A Bit Of A House Update

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Basically, I get clobbered with an overwhelming sense of gloom every time I step through the front door.

I should be all "YAY!" because the wallpaper steaming is finally done. Yes, even the awkward bits that involved stanley knives and mega awkward upside down scraping whilst getting my face boiled off by steam. DONE.

But I'm not yay. I am Little Miss Feeling Sick because scraping all that wallpaper off has revealed some extra damp patches and some fairly monstrous cracks and awful ceilings that need boarding out. Urgghhhhhh, it looks like such a mess at the moment.  Plus I can't do anything now.  I'm itching to get in and start actually decorating but I can't decorate until it's been plastered and oh yeah, there's still no electricity because they have to wait till the plastering is done before fitting the switches and sockets and guess what? Plasterers are the bane of my life at the moment.

I went back yesterday and looked at my diary entries from the house-hunting process at the start of the year.  Want to know what I wrote?  "I don't mind something that needs decorating but I don't think I can cope with something that needs loads of repairs."

*hollow laugh*

I've found interesting things underneath all the crap though.

Mary Poppins in the plaster

Parquet flooring!

And a record of how tall Sarah was in 1977 (not very)

I'm off to give someone an actual month's salary to fix all the walls and ceilings. My plan is to not go back there till that's done and it looks like a proper house again.

A New Purchase

Monday, 14 July 2014

Spot what's new and different about my outfit today:

Nope, haven't accidentally lost a foot, although this photo does suggest it...

Is it that my shirt has PINK in it?

Well, yes, but that's not really what I'm talking about.

I've got my first ever pair of jeggings on! I'm such an early adopter of fashion trends. 
*snorks quietly to self*

I dunno, I think I assumed they were the crappy version of skinny jeans and I don't get on with jeans at the best of times, so I'd never bothered trying any.  Then I had a horrendous jeans shopping trip, threw a tantrum and went "OH FUCK IT, I'LL BUY SOME FUCKING JEGGINGS THEN. I GIVE UP."

Yeah, in the middle of Primark.  Oh well, that place has seen a lot worse. No-one batted an eyelid at my little outburst.  And it turns out that jeggings are alright. Definitely less hideous than the jeans I was trying on and a hell of a lot cheaper. A smidgen too long for my midgety legs but hey ho.

Shirt & heels - Dorothy Perkins
Cardi - Hawkshead
Jeggings - Primark

Butterflies and Bows

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Out comes the sun, out come the summer frocks.

Poor things, they live in a blanket chest for most of the year. I layer up with tights and cardis for as long as possible but there does come a time when they have to be packed away. It's always fun digging them out again though!

I bought this beaut on one of my very first shopping trips after losing all the weight and for that reason alone, it has a special little place in my heart. Also it's very pretty. If you hadn't already guessed from the blog title, I do enjoy a pretty frock.

The one bad thing about it is that I always, always forget how short it is. I spend the entire day reminding myself NOT to bend over. If only it were this long!

Ah well. Shall attempt not to scandalise people whilst wearing it.  And if I accidentally do, I can always distract them with the beauty of my new shoes!

Dress - Primark
Cardi - H&M
Irregular Choice 'Secret Pair' - c/o Spartoo

A Blogging Good Read - July

Monday, 7 July 2014

  Hello everyone! It's the seventh of the month and that means it's BGR time! Joining me this month are AJ from Writer's Block and Broken Lenses and Maria from Frills n Spills.

AJ picked The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson:

Practically everyone I know has told me how amazing The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared is. I'm yet to get around to reading it but found Jonas Jonasson's second book while having my usual book browse and decided I needed it in my life. Unfortunately I was disappointed. The book started out well, it was funny, interesting and the mix of narratives made it easy to read but eventually it became a struggle. The pace slowed and I ended up losing all faith in the characters.

I'm probably the only one who didn't like it but I'm not going to let it put me off reading The One Hundred Year Old Man. It's next on my reading list!

Did Maria enjoy it any more?

This was probably the book I was looking forward to the most, so many people had recommended the author and I loved the cover so much that I kept picking it whenever I was in a bookshop.

The numerous good reviews also boded well but once I read it, I felt a little flat. I enjoyed the story and the characters in it were very well observed (especially Nombeko) but it all felt a bit too contrived for my liking. Everything was just so twee and whilst I usually enjoy that, this book was trying too hard to be charming for my liking. I know this may be an unpopular opinion but I just wasn't convinced...

I know you shouldn't prejudge books but urghhh, I was not looking forward to this one. Jonasson's previous novel, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, was picked for BGR a while ago and I did not enjoy it. In fact, time has only made it seem more annoying in my memory. You should have seen the eye rolling I did when the trailer for the film came on last time I was at the cinema. But I digress! Stop being all prejudiced and try reading the flipping book, I hear you shout...

