Month: March 2015

Style evolution

Particularly my own.

Most people’s looks will change as they get older; not purely physical appearance, but how they choose to dress.

Unless you’re Kate Moss who has been oozing cool since forever.

Kate Moss 2 Kate Moss 3 Kate Moss

My style has changed considerably over the years. Contributing factors include age, social life, peer group, music, lifestyle. Body shape! I certainly couldn’t go out with mid section showing now like I did when I was 18. I used to be quite a girly girl, into being glam. Slinky dresses that showed off plenty of leg, high heels, done hair. That was a time and place thing – I was into dance music and dance clubs and a lot of it was about being seen. Urgh. How cheesy.

That said, I’ve never been overly high maintenance. I don’t have the patience for fake tan, the steady hand for false eyelashes or the right type of lips for a huge pout.

There was something quite sad about the time I realised I didn’t have much call for glam going out clothes anymore. That my social life had changed and evolved.  Seeing a lovely dress on sale but concluding that there was no point in buying it as it just didn’t fit my lifestyle. But it also came with a transition into a different musical era, when I started going to live gigs and seeing rock bands. That’s getting glam in a different kind of way.

And then there’s work clothes. When I started my first job I used to wear cute fitted jackets and A-line mini skirts from Topshop and Miss Selfridge. Later it would be jumpers and pencil skirts. Always with heels. Most recently I’ve been wearing short sleeved loose shift dresses, jersey midi skirts and high ankle boots. Less tailored and more me, but still with a hint of corporate. I was known in the office for my shoes, which changed height/colour/style daily. My new job will be strange as the dress code is very laid back, so my new blue suede platform peeptoe heels – which I bought for summer office wear – will look way OTT.

Blue heels

And while I believe in dressing for yourself not other people, I don’t want to be singled out as the new girl who fancies herself when the rest of the office are in jeans and t-shirts. Its a quandary.

Personally, for me, I find it hard to be 100% true to one style all the time. I love cool rock chick styling, and obviously my tattoos portray that image, then I’ll see a bronzed surfer chick and that catches my eye, or a retro 60s look and I want to try that. Style chameleon.

Here are some of my current favourite looks.

For now:

Style 1 Style 9 Style 10 Style 11

 

For spring:

Style 3 Style 4 Style 6

Spring 1Spring 2 Spring 4

For summer:

Summer 2 Summer 3 Style 7

Summer Spring 3

And just because (so freaking cool!)

Style 8

Tonsurephobia – fear of haircuts

Not quite the right terminology for my own circumstances. Mine is a fear of hairdressers. Seriously, I would rather go to the dentist and get work done than go to a hairdresser. One of my close friends is a mobile hairdresser and has offered to come to my home, be really patient, do exactly what I say. But no. No way!

The reasoning for this? I’ve had so many disappointments over the years.When I was 11, I had really long thick hair. But I wanted it curly. So I went on and on and on about it until my Mom gave in and I was allowed to get a perm. Because of the thick weightiness of my hair, the perm didn’t take properly so the hairdresser suggested we come back to the salon to have some layers cut in. And that was the start of the problem.

I never truly loved it after that, although I continued to get it permed and layered until I was 16. Then there was the time I got highlights that ended up a horrible yellow colour. And, most recently, when I asked for a sweeping side fringe and came out looking like a librarian. I cried all the way home.

The truth is, no-one knows my hair better than me. I know that cutting it when it’s wet is a mistake because of how it will spring up once dry. I know I have a cow-lick on the right hand side. And so now I cut it myself.

We’re not talking just a trim. Most recently I went from bra strap length to above shoulder in just three haircuts. I have gone from no fringe to full fringe. I have put layers through the length and the front. I’ve coloured it, stripped it and recoloured it. So I’m not afraid of haircuts. I like experimenting with my hair, I like it to look like I have a style. I don’t just leave it to grow and grow. I just take on the role of my own personal hairdresser.

The results? Well no-one has ever laughed at it or told me I should wear a hat. My husband always checks it over when I’m done and expresses incredularity that it’s straight and level. Even my hairdresser friend looked over my most recent short cut and couldn’t see any major flaws.

I started off last October going to just below shoulder length. My inspiration was Claudia Winkelman, but without the fringe.

Claudia

Then I decided I would do a full Claudia, and go for a fringe. Mistake! Every time I cut a fringe I like it for about 3 days, before deciding that it’s too much like hard work (my fringe hair is too springy and wavy to behave how a fringe should). Meanwhile I went slightly shorter in the length.

