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New Shoes

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

I hate to sound like an utter girl here but sometimes all you need is a good pair of shoes. These are good shoes.

You can ignore the fact that I haven't ironed the dress, washed my hair for three days or bothering putting any makeup on, can't you? Yes, because you're all looking at the shoooooooes. They are clomptastically excellent.

You may have seen me mention them as a potential pair of wedding shoes in this post a little while ago. Yup, I went ahead and ordered them. Solely in the interests of having plenty of time to wear them in beforehand, you understand.

I know I always pronounce my more ridiculous shoes to be very comfy and then someone in the comments goes "they can't possibly be!" but trust me readers, these really are. They look massive but once you discount the platform height the heel is quite low and I never once felt in danger of wobbling off the platforms. I've got shoes where it feels like you've strapped a brick to your foot. These are not like that. Super easy to walk in and super comfy.

This ring looks super simple but it's beaten into shape all the way round and that makes it just interesting enough for my liking.

Dress - Dorothy Perkins via charity shop
Cardi - Gap
Tights - Primark
Shoes - Shellys
 Ring - That Silver Touch

The one bad thing about this dress is this:

I have no idea why they put the belt loops under the boobs instead of on the actual waistline. I'm contemplating unsnipping them but I don't want to end up with holes in it...

ps - if you want your very own pair of mega platforms, they're currently in the Spartoo sale in red or black.

The £10 Outfit

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Yup, a whole outfit for ten English pounds. 

Admittedly it's easier to dress for less at this time of year, what with all the sales going on and the soaring temperatures meaning a simple dress and sandals will suffice, but still! £10 for everything! God bless Matalan and their amazing dresses from £5 event.

I snaffled this frock and the same style but in black and white polka dots for £5 each. What a bargain!  I was super duper keen to get my hands on them and they were disappearing fast from the website so I placed a hasty online order, erring on the side of caution and getting them both in two different sizes as I wasn't sure which would fit best. I'm pleased to report that their Click & Collect service works like a dream and their refunds process in store is super duper fast and friendly, even when you pay by Paypal.

They haven't paid me to say any of this btw, I'm just really pleased! It's such a bore when companies take about 9 years to refund you when you know perfectly well they've received the returns parcel or try and charge you for delivery to store. I like my shopping to be as hassle free as possible and any company that makes it easier for me will definitely get my repeat custom.

Yay sleeves! You know me, I love a good dress even more when it has sleeves in it.

Bargainous dress - Matalan
Pretty sandals - Chiara Fashion

Summer Blues

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Long time, no blog!

Life has got rather in the way recently and I've been working so much that I've had no time to blog. I squeezed a ten minute break last week to snap some outfit photos though so here they are. And here's hoping I can get back into the swing of things again!

All this hot weather has made getting dressed much easier, even if I have been so short of time I've been randomly grabbing things and chucking them on in the mornings. I dug a box of summer clothes out of the loft, gave them a shake and have been having great fun wearing them all again. Last year's summer was pretty non-existent and I don't think I wore them at all in 2012.

I'm so pleased to be back in wedges as well. All my summer shoes been languishing in a box since 2011 too and it was a lovely rediscovery to open up that box and remember how many nice sandals and wedges I own! I still can't resist a new pair though. These Betty London wedges are new this year and they are so flipping comfy I'm tempted to buy every style of summery sandals that they make.

Dress & cardi - Primark
Shoes - Betty London

A Weekend in Warwick

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Isn't this the best sight to be greeted with in the morning?  Yup, delicious baked goodies for breakfast come as standard when you're staying with baking supremo SarahChar, Sarah, Rosie, Gemma and I descended upon her last weekend for a whole heap of nattering, cake eating, castle visiting and picnicking. It was awesome.

Roisin joined us on the Saturday and we set off for a jolly summer day out at Warwick Castle.

Warwick Castle

And Warwick Sandcastle!

I haven't been there for a long, long time so it was much fun to go a-wandering. It was hot and heaving with people but we managed to find some cool spots.

I love this photo. Pretty Sarah, pretty Gemma, and my face is hiding. Yay!

Also I feel that I should point out I'm not a sunglasses wanker. I'd left my specs in the car and it was either wear these indoors or be blind.

I don't have a group photo to rival the Norbury Manor gif, in fact I don't really have a group photo at all. We were too busy mooching around the grounds of the castle, raiding Sarah's collection of unwanted dresses and shoes (her blog name is truly descriptive!) enjoying ourselves at the Proms concert and then working our way through a rather enormous picnic.

Hark at me trying to be healthy with my picnic and then ruining it all by eating my own bodyweight in cocktail sausages.

Photos aren't the be all and end all of a good weekend though. You know what I liked best? Sitting round Sarah's kitchen table chatting away to everyone about blogging, cake, dresses and suchlike. Hardly any of my close friends live near me now and it's a rare occasion when I get to do the girly things. Emails and Twitter, much as I love them, aren't the same as giggling together in person over coffee and cake. All six of my weekend buddies are truly lovely people. The only bad thing about them is their insistence on living so far away. Rude!

