Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Fiction not Fashion: Faulks, Townsend and Murray

One of my problems as a blogger I suppose is that I haven't quite decided what  I want to write about.  I started off writing about fashion because the blogs I was enjoying reading were about fashion.  But although I like clothes I've got other things I want to write about.  Have found other lifestyle blogs I enjoy which focus on buying less rather than more.  Doesn't really fit with my posts about buying more clothes.  Also aspire to have a beautiful uncluttered home so like interiors, crafting and minimalism blogs too.  And to escape from all of this I tend to bury myself in a book.  So please have patience, dear reader, while I decide who I am and where this blog is going.

Today's post is about books.  I went to my new book group last night and we'd read Sue Townsend's 'The Woman who went to Bed for a Year'.   I quite liked it, mildly amusing with some good characters.  Happy to read it in bed for a week or so, but it wasn't that memorable.  I liked it a lot more than the others in the group most of whom wanted to tell the central character to get over herself and get out of bed!

Most of my reading can be put into three categories: books like the Sue Townsend which I enjoy but can easily put down; those which are hard going but often worth it in the end; and the rare unputdownable book which takes over my mind completely as I am reading it.

Just finished in the last week a category 2 book.  Sebastian Faulks 'A Possible Life' which is actually five short stories about different lives at different times vaguely linked by the appearance of certain objects or places in more than one of the stories.  It was a bit like 'Cloud Atlas' by David Mitchell which has just come out as a film, though Cloud Atlas was better, more ambitious and diverse and the links were more creative. Looking forward to seeing the film.  Liked the Faulks book until the final story 'You Next Time', which was too long and a bit dull but kept going in the hope all would be revealed and I would understand what he was saying.  Didn't really, but still thinking about it.

My turn to host book group and choose the book next time.   Chose a category three book I read a couple of years ago: 'Skippy Dies' by Paul Murray.  I loved this book.  It 's set in a boys' boarding school in Dublin and begins with the death of the central character Daniel 'Skippy' Juster (named after the famous 'bush kangoroo' for those of you old enough to remember). Doesn't sound promising, yet it made me both laugh out loud and cry.  Convincing teenage characters and entertaining portrayal of a school, its ridiculous head teacher 'the Automator' and the eccentric staff including Howard the History teacher who is a failed city trader.  Dark humour but tries to do something more than that too.  Hoping the others will like it, even though, like me, they are parents of teenagers.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

On Blogging stats, the Saturday Times' Fashion pages and Cobalt Blue

Have been blogging now for two months and still enjoying it.  I like writing, recording my thoughts and communicating with people.  Not many comments but now have two followers. Welcome! Have only recently discovered the widget that allows followers so perhaps there'll be more.  It's good to know that someone is reading what I'm writing.

Until the last few days I'd resigned myself to the fact that most of my posts would attract just a handful of readers and comments will been rare.  Suddenly there's been a huge increase in traffic- have been checking the stats.  I'm not sure why this has happened -perhaps something to do with the way Google lists the blog on search engines.  While some posts are languishing with only a few readers,  one has had a massive number of hits - over 170 the last time I checked.  It's all about the Michael Kors bag I bought for my sister.  Reckon it's the mention of this high-end designer that gets it noticed.  I suspect that some of these readers are disappointed when they find a post about my purchase of a bag from Clark's as an alternative!  Tempted again today to mention Michael Kors in the post title but that would be a con really.  But will add a picture from yesterday's Saturday Times of his yellow outfit.  Great if you are 17, but not for me I fear, though I do like colour a lot.

I like the Saturday Times' magazine as there's a lot of fashion for your money.  £1.50 for the whole paper compared to £3.90 for 'Woman and Home' and there are three regular witty and informative features: 'This week I'm wearing'  with Laura Craik shows Laura wearing the latest designer gear (above in yellow Michael Kors).  Then there's 'How to Get Dressed' with Hilary Rose who's a bit older and says this about the current trend for florals in this week's edition: 'There is precious little flowery about me.  I'm too noisy to be flowery, and having never worn anything floral in my youth, 40+ seems an odd time to start.  However, there are some fiendishly pretty floral things out there and, if we hold our breath and wish hard enough, it will soon be March, which is practically spring, so florals seem suddenly apt.' Great stuff.

I also really like 'Fashion Sums'  by Prue White (above) which shows you how to get a designer look using purchases from high street stores.  I really liked this week's feature on cobalt blue.  The bottom one on the page is Michael Kors again.   Inspired by this, I wore today one of my cobalt blue items of clothing, a cardigan from Next.

Love the colour which is why I bought it.  Also like the metal buttons.  But hate the way the sleeves are all puffy at the top and so don't wear it much.
 Horrid puffy sleeves spoil Next cobalt blue cardigan
M&S jeggings at £22.50

As today was very much a slob-around-the-house-day it didn't matter. But it's definitely being ejected from the capusle wardrobe as a bit of a mistake.  Still love cobalt blue so I have my eye on some of the great value M&S denim 5 pocket 'jeggings' (awful portmanteau word) in this colour.  At £22.50 they are worth a try, even if skinny type jeans are usually ill advised for hourglass figures like mine.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Recluttering not decluttering: Kaleidoscopes and Original Art by Joe Simpson

According to the mags and the TV programmes, to sell one's house you declutter and paint everything in neutral colours.  So when we put our house on the market we packed away books and ornaments and kept the decor dull.  Two years later and we're still here.  Market dead in Chester and no one wants our house it seems.

So over half term I rebelled, reclaimed my lounge and rearranged the mantlepiece, putting on display some of my collection of kaleidoscopes. I love kaleidoscopes, starting this collection over 20 years ago when I received this one from my sister in New Zealand as a present.  It's made from Kauri wood and has bits of mother of pearl suspended in liquid in it.  The resulting patterns are muted pastel in colour - a bit faded now but still beautiful.
Kauri Wood Kaleidoscope

Since then I have added to the collection (above) and now have 12 in total. I love the colours, the pattern, the symmetry and even the name kaleidoscope.  And the fact that the pattern changes when you twist the kaleidoscope or the dial.  I suppose my fondness for symmetry explains why I like the geometrical prints in fashion at present.

The picture above the mantlepiece is probably not going to help sell the house either, as it's hardly neutral. It's called 'Beauty in the Breakdown' by Joe Simpson, a young artist we discovered after seeing his work by chance on display in a local gallery. Below is the first one we bought by him which I love as the light is great and it sort of looks like a young version of my husband.

Don't like clutter, but don't want a totally blank home either.  What's that William Morris quotation?   'Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful'.  Will go along with that.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

No Dedicated Follower of Fashion

 So the sun has eventually come out for a while at least and so I have abandoned my attempts to dress with style and instead have donned various comfy bits of unstylish clothing to do some gardening in the last few days.  Found some brave primroses blooming already in a sheltered corner and enjoyed hacking big lumps off an overgrown golden elder.  And we took our furry friend (above) on  a very muddy walk at the weekend.  Haven't included pics of me looking less than glamorous in walking boots and frayed jeans.

Have also been spring cleaning and rearranging furniture inside.  Something about springtime and all that light that makes me want to redecorate. Also inspired by bumper pack of magazines I treated myself to for half term which had a two interiors titles as well as my usual 'Woman and Home'

 And have discovered new blog about interiors that I like Lottie's Interiors . Not keen on doing too much to our house since we're hoping to move but did put some things back on display which I'd put away in an attempt to create a blank canvas for buyers. More on this in future posts.

So because of these distractions haven't got very much further in my search for the perfect monochrome item to update my wardrobe.  Tried the dress in Next featured in the previous entry.  It's a lovely dress with bright orange lining and seems well made with thick brocade fabric.  But it didn't look right on me - gaped at the top in the 12 and I couldn't really downsize as it fitted my bottom half. I took a photo with my phone but it was so awful I won't print it - had no tights with me so it featured my very pale legs.

Still looking, though not sure I am that keen on the full chequerboard effect as seen in this outfit in Woman and Home. (Hideous handbag!) There was an advert on TV today for Matalan promoting their monochrome range so will have a look there.  I've never had much success with shopping in Matalan but my sister has.  And it fits my current budget. 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Monochrome at M&S, Next and Hobbs

One of the spring trends which appeals to me a lot is monochrome as worn by the wonderful Emili Sande above.  Loved all her clothes in the feature about her which appeared in last week's Sunday Times Style Magazine.  This is actually a shirt by Stella McCartney and a jumper apparently by a Northern Ireland designer called JW Anderson but the basic black/white contrast is there. (Or perhaps it's navy- if so I am talking nonsense!)  Also bought a Woman and Home magazine which is quite good for fashion at fifty and there's also a lot of monochrone in there.

Marks and Spencer Crosshatch Print Mini £29.50
So have been trying to find a monochrome item within my limited budget to update my spring wardrobe.  Turned to M&S first mainly because they'd sent me a 20% code - I have an account.  Spotted a couple of skirts and read the reviews which were mostly good.  So did an online order for the skirt above, the Crosshatch Print Mini, in 10 and 12 as the reviews said the sizing was generous. It also comes in two lengths, 18ins is a bit short for me but I'm happy with 21ins which is just above my knee as I'm about 5'3.
Next Black and White Jacquard Dress £45
Went yesterday to pick it up and try it on.  The good news is that I am a size 10 according to M&S; the bad is that somehow I just didn't like it on me.  It didn't help that Fashion Girl hated it, saying that the print looked like curtain fabric. I love the way the model above looks in it but as FG rather cruelly pointed out I'm bigger than that and it just doesn't work.  May have a look this morning at Next as there's a dress in there we both like after a spot of Directory browsing last night.  Would have to wear a jacket or shrug type cardigan as its sleeveless and not so keen on my upper arms. But it's a move away from the Boden print dresses I'm getting bored with.

But the one I really covet is in Hobbs and at £190 is way out of my budget.  Here it is for the record.       


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

S is for ...Studs and Skulls, Sleepovers, Sugar, Snow and Springtime

S is for Sleepovers

Not many photos on the blog recently so got the camera out this morning to record the half term chaos chez nous.  Fashion Girl had sleepover so this is what the lounge looked like this morning.  She then spent the day doing makeovers on her friend, making pop videos on MY ipad and eating too many sweets.  No photos of me today - getting over nasty cold so lounging around in cosy clothes and indulging in a bit of internet shopping.  More of this tomorrow.

Thought I'd record a few of her favourite wardrobe items as a contrast to mine.  Studs seem to feature a lot as in the Next shoes below.  Don't much like these.  But I do like this diamante skull print scarf and may borrow it.  The smiling one is a bit creey though.

S is for skulls. FG's favourite scarf from New Look.

S is for Studs.  Studded slippers from Next.

 These shoes aren't much good in the snow which we had today so we didn't venture out much.  Just a brief trip to the shops where I gave in to the purchase of more sugary stuff to add to the half jar of Nutella which seems to have disappeared this morning.  Back to fruit and Shreddies on Monday.
S is for snow...again.
S is for Sugar.  Far too much of it.

 Soon it will be springtime.  Snowdrops and daffodils appearing bravely in garden.  And weatherman says it'll be warmer tomorrow.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Sheltering in Monsoon and Wishing for Spring in Brighton

Half-term and trip down south for us to visit my sister who lives near Brighton. Plans for brisk winter walk on the seafront and exploring shops on the Lanes abandoned because of non-stop heavy rain so went to indoor shopping centre instead - forget its name but usual collection of high street stores.  Fashion Girl diverted briefly by Hollister but more interested in the fragrances than the clothes.  She preferred Republic next door where she spotted her current wish-list item - a shiny black skater skirt.  Overpriced in my opinion at £20, but she's found a similar one on Boohoo for a tenner.

Anyway forget her wish list; it's my turn now. We gave up shopping fairly swiftly.  Both husbands' boredom threshold at the shops reached quickly and everyone hungry.  So headed off in the rain for lunch. There were rivers running down the Lanes at that stage.  Things cheered up when we got to Donatello's .


Great value meal there: pizza/pasta and puddings for 6, a bottle of house red and some extra yummy garlic bread and cheese all for £66. Then we sent brave brother-in-law, armed with brolly, to get the car and pick us up.  While waiting we sheltered, rather appropriately, in Monsoon.

Now I've never had much success with Monsoon.  Like the ethnicky look of the clothes but never actually buy anything.  But did spot this Charlie Blouse in navy silk with a daisy print for £59 and it's on the top of my wish list for my summer wardrobe. Will go with navy wide-legged linen trousers and white cropped ones with ballet pumps.  Longing now for an end to this miserable wet winter and fed up with winter woollies.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Slogan jumpers: Tres cool?

Image 1 of ASOS Chunky Tres Cool Jumper

Rosie Milliard on Daybreak again this morning.  Now I've blogged before about her style as a forty something woman but this time I was unimpressed by her clothing choice, a chunky red acrylic jumper with the slogan Tres Cool.  Complete with accent over the E.  I know it's meant to be ironic but in my view this is a dreadful jumper.  I don't like the franglais, the fact it reminds me of a football shirt and it's just embarrassing for a forty-something woman to be declaring herself  'cool', however ironic her tone.

Tracked it down online at ASOS and disappointed (not) to discover it has sold out.  Had a look at other slogan jumpers available there.  One said 'Sugar High' in large letters and another, in pale pink with a sports car on front, contained a command: 'Go Topless!'. We've come a long way black and white Katherine Hamnett Slogan T-shirts I loved in the 80's.  And not in the right direction.

Fashion Girl also has a thing about slogan T shirts at present, purchasing one from New Look which says NERD.  She already has one that says GEEK.  It's all a bit tongue in cheek to her - she's a bit of a geek in school she says, conscientious and polite to her teachers in school (in total contrast to her conduct at home). She also spotted a LOSER one in Primark at the weekend, but didn't buy it.  What is going on? Is it now cool to be a 'loser'?   Or are kids reclaiming this language from the bullies?   I'm not so sure.  Anyone who has been on the receiving end of this nasty insult, often accompanied by the L-shaped hand gesture with thumb and index finger at a right angle wouldn't want to wear it.

Unlike Rosie Milliard, I'm going to let this particular trend pass me by, though I do quite like the idea of purchasing a Katherine Hamnett vintage T-shirt with RELAX on it.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Choosing bags - Michael Kors or Clarks?

Bought this bag back in June from a Michael Kors outlet shop and love it lots.  Sadly it's not mine but instead was a present for sister's landmark birthday  (She's joined me on the wrong side of fifty.)  I was charged with the responsibility of choosing the bag we'd buy between me and my other three sisters and this was the one I settled on. It's lovely: just big enough to hold everything you need, gorgeous leather and a tan colour which goes with everything.  She's happy.

Since then I've been looking for a similar handbag for myself with a less eye-watering price tag.  Now I'm a one bag per season (winter/summer) person.  Really cannot be bothered to decant all the stuff in my bag more often than once a year. So was quite pleased when I found this one in Clarks with 20% off it just before Christmas making it about £60. It's tan leather, satchel-style, the right size and matches my favourite tan ankle boots nicely. The only thing is that lots of my shoes are black and I am not entirely comfortable wearing a tan bag with black shoes.  I'm sure the  matching bag to shoes rule no longer applies but can't quite shake it off: I have memories of several bags I bought to wear with wedding outfits which were worn only once.  Beth Goodrham at Styleguile  certainly doesn't have this hang up as she posted a photo of a stunning blue bag worn with black boots a couple of days ago.

I suppose I could have stretched to the Michael Kors bag if it hadn't been for my purchase of Fashion Girl's bag of choice for school.  As it's the only item she wears in school that isn't strictly regulated, she puts a lot of effort into selecting her bag.  She'd bought a £10 'satchel' from Primark in September which lasted a week before the strap broke. So bought her this replacement for her birthday.  It's from the Leather Satchel Company and cost more than I want to admit here.  But it is gorgeous. Just worried it will be no longer cool to have a satchel by next September.

And finally just wanted to share with readers another of my 'amusing' fridge magnets.  Picked this up from Sainsbury's.

 I'll forgive them for the blatant sexism I suppose because the message about bringing your own bags to the supermarket is a good one.  Am determined this year to cut right down on my usage of plastic carrier bags.  There's a big pile of the ghastly things in the garage and the council recycling won't take them.  So am refusing bags whenever possible and squeeze as much shopping as I can into my Clark's satchel.