Tuesday, 31 January 2012

What I Wore - the perfect dress

Dress: George @ ASDA £3, Tights: Primark £2

This is my ultimate go-to dress at the moment. My wardrobe staple. When I'm having a fashion crisis, when nothing in my wardrobe looks good, when nothing will match. I throw on this dress and a pair of brightly coloured tights (these oranges ones are my current faves) and I'm all set for the day. It's warm and modest enough to wear to work, but it's still pretty and feminine, simple and classic, but not boring, and all for the bargain price of £5 for the whole outfit! It's a dream.

I don't know about you but boy am I glad January is drawing to a close; it's been a bit of a miserable month. Here's hoping February is better! One step closer to Spring anyway... And I get to see my baby nephew again in a few weeks, can't wait! What are you most looking forward to this month?

Monday, 30 January 2012

Super Scrimpers

So today has not been a good day for finances Chez B. 'The Beast' (as Hubby likes to call our car) had her first M.O.T in our care - fairly routine by all accounts, but still ended up costing us £300. THREE. HUNDRED. POUNDS. I was not prepared for this, at all, so a bit of a "we can not spend ANY money this month" panic ensued...

We've decided that we've got fully stocked enough cupboards that we hardly need to go shopping at all this month (except for the odd bit of fresh fruit and veg), as long as we use our imagination and don't just end up eating soups and daals every night... I've made Hubby promise to drive slower to use less petrol (!), though I'm not sure how money saving that will really be, and when we see my Dad in a few weeks, we're going to borrow a little electric heater for our bedroom, so we can turn our central heating off completely. Food & fuel are pretty much the only things we are spending money on at the moment (we're terribly boring, and terribly poor), so they're the obvious places to start - but I thought I would turn to you, my lovely readers, and ask for your best frugal tips and store-cupboard recipes to help us through this month - what are your canny ideas for saving the pennies? Any advice will be most gratefully received!

P.S. What do you think of my new colour scheme and header? I'm ashamed to say it took me a really long time to get right, but I'm finally happy with it!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Crafty Capers: place settings

At the end of February, my Grandma on my Dad's side celebrates her 80th birthday (weirdly, both my grandmas actually have the same birthday, but my Mum's mum doesn't celebrate for religious reasons), and on my Dad's side of the family, they party hard. You name it, birthday, christening, wedding, Tuesdays, whatever, there will be a big meal, as many family members as we can muster and well, a lot of alcohol. We party, we drink. Everything in moderation though kids, remember that.

So anyway, since my Grandma is usually the one to organise all these events and meals, for her birthday we're going to do something special, with everyone pitching in to help out. One of my cousin's in a properly bad-ass cake maker, so obviously she gets that role, and everyone knows (maybe), I'm a master crafter (ish), so I'm making the table decorations & place settings.

I take my role as master crafter very seriously, obviously, so have spent the morning on the internet and pinterest searching for the perfect craft project to undertake.

Here are some of the best I found...

Love, love, love this - only problem is I don't have a sewing machine! Expect this technique to be featured on birthday/Christmas as soon I do though...

This one is actually a Thank-You card, but I just liked the sparkles :)

Balloons weighted down by a pouch of jelly babies! Amazing, but also a lot of effort.

But I think the winner has to be...

Wine corks!

Pretty cheap supplies, not too difficult make, or to scale up for large numbers, relevant - because who doesn't love wine? - and also makes for a cute theme...

I'm going to try and score some used corks on eBay this afternoon, since the plain ones look a little boring, and I need too many to try and drink that much wine myself... Probably.

Which one is your favourite? Or have you got any other ideas I could use as inspiration? Drop me a comment and let me know :)

Source: 1, 2, 3, 456, 7, 8

Friday, 27 January 2012

Friday Fiction 3/52

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A bleak tale of a man and his son's struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. They walk along 'the road', but there doesn't seem to be any end destination in mind, besides finding food and avoiding the cannibals. As you can imagine from that brief description, it's a pretty darn harrowing read. Food supplies are limited or contaminated, and at several points in the book they are forced to abandon the majority of their measly possessions, and are on the brink of starvation before things conveniently work out at the last minute (this happened one too many times for it to be believable, for me anyway).

