Saturday, 28 February 2015

February in Books

I read two books in February.  Two.  That might be my lowest total ever.  

I read Yes Please by Amy Poehler at the start of the month.  It was fantastic, and a much quicker read than the weight of it would have us believe.  Part memoir, part advice, it was great to get inside the head of one of my favourite actresses and realise she's so much more than just Leslie Knope.  Although...she's still one of the best characters I've seen on TV, and everything good that you've heard about this book is true.

I finished this five days into February and then... nothing.  Everything I picked up and started was of no interest to me.  I tried to read a book on the history of Glasgow cinemas, a subject that I normally can't get enough of, and got bored of it.  I started Round Ireland With a Fridge and actually read it (super slowly) for a week or so before I realised that the whole point of the book was a bit, well, pointless.  I really didn't care if someone could hitchhike around Ireland dragging a fridge with them to win a one hundred pound bet, especially since he already paid out more than that before the challenge started!  It was quite funny in the telling but not enough to make me keep reading.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke turned out to be just what I needed to break my unlucky streak.  A charity shop find from last weekend, it was well worth the 50p price tag.  I've read a few of her books before and thought they were interesting (even if I did have a small tantrum at the end of the Inkheart trilogy...) and this one was the usual mixture of magic and mystery and danger.  Set in Venice, brothers Prosper and Bo have run away from their horrid aunt and uncle and are taken in by a bunch of street kids and their 'protector', the Thief Lord.  However, the real adventure starts when the Thief Lord accepts the task of stealing a seemingly random object for a mysterious purpose.  Yes this book is aimed at children, but that doesn't make the story any less appealing, and I loved all the characters, especially bumbling detective Victor, whom the author helpfully noted pre-story was 'exactly like Bob Hoskins'.  

I've dived straight into my next book, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, and am making good progress.  Probably because the library only let me borrow it for two weeks, a practise I've never heard of before.  I don't normally go for 'popular' books but the blogosphere made this sound so good I had to give it a go.

Has anyone else read these?  


Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Buyer's Archive - February

Last year I started keeping a note of the clothes I was buying.  My spending habits had decreased in recent times and I was craving more space and less stuff.  Being mindful about what my money went on with regards to non necessities seemed like the logical place to start.  I had an idea to compare my purchases from this time last year to the ones I've made this year and see if there's any change, and if I wasted my money on stuff that didn't last, or that I changed my mind about.  Last month I just talked clothing, but for the new purchases I'll be discussing everything my pennies went on from now on.

Here's what I bought last February...

  • H&M mens purple cardigan - £7 - This was worn a lot until a few months ago, when I started favouring thicker knits in my freezing office.  The heating is pretty much working again though so I can definitely get it back into rotation.
  • Topman tan pleat belt - £3 - I rarely wear belts so I'm not quite sure what possessed me to buy this...I like it with my summer dresses and skirts, which tend to be more fitted than my usual style, and it's good with jeans on the rare occasions I wear a shorter top.  Otherwise there's that lovely belt lump sticking out...
  • H&M stacking ring set - £5.99 - I coveted a set of rings like this for ages (damn you Pinterest) and I loved wearing them...until the inevitable 'green finger syndrome' associated with cheap jewellery appeared.  It doesn't stop me wearing them (albeit for shorter times) but again, it's about remembering to actually put them on.  I'm a bit clumsy for wearing jewellery to work - the amount of times I've walked into a handle or corner on my own desk is pretty embarrassing.

So, that brings my spend for February 2014 in at... £15.99.  Reasonable, but maybe not filled with the most practical of items.  I'm giving myself a pass here though - the odd pretty things are excusable.

Most of my February purchases from this year were made in the past week or so.  Let's start with the wearables...

  • Vintage floral dress from charity shop - £3 - This is the only wardrobe related item I spent money on this month, although I did try on a few things in M&S with the view to buying a knee length denim skirt.  The only one I vaguely liked was this Limited Collection number, the rest were a bit strange fitting.  The dress was found in Bathgate and Tam's mum swears she had an identical one in the 80s.  I love the design and it fits great, although the sleeves will be getting chopped and maybe the skirt shape will be changed.  I'm planning a day with my sewing machine soon so time will tell how it ends up.  I know for sure that the shoulder pads are on the way out anyway...

  • All books from charity shops - price from 50p to £2 each - I'm collecting up the Outlander books as my next series to read.  Ordering books from Glasgow Libraries is proving a bit of a challenge so I decided to look for these in the charity shops and, completely against the usual laws of charity shopping, I'm actually finding what I'm looking for.  I now have four of the eight books in the series, so hopefully I actually like it!  I picked up The Thief Lord for 50p in the same shop as the dress - I like Cornelia Funke's books for an easy fantasy read, and this one is turning out good based on the first few chapters.  And Pawnee by Leslie Knope, because I got my friend a copy when it came out and still haven't read it myself, and Parks and Recreation is one of the best things on TV, so the book can't fail to be awesome, right?

