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Project Bedside Table

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A few months ago I fell in love.

In a vintage homeware shop.

With a laundry basket.

Yes, I know I'm weird.  It was so pretty though!

Hmmm, look closer.  It was undoubtedly pretty but rather than being shabby chic, it was just shabby. And dirty! Ick. There was a lot of dust and crap tucked in the crevices. 

That's ok though: I like a good project. As soon as I had a free weekend and some dry weather (both of which have been scarce recently) I set about transforming it.

Firstly, I took the hose to it to remove most of the fluff, dirt and associated gack:

Then I bought some paint. Oh, how grown up and boring that made me feel. Naturally I chose the most expensive flipping paint in the whole of B&Q. What can I say? I am a woman of expensive painty tastes. Cheap green paint is mostly mushy pea or snot coloured. Yack.

Just call me Painty McPainterson. Turns out I'm not bad with a brush!

Helpful note to anyone thinking of tackling a DIY project. Even if it is an excessively hot, sunny day and the paint is drying tons quicker than you think it will, it isn't magic. Not a good idea to lean on the lid two seconds after you've painted it...

Voila! One freshly painted bedside table.

It looks a lot more neatly painted in real life than it does here. I blame light levels. 

I hauled it upstairs and it's now nestled in between my bed and a bookcase. I don't know if it was originally a laundry basket and some clever previous owner had the bright idea of adding the glass top or if it was made that way in the first place but either way, it's brilliant. The perfect bedside table as far as I'm concerned!

It's all part of the masterplan to declutter my life and try (probably in vain) to be a bit tidier.  There's room inside it to store loads of winter clothing and room on top of it for a lamp, my current book and my specs. Nothing more. It will remain tidy.

Speaking of lamps, do you like this beauty? I do already have a cute little Ikea lamp in my room but it's very happy where it is and I was looking for something a little bit bigger to go on the shiny new bedside table. Out There Interiors, purveyors of a delicious array of modern and French style furniture as well as a whole lot of other beautiful things, got in touch at a very opportune time and asked if I'd like to review a product from their site.

Well, I'm pleased to report that I am delighted with the fab alphabet light I chose. It's porcelain but quite tough and sturdy, which is good, because I am fairly clumsy and bound to drop something on it at some point. It comes with an excellent length of cable too. Does that sound odd? It just makes my life a lot easier! This house is appallingly badly set up with plug points - seriously, I have one plug socket in my whole bedroom - and I was having the horrors about potentially having to run an extension lead off another extension lead in order to plug a lamp in. Worries over. If only all manufacturers thought this way.

Alphabet light c/o Outthere Interiors, book is from Persephone and my specs are from Specsavers.

The Benefits of Being Messy

Monday, 27 May 2013

I'm not a naturally tidy person.

You know what? There are benefits to this. Admittedly there are mostly negatives to it - having to hurdle and leap your way into bed because there's no visible carpet, being constantly surrounded by towering piles of stuff, having a purse that looks brilliantly full of money until you realise it's just six months worth of receipts, getting your foot stuck in the handle of a bag you've left lying on the floor and faceplanting the carpet, knowing that you own approximately 6 million bobbles but not ever being able to locate one when you need it... the list goes on.

BUT. When you do eventually get round to tidying up those pile of stuff, you find awesome things! Books you've forgotten about, USB sticks and stray earrings that have been lost for ages, lovely notebooks and the pièce de résistance: Arcadia vouchers!

Tidy people will never understand the joy I felt.  Those vouchers would long since have been neatly filed away in their purse, not languishing in a heap of stuff for months and months.  My way is the messy way, but it's definitely more fun.

What did I buy? This pretty yellow frock, which I spotted and then whipped out of a rail of discarded dresses in the changing rooms at my local Dotty P's store. There were no others to be spotted anywhere in the shop. I do love a good random find.

Dress - Dorothy Perkins sale
Cardi - H&M
Pumps - Primark
Necklace - c/o Naive Melodies
Earrings - Wolf & Moon

Out With The Old...In With The New

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Meet my very favourite pair of red flats. Mysterious creatures that they were. Size 5, yet they were originally owned by my mum (size 4) and then me (size 6) and fitted us both just fine.  I wore them with everything. Jeans and jumpers, girly frocks, skirts and cardis. A good pair of flat shoes is a useful thing to own.

The one problem with this particular pair? They were made from fabric. Quite sturdy fabric, which meant they lasted a decent length of time, but I am not a dainty Audrey Hepburn-esque creature who can waft around barely touching the floor and this means my shoes don't last forever. The toes got scuffed, weird black marks developed on the sides and then holes started to appear where the heels met the soles. It was time for them to go to the great shoe rack in the sky.