I found it very easy to read, partially because of the 'surely they can't escape death yet again?' angle, and because I really couldn't see how it could end, other than them both just dying, but partially because of the style of writing. Very short, simplistic sentences - but it really worked because that way the choice and use of words was so measured, so deliberate that it was really powerful and very emotive. I read it cover to cover in 2, maybe 3 sittings at most, over less that 36 hours, which allowed me to get fully drawn into the haunting world and the misery of it all.

Again, it's not really a fun book, but it is undeniably beautiful, and really outstandingly written. I thought it was pretty brill frankly, so I give it a 8.5/10.

I know it was made in to a film a year or two back, but I'm not sure how keen I am to watch it. What I liked about it was the way the story was told, rather than the story itself. Have you seen it? Let me know if you think it's worth a watch!

P.S. I started reading Let The Right One in yesterday and am over half way through already. Not entirely sure if I like it or not, but can't seem to put it down! Anyone else reading/read it?

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Getting Married 'Young'

When Hubby proposed on my 20th birthday, a grand total of 403 days after we began dating, it wasn't exactly a surprise... He'd let slip his intentions during an argument the week before, and we'd since window-shopped for my ring, but even before that, it felt like marriage had been on the cards from almost day one. I can't really remember a time when we hadn't talked about it, in a 'someday' kind of way, but a month or two before my birthday, it had progressed to 'well, actually, how about someday soon?'.

I know it's the biggest cliche, and it won't help you to decide if this guy/girl is the right one for you, and what time is the right time to get married (is there even one?), but for me, I. Just. Knew.

I knew I'd never love anyone else as much in my entire life.
I knew no one would ever love me as much.
I knew my life would never 'fit' as perfectly with another person.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not some sappy romantic (well, maybe just a little bit), I'm a realist. I also knew that lots of marriages end in divorce, and it's impossible to say that I will be married to this man forever, or that we will always be the person that the other fell in love with. Or that I'll never love anyone else in my lifetime. People change, situations change, I know that. But frankly? I don't care! I wanted to be married to this man, more than I ever thought possible. I wanted the WHOLE FREAKING WORLD to know that we were in love and had made that commitment to each other. And I could not bear to wait a moment longer than I absolutely had to, to do that. The fact that we waited 18 months from the proposal to the wedding nearly killed me. It didn't matter that I was barely 21 years old, had only just graduated university and was still more mini-skirt than minivan, I was so ready to get married. To be his Mrs B.

I never for a second regretted accepting his proposal, never once thought "but I've not partied enough yet!", or even felt cold feet or anything approaching it. On the morning of our wedding, I was the calmest bride-to-be you've ever seen (well, in that sense, in the organisational sense, not so much!), and I know he was the same. Everyone kept asking 'Are you nervous?', and all I could think was 'No. Why would I be? I'M GETTING MARRIED, IT'S AWESOME'.

It honestly felt like the most natural thing in the world to do. It wasn't a leap of faith. It wasn't a risk. It wasn't some crazy romantic notion. And it most certainly was not a rushed decision. It was just what was right - for us, I'm not saying it's right for everyone, obviously.

I am so psyched at the thought of starting a family with this man, doing everything with him by my side, growing wrinkly old and a little bit senile together, and the only thing that scares me about that is that he might die before me - ideally we'd both pass away simultaneously in our sleep when we're like 100 years old, still holding hands of course, and I refuse to entertain any other options, ok?

He's The One. That's all there is to it.