  • Staedtler fineliners 20 pack from Ryman - £8.99 - I've had my eye on a set of these pens for a while but couldn't justify the price for a hobby I only do once in a while.  We were passing Rymans on Sunday and I noticed they were half price.  Sold!
  • Pretzel stitch markers from Abso-Knitting-Lutely - £8.50 - I've been talking to Nadia on Twitter for a while and admiring her creations from afar, but I had to get myself a set of these stitch markers when she posted a pic of them in the making.  I was also getting Tam's mum the fox ones for her birthday so it wasn't a completely selfish purchase...  I think mine have sold out now but there's so many other good designs on there.
  • Fluffy red wool from charity shop 50p - Multicoloured thread from The Works £1 - I remembered a knitted gnome design I'd seen in a book and thought I'd use the fluffy wool to make his beard, if I ever get round to the actual making of the rest of him.  And I love multi coloured craft things, so the thread had to be mine.  Both impulse buys, but I've already thought up a couple of projects for them, so not a total loss.
Total spend in February was £28.48.  The majority of my purchases were second hand, and one supported a small business, so I can't feel too guilty about buying a bit of a pile of things.  If I'm feeling very generous, I'll even share my fancy pens with Tam...


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The weekend and Photo an Hour

The weekend started for me at Friday lunchtime, when I left work early to have lunch with Mother and do some shopping.  'Some' shopping turned into a hunt round IKEA for a storage unit big enough to hold the wool piles accumulating in my room.  I may have found something good...I'll show it off when I locate the screwdrivers and get it put together.  I'm excited for a bit of re-arranging and craft organisation!  That might be the most grown up I've ever sounded...

Friday night I headed into town to meet Andrea.  It was the first time we'd seen each other in person so it had added excitement!  The plan was to go for dinner and drinks, but having stuffed myself with McDonalds many hours before, I was still too full to eat.  Luckily Andrea and her partner Adam did the same with sushi, so we contented ourselves with drinks and lots of chat.  They're both really fun to hang out with and I'm so glad we got to meet up at last.

Saturday was Photo an Hour day, organised by Louisa and Jane.  My progress was pretty questionable this week, as you're about to see...

08.55 - We woke up early and faffed about a bit, locating all the minions and piling them up for giant hugs.  The usual.  

09.33 - I'm *this* close to making it into the shower.  Getting in the shower before I'm properly warm is akin to torture for me so I continue to faff as long as possible.  (My dressing gown and pj bottoms are from Long Tall Sally, I love the matchy-ness!)

10:41 - Much discussion decided we'd be going to Bathgate to check out the market and charity shops.  Tam's mum needed wool for a new crochet project so we had to stop at the local yarn store... had to...

12:52 - We went to the market, which was supposed to have a car boot element but in reality was about three cars and a bunch of market traders.  Not to my taste, so I was happy to get to the charity shops on the high street.  I got a bargain or two of course!

13:27 - Lunch at The Bus Stop cafe, and the selection of tea pots in there boggled our minds.  If you click the link, you can see even more.  The food was fab, although we were in a hurry to get back, so the cake was bought to go.

The photography part of the day sort of fell down here.  When we got home, Tam went to watch football and I went to see Testament of Youth with his mum and aunt.  It was wonderful and horrible at the same time, and I really want to see it again.  On a lighter note, the costumes were gorgeous, with knitwear being a strong feature.  Always a huge plus for me!

17:20 - It was still light on exiting the cinema, a bit of a novelty after all the darkness of recent months.  Tam arrived home at the same time and we took Parsnip a quick walk.  I got him a pack of tennis balls for Christmas and he loves chasing them around the fields.  He thoroughly tired himself out, so our work was done!

I did a little bit of knitting before we decided to get adventurous with dinner and make vegetable tempura with katsu curry and sushi rice.  It took three of us an hour to prepare it, but it was bloody marvellous.  It might also have been the first time in forever that I made an actual contribution to the dinner, so I want that on record here.  I feel I should point out that Saturday night was very nearly much more exciting than usual - Glasgow Film Festival was holding a ceilidh and showing archive footage, and I would have had tickets for that if more people had shown an interest in coming with me.  THEN when I found out Alan Rickman was going to be at the screening of his new film, I was this close to buying tickets, before I decided I couldn't face going anywhere that busy on a weekend, even if someone that awesome was involved.  So...I hope you liked the dog pictures...

Sunday was a bit stormy and wet and just not very pleasant, but we went a mini trip up to the museum in Kirkcaldy for a wander somewhere inside.  Then we went to town.  I'm gutted now that I left my camera behind due to the weather, but that place was a total retro dream.  It reminded me of shopping with my mum and gran on Saturdays, so much so that I expected to see a C&A and an Etam adorning the high street.  We popped into a few charity shops, an indoor market and this gem of a cafe.  Two lunches for a tenner and I got to pretend I was back in the late 80s with my chicken burger and chips.  I can't wait to go back again and explore more - I feel like this blog is crying out for a photo series of decaying Scottish towns...  (I'm not being offensive here - I genuinely love seeing places like this and mourning a bit for the past while rejoicing that all this wonderful architecture still exists.)