It has proved very hard to find a decent replacement for them. Nothing is quite right. Too red, too dark, too shiny, too pointy...

I went for this Blowfish pair in the end.

Nice, sensible flat shoes: ü
Pleasant shade of red: ü
Leather: ü
Bit of interesting detail: ü

I really like the buttons. Usually I'm not a fan of having a brand name/logo emblazoned over things *gives River Island and Dorothy Perkins handbags a stern look* but I think shoes are generally the more acceptable way to do it. It's not like anyone is going to be peering that closely at my toes!

Terrific Toile

Monday, 20 May 2013

Getting dressed can be quite hard.

I know that sounds more than a little ridiculous. No-one in their right mind could stand at my wardrobe and think that it was understocked. It's just that sometimes it's hard to find something interesting to wear and even harder to find something that I want to blog about. I've talked about the notion of a "blogworthy" outfit before and I'm not opposed to featuring the same items in numerous outfit posts over time but, let's face it, no-one is going to want to read a blog post or look at an outfit that's virtually identical to one from the week before.

Add to that a healthy dose of feeling-fat-itis and wondering if I'll ever get back to looking like I did 18 months ago and an even healthier dose of where-has-all-my-money-gone-this-month (answer: not on clothes. On passports and other massively overpriced official documentation) and you have one fashion blogger who doesn't want to take photos of her outfits much at the moment.

Luckily Char came to the rescue and arrived at my house yesterday morning with a frock of great beauty. It's the same pattern as my beloved Victoria Plum frock but made a couple of inches shorter this time.  It had to be photographed.  Go and tell her how clever she is please!

Isn't the fabric brilliant?

I adore toile and absolutely had to buy this green version when I saw it in a fabric shop.  It's been lurking in a bag since then as I wasn't brave enough to cut into it but luckily Char is far superior to me at making things and is also super generous about agreeing to do them!

I think it's curtain material but since when did that matter? Soft furnishings make good clothes: Julie Andrews taught us that.  It's mostly floral but there are some ace little features dotted around.

Leg! Gate!

I love her face. It's all "Oh ffs. Can't you see that I'm READING?"

Dress - made by Char
Cardi - H&M sale
Shoes & bag - Dorothy Perkins

Working from Home

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

I had a brief moment of bliss last week.  I was lying on a huge beach towel in the back garden, grass tickling my toes, sun baking down on my back, listening to the strains of Ocean Drive by The Lighthouse Family wafting over the garden fence.  It was spookily like being 13 again.

Except instead of revising for end of year exams, I was doing this:

Yes, I was working. In the garden.

I don't care how blasé and grown up we all are, you've got to admit that it's quite cool, haven't you?  I don't get the chance to do it often but if there's a project that needs some serious planning and I know I won't get a moment's peace in the office, the boss is usually quite happy to let me have the odd day at home.  It's bliss. Just me and Oscar.

He was always very fond of helping me revise and he's still equally interested in what I'm up to now.

He is not helpful. But he is extremely cute.

Alas I couldn't spend the whole day out there with him.  My morning was spent planning and writing, my lunch time was spent sunbathing but I did eventually have to head indoors and fire up the laptop.

Any real working-from-home types probably have a neat office set-up going on. I had to shovel bits of sewing machine and Tudor costumes out of the way in order to make a bit of space on the dining room table.

I was quite cosy though and really productive! It's astonishing how much more work I can get done when I actually have peace and quiet. I cope pretty well with constant interruptions in the office (which is good, because it's always like that. I'm lucky if I get 5 minutes to myself to concentrate on something). But oh, the bliss of being able to work on one thing at once and not have my train of thought derailed by the phone or an urgent email or an "Alex, do you know where XYZ is?".

Good view from the office, huh?

13 year old me probably didn't ever imagine a world where working from home was an actual thing but 30 year old me still finds it madly exciting.  It's such a treat!  If only I could do it all the time.  I reckon I'd be some sort of superhuman work machine if I had that level of peace and quiet.  Or I'd become a recluse who wore pjs all day and existed solely on coffee and crisps.  Yeah, it's probably safest that I have to go to the office five days a week, isn't it?

In Which I Knit

Monday, 13 May 2013

I wasn't interested in knitting when my grandma was alive and that's something I really regret because she was truly amazing at it. Bright red nails and furiously clattering knitting needles: that's how I remember her.  I was almost always dressed in something she'd made me. So were my dolls. She even knitted me a Care Bear once. Awesome.

This was obviously before I could talk and say "Oi, family, stop dressing me in pink!"

