this! Happy Friday, frugal fans!


Monday, 8 September 2014

read: home by beci orpin

I first discovered artist and designer wonderwoman Beci Orpin on Instagram a couple of years ago, and her feed instantly became my favourite; explosions of colour, ideas for craft projects and snippets of everyday life made it a winner. Both of her books went on my wishlist straight away, and I was very happy to find myself clutching her second one, 'Home', in my sticky little paws on my birthday this year.

I love craft books, and I've got an awful lot of them; half of our giant IKEA Expedit unit is dedicated to great tomes on art, photography, crochet, sewing, and basically anything to do with making things and living a creative lifestyle. The one thing that always makes a project book a hit in my eyes, though, is when it's more than just a list of patterns and directions; I like to see how the artist or maker displays and uses the finished product, and that's what I like most about this book. Each project has clearly detailed and well photographed instructions, and is finished off with a couple of images which demonstrate ways to show off your latest make - from hanging handprinted napkins along a piece of bakers twine to making a wooden house for your jumping jackette, Beci provides ideas that would probably never cross your mind.

The projects themselves are great; ranging from useful items such as rope baskets, box shelves and bead trivets to decorative lovelies like the paper patchwork, forever cactus (I'm definitely having a go at this after yet another plant shuffled off to leafy heaven this weekend) and colourful fridge magnets, there's pretty much something for everyone. The best thing is that nothing is complicated; the processes are simple but really effective, and a lot of the things can be made in an hour or so, so they're ideal if you're looking for something to satisfy a quick burst of creativity. There are bigger projects, such as the cosmic moth lamp, braided rug and painted chairs, but these are still easy to do and would be great for passing the time on a rainy Sunday afternoon. What's even better is that there are a series of templates at the back, so you don't need to worry about drawing out shapes or printing things off of the computer.

The one thing I can't not mention, because it made me love this book more than any of the others in my collection, was the way you get a mini-tour around Beci's home - and this is some serious interior porn. Think rescued and upcycled retro furniture, shelves groaning with eclectic displays and explosion after explosion of colour; this is one book that I never get tired of looking at, and it's so inspirational. If you haven't already got it, put it on your wishlist for Christmas!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

sunday style: bring on the autumn

From Top Left: Denim Shirt : New Look // Ballet Pumps : French Sole // Boyfriend T-Shirt : ASOS // Midi Skirt : ASOS //
Camera Bag : Accessorize // Blue Wool Coat : COS // Tapestry Bowler Hat : Accessorize // Printed Blouse : New Look //
Chunky Boots : New Look // Full Midi Skirt : ASOS // Studded Belt : H&M // Slogan Sweatshirt : H&M
The end of summer has been all over blogland lately, and to be honest, I've been a bit in denial; I'm definitely a summer gal, I love the sunlight filtering through the curtains at 5am so I get to wake up slowly, and watering the garden in the balmy evening breezes. I love days at the beach, racing through the dunes and finding sand in your bag for weeks afterwards, I love the smell of suncream and sweetpeas, homegrown strawberries and the heady scent of lavender. In short, I am not winter's biggest fan.

But on the plus side, the colder weather does mean I can unpack all my chunky knits and coloured tights again, light my favourite scented candles and start making things ready for (dare I mention it....) Christmas. There is something pretty nice about settling down on the sofa with a big blanket and a good craft project (with, erm, the New Girl box set playing on TV), and there's always the possibility of trying a few new things style-wise as well.

This week's Sunday Style is all about the things I'm going to be wrapping up in once the weather gets colder; my beloved midi skirts paired with tights rather than bare legs, brightly coloured coats and chunky boots that keep toes warm. I'm looking forward to getting all my shirts out again, and teaming them up with some cool collar clips (I've got about six pairs from Ladybird Likes on my Christmas wish list!), and I'm actually really loving sweaters and t-shirts with slogans on them (I got this one on eBay for 99p last week!).

What are you going to be wearing this winter? Any top tips for keeping warm and staying stylish?

