Friday 8 December 2017

My Christmas outfit

Wow, it's the 8th December today; how can that be? My oldest friend has her birthday on the 15th of November and I always feel that once we've celebrated that, I start to focus more seriously on Christmas but this year I feel like I'm behind on everything.  Hope it's not just me...

I've got friends who've had all their Christmas shopping done since early September.  Not me I'm afraid.  I don't mind collecting up odd things throughout the year but I prefer doing it in November and December.  It adds to that festive feel I find!  My boys have made their lists, I've bought some items and other items I've planned where to buy them.  Plus, of course, Father Christmas is taking care of a few.. As I've got my head (pretty much) around gifts for others, I've found myself thinking about what I'd like to wear on the big day itself.  Everyone does Christmas Day their own way, but, for me, dressing up in something special (and new!) is pretty much essential.  This year, as I am working again, I also have a Christmas party to attend! I am most definitely on the search for a party outfit!

I shop online for clothes most of the time, mostly due to time constraints and the fact that our town doesn't have much in the way of decent clothing shops.  If you exclude the charity shops.  I love a good second hand bargain! I usually start off with a good google for the kind of thing I'm after and see what pops up.  Last night I found myself perusing Esprit.  When I'm looking for my Christmas Day outfit, I'm looking for something special.  A bit of luxury, a true party outfit. 

I definitely struck gold stumbling across Esprit.  It's hard to pick just one dress! But my budget dictates that I must.  A lot of the velvet dresses they stock appeal to me (there's something so festive about velvet!) but for my body shape I feel this lovely  is the one for me.  I love the simple black top half, it's unfussy and compliments the patterned skirt well.  The fact the dress actually looks like a separate skit and top is something different, I don't have something quite like this in my wardrobe (and as I own over 130 dresses that's quite an accomplishment).  The skirt has just the right amount of "shiny" about it and I love a bit of bronze.  It's still a very on trend colour but also one I feel is Christmassy.

esprit party dress 2 in 1

Of course, once you've chosen a dress, you have to accessorize, right?! Footwear at Christmas time has to have an element of practicality, I feel.  For one thing, it's chilly.   I'm not one for strappy high heels at the best of times.  I think these metallic ankle boots have the right combination of complimenting the dress, keeping feet toasty and looking a little bit different too.  I'm also not a fan of going for the most obvious choice.

I'm a tights girl.  I have almost as many pairs of tights as I do dresses.  Which is actually pretty logical, I think! This is the time of year for soft and cosy tights and I think these cotton tights would work perfectly with the dress and boots.  Keep my legs nice and warm!

esprit cotton tights

So, how about you?  Do you like to wear something special on Christmas Day or is it a pajama day for you and your family? Whatever you wear, however you spend it, I hope you enjoy it!

Friday 20 October 2017

Hats of Faith - A Book Review

As a blogger I am very lucky to be sent books to review.  It is a joy, a pleasure and an honor.  I truly mean that! 

Felix, my youngest, is one of those children who asks questions about people really loudly and in public.  I am not one to suppress this, I think curiosity is a wonderful thing, something often lost in us as adults.  What can be difficult is not causing offence.  We live in a diverse world which I love.  I love different, I enjoy the differences in people and cultures.  I like that my boys are growing up in a world where more and more often, people from different religions, races and cultures mix together.  Their school is so much more diverse than mine ever was.  However, we still live in a predominately middle class, white and Christian town.  When the boys see someone on the street who is dressed a little differently and who has a hat or headwear on they aren't so used to, they ask questions.

I had been wondering for a while how to address these questions, what to tell them.  The simple fact was that I did not know the names for many different faith-based head coverings.  When I was contacted and asked if we would like to review a book called Hats of Faith all about head covering I jumped at the chance. 

I wasn't sure how the Felix would take to the book.  It isn't a story book, there's not many words but the illustrations are very eye catching so I needn't have worried.  Felix grabbed the book of me straight away and took himself off to have a look at it.  Not long after he called me over so he could ask questions and I could read it to him (he's not yet reading properly, he's only 4). 

Hats of Faith book

When we look at the book together, I ask him if he's seen anyone wearing any of the head-wear in there.  We talk about where he saw the person, what age they were, where they were.  He has an understanding of religion.  Whilst we aren't religious, he attends church with my Mum now and again so he knows about God, about what Grandma believes.  We are now able to discuss other religions and how different faiths have different beliefs and requirements.  We can now both name quite a few different faith based head coverings and he now understands why people are wearing them.  No more loud questions in public (on this topic at least!).

You aren't going to get a long and relaxing bedtime story from Hats of Faith but you will be able to answer some questions and it's a great springboard for discussions around faith, differences, gender, equality and all sorts of things!  As a parent, anything that helps my children understand the world around them and helps grow tolerance and understanding is a great thing.

Hats of Faith was written by Medeia Cohan and illustrated by Sarah Walsh.