She hasn't been alive for a long time though (I've been a grand-orphan for well over a decade), so it's my mum that I have to turn to for help now. Knitting isn't her preferred craft (she is shit hot at cross-stitch) but she knows a hell of a lot more than I do and she can usually help me out. The problem is this: I have a huge mental block about casting on. I'm sure there's an easy method out there somewhere but I can't learn it. Things usually go like this:

Me: "Muuuuuuum"

Mum: "Can't you remember how to do it yet?"

Me: "Clearly not" *holds out wool and needles with an imploring look*  "Show me please."

Mum: "You just do this." *whirl of wool* *hands it back* "Easy! Try it yourself now."

Me: "AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA" (nervous hysterical laughter - I don't actually find it funny) *attempts it* *ends up somehow tying a sheepshank knot around the needle* "Oh for fuck's sake."

Once we've gone through that a few times and I've basically resigned myself to never being able to cast on properly, I plod along quite merrily. I knitted myself a headband in a couple of hours on holiday whilst curled up on the sofa feeling like death and trying to sidetrack myself by watching Pointless. There was the occasional "Your tension is quite tight, isn't it?" "THAT'S BECAUSE I AM TENSE" outburst but other than that, it was all good. I might be shocking at casting on but I can knit, I can purl and I can cast off. That's all that was needed for this pattern which I found on A Stash Addict. And yes, I did google "super easy knitted headband pattern". FYI, "Easy knitted headband" patterns are NOT EASY.

What I'm not so good at is following instructions because either the wool or the needles (or both) was the wrong size and my first attempt was not big enough to fit around my giant noggin. Second time worked much better though. I added on some more stitches and a couple of extra rows and it fits just right.

Yay! I made that.

Screw the Weather

Friday, 10 May 2013

I should have known that being organised and packing away all my winter clothes would come back to bite me in the arse. A few days after I did it, the weather promptly dropped ten degrees and it started raining.  It hasn't stopped since.   *shakes fist at the sky*  My wardrobe full of pretty summer frocks and sandals just isn't designed for this weather but I'm going to have to wear them anyway!

Luckily the thermal black tights and sensible cardigans remained within reach.  When I layer up with them, it makes the floaty dress with cut-out detail seem a bit more weather-appropriate, doesn't it?  In fact, I don't think I'll actually be wearing this frock when it's sunny. The tan lines would be most odd!

I'm very pleased with the new shoes. I've officially given up buying cheap, crappy flats that fall apart after a few wears.  I'm going to invest in decent ones, made of proper fabric (preferably leather) and with a real sole. If they have a bit of cute detail on them as this pair do, so much the better!

Dress - Primark
Cardi - Hawkshead
Flat shoes - Emma Go

It's the first cut-out dress I've ever owned. Inappropriate for an old woman?  I don't know.  I was just so pleased to find something in Primark that wasn't made of vile polyester that I had to buy it.

A Blogging Good Read - May

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

It's time for the May edition of A Blogging Good Read. Yayyyyy books! Joining me this month are two returning reviewers: Char from T*rexes and Tiaras and Steph (aka @mrs_sock).  What did we read?

Well, Char's choice was Good at Games by Jill Mansell:

I'm not ashamed to admit that I like a bit of chick-lit and I have fond memories of this, my first Jill Mansell book. I must have been about 15 when I picked it up from a table-top sale in Boughton-on-the-Water on a day trip with my grandparents, and it's probably the best 20p I've ever spent. It's one of those books I've picked up time and again to read and haven't got bored of. I always come to the same conclusions - I like Leo and always think Harry-the-Hero is a bit of a sap, and spend most of it wishing I had a superwoman like Maeve around the place. Good at Games is still one of those books I wish carried on a little longer; my only criticism would be that the last few chapters move a bit too quickly for my liking, to wrap everything up.

What did Steph think of it?

I’ve read a lot of Jill Mansell books and loved them, so I was happy to read another. Jill is wonderful at creating believable and likeable characters; you can’t help but like Suzy. I would say Good at Games is predictable but enjoyable, even with the plot twists; a feel good book that is easy to read. It’s possibly a little sweet and with Mansell, you know there will be a happy ending but anything that can you make me laugh aloud is a winner.

I think this was one of the first few Jill Mansell books I read and it's one of my favourites - I find her more recent ones to be getting a bit stale and dull. They're definitely nowhere near as good as this one. I like Suzy, I like Jaz, her rockstar ex-husband, I like Lucille, the wannabe singer, and I definitely like Harry and Leo, a pair of extremely attractive brothers. How could I not like the book?  The characters are so fun, vivid and enjoyable to read about that it's a pleasure to spend time in their company.  Yes, it's on the frothy side but sometimes that's just what you want to read about.