I think we can agree that, despite the lack of photos, this was a rather successful few days.  Who else did the Photo an Hour?  Leave me links!


Monday, 23 February 2015

Finished Crochet - Lace Collars

When Janet mentioned that she loved adding crochet collars to her dresses, I had a lightbulb moment.  Couldn't I make a crochet collar for her myself?  Surely learning to crochet isn't just about making creepy amigurumi and impossible scarves?  It would seem that the world thought so though, since Ravelry turned up surprisingly little in the 'crochet collar' department.  The one pattern that stood out was this one from Lulu Loves, and it was perfect.  There was a suggested number of chains given to start with, which I used the first time with green 4 ply wool, but I was a bit worried it was a little small in the end, so for the peach one I added a few chains and used DK wool.  The pattern also suggested sewing the collars onto the clothing since they can move around a bit, but I just added a couple of odd buttons from my stash to finish them off.  I'll let Janet be the judge of the sewing requirements!

Each collar came together in less than two hours.  It was maybe even closer to one, but I was making them in a stop-start manner in between work tasks so I didn't actually time it.  The peach one also has a row less than the green one - I was experimenting a bit.  I'd love to make more in the future so if I know anyone else that wears these, make yourself known now!


Friday, 20 February 2015

Me and my dresses

After my Knitwear post, in which I shared my favourite (and arguably most well rounded) part of my wardrobe, I'm moving on to the next best section - dresses.  After knits, dresses are my most worn items.  I may not have many, but that's because I expect them to be versatile and take quite a few factors into account when I'm picking a new one.  

Length is the main concern - I favour knee length because it works year round, and it's surprisingly hard to find something long enough that won't break the bank.  

Comfort is also high on the list of course, which is why jersey fabric is a big feature here.  

I like dark colours and small prints, and an overall design that I don't have to be too precious about for work.  The amount of times I've caught my clothes on my desk, splicers or shelves is pretty embarrassing, but typical for me.

The charity shop finds
black print - 'Classics', denim smock - Monsoon, black floral - BHS
Working with my list of specifics makes charity shops the most awkward place to find dresses.  I don't mind sizing up if I find something I like, especially since smaller sizes are the hardest to find in my experience, but length is the major issue here.  I'd guess around 90% of the dresses I like in charity shops are too short, and most of the others aren't in a style that suits my shape.  Vintage is the obvious way to go here, but with the second hand places being increasingly picked over these days (and especially in and around the city where I am), the odds of finding something suitable are close to nil.  All of these dresses came from my very small home town - in fact I think I found both the printed ones on the same day.

The black printed dress has the label 'Classics' (no idea) and came with a matching belt, which I wear tied around my waist since it's a couple of sizes big on me.  I wear this dress the least in the winter because I think it looks a bit frumpy with tights, but I love it in the summer for keeping me cool but covered.

The Monsoon smock dress has a fun story attached to it.  I was browsing the book section and I overheard a lady asking the price of the dress.  When I glanced over I kicked myself for not spotting it, but when she heard it was £3 (gasp!) she changed her mind and decided it wouldn't fit her.  After she left I moved swiftly to the rail and claimed it!  It doesn't fit me either, being three sizes bigger than me, but I love how comfy it is.

The black floral dress also came with a belt, and required some serious altering to make it fit me right.  The sleeves came off, the sides came in and the skirt pleats were replaced with gathering.  I'm not hugely keen on the way I altered the armholes (they're still a bit wide) but I don't care enough to fix it...

The jersey section - take one
blue bird print - Monsoon, blue floral print - Monsoon
I'll point out now that three out of four of these dresses are from Monsoon.  That means if we include the denim one above, more than half my dresses came from there.  So...I have a type.  Or brand loyalty?  Or I just don't like wandering every shop to find something I know I could get in there.  The length is just right, the styles are flattering and they last longer than I expected.  They also retail at around £55, which I think is a bit ludacris for a dress made of t-shirt fabric, so I generally hold out for the sales.

The blue bird print dress is the one that started it all.  I have no idea why I was even in Monsoon, but it was sale time and I was there.  I tried this dress on and had one of those rare moments where something fits perfectly and you don't ever want to take it off.  Plus, I wear a lot of blue.  It was fate.

The floral dress followed later that year.  I was looking for another 'blue dress moment' and almost got it with this.  The fit was right and the style flattering.  It was also half price.  I took it home happily and then...hardly wore it.  I have no idea why not.  Maybe it feels a bit dressier than its sister, or the style is a bit bold for me?  I plan to make more of an effort with this one since I do still love it, and the bird dress is starting to show its age a bit recently.

The jersey section - take two
blue dot print - Monsoon, blue/white stripe - M&S
Fast forward to this winter and my dress collection has been boosted again.  I definitely developed a taste for navy blue instead of black since I stopped working in the cinema, and around half my wardrobe is taken over by this shade.