Last two pics courtesy of Gem. Thank you for being organised enough to take a(n almost) group photo!

Summer Workwear

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Shopping for work clothes can be so dull. You hit the workwear section of most big shops and it's like drowning in a sea of black, grey and navy polyester. Not an area I ever find myself drawn to when I'm wombling around the shops. I'm much more of a magpie for pretty colours, patterns and fabrics. You can find them in the shops, you just need to cast your net a little wider. Look around a bit, try some different places and buy what you like rather than defaulting to the obvious option.  I've been hitting the nicer shops like Hobbs recently, where the products are a lot more interesting and much better quality.

A work dress doesn't have to be a shift dress, especially if that style doesn't suit you. They don't work on me - I look all stomach and hips and I'm sure you'll agree that that's not a particularly fetching look. I like something with a fuller skirt and as long as it's not revealing too much in the way of legs or cleavage, I class it as totally acceptable womens workwear.  And unless you work somewhere super traditional and straitlaced, you don't have to spend your life in sombre colours. Classic is fine (and I'm permanently on the hunt for a brilliant tweed frock or skirt) but colour is fun.

If it's a bit of a summery frock like this one and a cardi seems too casual an accompaniment, on goes the blazer to smarten things up. I have black ones, floral ones, vintage ones and, finally getting its first airing, I have my stripy summer blazer (aka the Mary Poppins blazer). Isn't it just the cutest thing you ever did see? This is how I do summer workwear: smart and pretty.

Dress & rings - Dorothy Perkins sale
Blazer - Hobbs sale
Shoes - Irregular Choice Baby Beauty (present from the awesome Team Norbury girls)

This post contains sponsored content.

A Blogging Good Read - July

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Hello everyone! Did you enjoy Wimbledon? Now that all the Andy Murray drama and celebrations are over, why don't you sit down and enjoy this month's A Blogging Good Read? Joining me this month are Elise from Foof & Faff and Emily from What Emily Did Next.

Up first is my choice, Delirium by Lauren Oliver:

YA fiction and dystopian settings are a common pairing at the moment. This book is set in a fairly recognisable world but with the twist that love is a disease. It's dangerous, forbidden and it has to be eradicated. A cure has been developed and it's given to everyone on their 18th birthday, from which point on they quite happily function without it.  The protagonist, Lena, is on the verge of being given the cure when she meets Alex, a boy from the Wilds, and realises that maybe love is worth fighting for after all.

The thing I like about this book is that it doesn't set things up as black and white. The reader's reaction is to assume that life without love would be unbearable but there's a real sense within Delirum that solace and comfort are found from undergoing the process - people who've had it aren't written as soulless robots. I don't pretend this is a perfect book. It shares a lot of the common YA faults but I forgive it a lot of them, solely because of the emotional impact the story and especially the ending have on me. Having said that, I don't forgive the way things turn out in the other two books and I wouldn't recommend going on to read them. I like this best as a standalone book, with an uncertain ending.

What were Elise's thoughts?

I had a slight chuckle when I realised Alex had picked this book - I actually first heard about it from her and read it ages ago! In fact I'd just ordered the third one from the library when she emailed me, so that should tell you how much I enjoyed the first two. Maybe somewhat predictably, I'm going to compare it to The Hunger Games - it tells a completely different story but I found the styles similar and got completely sucked into each book against my better judgement. Delirium is a bit overly dramatic and 'teenager-y' in places but the idea behind it is pretty intriguing, so you want to keep reading to see where it takes you. Spoiler Alert - it takes you to a cliffhanger that will have you running out for the next book, you have been warned!

Did Emily like it?

I thought that Delirium was quite cheesy, and not in a very good way. While it was quite an enjoyable read, it didn't include nearly enough back story for what could have been a really fascinating plot, and had some of the most underdeveloped characters I've encountered in a while. The main character was intensely boring, although by the time I got to the end of the book I understood that she had to be boring, as she only really existed as a symbol, rather than a real character. Overall Delirium was far longer than it needed to be, far cheesier than it needed to be, and was packed full of very heavy-handed symbolism.

Emily's choice was The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano:

The Solitude of Prime Numbers follows the lives of Alice and Mattia, two people whose lives are not so much marred by tragedy as by a chronic sense of never quite belonging. They first meet as troubled teenagers, but life takes them in different directions. Later on, they meet again, and the emotions they buried boil over.

This was one of those books that I could not stop reading once I started. I was sucked in immediately and loved everything about it: the characters that stirred up a mixture of admiration and pity, the writing style that washed me along like a current, and the story that was fascinating and devastating in its far-reaching simplicity. I personally felt every emotion that Alice and Mattia experienced in the novel. Despite not being very mathematically minded myself, the thread of 'prime numbers are only divisible by one and themselves' is very rewarding and makes perfect sense in the context of the characters.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers is not a feel-good read, but is well-written, heart-wrenching and ultimately beautiful.