Monday, 23 January 2012

What I Wore - Beachy Waves

Hairband: H&M, Necklace: Stolen Thunder, Cardigan: Fat Face, Dress: George @ Asda, Tights: Tesco

Beachy waves courtesy of braiding my hair the night before when wet - something I do to just get it out of the way, but occasionally it does pretty things to my hair like this :) I've not really mastered the art of actually 'doing' anything with hair still, even at my grand old age of 22. I attempted the milkmaid braid once, with reasonable success, but it's just too much effort for an ordinary day. I probably shouldn't admit this, but my hair's lucky if it even gets brushed on a normal day...

I'm pretty enamored with my gingery locks atm, but can't help feeling I could have gone brighter -Nicola Roberts is pretty much my hair-spiration at the moment, and I'm itching to match her tangerine tone...

Swoon. What do you think, should I keep it a more natural red or embrace the ginge, a la Nicola?

P.S. Did you watch Birdsong last night? What did you think? I really enjoyed it! The novel is outstanding but I think they kept the pace of it just right, it wouldn't have worked as a film, dead excited for part 2. Definitely going to have to go back and read it again now as well :)

Friday, 20 January 2012

Friday Fiction 2/52

Even The Dogs by Jon McGregor

I picked this up at my local library, because I recognised the author's name from another on my to-read list 'If nobody speaks of remarkable things', but not knowing anything about his writing style, or the story.

Set in a bleak housing estate, as recounted by a faceless matter-of-fact narrator, the story begins with a dead body being discovered and begins to work back through the events that lead to it's discovery and death, chronicling the lives of a group of homeless drug addicts and their struggles. It takes a while before you get to learn anything about the characters, so I was initially quite bored with the story, but trust me, it gets good quickly. Yes, it's incredibly bleak and a little harrowing, but you'd kind of expect that from a book about addiction, no? Don't read it expecting it to be much fun, but it is beautiful in it's own way.

The only real gripe, other than it's initial pace, that I had with it was the way the paragraphs faded out, mid-sentence, leaving thoughts and observations unfinished. This device worked really well during Ben's search for the others, desperate for a fix, when his thoughts were erratic, and when the story is jumping around, but it began to grate when it continued past that. I felt it was less effective as a result of it's over use and it was quite annoying by the end.

It was still very well written though, so I'd give it a 6.5/10.

I've got my hands on a copy of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, so I'm interested to see how they compare, and hopefully all the things I liked about Even The Dogs will be in it, but not the rest.

Have you read either? I'd love to hear your opinion on it. How does my review compare to your experience/thoughts?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Blazer: charity shop, T-shirt: Belleseb concert, Skirt: vintage, Tights: Primark, Socks: H&M

I'd not noticed until I uploaded these pictures, but I am apparently very fond of the double hand-on-the-hip! Probably need to come up with a new pose for my outfit photos (I look ridiculously awkward in most of my 'out-takes' though), so apologies for being a bit uninspired! How do you gorgeous girls make posing look so effortless??

This outfit was my attempt at fighting off the bitterly cold weather that's descended upon Yorkshire this week. Brr! I wore it with some lovely heeled boots, which looked great, but were mildly crippling for the long walk to work and back - won't be repeating that shoe choice any time soon. This blazer was an old find of mine at a charity shop in York, a steal at £2.50! I love blazers, but they don't usually suit my frame, however, since this one is woolen, it fits like a dream, whilst keeping me nice and toasty.

What are your sartorial secrets for keeping warm whilst still looking stylish?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

My Week In Lists

This week I have...

  • Back to work and actually enjoyed it for the most part, it's been a surprisingly good week.
  • To Panto - Berwick Kaler's York Family Robinson, a positive institution in Yorkshire - I can not recommend it enough, words can't describe how great it is.
  • Sherlock - gutted it's over tonight! Pretty emotional.
  • The 1st episode of Call The Midwife. Excited to see Miranda Hart in it next week.
  • 2 Broke Girls. A slightly above average comedy staring Kat Dennings - good for a laugh or two but not as funny as Community!
  • Completely got over my back pain :( But I'm getting there. I can almost bend again!
  • Taken down our Christmas tree still! Oops. Too busy, plus we kind of like having it up...
  • A cute new swim suit. Not something I needed strictly, but I couldn't pass it up!