The blue dot dress was purchased in the most recent sales a couple of months ago.  I'd spotted this design online and kept my eye on it, but when I finally saw it in person I was a bit torn.  The top half was different to how I'd pictured it - more drapey and oddly shaped than I expected.  That's what I get for browsing clothing sites on my phone.  I tried it on and still wasn't sure if I liked it, but I took a gamble and it paid off, because now I love it.  Sometimes I just need to give items time to grow on me.

The stripe t-shirt dress was a chance find in the M&S sale a few months ago.  I like to look at all the sale rails in there since they just mash everything together after a certain reduction point, and I found this in a size 22.  Which...well, I like oversize style better than anyone but that was taking it too far.  We eventually found a smaller size 16 and I set off to test it.  And it's now my comfiest, awesomest  (totally a word) dress.  The collar came decorated with the world's tackiest bling stones, but it was nothing an hour with an unpicker couldn't take care of.

So, if we've learned anything here, it's that I have very specific tastes in dresses.  I'm ok with that.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Finished Knitting - The Cornish Dormouse Tea Cosy

The tea cosy is finished!  I blogged a bit about the process already, but here's the background again.  My friend requested a tea cosy with 'a mouse that goes in the top of it.  Like the Mad Hatter one.'  After she realised a knitted mouse would get stained and soggy, she agreed to pick another theme.  Then I found this pattern.  She totally loved it, and no amount of trying to get her interested in a cupcake shaped one would persuade her otherwise.  So off I went.

The body is made with two strands of DK wool in two parts, and it came together pretty quickly.  Then I took a break.  I'm not sure why now, although the other thing I was knitting was a bit better to transport, which always bumps things up the queue a bit for me.  I went back to it last week and knit up the mouse pieces and the rim, and Saturday afternoon was spent putting all the pieces together.  It's a little noticeable on the side pictures that the bottom of the join was a tight squeeze, but I put this down to my habit of knitting tightly, which the double stranded technique doesn't help with.  The mouse was made of single strand DK and has head, ears, arms, tail and a circular 'body' that fits around the top of the cosy.  

Tam declared the mouse to be creepy, and I was a bit disappointed that it didn't look exactly like the picture, but my friend LOVED it.  She told me it was the best present she's ever got!  I was inwardly questioning her standards slightly, but it made me feel all warm anyway.  She used it twice on Monday after I gave it to her, so I'd call it a success.  And when she realised I was on the hunt for a small teapot, she offered me one from her collection.  It looks like I'll be making another cosy soon!


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The gems of the wardrobe and growing up

When I was doing my daily 'stand in front of the wardrobe for an absolute age convinced none of my clothes match' routine at the weekend, I pulled out this polka dot shirt on a whim.  It's one of my best charity shop finds and I used to wear it all the time, but lately it's been pushed to the side a bit.  You know those items of clothing that you wear all the time when you first get them but then they slowly get replaced with new favourites?  This is one of those things.  You don't forget about the old favourites, but they become a bit more part of the wardrobe landscape as opposed to a vital part of the collection.  They're waiting quietly in the background to be rediscovered at the right moment.  Saturday morning was one of those moments.  I had a bit more time than usual to faff about and my hand landed on the shirt.  The giant, over the top, far brighter than anything else I own shirt.  The great thing here is the potential for layering it up for maximum cosiness.  I started with a vest then added the shirt and sweater and I was toasty all day.  

Saturday turned out to be the day of Getting Things Done.  I cleaned the flat, got shopping, watched a couple of films and finished a couple of knitting projects, one of which I'll be showing off soon.  Tam came down at tea time and we went down to my old home town to have dinner with some of my favourite buddies.  The couple who were hosting told us they'd just bought a house, and we all congratulated them while I pondered on how everyone is growing up around me.  Not that I want to turn into a fully fledged adult just yet.  Having a 'proper' job is enough for now - the thought of owning a property fills me with dread, not least because I like looking at my savings account and having something to smile about!  Plus...does anyone ever really feel like a responsible adult?  I like eating sandwiches for dinner and getting excited about what's new on Netflix and buying wool instead of kitchenware and using my flextime work schedule to go to the cinema in the afternoon.  Actually, maybe those are just the perks of growing up...  Either way, it's a pretty good deal.

sweater - EWM (mens) via charity shop
shirt - Marc Jacobs (mens) via charity shop
jeans - Long Tall Sally
boots - Red Herring @ Debenhams
ring - Accessorize


Friday, 13 February 2015

That time I exercised with other people

I don't really talk about exercise much on here, but I'm a fan of the gym and going out the odd run now and again.  It takes me a bit of motivation to actually make it out the house, but once I start moving I'm quite happy getting on with things.  The best thing about my gym is that it's quiet.  It's a small space but there's never been more than three other people there when I go after work, and that's mostly what I love about it.  Truth be told I'm not always in the mood to be a people person.  I love hanging out with the people I know and talking to other bloggers, but strangers?  Nah, they can leave me alone please.  So when I signed up for an aqua spinning class with Simplyhealth, no one was more surprised than me that I was looking forward to it.  You know, after I looked up what aqua spinning actually was and got over my horror of wearing borrowed shoes to do it in.  