Do you ever read the reviews of a book and wonder if you've entirely missed the point of it when you were reading it? Everyone seems to laud this novel for its depth, minimalism and subtlety but I found it very under-developed and dreary. Maybe the reader is meant to imagine some sort of deep philosophical underpinnings but if that's the case, I clearly missed them. Alice and Mattia aren't interesting characters: they just meander through their lives, drowning in self-pity. There's no development or real character arc. It's just dull, and they're dull to read about. Every time you think something might happen or they might change and grow a little, that plot strand is dropped and nothing happens after all. I enjoyed the use of language but I can't say I liked much else about this book.

Did Elise enjoy it more than I did?

When I started reading this I found it quite similar to When God was a Rabbit - the brother sister style dynamic, the descriptive writing, the unconscious loneliness of the main characters - but as I got further along it seemed to fall a bit flat. The story became slightly predictable and the characters a bit one-dimensional, although the narrative jumping ahead a few years each chapter served as a good reminder that life really doesn't change unless you make it so. I was most interested in what happened to Mattia's sister after her disappearance, but I didn't feel it was resolved in a very satisfying way, especially since it seemed to be a fairly major event with a knock on effect on the rest of Mattia's life. Overall though, I did enjoy the book and I would look out for future ones.

Elise picked When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman:

I came across this book in a charity shop last year and picked it up because the cover looked interesting (isn't that always the way?). Since then I've read it twice and been gripped each time. The basic storyline follows a brother and sister through life, from Elly's birth in the 60s to 2001 and the fall of the Twin Towers (written about in an intriguingly different way than anything I've read before). There's a few magical happenings along the way, which may or may not be products of Elly's imagination, and the overall tone is a bit melancholy, which is exactly how I like my books - I felt like it spoke to the introverted part of me rather well.

What did Emily think?

For me, When God Was a Rabbit was ruined by its own hype. I bought and read it at the time when every blogger and book club was hailing it to be the best book ever written, and so the main mistake I made was to read it with that in mind. It was not the best book in the world, though it was a perfectly good book. Winman writes some good characters that I cared about as a reader, and manages to craft a nice sense of childhood confusion and naivety that permeates through the novel. The reason I can't say it was anything other than 'good' is because it just seemed to be missing a certain something, and at some points I felt as though Winman was piling tragedy on top of tragedy just to make a point, and to create drama and excitement, and that ultimately fell short.

I hate to end on a downer but dear god, this book bored the pants off me. All of the characters were more like caricatures - either we didn't spend enough time in their company to care about them or we did but they were so cartoony that they weren't worth caring about. A lot of it didn't ring true and the timeline felt off too. There were large sections spent in one time period and then decades were dismissed in a sentence or two. Now this isn't always a problem in fiction but here it bothered me as it didn't feel like the balance was right and consequently I couldn't feel involved in anything that was happening. The only thing about the whole book that sparked my interest was the Twin Towers subplot but even that fizzled out to an unsatisfactory conclusion. It's never a good sign when you finish a book thinking "Well, I might have liked it if it had just been the last third and it had been differently written and preferably by someone else..."

Well, I was a miserable arse this month, wasn't I? Thank you very much to Emily and Elise for joining in and I'm sorry I hated your choices!

Perhaps I'll be better next month when we're reading Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary by Ruby Ferguson, The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. See you then!

Even More Toile

Friday, 5 July 2013

Shopper's guilt. A feeling that I suffer from only too often. If I walk out of a shop with more than one carrier bag, it hits. Yup, even if that shop is only Primark. If I walk out of a shop with an expensive item, even if it's so light that I can barely feel I'm carrying it, it hits. It even wallops me when I'm using vouchers to buy something, mostly because my brain is the brain of a crazy lady.

Let me pose you a question.

If a very pretty frock costs £48 and you have £24 worth of vouchers do you:

a) think "Yoicks! Half price dress!" and buy it
b) think "Yoicks! Half price dress!" and buy it, plus something else cos you've just saved yourself £24 and you might as well spend it
c) think "Ooh heck, £48 is a lot of money to spend on a dress, isn't it?" and then fret for ages that you could have spent the vouchers on something else.

If you said c), welcome to my world. I find the only cure is to cut the price label out of it and wear it before the guilt forces you to take it back. It works, especially when it's as pretty a dress as this one. And then I smile.

I love toile. LOVE IT.

I also love the very pretty lacy section of the bodice on this frock but due to knackeredness and light levels failed to take a decent picture of it. Have an extreme closeup instead!

Dress - Oasis via John Lewis
Cardi - Hawkshead
Shoes - Dorothy Perkins sale
Ring - Matalan
Sunglasses - Glasses Direct