My choice was You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning:

I first came across a mention of this book in a random blog post somewhere in the depths of the internet which was talking about sex scenes in books that weren't ridiculously perfect and multi-orgasmic but a bit more awkward and true to life. I thought it sounded a bit different from the usual chick-lit fare, so I bought myself a copy and promptly stayed up till 3am finishing it. I was a big soggy mess by the end. This book pushes a lot of buttons for me about body image and it still makes me cry a lot but I love it anyway.

It's about Neve, book lover and exercise obsessive. In pursuit of the perfect relationship with the perfect man (William, who happens to be living halfway around the world), she sets out to get some experience with Max. It's what she calls a pancake relationship: the first one out of the pan is always a mess but it teaches you how to make the next one perfect.  William comes back from LA towards the end of the book but does Neve turn her back on messy, imperfect happiness with Max in the pursuit of idealised true love with him? Well, what do you think? I can't pretend that the elements of the story are anything other than formulaic but what I like so much about Sarra Manning is how she takes what could be considered a bit cliched and makes it utterly engrossing, funny and poignant.

Did Char like it?

I've not read any Sarra Manning before, so it was nice to encounter a new author in a genre I'll happily read more of. I spent a lot of the first section of the book thinking about how great it would be if I had a three-storey house for my sisters and I to live in, but once I'd got to Part Two, I was happily engrossed in the life of Neve and willing her to see the light; not just about men, but also about herself. I found her self-deprecating thoughts about her size and shape really hit home with me and there was one page towards the end which almost had me in tears of recognition with the self-critical way in which she saw herself. Although the ending was a little predictable, it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book and I read the second half of it in the course of one sitting (interspersed with a few cups of coffee, of course), which is always a good sign.

What did Steph think?

I don’t think I’ve read any of Manning’s books before, so was excited to read a new author. Another author who creates fabulous characters. I liked Neve, I think I could relate to her in some ways, a little bit Bridget Jones. However, she could be irritating at times. There was a definite arrogance to William, and again the story is possibly a bit predictable but enjoyable. I would say Manning writes well, but there is maybe something missing here for me… I just don’t know what it is!

Steph's choice was The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

I chose The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson after reading the synopsis, possibly as I have worked in nursing homes, and the thought of someone upping and escaping to have an adventure appeals to me, when the reality is much sadder and lonelier. Allan is not your typical old man. Rather than celebrate his 100th birthday in the rest home, he decides to run away. He has no plans of where he is going and fate steps in and takes him and his slippers on an adventure. It is not a present day narrative, it covers Allan’s life story and I really wish I could meet him! In some parts the comedy is almost slapstick, Allan is caught up in events he has no control over. The plot is utterly fabulous because it is utterly ridiculous. I sort of hope this version of history is true…

This book caught my attention, something not many books do now, and I couldn’t wait to read the next bit, in fact I missed my stop on the train because I was so engrossed. I’d recommend this book just for Jonasson’s intelligent story telling. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea; it is a bit Forrest Gump in parts, however it is refreshing to read a book with an older main character that isn’t tear inducing.

Did Char enjoy it as much?

For the first section of this book, I was gripped. I liked the pace, was interested in the characters and the way in which the author gave them pet-names ("The Beauty", for example) was something I found quite cute. I liked the way in which the flashbacks of Allan's earlier life were included so that they didn't seem to alter the pace of the story.

And then, I'm not sure what happened. I kept reading, but as more and more coincidental incidents were strung together in Allan's past, they seemed to interest me less and less. I started to find it a little irritating, if I'm honest - it seems as though Jonasson went through a book of the last hundred years of history with a highlighter pen and tried to cram in as many events of note as he possibly could, and I was just willing it to end, but the more I read, the more it seems as though it was going to take me a hundred years to finish. (Ok, that might be a little harsh, but I couldn't let the opportunity to make that comment pass!)

I must admit I agree more with Char than Steph when it comes to this book. In fact our reviews are probably very similar but I promise they were written separately! I liked it at the start - well, you've got to find the whole premise of the story (and title) interesting, haven't you? It didn't take me long to read the first half as I was rather enjoying the romp through the world across the twentieth century, interwoven with a modern day crime caper and peopled by a cast of fun characters.

It was around the midway point that I started to lose interest though. It suddenly hit me that what I was reading was a Scandinavian Forrest Gump, only not as good. It seems as if the author was more concerned with seeing how many significant world events he could hang around the life story of one man rather than creating a story that had any real depth. It all got a bit tedious after a while and I can't say I enjoyed having to slog my way through to the end of it.

Thank you very much Char and Steph!

Next month we'll be reading How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley