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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

We've all been there, haven't we?

You put on what you think is a lovely outfit, prance around in it feeling fab all day, merrily snap some outfit photos and then look at them on your computer screen only to discover that someone has replaced your face with a moon.

An actual moon. With really unflattering specs on.

And although you are still getting used to said specs because they're much bigger than your other ones, they managed to look all fun and vaguely trendy when you took photos of them before. They don't look that bad in the mirror. So how has the camera made them transform your face into something rather terrifying?

Ok, ok, perhaps you haven't all been there. This is probably something only familiar to glasses wearers. The fact I had no makeup on didn't help either. But still, it's VERY UNFAIR. I've only got one tolerable outfit photo out of the whole bunch.

I nearly scrapped the whole lot but the new (old) coat is too gorgeous not to share and I'm rather fond of some of the #wardrobezoo prints that have sneaked in on the other parts of my body.

Coat - vintage, via The Vintage Corner
Top - Red Herring, Debenhams
Skirt - H&M
Cardi - TK Maxx
Shoes - Irregular Choice

The joys of doing some ironing for the first time in months: you discover all sorts of amazing things you'd totally forgotten about! Also plenty of things that you realise you're never actually going to wear...

And on that note, if you're a similar size to me and are in the mood for swapping some of those things in your wardrobe that you never quite get round to wearing, I'm signing up for Janet and Steph's Big Blog Clothes Swap. It's not just clothes, everything is considered: shoes, accessories, bags. I'm so looking forward to it!

Tudor Style

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

I can't wait for Wolf Hall to start on the BBC tomorrow. Controversial opinion coming up: I hated the way the book was written. I know it won all sorts of awards but it got on my nerves so much that I nearly couldn't finish it. I love the history of the Tudor period so much that I'll basically read anything set then, so I persevered, but the tv version is going to be so much more enjoyable for me. I can just tell.

(Might have something to do with Damien Lewis, my all time favourite posh fit ginge).

Ahem. Tudors! Here are some Tudor things I want:

I was tipped off about this Tatty Devine Tudor house necklace on Instagram by Char and I'm kinda in love.

Tudor pants, anyone? Twisted Twee make three different designs but I've always rather fancied these Anne Boleyn ones. It's a very close call between her and Catherine of Aragon for my favourite of the six wives but I'll tell you this for nothing: if you like Jane Seymour best then we cannot ever be friends.

I got my lovely Elizabeth I ring from Cheap Frills and I'm still hankering after their six wives charm bracelet (also comes as a necklace!)

If I ever do get round to making a Spoonflower fabric order then this Tudor quatrefoil design is going straight in my basket. It'd probably show up my utter inability to cut and sew in a straight line but what the hell. It's pretty.

Still waiting for Irregular Choice to knock my socks off with some Tudor style fabulous heels but I may be waiting a wee while for that. Ah well, wishful thinking never hurt anyone.

Shall we finish with some entirely gratuitous photos of Henry Cavill in The Tudors? Of course!

Living On My Own

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Two months into solo am I finding it?

Mostly I love it. Just me (and Oscar, obvs) pottering around my little house, surrounded by an awful lot of books. It's not that life before this was particularly constricting in any way - far from it - but no matter how much you love the people you live with, sharing a house is not the same as having your very own space.

I'm typing this while curled up in my big armchair in the library, listening to the radio and casting the occasional glance into the living room where young Catpants is snoozing happily on his blanket on the sofa. It's a modest enough achievement - I'm sure people dream of grander houses and newer furniture and big massive televisions - but it's something that I've wanted for a long time and I've worked and saved so hard for it.

Living solo doesn't bother me.  I like my own company and I'm perfectly happy like this. We did Insights training at work last year and it's official: I'm an oddbod. Most people have a very similar personality profile in and out of work but mine is completely different. Like, freakily so. I'm red/green at work (which is unusual enough anyway - you're meant to clash with your opposite segments, not be half them!) and blue/yellow at home. In simple terms, I'm an extrovert at work but a massive introvert at home. I need my quiet time and space where I don't have to talk to anyone. It suits me down to the ground to have things this way.

The thing I'm not loving is the anxiety. I really hope this will die down with time because it's a pretty constant nagging feeling in my stomach at the moment and I don't like it. It's probably just post-purchase blues: that sudden whack of realisation that all the slog and then the excitement of renovation/redecoration/moving in is over and you now owe the bank an absolute fuckload of money and that everything that goes wrong is your responsibility to pay for/fix (ooh, what will it be that breaks first?) and you still haven't finished paying off the carpets on the credit card (and how chuffing expensive are carpets btw?!) and you're never going to have any money ever again. Only that's all on my shoulders. No-one else to split the bills and share the worry with. Just me. Freaking out about it somewhat.

Like I say though, I'm hoping this will dissipate eventually.  As one of my oldest and best friends said at the weekend, "You should be really proud of this, Alex." 

I am. I really am. I just need to settle into appreciating that.

Ticking Things Off

Friday, 9 January 2015

Never let it be said that I'm good at timekeeping. We're now 9 days into January and I haven't done any end-of-year-review posts or written anything about my aims for the year. Probably won't bother, to be honest. My 2015 has so far been full of family, comforting food and drink, hanging out with Oscar and enjoying getting stuck back into work. Oh and the occasional drunken selfie.

That's not to say I haven't enjoyed reading the round-up and resolutions posts on other people's blogs cos I really have, I just can't muster up the energy to write anything myself. 2014 was tiring and I didn't realise how much of my time was spent slogging away on the renovation and redecoration of the house until I looked back at old diaries. I'd rather focus on enjoying what I've got now rather than reliving the monotonous days of scrubbing! Also there will be upcoming posts about the before/after of the house once I've actually got the "after" stage finished, so what's the point doing them now?

Challenges are fun though. I'm full of admiration for Char's plan not to buy anything in 2015 and I always love Becks' Not-Really-Resolutions. I was noodling around blogland on my lunch break yesterday and came across a couple of interesting posts yesterday about January challenges. One was about 30 days of minimalism and it's appealing in some ways but on balance I decided it's just a touch on the wanky self-help side of things for my liking. Sorry guys, I know mindfullness is hugely appealing and helpful for some people but I cringe deeply within at the thought of being asked to "practice gratitude".  Also I already do quite a lot of the things on that list - going bare-faced, not watching TV, enjoying solitude and not shopping for 24 hours aren't new challenges for me! The spirit behind it is nice though and I may attempt a few of the ideas.

The one I'm definitely going to do is Sarah's 31 Things to do in January Which Won't Make You Feel Bad About Yourself. I'm not into giving things up or setting targets that won't do anything but cause me stress, so this is perfect for me.

There is not a scrap of waffle or twaddle in this list: it's all fun, exciting, good things to try. No real rules either. You don't have to do them in order, or at all, but I'm gonna try my best to get everything ticked off and completed.  Plus I LOVE LISTS. This is going to be even more satisfying than crossing things off a normal to-do list.

Today's task: spoil Oscar. 

A Blogging Good Read - January

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

It's the start of a new year and that means it's time for a new edition of Blogging Good Read. Have any of you made any reading resolutions? If so, I'd love to hear them! It's not exactly a resolution but I really must aim to read my BGR books further in advance. I was still reading one of these books last night and really, there's no excuse! I organise the spreadsheet: I know ages in advance what needs reading!

Joining me this month are two far more organised types, thank goodness. Say hello to Rachel from Cold Knees and AJ from Writer's Block and Broken Lenses, both back for another crack at BGR.

We started off with my choice, Howl's Moving Castleby Diana Wynne Jones:

I love DWJ and all her books, even the really weird ones. They're so inventive and manage to weave in some very familiar fairytale tropes and settings with very unusual characters and plot directions. If you're only familiar with Howl's Moving Castle from the film version then please give the book a read as they've very different.

Sophie Hatter, a milliner with rather a talent for weaving magic into the hats she makes, comes up against the Wicked Witch of the Waste and gets turned into an old crone. She leaves the market town she grew up in, finds a moving castle and promptly moves in to set about cleaning it up. Who lives there? Wizard Howl, of course! (Oh and his fire demon, Calcifer, who is a truly brilliant character). Don't let the witchy/wizardy thing put you off - yes, this is fantasy but with a very normal air about it. Sophie revels in being allowed to be crotchety and annoying for once whereas Howl is a vain brat and no-one pretends otherwise.  The way they deal with each other and break the various curses that everyone is under is just a delight to read about. 

What did Rachel think of it?

I'd heard of the anime film of this but have to admit, I didn't realise it was a book too. The story opens as a sort of fairytale set in a magical kingdom and focuses on the adventures of Sophie, the eldest of 3 daughters and by definition of being the eldest, apparently doomed to failure- which we were constantly reminded of throughout the book (I found this slightly annoying, it was repeated so much but I didn't really know what it was based on). Her and her sisters all seek their fortunes in different ways after their father dies and Sophie eventually ends up in the eponymous castle with Howl, his assistant Michael and by far my favourite character, the fire demon Calcifer.. I thought he was the funniest character by far, and though I grew to like Sophie more throughout the book, I did find her a bit tiresome at first. A lot of the other characters weren't really developed enough for my liking (Sophie's sisters, the King, the Witch of the Waste..) and I didn't particularly like Howl! Enough negativity- I did enjoy the weird juxtaposition with Howl's Wales and his Welsh family, just because it was so odd!

Overall I found the book an entertaining and quick read, though it didn't feel particularly well-written, and the ending wrapped up a little too quickly.. but I suppose it is a fairytale after all.

How about AJ?

With this one I was lucky because I have seen the movie far too many times, however I was kicking myself over not knowing it was a book first. This is another example of how the book is always better from the movie, mainly because there was so much more depth to the characters I already know and love.

I loved seeing how the character I love to hate was even more irritating in the book (why I love him) and the contradiction between Sophie and Howl was even more clear, she's so humble in a way and he's just a spoiled brat!  Along with Farenheit 451, this is one of my top books of 2014.

AJ's pick was Fahrenheit 451by Ray Bradbury:

There was something very surreal about reading a book set in a future where books are banned. I felt like I was doing something wong while reading it. All in all I loved it, there were characters I loved and some I absolutely despised, it was upsetting to find that what I thought would be my favourite character disappear so soon! Plus there were plenty of twists and turns to keep you wanting to read more especially when certain events made me so angry I had to put the book down and others I ended up missing my stop on the way to work for just because I needed to finish THAT bit.

I'm currently undecided over whether the ending was perfect or whether there could have been more to the story. I'll make my mind up eventually.

I think the first thing to say about this book is that it's written in a very particular style: chock-full of metaphors and deep, descriptive language. You have to sort of throw yourself into that dystopian, frantic world where technology has taken over and civilisation is on its last legs and simply let the roar of burning books and interactive tv walls wash over you. When it works, it's great. Terrifyingly great, in fact. It's a simple enough premise - books are illegal, people exist in a technology-filled bubble, only caring about what's being force-fed to them, and firemen are there to burn books and houses, not to save them. But what happens when one of the firemen starts to question things and finds himself reading a book? As I mentioned during a BGR review of Vivian Versus the Apocalypse, it's a bit eerie reading something that really could become possible in the future. Even more so with this book which was first written so long ago. It's a really impressive feat and a very well written book.  

On the flipside of all that good stuff, it really is a book that demands your attention. If you have to stop, make sure you do it at the right place. I had a major "urghhhhh" moment about halfway through and really struggled to get back into it - I'm pretty sure it's because it was in the middle of the Fire Chief's loooooong speech about the insidious rise of technology, evil and war throughout the world and trust me, that's not something you want to start halfway through!

Did Rachel like it?

I've read a few dystopian novels which have left me feeling pretty spooked.. and this was no exception. Set in a not too distant future where books are banned and fireman exist to burn them and quash all thirst for knowledge or curiosity, the book focuses on the slow realisation of one of these firemen, Guy Montag, that there may be more to life, after his chance encounter with a new neighbour, Clarisse. The latter is a little too free spirited for these times and causes him to start thinking for himself. She soon goes missing and Guy starts to question his way of life more and more, which can only have negative consequences as those around him react with horror to his newfound curiosity and questioning of the world order.

I really enjoyed this book, though perhaps enjoyed isn't the right word given the story... it feels like certain elements of it could come true or are already (dwindling attention spans, books being abridged more and more, huge tv screens..) Grim reading, but a good read.

Rachel's choice was A Sensible Lifeby Mary Wesley:

I originally picked this up after heaving read The Camomile Lawn and there are similarities between the 2 novels- a large group of young characters with a focus on a younger member of the group, following their story from childhood/adolescence into old age.. but I think I enjoyed A Sensible Life more. 

Poor Flora has awful parents who neglect her whilst holidaying in France in the Summer 1926 (I don't think I've read of more horrid parents in a novel), so she befriends everyone else at the hotel, and falls for a couple of boys who are several years older than her. We meet the same characters again over the years and see how their lives intertwine.

 I think what I like most about the book is the way Mary Wesley isn't afraid to depict such flawed characters, but in a way that feels real. The way the characters develop over time as they age and experience life is also well portrayed. Overall, an enjoyable read.

What did AJ think?

I'm going to be completely honest, I didn't like this one. I probably didn't like it from the moment I read the blurb, my boyfriend says I can be quite elitist... However, even though it's not normally a book I'd pick up, I gave it a go.

I really didn't enjoy it, it's not a book that I can read from beginning to end in a sitting and I even ended up only reading up to the 3rd chapter and leaving it for a while because I wasn't connected. I found the characters unrelatable and not engaging at all and unfortunately I had to put it down unfinished. After my lesson learned from Gone Girl I can't read another book to the end if I don't like it any more. Maybe I'll pick it up and give it another go and I may change my mind but this time it just wasn't for me.

My heart sank slightly when I saw that a Mary Wesley book had been chosen. It makes no logical sense why I don't like her books but I don't. Historical setting, sweeping timespans, big houses: they're all things I usually can't get enough of. I fully expected to love The Camomile Lawn and it was one of the biggest reading disappointments I've ever had: dull and completely unengaging. So, not a promising start when it came to tackling this book.

I enjoyed A Sensible Life more than The Camomile Lawn but as you may have judged from the above paragraph, that isn't necessarily glowing praise. It was just ok. It didn't take me long to read and the plot fizzed along well enough but I never felt the sense of properly enjoying it. I can't seem to put my finger on what it is about her books that I don't like because by all rights I really should love them but they just never seem to click with me. It's a shame.

Thanks to Rachel and AJ for joining in again and for being far more organised with your reviews than I was with mine! It's been fab to have you both back.

I'll be back next month and we'll be reading The Blood of the Fifth Knightby E.M. Powell, Solarby Ian McEwan and Cotillionby Georgette Heyer. As always, if you want to read along with us and contribute in the comments section, you're very welcome!

Wombling Around

Monday, 5 January 2015

New Year means that it's time to bust out all your new Christmas gifts, right?

Well, behold the Wombles frock and amazing shoes!

Char made me this utterly fabulous frock for Christmas - isn't she amazing?? I have wanted some Wombles fabric foreverrrrrrr but it's hard to find. I've got a Wombles pillowcase but that ain't gonna magically transform into a dress, is it? This is beautiful and it's green. Me = delighted.


My brother and sister-in-law got me these gorgeous Irregular Choice heels. They pick epic presents.

Perhaps a slightly lively choice for first-day-back-to-work heels but it's January and frankly, we need all the additional sparkle we can get.

Dress - handmade by Char
Cardi - Tu
Heels - Irregular Choice Mostaccio