I met up with a bunch of fellow bloggers at the Commonwealth pool in Edinburgh to test out the new class (including Amy, my buddy from the photography workshop).  Aqua spinning, as it turns out, involves static bikes submerged in a pool, constant leg movement and a super enthusiastic instructor.  After we'd all changed into swimming/workout gear, we picked a pair of water shoes and a bike.  I wore a sports bra with my swimsuit and swimming shorts and felt pretty comfortable, although some people just wore swimming gear.  The bikes were on a platform over the pool then, after we'd adjusted our bikes to the right height and tension, the platform was lowered to become the floor of the pool.  The depth is adjusted for the shortest person in the group so Amy and I had plenty of clearance!

After getting into the pool and back to our bikes, the workout started.  It lasted around forty minutes, just the right amount of time to tire us out.  We were pedaling the entire time (to a cracking 90s soundtrack), but there was a period where we also did arm movements, using the water for resistance, then a period of intervals - starting easy with ten seconds of fast pedaling at a time and moving up to a full two minutes by the end.  It was knackering, thirsty work but I LOVED IT.  It's the first fitness class I've been to where I've actually enjoyed myself.  I think I had a smile on my face the entire time, even in those horrible but somehow still fun punishing moments.  I love being in the water anyway, but this made it much more exciting.  Some folks may also like to know that because all the exercise takes place in the water, you don't have that oh-my-god-I-can't-move-my-legs/neck/arms/nose feeling the next day.  Although...I kind of like that feeling.  It makes me feel like I've done something amazing!  

There's seven classes a week on here, and I think they mentioned that it was the only place in Scotland to do aqua spinning at the moment.  I'd love to try it again next time I'm in Edinburgh, and hopefully one of the Glasgow pools will take note and start up some classes. 

*I was given a chance to try out aqua spinning for free thanks to Joe Blogs and Simplyhealth but as always, I speak the truth!*


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Finished Crochet - The Grim Reaper

I picked up a fun new (to me) crochet book in a charity shop on our trip to Aviemore - Creepy Cute Crochet.  I swithered over parting with a whole £3 for a novelty craft book, but in the end I was won over by the cute pictures of woolly skulls and such like.  Tam took an instant liking to the Grim Reaper character so I made that my first project.  (find all the patterns here on Ravelry)

The crochet terms in the book are American, which are easily translated online, and the patterns have both a chart and written instructions for each part.  That didn't help me with the head mind you - the body crocheted up fine on a 3.5mm hook and looked like it was meant to, but I couldn't figure out the head pattern at all.  After two attempts, I went up to a 4mm hook and just sort of improvised.  It turned up fine, although the hood part then ended up a tiny bit small, hence the slight difference from the pictures.

Tam's auntie M very kindly cut me out a couple of felt circles for the eyes and I stuck them on with some fabric glue from Hobbycraft.  Time will tell if they stay on, but they're looking good so far.   There's a bit of a joke in the family that you don't buy craft supplies without checking M's stash first.  She has everything in there!  Well, except the Reaper's weapon of choice, the scythe, which is supposed to be made from clay.  Tam seems willing to pick up this job though, so I've very nicely let him finish his own present.

Also, it's Wednesday, which means Yarn Along day!  This weeks books are a mixed bag.  I'm reading a book on the history of Glasgow cinemas, a Christmas gift from Tam, and I know it's going to be good once I get into it.  I'm just having problems making that happen...  I've also started Round Ireland with a Fridge, another Christmas gift from a friend who recently moved there, so I'll see how that goes.  And The List has published this years Guide to Scottish Festivals!  This little thing was my constant companion last year and we found so many fun events that we'd never have went to otherwise, so I'm excited to plan more for this year.


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A trip to Aviemore

It was a perfect snowstorm of a weekend up at Aviemore last week.  Quite literally.  We set off on the Friday morning and, after stopping for a quick lunch, got caught up in a brief blizzard blowing all across the road.  Then we took a wrong turn when trying to find our cottage and one of the locals had to turn us around.  Again, quite literally.  All that snow was not good for my lowlander blood pressure.  The log fire in the cottage made up for it though - we were so toasty that Parsnip shunned the living room completely and went to hang out in the hall!  He just has more insulation than us...

Saturday brought a day of on and off snow storms, but we decided to try and make it into town.  This involved running out the door when the snow went off, shoveling the driveway and brushing the car down, then driving super slowly in order not to coast off track into the loch.  It worked very nicely, and we were perusing the charity shops and eating lunch and cake in no time.  The fire went on again when we got back, but not before a mighty snowman was brought to life in the garden.  Let's call him Tom, since he borrowed the Tom Weir hat briefly.

On Sunday morning we were packing up and heading home.  The lady who owns the cottages was kind enough to come and help Tam shovel the driveway again, so we made it out without too much sliding.  The snow was heavy on the way down but it petered out as we got closer to home and, touch wood, the past week has been snow free.  In fact yesterday was rather mild!  I could even see daylight out the gym window for a while, which made me smile with the thought of spring being around the corner, and the summer holiday that we can start planning now!


Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Best of Blogland in January

After completing the 'Blogs I Love' series last week, I wanted to keep the ball rolling and share all the best blog posts I read in January.  Stand by for a whole lot of links...

On Being a Hostess

Top Ten Tips for Buying Nothing New

A Sunday in Shoreditch

2015: A Draft

Found on the Beach

Dynamic Warm Ups for Running

Things Not to Say to Someone Who Has Seen Their Relationship End

Only one day left to sign up for The Big Blog Clothes Swap!

Growing Guiding

Shifting Perspectives - My Dining Room - I love these blue walls and maps, and there's plenty more in the other rooms!

The Crust Conductor: Brick Brewery - pizza bus in London!

Some Fights are Bigger Than Others (But All People are Important)

Things I Did via Instagram - look out for cute animals!

Because You Think It Exists

Living on My Own

And now for the crafty bits...

From Stash 2015 (knitting)

Knitting Resources (knitting)

Illustrators Arise - Frannered (drawing)

A Massive Blanket I Can Actually Wear in Public (knitting)

Kerry is co-hosting the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge, go sign up! (sewing)

FO: Snowdrift Cable Hat (knitting)

Knitting Back a Stolen Sweater (knitting)

Worst Knitting Photos Ever - this is why I delete all outtakes...

Freydis Eiriksdottir and a new Lopapeysa (knitting)

Pattern Release: A Rain Speckled Hat (knitting)

Bonnie's Rainbow of Frogs (tiny knitting)

Tunnocks Teacakes Coasters (craft)

Weekend Makes: Rustic Wood Buttons (craft)

Baby Boy Fabric Bunting (sewing)

Heart Wrist Pin Cushion Pattern (crochet)

Knitting My Way to a Warmer Neck - Louisa learned to knit!

Rainbow Flower Motif Blanket (crochet)

Adventures in DIY: The Geometric Canvas Edition (painting)

Goodnight John Boy (knitting)

#CraftBlogClub First Challenge of 2015 (craft)


Friday, 6 February 2015

The Buyer's Archive - January

Last year I started keeping a note of the clothes I was buying.  My spending habits had decreased in recent times and I was craving more space and less stuff.  Being mindful about what my money went on with regards to non necessities seemed like the logical place to start.  At first I noted down all non grocery items but later it turned into just wearables, which is what I'm going to be talking about here.  I had an idea to compare my purchases from this time last year to the ones I've made this year and see if there's any change, and if I wasted my money on stuff that didn't last, or that I changed my mind about.

So here's what I bought last January...
  • Long Tall Sally navy wax jacket - £48.75 - This is easily the most worn item of clothing that I own, so a big win on that one!  I'd eyed up this jacket for months as a replacement to my last raincoat, another Long Tall Sally number that I'd been wearing for years.  I'm not mad on jackets and only own a few - the weather up here leans towards wild and unpredictable so I need something that keeps me protected.  The odd price is down to it being purchased when the Glasgow store was closing (I'm still grieving) and there was an extra discount off everything.  Patience was definitely a virtue there! They have a green version in stock right now if anyone wants a closer look.

    • Trespass fleece running headband - £4.99 - Again, this was something I'd been after for a while but couldn't find quite the right one.  I used it a lot before I moved in the summer, and I'll use it again when I get used to running outside again.  When the temperature goes up a little...
    • M&S high impact grey sports bra - £18 - I've worn this a few times and I like it, but I'm not sure it's supportive enough for me.  I'll keep wearing it but wouldn't repurchase the style.  I did pick up this one in the sales recently and it's a much better fit for me, even if those three hooks at the back are a bitch to do up.
    • M&S navy jersey skirt - £11 - Love love love this skirt.  I've worn it countless times, mostly to work, and although it's showing its age a little now, I'll keep wearing it until it dies.  It's navy, stretchy and long enough, awesome.

    • M&S black tapered trousers £29.50, black & white stripe structured t-shirt £22.50 & black small heel pumps £25 - I bought this outfit for a job interview (which I got, so it worked, woohoo!) with the intention of looking smart but not overdressed.  I don't do overdressed (clearly, going by my outfit posts) and I knew the job was based in a casual environment, and I wanted to feel comfortable.  I also knew that since I didn't have money to spare at the time, I'd better buy stuff I'd wear again.  I wore the top a lot in the summer, and the trousers are good for smarter occasions, but the shoes haven't got much use.  They're not quite casual enough to go with jeans and not really the right style for dresses, so I'm not sure what to do with them.  They're comfortable though, so I'm hanging on to them for now.

    Last January's total spend on clothing was £159.74.  For me, the queen of bargains, that sounds kind of insane.  I blame the interview and my panic buying for that.  However, all the items I purchased are still in circulation - some more than others, but I wouldn't say I regret any of them.  Unsurprisingly, this year told a different story from the start...