Friday, 5 September 2014

frugal friday: fashion and style

It's no secret that I love clothes and accessories; I studied fashion journalism at university and have worked in retail for most of my life, spending my days messing about with displays and dressing mannequins. I've been someone who frittered way their student loan in H&M, and someone who spent the last of their wages on a vintage dress rather than buying sensible food for the week but now, in a rather stark contrast, I'm someone who prides themselves on getting as much as possible for as little as possible. So in celebration of my clothes-loving-penny-pinching ways, I've dedicated today's Frugal Friday post to shopping on a strict budget.

The Wonderful World of eBay
My love affair with eBay began when I was seventeen, and bought a Gucci messenger bag for the princely sum of £56 plus p&p. Fourteen years later, I'm a bit more COS and Urban Outfitters than I am designer brands, but I've picked up a wealth of tips and tricks along the way that have helped me enjoy quite a lot of bargain hunting successes....

1. Use Smart Search Terms
Using the right terms can be the key to finding what you're looking for, rather than having to sift through loads of stuff you don't want. Be specific, and rather than just typing 'winter jumper', try things such as 'chunky winter jumper', 'cable knit jumper' and 'aran knit jumper' - people call things by different names, so it's worth trying more than one phrase. Another good tip is to add a well known high street brand to the end of your search terms; for example, looking for 'chunky winter jumper Topshop' will find more current styles than just 'chunky winter jumper', so you'll eliminate all the old, misshapen woollies from 1986 in one go.

2. Save Searches 
I don't know whether this is just me, but I've got a list of things that I'm always looking for when it comes to clothes and accessories; until recently, I was desperate for an acid wash pencil skirt, and I'm constantly on the prowl for vintage knitwear, retro t-shirts and brightly coloured coats. I started saving searches after Hannah from Seeds and Stitches mentioned it was a great way to keep track of anything that might appear on eBay, and now I don't know how I lived without it - you can save all the settings; size, colour, brand, everything, and once you've ticked the little box, they automatically send you notifications when the good stuff comes in. So easy, it's like having a second-hand personal shopper!

3. Use the 'Auction Only' Selection
Choosing to only search amongst items that are for sale under an auction automatically removes all the expensive items, and the things listed by businesses. For me, this is more about shopping ethically, as one of the reasons I use eBay is to reduce my consumption levels - yes, I want a pair of jeans from Topshop (they do the best fit for my pencil-like bottom), but no, I don't want to pay £45 and no, I don't want Phillip Green to be running off with my hard earned cash in his sweaty little paws. So by searching amongst the auction listings rather than the 'Buy it Now' items, I'm going to find myself faced with lots of pre-loved jeans in good condition for bargain prices, rather than brand new ones listed by companies who by in bulk and sell for a profit. Hurrah!

4. Check Sizes 
When it comes to buying online, you can never be too careful when it comes to checking sizes and measurements; sizes vary from brand to brand, so what's a twelve in one shop might be more like a ten in another, and vice versa. There's also the fact that if you're buying something that's been worn, it's fairly likely that it's been washed (hopefully!) so the item might have shrunk slightly - and there's no telling whether they've had the waist taken in or let out. The best idea is to ask for specific measurements, especially when it comes to chest, waist and hips, and clarify shoe sizes as well; there's a lot of debate over whether a size 6 is a 39 or 40, and I've ended up with beautiful leopard print boots that flopped around like nobodies business before because I didn't think to check.

5. Query Postage
Postage fees can range from incredibly reasonable to hugely eye-watering; to save money, ask to combine postage if you're buying multiple items from the same seller, and if they're local, ask if you can pick it up at a time that's convenient to them.

6. Be Patient
I never, ever bid on anything until the last ten seconds or so - bidding before only pushes the price up, and makes competitors aware that you're interested. You need to take them by surprise so they don't have time to counter your bid - this is also a good idea because it allows you to enter your maximum bid without leaving you enough time to bid again and go over your budget. I used to be a nightmare for increasing the price, simply because I didn't want to be beaten!