Friday 29 September 2017

Lusting after windows: the hubby's "Manarium" project.

What is it about men and their man rooms?  They have various names for them; "man cave" "dad's den", actually, don't quote me on that one, I totally just made that up..  Well, my husband has one and he calls his "The Manarium".  It's better than man cave, I've got to be honest.  And, after a discussion with him, it appears that "you have the rest of the house,  I need some space of my own".  I've not retorted with "but don't you see that I have to share the entire house with everyone in the family?" as I couldn't be bothered at the time. Maybe I'd had a gin and just didn't care enough.. and, to be fair, I do generally have more say over the decor and I do fill the house up with more bits of tat than he does.

Men do seem to like their little (smelly) places to retreat into and quite frankly, if it means the rest of the house isn't covered with various gaming detritus and half working Amigas then it's a happy compromise.  My husband has his manarium in our loft.  He has a fair old bit of room up there, you can even stand up and, as he's just shy of 6 foot that is a good thing!  It's been an ongoing project ever since we moved in two years ago.  In fact, he had already earmarked the space when we originally looked around the house.  I think that's why he was so keen on it, that and the log burner.

At first, he just used it to store his crap important IT shizzle.  But this year, with us being a bit more settled in the house, he's been beavering away up there.  All his games have been sorted out, he's put shelving up, put an electrical socket up there, installed a projector, put down carpet, sorted out lighting, mounted a TV, got beanbags.  It's a wonder I ever see him actually.

There's just one thing he won't stop going on about.  It's dark up there.  In the summer, it's insufferably hot.  It's stuffy.  He doesn't like to stay up there too long because he craves some day light and fresh air.

He wants a window.

You wouldn't believe the amount of conversations we now have about windows.  Or, maybe you would.  Adult life seems to be just full to bursting with inane exchanges.  And even disgusting ones.  Conversations about your child's poo anyone?  He does harp on though.  We know it'll happen, it's just a case of saving up.  Putting a window in up there isn't priority No.1.  However, I know how happy it'll make him so it'd be nice to do sooner rather than later!

Manarium Man Room Loft Conversion velux window

Pete wants to have a velux window fitted.  He's spotted one he likes on the Roof Windows website:

Manarium Man Room Loft Conversion velux window

I think, once he's got the window fitted, he'll probably live up there, like some kind of loft mole.  He tells me I can visit though, to watch the odd movie.  Lucky me!  Beanbags on the floor and a movie.  It'll be like being 18 again!  I'm not sure I want to be 18 again.  Maybe child-free again... Ha.  I jest, I love them, I LOVE THEM!

Manarium Man Room Loft Conversion velux window
Getting manly!

Well, if he spends more time up there, I might get some more blogging done, hey?  Win win.... Anyone else worked on a project similar to this?  Got any tips or suggestions?  Do let me know below!

Boot lusting.. what my feet are craving this Autumn.

The weather is pretty grim out there as I sit at my desk tapping away.  The rain is coming down in sheets.  Despite that, Autumn is such a gorgeous time of year.  I love kicking through leaf piles as I stroll along.  There's something so fun and childlike about kicking crunchy leaves.  I love doing it with the boys too!

Autumn and winter is a time for boots.  OK, if I'm honest, about 10 months of the year in the UK is boot time.. but they are essential at this time of year.  For years and years I have been a calf to knee height boot devote.  However, over the last year I have definitely found love for ankle boots.  I'm not a total convert, I still love my knee highs.  I have a foot in both camps, as it were, just not at the same time, I don't think even I could get away with that as a "look".

Ankle boots are everywhere.  They vary from cheap as chips (£8 in Primarni - just how do they do that?  Not a good thought) to crazy money.  There's quite a few in the middle price range though. The "more than I'd normally pay but these will last me a few seasons and the quality is great" range.

As I'm sure you already know, I recently became a consultant with Me&i, the ethical Swedish clothing company.  When they announced a few weeks ago that they were bringing out an ankle boot, I'll admit I did a happy dance.  This isn't just any ankle boot.  It's a very on trend Chelsea wedge boot with a beautiful and Autumnal flash of cayenne elastic to make them easy to slip on and off (brilliant for the school run!).

Me&i favorite Chelsea boots

Well, today my friends, these boots are available for sale.  All sales consultants are eagerly anticipating orders.  And most of them want them ourselves.  I know I do.  I do need (hehe) a pair of comfy and easy to slip on boots for the cold and yucky school runs so I'm going to put some money by this month and buy myself a pair as soon as I can.  If, unlike me, you aren't strapped for cash just now and you are in the market for a new pair of boots, I'd recommend these!  They are made in Portugal (known as one of the best places in the world for quality leather).  The leather is vegetable tanned which means it's as close to organic as you can get and, as with everything Me&i, they are ethically produced in a factory paying proper wages.  You can only buy the boots via a consultant, so if you are interested, let me know, I'm your gal! You can check out my facebook page for more info!

Sunday 10 September 2017

Baked By Lou - Colourful Cooked Jewellery and Accessories - A Feature

Instagram has been a source of inspiration and a place of discovery for me since 2012.  It's probably the place that I discover most new brands these days.  I especially love handmade independents and when I find one I really love I get excited.  Well, if I'm honest, a bit obsessed.  I'm like that, I'll hold my hands up to it.

We all know I love clothes.  You may not know just how much I love jewellery and accessories too.  I love bold.  I love bright.  I love different.  When I stumbled across Baked By Lou, created by Louisa Mallett, earlier this year it was instant love.  I started off with a purchase of some earrings and I now own 5 pairs of earrings, a bangle, two pin badges and have another pair of earrings on the way.  My next purchase really must be a necklace!  It really is an obsession.  Lou should be scared really, because she's only across the water from me in lovely Cardiff.  If this obsession gets much worse I'll be swimming across the muddy channel to stalk and hound her for more funky fimo!

Baked By Lou Ceramic Painted Vase Pot
Ceramic painted vase/pot £40.
Once you see what Lou creates, I won't need to convince you any further.  I'm sure you'll love her creations too, but, for the sake of appearing more professional and a bit less mad, I thought I'd ask Lou a few questions about her business.  So, at this point, I'll hand over to Lou and you can breath a sigh of relief!

Baked By Lou Statement Ring Polymer Clay Fimo Jewellery
Statement Ring £10
Me "Louisa, What lead you to making your baked creations?  And how long have you been doing so?"

Lou "I'm a real fledgling business at the moment! I set up Baked by Lou as a business in January but it was in the planning a few months before. Surrounded my amazing friends following their creative dreams, I've been very inspired. I finished by degree in Art Practice (A combination of Fine Art and Art History) many moons ago in 2009 and have always thought of myself as pretty creative, but only recently got the guts to put myself out there and sell my pieces! A refresher evening course in ceramics are what led me to making jewellery in clay and it was my super whiz hubby who came up with the pun name. No I don't make cakes!"

Baked By Lou Statement Necklace Polymer Clay Fimo Jewellery
Statement Necklace £19
Me "Seems crazy to me that Baked By Lou has only been "live" since January.. So, do you have a "day job" as well?"

Lou "I'm a trainer by day and I deliver workshops to higher level apprentices in Business and Customer Service. Honestly, I was too scared after uni to be a practicing artist...I don't really feel it prepared me enough for that which is a shame. I went down the path of teaching and never looked back. I think both passions are working well together and I use a lot of creativity in my day job! I always think that everything happens for a reason and this was the direction I was meant to go and only now the time has begun right for Baked by Lou."

Baked By Lou Ring Holder Ceramic Polymer Clay Fimo Jewellery
Ring Holder/Cone £11 
Me "I'm not surprised you felt like that after uni.  I know I didn't have the confidence to follow my creative side professionally when I was younger, even after studies.. But, now you've made that leap, what are your plans for Baked By Lou? Any exciting secrets you can hint at?"

Lou "​No super secrets in the pipe line, but I really would love to practice and play using some of the patterns I paint on my ceramics and jewellery and perhaps get them turned into fabric or prints. There's so many ideas in my head! Firstly though, I'd like to get as polished as I can be with my current materials, learn more about making my own glazes perhaps, as I love that the creative process is always one where you learn something new all the time. I'd also like to see my goodies in more shops so people can see them in real life!"

Baked By Lou Long Statement Dangle Earrings
Long Dangle Earrings 
Me "You're a sensible thing, aren't you! But cool too, anyone can see that by looking at your creations and style! Have you always been creative? Do you have any other big passions in your life?"

Lou "I'm crazy cat lady number one... We recently moved house which has made me very quickly realise I have a lot to learn about gardening too, so that's my newest passion! I love charity and car-boot sale shopping and finding vintage gems for my home. Between me and my hubby, our house is more of museum than anything"

Me "Crazy cat lady.. I know quite a few people who tell me they are crazy cat ladies! Well, I'd like to finish by asking again about the future for Baked By Lou.  Specifically, would you consider doing a collaboration?  And if so, one what kind of project? Clothing design? A collection of ceramics?"

Lou "I am always up for anything like this! I've done one with my good friend Jade Fisher where she designed a cool rock chick card and I created badges for the lapel which I sell at markets. My friend and I @fizzgoespop are always talking and making crafty things. I'm also up for print making or a big mural and would love to have someone by my side with that! I could deliver workshops too as this combines by day job and Baked by Lou."

Me "Thank you so much Lou.  Personally, I can't wait to see what you come up with in the future.  I'm already obsessed with your work and building up a nice collection of jewelry BAKED BY LOU!! Ha."

I can't recommend checking out Louisa's brilliant store enough.  You can buy online via Etsy, follow on Instagram and if you live in the Cardiff area, she often does fairs and the like.  Do give her a follow.