    I made a mere two clothing purchases in January 2015, and they were both charity shop buys.  And both menswear.  And both blue.  And both knitwear.  Yes, yes, I have a niche.
    • Tesco Finest cashmere jumper (via charity shop) - £4 - After going nuts for this jumper when I found it, I've actually only worn it a couple of times.  It's a little more fitted than most of my other knitwear, but I like the difference in style, and having something to wear with wide legged jeans and less fitted skirts.
    • M&S lambswool cardigan (via charity shop) - £4 - I really love this cardigan!  It's a tiny bit stretched so it's not my most flattering item of clothing, but otherwise the condition is great and it works with just about everything.  Hopefully I'll get a proper picture of it soon.

    The total spent for clothing in January this year was £8.  A bit of an improvement, no?  I did spend a bit of money on other things, like all the wool, but I still managed to boost my savings and keep some space in my wardrobe.  This year is winning so far...


    Tuesday, 3 February 2015

    January in books

    I spotted Island Wife by Judy Fairbairns in a shop months ago and thought it seemed like an interesting memoir.  A woman moves to a remote Scottish island with her husband, buys an estate and learns how to make it work.  Since I lean towards this type of living more and more, I was looking forward to reading about someone who did it first and seeing what I could learn from her.  The moral of the story seems to be Don't Do It, because you'll end up broke and depressed.  The timeline isn't very clear, although they did live there for many years, but I'm sure the five children they had probably didn't help the whole situation.  I'll just have dogs and cats :)  If anyone can think of a similar but less morose book that I might like, please let me know!

    I was attracted to Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon as soon as I picked it up.  It's a retelling of the classic story The Little Mermaid, told from the perspective of the mermaid, Lenia, and the princess that ends up marrying Lenia's rescued prince at the end of the tale, Margrethe.  I loved that someone thought to give the princess a voice in what was an other-worldly type of story until now.  I'd like to go back and reread the original again, but if you're even a bit familiar with it, you'll find similarities and differences.  I don't want to spoil the story but it was mostly great, if slightly ridiculous towards the end.

    I think I read the blurb of The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris on Goodreads and thought it sounded like a good 'easy' read, so it was added to my list.  The reality of it was a terribly written, overlong, predictable story that even my teenage self and all her romantic notions would have scoffed at.  The book starts with Molly getting engaged to Ryan in Central Park, seemingly after they've been apart then recently got back together.  The rest of the book weaves between past, present and future in a slightly confusing manner, contradicts itself on more than one occasion and features so many stereotypical chic-lit tick boxes that I still can't believe I got to the end.  (I wanted to know what The Thing was, ok?  Hint - you'll definitely guess it.  Probably even quicker than I did.)

    Luckily things got much better with the next book on the pile, Who is Tom Ditto?.  I'm a big fan of Danny Wallace and although I enjoyed his non fiction books more than his debut fiction novel, Charlotte Street, he's back on hilarious form with this one.  Tom finds a note from his girlfriend saying she's gone away - but not left him.  Surely typical of most people, Tom doesn't quite know how to deal with this and sets out to find the truth with a new friend he makes along the way.  There's also a DJ character that made me think of Pat ('just sack Pat!') in the Alan Partridge movie.  That can't be a bad thing, right?

    I nearly put The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait back on the library shelf and I'm so glad I didn't.  The blurb didn't give much away, it just hinted at an emotional tale of a girl and her family.  This was slightly misleading because, although we start by following teenager Emma, the story of her brothers (one alive, the other dead) soon takes over, with the middle section a series of letters written by the surviving brother to their father.  It was hard to read at points with varying stages of depression being at the core of the book, but it was definitely worthwhile.

    Technically, I finished Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones on the first day of February, but it felt like I spent ages reading it so it's going in with January's books!  The story bore similarities to the famous anime movie, but as with most book to movie adaptations, there was so much more to discover in the reading.  Sophie is unexpectedly cursed by a wicked witch and turned into an old woman, and part of the curse is that she can't tell people what happened to her.  So instead of staying home and trying to make her stepmother understand what's going on, she takes refuge in a floating castle drifting outside the town.  Inside is all manner of magical happenings, stirred up by moody magician Howl, his apprentice and a fire demon.  The friend who gave it to me didn't realise there are two sequels to this book so I had to order the next one from the library as soon as I'd finished.

    A mixed bag last month, but I'm attempting to restrain myself from picking up more library books and taking care of the Christmas pile instead.  So far so good, since I've got Yes Please on the go and I'm loving it...


    Monday, 2 February 2015

    Five winter holiday essentials

    This weekend we were away at a cottage in Aviemore - I'm scheduling this from before we went though so hopefully we made it in spite of the snow!  Tam got a birthday present of a weekend away from his brother and we kept putting off going for some reason, but January seemed like a good time to use it - surely after the excitement of Christmas, we'd be in need of another break soon after?  In theory this plan was great, but in reality we forgot to consider that the weather might not share our opinion.  I'm aware I talk about weather constantly on here but it really does dominate our life at times!  Since the location definitely signaled snow and low temperatures, I put together a practical list of things to pack to make me invincible in the outdoors.