Listened to:
  • My other two new purchases. Foe's Bad Dream Hotline and Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday.
  • A rather delightful cover of Taylor Swift's Mean by What Luck! (which you can listen to here)
And become ridiculously excited about:
  • Seeing FOE live next week
  • Birdsong being dramatised next week on the BBC - such a terrific novel and I've loved  Clémence Poésy and Eddie Redmayne in everything I've seen them in. Can't wait.
What have you been up to this week? What are you looking forward to next week? Anyone got any theories on how the ending of Sherlock makes any sense?!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Friday Fiction 1/52

So as you may or may not have noticed (I don't exactly hide it though), I am a MAJOR book worm, and since last year I fell just short of reading 52 books in total (one book per week), I decided that would be the challenge I set myself for this year. I thought a good way to track what I'm reading, and make a nice little weekly feature for my blog, would be to write a short review each week about the books I'm reading. Please feel free to recommend me any books you think I might like in the comments!

The first book I finished this year was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling.

I started re-reading the series last year, but got distracted after book 5 and didn't manage to finish the 6th one before the new year started. If you've not read the series, then I'm sorry, but don't even talk to me, just go and read them. The Half-Blood Prince isn't my favourite (I'm a Azkaban girl myself, with OOTP coming a close second), but the thing that I dislike about it is also the thing that makes it stand out from the others - the awful, awkward teen romance angle that plays out so heavy across the book, and hugely in the film (and here we pause, and take a minute to appreciate the delight that is Tom Felton's Draco in TH-BP...)


Moving on, I like how this book grounds the series in reality, and gives you more information about the characters and their emotions, allowing you to get to know them better, and their motivations for how they behave. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ridiculously over-immersed in the series, so I care about the characters and the small details of their lives. But at the same time, it all gets a bit Twilight-y and overdoes it on the hormones, and the quality of the writing suffers for that. It's still Harry Potter though, so I'd read it again (and again), in a heartbeat. And you do get all the joy of Snape being brilliant (film and book), which makes it all worthwhile really. Snape is only second to Hermione, who I've been obsessed with since Day 1, in my eyes, so I'd easily still give it a 9/10.

Given how much I read it's not a ridiculous challenge, but since my reading tends to happen in fits and starts, it will require some effort on my part to make sure I have enough to write about each week! I'm already on my 4th book and racing through it (so good), so I've given myself a bit of breathing space, AND, super excitingly, I'm going to start a mini-book club with one of my friends. I can't think of anything better then dedicating a hour or two every week/fortnight/month (we've not really worked out the details yet) to discussing literature over the phone or skype (it's a long distance book club), as well as all the excitable texting that I'm sure will ensure during good plot developments. I've always wanted to join a book club so forgive my geekish glee. Our first book is going to be Wuthering Heights and as I mentioned, I'm super excited :)

Have you ever done anything like this with your friends? Any tips or advice for a novice?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Completing the 30 Day Journal Challenge

Finnnnallly! I actually finished it a week or two ago, but I was too busy enjoying my holiday time to blog about it, and really, what's a few weeks when you're half a year late with it anyway?

Prompt 25: What's in my bag?

Fairly self-explanatory. Essentials like my purse, inhaler, lipstick, keys mp3 player, tissues - wet winter necessities; umbrella and mittens, as well as my onya bag - if you've never heard of them, you're missing out. A strong, light bag that scrunches up into a tiny pocket - I'm very pro-resuable bags, so it's great to be able to carry one with me that doesn't take up half my bag like some cloth ones.

Prompt 26: Today... Think of a creative way to document your day and then do it!

This was back before Christmas when I was making glittery ornaments and since I had the glitter out I thought I'd get a little creative :)

Prompt 27: Who or what inspires you?

This was a really tough one for me, because really, everything inspires me, how do you narrow that down to one page?! - I actually did it out of sync since it took me so long to think of an idea, but it's probably turned out as my favourite page of the entire challenge. Books have always been a huge part of my life and shaping who I've become - none more so than the Harry Potter series, so this page is a little nod to that :D 

Prompt 28: What are your goals for July January?

I'm not going to be starting any crash diets any time soon, but this month/year is going to be learning to look after my body better and I'm going to start with getting someone to look at my back - I keep doing something to it and it's giving me the worst back ache. Literally can't even bend :( My hot water bottle is currently my best friend in the world.

Prompt 29: An interview.

Introducing my Hubby!

Prompt 30: A thank you :)

Thank you for reading my blog, for putting up with me taking so long to finish it, and to Janel for running the challenge in the first place! She writes a really lovely blog called Run With Scissors about her amazing crafting efforts and her adoption journey - definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Blue Ivy Carter (Glory)

T-shirt: Jay-Z concert
Skirt & Tights: Primark

So after a few days of speculation, it was finally announced that Beyonce and Jay-Z had given birth to a baby girl, Blue Ivy Carter, on Saturday the 7th of January. Eee! I don't know about you, but I have been pretty darn excited about this baby, I mean, could you get closer to a prodigal child? I love Beyonce, and I love Jay-Z, so goodness knows what kind of almighty swag Blue is going to possess - those are some might fine genes she's got there.

In honour of her birth, Jay-Z released a song yesterday called 'Glory', which you need to go listen to right now, featuring 'B.I.C' (Blue Ivy Carter, duh!). Hubby and I both had a little cry and it's been on repeat ever since. It's an emotional rollercoaster, let me tell you. It's about Blue ("a little pinch of Hov, a whole glass of B), and his family, and his love for her, but it's also about their fears for the pregnancy after Beyonce's previous miscarriage (weep! I did not know about this). And the ending... ahhh. It's beautiful, it really is.

With all this in mind, today's outfit was rather heavily influenced! 

What do you think of the name? Blue's a little, er, unusual, but I kind of like it. Not that Bey-Z can do any wrong in my eyes...

Monday, 9 January 2012

What I Wore: Taking inspiration from Taylor (Swift)

(gotta love that banjo)

Since I blogged about my style crush on Taylor Swift in December, well, that crush has deepened, just a tad... I may have said her music was a bit cheesey, and well, it is... But that hasn't stopped me becoming nigh on obsessed with her and her music. So today for my first day back at school, I channeled my favourite of her recent outfits... 

Jumper: Marks & Spencers
Skirt: vintage, from eBay
Belt: from a vintage dress

Bag: Asos via my lovely Hubby

 I couldn't stay quite as true to Taylor's minimalist chic - I needed to add a bit more of pop of colour via a belt to feel happy, and navy tights to keep to warm. My skirt's a bit longer, since I don't have the legs of a baby giraffe like she does, and my bag's a bit more jazzy - a perfect Christmas present from Hubby after a few dropped hints on my Twitter page, but I think it still works.

Necklace: Azendi
Lipstick: No. 7 Stay Perfect in Cherry

I wore my pearls around my neck since I can't wear earrings for long without irritating my ears, but the one thing Taylor and I can definitely agree on, a bright red pout can not be beat!

I'm still getting to grips with my new camera, an Olympus SZ-10, but so far I'm thrilled with it. If anyone knows how to stop it double-flashing though, that'd be a real help! I've still got loads of pictures from Christmas and the holidays to sort out, but now I'm back at work, perversely, I should have more time.

I'm also newly ginger again! The darker brown colour had faded back to a coppery brown and to be honest, I missed the ginger. I'm going to have to make more of an effort to maintain it, and re-dye it before my roots get too bad, but it's worth it because I full on love it, so it's here to stay for the foreseeable future at least. I also managed to buy the dye with my advantage card points at Boots, when it was on special offer, so it was essentially free! Don't you just love it when that happens?

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