Buying New on a Budget
Sometimes, mostly for the kiddos birthdays and Christmases, I buy them things we wouldn't usually be able to afford, such as clothes from places like Boden - this is also true when I'm looking for something specific and can't find it second-hand. Buying new doesn't always have to mean spending a fortune, though....

1. Sign up for Newsletters
Signing up for newsletters might seem like a one way road to junk-mail city, but from my experience it's definitely worth it. Admittedly, you do get sent information that you probably won't care about, such as new store openings and whatnot, but you'll also receive money off codes, exclusive access to flash sales and you'll be first to know about in-store reductions. My personal favourites are Boden and Beyond Retro, who regularly hold special events and price reductions on their websites.

2. Look for Discount Codes
There are sooooo many sites which list discount codes that you'd have to have been living under a rock not to know about them; from percentage discounts to free delivery and returns, it's a pretty safe bet that a quick search will turn up something to save you some money.


Monday, 1 September 2014


Last year (or was it the year before? Time seems to fly by these days!), one of my best friends moved to London with her boyfriend, and after months of planning and last-minute cancellations (mostly on my part.... ahem....) I finally made it up for the day to see her last week.

I want to start by just letting you all know that I'm one of those annoying people who gets lost on the tube (the ones who stare vacantly at the maps, and wander in everybody's way), so the fact that we had such an ace day was entirely down to her great planning. We started off at Monmouth Coffee, which made me incredibly happy; I'm a big coffee drinker, and I've heard loads of good things about this place from other bloggers and magazines, and I'm happy to report that they're all true. Great coffee, incredible cakes, really lovely interior and super-quick service - if you're near any of the shops, definitely try them out.

From there, we wandered across the road and spent a good hour meandering through Borough Market; I'm a hopeless cook and honestly can't imagine a situation in my life where I'd need truffle oil, but I was absolutely blown away by the scale of choice and incredible quality of produce on offer. Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables glistened like perfect jewels; ruby red tomatoes jostled for space with the pinkest radishes, the table groaned under the weight of some seriously impressive pumpkins and there were mushrooms for sale that I'd never even heard of. There were traders that stocked every type of oil you could ever need; oils for cooking, for dipping and for impressing dinner guests, all displayed neatly alongside some of the most mouth-watering chutneys, jams and pickles that I've ever set eyes on, and there were others proffering exquisite artisan cheeses, loaves of bread that were golden and glinting in the morning sunlight and prosciutto shaved so finely it was almost translucent. We feasted on bread soaked in oils and vinegars, lingered by the aged cheddar and sipped on first flush Darjeeling, gazed in amazement at the most delicate patisserie products and inhaled the heady scent of curries and exotic street foods.

After a week of rain, the weather couldn't have been better; sunny but not too hot, ideal for walking which is exactly what we did. Along Southbank, past galleries and theatres, stopping to marvel at the street performers and gaze at the installation for the Festival of Love, and flick through first edition Penguin novels at the book market. (It was pretty much this point that made me start to wish I'd worn sandals and not Converse; my feet were like two hot, throbbing hot water bottles.)

We stopped for some lunch, then carried along over the bridge and round to the Victoria Embankment Park, where I saw some of the biggest plants and most beast-like pigeons of my life. They were both literally huge; leaves that were the size of trees, flowers on Wonka-esque wavy stalks and birds the size of dogs (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit there, but they were BIG). Down the road, Somerset House had an exhibition on which featured the work of some of the best tattooists in the world - but produced on anything other than skin. There were lots of paintings, mixed-media works and photography, all based around the theme of time - I know absolutely nothing about art or hidden meanings, but there were some really incredible pieces in there, including one that we were convinced was a photograph but actually turned out to be an oil painting. It's only a small exhibition, but it's completely free and definitely worth seeing. We spent a bit (OK, a lot) of time in the amazing Rizzoli bookshop where I deliberated over some amazing children's books and happily spotted some Stacie Swift greetings cards, then had the best hot chocolate of my life at The Fleet Street Press before getting the coach home again. Still thinking about that drink four days later. Yum.

// The End //

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