So I did. It's worse than the first one. I might have been prejudiced but in this case at least I was proved right to be! This book drags on and on and on. Vaguely amusing to start off with but it rapidly becomes irritating and then it never seems to end! You're stuck with these tedious, unengaging characters for an eternity. I was so happy to finally finish it and get on with reading the other two choices.

Well, nobody enjoyed that one!  Did we fare better with my choice, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman?

I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a Neil Gaiman book.  He's endlessly imaginative with all sorts of books for different ages and in different genres.  My fantasy preference does tend to lean towards worlds where everything seems quite normal but it quickly becomes obvious that things are actually very odd indeed and that's probably why I like this book so much.  Our unnamed narrator returns to the area he grew up in, following a funeral, and visits the Hempstock's farm. We then dive back in time with his memories to when he was seven years old and living in a old house down the lane from the farm. Very odd things happened.  (I'm not going to spoil it by describing them)

The plot is an eery, disturbing, evocative joy of a thing and, unsurprisingly, it packs a punch.  I reread this for BGR and the emotional impact was probably even stronger second time round.  There's a very strong sense of threat running throughout this book and it doesn't always come from the obviously monstrous characters, which just makes it all the more menacing. You end up feeling desperately sorry for the narrator throughout the story and I don't know about anyone else but I feel desperately sad for him at the end of the book too. The way things are wrapped up is a little ambiguous but that works perfectly for a book that's all about perceptions of memory and truth.

What did AJ think of it?

Neil Gaiman never fails to amaze me. Every time I pick up one if his books I just get completely lost in it and with the Ocean at the End of the Lane it was no different. I was hooked from the moment I read 'for Amanda who wanted to know' (Amanda Palmer is his wife and my idol). This is one of those books when I was genuinely devastated when it ended. Not because I didn't like the ending but because I craved more. I wanted to know what came next in the life of our unnamed character god damn it!

The story is an adult's recollection of his seven year old self and brings into question what we truly remember from our childhood and whether what we think are memories are simply a fantasy that we cling on to. Gaiman once again wove together fantasy and 'reality' that at times I thought there was some element of his personal life and some of the more imaginative moments actually frightened me. I recommend this book to everyone, I made my boyfriend (who 'doesn't read' - weirdo) read it and even he finished it in a day and a half!

How about Maria?

I have never read any Neil Gaiman so I was really keen to get stuck into Alex's pick. I found this a little slow to start but I soon got pulled into the story and drawn along by the the narration. The story was quite dark in parts and I had to stop reading for a while as the themes of isolation and panic really upset and unsettled me (not ideal just before bed!)

This really reminded me of the series by Garth Nix (Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen) which I also really loved, especially with the more mystical elements. I found the ending unsatisfying but that was merely because I wanted it to carry on!

Maria selected Pompeii by Robert Harris:

You may not realise this but I am a massive fan of historical fiction and Pompeii is one of my favourite books. Robert Harris writes masterfully and is one of the best historical fiction writers out there. (Can you tell I have a little bit of a crush?!)

Marcus Attilius Primus arrives in the Bay of Naples from Rome to take charge as aquarius of the Aqua Augusta, the aqueduct that supplies water to the many towns in a region encompassing the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. Attilius' predecessor has mysteriously vanished as the springs that flow through the aqueduct begin to fail, then, dramatically, the flow of water stops entirely. Attilius concludes that the aqueduct must be blocked somewhere close to Mount Vesuvius and sets out to investigate…

Everyone knows how the story of Pompeii ends, and this book is deliciously tense throughout as you wait for the fatal explosion to start. I quickly became attached to the main characters and if you're anything like me you will spend chunks of the book shouting 'get out of there!'

I studied Classics for my degree but I will always remember the day that this book saved me in a Classics exam at college when writing about aqueducts- thanks Robert! Definitely recommended if you are even slightly interested in history or the ancient world especially as you can pick up copies for next to nothing in your charity shop.

Well, unlike the King of Sweden book, I went into this one with a pleasant sense of anticipation as I love books set in Roman times (especially the Falco series). Then the first few pages were all about aqueducts and I was all "Huhhhh??"  All credit to Robert Harris though! He actually makes aqueducts interesting and it's really not long before you're entirely swept up into this brilliant historical tale.  It doesn't matter a jot that you know what's going to happen (spoiler alert: volcano) and in fact that probably helps add to the breathless air of anticipation that imbues the entire book. You know most of the characters are doomed but you're desperate for some of them to escape!

The only thing I was unsure about at the time was the chapter headings as they're taken from modern books about volcanology.  In one way they work because they explain the stages of what's happening. In another way they really don't work because they're a jarring fit with the historical setting.  I still think it would have been better without them but it's a minor quibble.  This book is excellent and I thoroughly recommend everyone to grab themselves a copy.

What did AJ think of it?

I LOVED this book. It's not something I would usually pick up and I don't think I have ever read anything by Harris before so I picked up this book with a completely open mind as I couldn't think of anything to compare it to. Throughout the whole book I felt like I was on the edge of my seat as there is constant tension and anticipation. Kind of like watching a really awesome movie. At first I was unsure about our lead narrator but he grew on me especially through the various narratives weaving in with his whole story line.

Based on a true historical event, I also ended up learning a lot about Pompeii because I kept having to put the book down to Google things and learn more. Harris' mixture between his own story and historical fact make it seem as though you're seeing the disaster through your own eyes, as clich├ęd as that sounds!

Thank you ever so much to AJ and Maria.  Hopefully we all enjoyed ourselves overall, despite having to read one stinker!

I'll be back next month with two new participants and we'll be reading Charlotte's Web by E.B White, Memoirs Of A Geisha by Arthur Golden and Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G Wodehouse.

A Work In Progress

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Want to see the money pit?

It's utter chaos at the moment. Rewiring has been done (but not finished), damp proof course has been put in (but not replastered), half the wallpaper has been stripped and the heating blokes are there today to fit a shiny new boiler, take away the ancient old hot water system and put in a nice new fire.

I'm obviously getting workmen in to do all the stuff I'm not capable of but I can do the basics of decorating myself. No point paying a man to come in and strip wallpaper, is there? I'm kinda enjoying the wallpaper removal process (the steamer is my new best friend), which is a good job because holy crap, it's taking a long time. Thick anaglypta everywhere and not just one layer but loads of it. Plus lining paper. It's all an absolute bitch to get off.

The previous owners clearly loved covering things up. You should have seen how much manky 50s lino was underneath all the carpets!

It's not all doom and gloom though. Wanna see the bannisters we discovered once we'd ripped off a load of horrible old chipboard?

And what I think might well prove to be an epic shoe cupboard?

And the amazing kitchen unit I liberated from work?

And my utterly kitsch bathroom?

Without fail, every single person that's seen it has said "When are you going to replace that then?" I'm not. I'll redo the wallpaper section but green bath and loo? Hell yeah!

It might be chaos at the moment but it's not all bad. I'll get there. I will make it pretty.

Won't be long till I can cast the steamer aside and start picking pretty wallpaper instead!

Is It A Bird? No, It's A Plane

Friday, 27 June 2014

I like it when a plan comes together.

I also very much like it when an outfit comes together. I don't usually put that much effort into pairing things up - things either work within the context of my limited wardrobe and accessories or they don't. Time and money prevent me from dithering around finding the "perfect" thing to match it up with.

Also I have a raging hatred for blog posts about things like "10 ways to wear jeans". Here's a crazy notion: put them on your legs and get on with your day.

 Ahem. Am I a fashion blogger or a fraud?

So I totes bought this AMAZE top and I was all "OMG, whatever will I wear it with?"
*consults ASOS, asks on Twitter etc*

Yeah, I actually just looked in my wardrobe and went "That'll do", then ended up actually liking my reflection in the mirror for once. Score.

It is an amazing top though. Maps and planes!!

Top - Vero Moda (get it here)
Blazer - Warehouse via charity shop
Jeans - Gap
Heels - Shelly's via Spartoo
Stacking rings - Dorothy Perkins

New Sandals

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Usually I moan a bit when it starts to get hot.  I am fairly rubbish in the heat: I don't like getting hot and sweaty, I burn and freckle rather than going lovely and brown, my upper arms aren't fit for human gaze, that sort of thing.

At the moment I am a big fan of the warm weather.  I have no time for anything right now. Work is insanely busy and when I'm not there, I'm trying to project manage about 8 different contractors who are fixing the house for me, looking after Monty three days a week and trying to have some form of social life as well.  Picking out pretty outfits is kinda low on the priority list at the mo, therefore summer is pleasing me greatly.

Dress, cardi, sandals and I'm good to go!

On a side note, I am loving these pretty sandals. Toe posts make my feet bleed and Birkenstocks make my eyes bleed. Trying to find sandals with a flat bar across the foot that aren't either massively strappy gladiator style things or frumpy old-lady shoes can sometimes be tricky but the Les Tropeziennes range is fab for me! Very glad I discovered them.

Pretty sole too! (or at least it was until I wore most of the pattern off...)

Dress - Dorothy Perkins sale
Cardi _ H&M
Sandals - Les Tropeziennes via Spartoo