    - Sensible footwear - this is my top priority!  My Pajar boots get so many compliments and they're great in the snow thanks to the sturdy soles and thermal insoles.  I got mine from TK Maxx but there's similar ones here.  I also packed wellies as a back up, but make sure to take some super thick socks to wear with them - wellies have lots of space for cold to get in!  I have double layer hiking socks that my gran wore in the 90s and they're still going strong.

    - A cosy jacket.  My coat of choice here is a giant, thick, fleece lined mens duffel coat I got on sale at Matalan a few years ago, but anything that'll keep the water off and keeps me warm would make the cut.  

    - Layers.  I have a thermal top, thermal tights and thermal socks and they're all packed.  I actually prefer to wear dresses in the cold because they can easily be layered up and still look nice.  I wear a slip under them, then a jumper on top.  My thermal tights were a bargain '2 for £5' in Lidl and they're doing a great job.  I did have to go up two sizes but that's just one of many 'highlights' of being tall!  I've also packed a couple of tunics to wear with leggings (which I also wear tights with) but the leggings would work with the dresses in extreme cold.

    - Spares.  This is my mum's voice talking now.  She's an advocate of taking extra underwear, socks and a jacket in case of extreme weather, hence why I have spare outdoor shoes and one more complete outfit than I need.  I think the only time this has come in handy was when we went to Italy and got soaked, but I can't quite stop myself doing it after so long!

    - Accessories.  Not only have I packed my warmest gloves, hat and earmuffs (they're good on ponytail days instead of a hat!), but I also have a wool blanket for snuggling under on the sofa.  Also, my camera bag is a waterproof one I got before going to Blackpool last year.  I deliberately picked a unisex one but it doesn't seem to have tempted Tam to carry it for me...

    Otherwise, I have my knitting and a couple of books, and plenty of food stuff.  This holiday is only three days but I like to over prepare when we have the car and know I can fill the boot if I want to.  Here's some bonus advice - do a mini car service and make sure all lights are working, tyres are blown up and the petrol tank is full, and check the usual oil and water and spare tyre.  My tyres need blown up every month so I'm going to start checking the other things more regularly too, especially in the winter.  And now you're good to go!


    Sunday, 1 February 2015

    Blogs I Love - The Latest Finds

    The last installment of my Blogs I Love series is here!  Today is all about the blogs I've come across recently and happily made return visits to.  Some are big and some are small, but all have a lovely authentic quality to their writing and it's easy to see the love that goes into each post.  I've broken things down into two categories today since there's quite a few, and I'll update my Blog Love tab soon with all these blogs and more.

    Anyone who hangs around here long enough is aware of my love of crafting, specifically anything yarn based.  Most of these bloggers are about all things knitting - I have niche tastes!

    Ella Gordon - beautiful knitting from a textile maker in Shetland.
    Fjord Girl - gorgeous pictures of yarn and nature, a great combination.
    In Which a Bit of an Enthusiast - a sewing blogger with excellent style, Louise is colourful and fun!
    Knit The Hell Out - there's always a lovely knitting project here to look at and read about.
    Lizzy Likes Cake - Lizzy has a knack for knitting cardigans I'd like to steal for myself.
    Mochimochi Land - teeny tiny knitted things!  I have the book but still haven't made anything tiny.  Yet.
    My Life in Knitwear - some knitting, some life, lots of lovely.
    Raincloud and Sage - there's always a pretty picture and something interesting to read over there.
    Slugs On The Refrigerator - a crochet blog by a photographer living on a farm in Scotland - wonderful!
    Stitches and Spoonfuls - a mixture of knitting and baking and general loveliness.
    Untangling Knots - a knitter and sometimes sewist, Andi has a great vintage style.
    Yarn Harlot - lots of writing and knitting and writing about knitting.  I have no idea how Steph fits it all in!

    ^^^Yeah, the crafters take up a lot of my blog browsing time!  These guys are equally awesome though, and provide a nice break from the stream of yarn pictures and my 'why can't I knit that much?!' inner monologue.

    Adventures Around Scotland - the name gives it away a bit, but there's also lots of great info on hidden gems.
    Alive As Always - it's all about outfits and art here, a winning combination!
    Cecilia in the Rain - a mash up of life and knitting and all round good stuff.
    Duck in a Dress - Louise is a champ at a good round-up post and she just made coasters from biscuit wrappers!
    Grass Flower - Artha is a talented young photographer and illustrator and I love seeing where she's been visiting.
    Natbee's Fashion - a fun style blog based in Aberdeen, it's great seeing what Anastasia is wearing in my climate!
    Not Quite Enough - Lisa is a Londoner with a blog full of places to explore down there - and delicious food pics!
    Postcard Daydreams - a book blog with a ton of good recommendations for my style of reading.
    Scallywag Sprints - some fitness inspiration from a fellow Scot!  I'm striving to be a little bit as fit as Fiona.
    The Dainty Squid - amazing photography, lots featuring abandoned buildings and globes.  Perfect.
    The Only Place - a London travel type blog with loads of lovely pictures, and it recently featured a PIZZA BUS.
    The Perfect Hiding Place - Jo has a lifestyle slash craft blog and I love it all.  

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