And my fringe has now grown into face framing layers, and I have gone a bit shorter again in length. And I like it. I really do. BUT, I can’t help wonder whether I should grow it again? Everyone seems to be getting their long hair cut (most recently Mylene Klass and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini) and my husband actually asked me if I was doing it “to be trendy” (what a cheek! Then again he’s very vocal in his love of long hair, I think it’s a man thing). I’m at a cross roads now – it’s getting to the point where I either need to commit to this length and style and trim it again, or bite the bullet and grow it. I’m all set for keeping it short until I look at old pictures of myself with long hair and realise I loved it long (although it was more of a pain in the butt that it is now; made me too hot, took ages to dry). And also I can’t get it quite right. I’m struggling to achieve the wavy look that I really want, in spite of experimenting with tongs, mousse and curling with straighteners.

Here are some of my current hair-spiration pics.- the worry is separating the hair from the face. I’m never going to look like one of the Olsen twins, even if I shaved their hair off and stuck it on my very own head.

Olsen wavy bob

The colour is what makes this – you wouldn’t see that level of definition on my black hair

Wavy bob 5 Wavy bob 2

Slightly longer – again I think the colour is important (maybe I need to change my colour??!!)

Wavy bob Wavy bob 4

This is probably closest to my look

Wavy bob 3

And then I’d love to be able to do this, but plaiting your own hair is difficult.

Plaited bob

But then I miss this, especially now summer is coming. Accessories don’t seem to work as well on shorter hair.

Bandana 2  Feathers

Hairband 2 Hairband Long hair

Bandana

To conclude – there is no conclusion. I’ve actually confused myself even more. Maybe I should stick with the length and experiment with colour. Stripping the black dye and going for a mid brown might be a place to start…

First tattoo

Yesterday I took my sister for her first tattoo. She asked me a while back if she was allowed to have one (not sure why I would be the point of approval instead of her parents?!) So I offered to pay for it as part of her 18th birthday present.

I’m a little wary of kids getting tattoos so young. A few of her friends already have numerous tattoos, obviously starting before the legal age. It’s kinda young to decide on something permanent, and I know my tastes are very different now than they were when I came of age. But she’d chosen a very simple and pretty design for her hip, which isn’t going to be cause for regret at any point.

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I had my first tattoo when I was 22. I’d wanted one for a lot of years, probably since I was around 17. I remember being in a shoe shop and seeing a girl bend forward and a tattoo being visible on the small of her back (now affectionately known as a tramp stamp). I thought it was fabulous! But still waited 5 years to get one myself. And then had it enlarged 3 times in quick succession.

After that, I didn’t get any more tattoos until I was married, 6 years ago. And what started as one nautical star on my left hip to signify our marriage has somehow grown; encompassing and overtaking the “tramp stamp”, extending up my side, and more recently across the top of my back. But the growth has been organic, measured and planned. As such I love my work and know that it’s truly representative of me. If anything, the weak spots are the original work I had done at 22/23, because it’s just swirly nice patterns, taking up prime skin real estate that I could now use for more meaningful pieces. Having said that, I don’t regret it, and that’s important.

My tattoo behaviour has definitely been affected by those around me. Not to say I’ve been influenced, but if I was in a relationship with someone who didn’t like ink then perhaps I would have less (or more likely, be single!) My husband and close friends have tattoos and it’s a common interest between us. I certainly have more than I ever thought I would, but for all the right reasons.

And maybe that’s why my sister wanted work done. Her boyfriend has tattoos, as do her Dad and our Mom. Asking me for permission was always going to be a yes, as saying no goes against my own appearance. And also, as old fashioned as it seems to tar tattooed people with the loser brush, the truth is that some people do judge tattooed people purely on their appearance. She sees that I’m a professional person with a respected work persona and a career, despite what I look like on my days off.

I also had some work done while I was at the studio (it was actually my appointment in the first place, but I offered to share it with my sis). It’s too pink and swollen to share at the mo, but it does signify the end of my most recent expansion.

Then again, I’ve said that before!

Here’s a topical tune from a band called L.U.S.T, from their 2010 album of the same name (it’s a great album)

A bit on the side

I enjoy cooking (mainly because it means I get to eat!) but I only ever cook low fat healthy foods. I would feel too guilty eating something that I had seen myself put heaps of sugar or butter into, so I save my indulgences for eating out or takeaway food.

It also means that I can offset the piggyness of my dining experiences so that hopefully I don’t gain 5 stone and none of my clothes fit.

One of my favourite side dishes when cooking at home is stuffed peppers. They’re quick and easy, healthy, and you can change the filling to suit yourself, or to use up whatever is in the fridge and freezer.

Here I used one green and one red pepper, cut them in half, and put them cut side down on a baking tray

20150324_185459

Sprayed with one cal spray oil and cooked for around 10 minutes until softened.

For the filling I used white onion, mushrooms, courgettes and spinach. Frozen spinach is really useful to have to hand for dishes like this, I defrosted it in the microwave for time’s sake.

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Again used a little spray oil to fry the onions. Added the mushrooms and courgettes and covered. Then added garlic and crushed chillies (from a jar – convenience is key for mid week meals), spinach and tomato puree for flavour and to bind it all together.

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Filled the peppers and popped into the oven for around 5 minutes. I also added some dots of low fat cheese (one mini Babybel across all 4 pepper halves) for a bit of extra yummy gooeyness. Excuse my terrible photography – it’s blurred by the steam as these were straight from the oven!

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Other good fillings are sweetcorn, peas, chopped or cherry tomatoes. You cold make them more substantial by using mince meat or Quorn with herbs and spices. Mixing your ingredients into a thick cheese sauce is absolutely lovely, but that’s where the calories start to mount.

I served these stuffed peppers with chicken and asparagus. Yum.

Cool Jewels

I’m a big fan of jewellery – it can make or break an outfit. More specifically I’m a big fan of statement jewellery. Loud, in your face, unusual and quirky. I don’t do subtle and I don’t do expensive.

The High Street is a great source of cool jewels at a good price. But even some of the main stores can go OTT on price for something that is, essentially, a transient piece. Not necessarily because you’ll get fed up of it, but because the quality will fail at some point. Water, soap, perfume and even natural body oils will contribute to the deterioration of costume jewellery, stripping the metal colouring. Studs and rhinestones will come loose and fall out. So buy cheap and enjoy!

I don’t wear gold, gold coloured or brass jewellery. I’ve been purely a silver/white gold girl for a loooong time, and I don’t like mixing metals.

Here are some of my current faves.

Bird ring from H&M – £5.99

Bird ringH&M bird ring

Set of 6 double rings from H&M – £3.99 (these come in different sizes so you can wear them as midi rings, which I’ve been obsessed by ever since Phoebe in Friends)

Silver rings

Double rings with chain from H&M (ages old, can’t remember price but around £3)

H&M double ring with chain

Poundland launched their range of own brand jewellery – Purple Ivy – fairly  recently, and I’ve picked up a couple of bits from there.

Stag head ring from Poundland – £1

Stackable diamante rings (set of 3) from Poundland – £1

 

Moving on to Primark – I bought these ages ago. They’re adjustable, so can be worn as midi rings too.

Initial rings from Primark – £1.99 each

Initial rings

This one reminds me of a Russian Doll!

New Look – can’t remember price (less than a fiver)

New Look enamel ring

This is my newest addition.

Double chain harness ring from Boohoo – £3

Double chain harness ringDaisy ringAnd now for my favourite and most bargainous source of jewellery – Ebay. There are many sellers in the Far East who are listing jewellery for pennies with free postage, and you’d be justified in thinking it would be rubbish. Not so. Comparable in quality to most things on the High Street you can pick up some really unusual pieces at total steal. Shipping usually takes around 10 days (although can be longer) but it’s worth the wait. Alternatively, if you’re wary or need something more quickly, there are UK sellers with great bargains too.

Coin necklace via ebay – approx. £5

Coin necklace

Stag head necklace via ebay – approx. £3 from the Far East (UK sellers are listing them for more)

Staghead necklace

Skeleton cameo pendant via ebay – approx. £3

Skeleton cameo<

Love/Hate double ring via ebay – approx. £5

Love hate ring 2 Love hate ring

Heart shaped nipple bar via ebay from China – £1.49 for 2!

Nipple bar

And here are some pieces I’ve received as gifts, so I don’t know the source or cost, but I do know that I love them.

Black acrylic ring

 

 Floral skull pendant

Floral skull pendant

Turquoise cuff and turquoise snake bangle

I can feel an ebay spree coming on…

Wear your heart on your sleeve (or your thoughts on your chest)

A few weeks ago I bought this top from New Look. To wear in an ironic way, obvs (my wardrobe is testament to the out and out lie this statement is).

Nothing to wear

Doubly ironic, I bought another one at the same time, with the same logo, in a sleeveless black style (no longer on the site). So at least now, when I have nothing to wear, I have a choice of two things.

They also now have it in white, for summer. But that would just be overkill.

White nothing to wear

Wouldn’t it ?

I wouldn’t wear this one, as I’m not a sweatshirt person (it’s also only available in plus size), but the sentiment definitely echoes mine; sums me up from October through to April, every single year.

Miss Summer

More from New Look – I would probably change “shoes” to “EVERYTHING”!!

More shoes

Dorothy Perkins have these two, now with 30% off, making them a bargainous £10.50 each (I may place a sneaky order, I especially like the pink one).

Carpe Diem tee Cest La Vie tee

Boohoo have a whole section of logo tees; most of them are pretty tacky but I like this one, with the wording on the back (great slouchy shape and neckline too).

Dukes tee back Dukes tee front

H&M have this topical vest, which I do really like, but could never wear as I haven’t been to Coachella. It should be an unwritten rule – similar with city t-shirts (you’ll never catch me in anything that says NYC until I’ve been there).

H&M Coachella

I have this “Love” print tee from there – I bought two sizes up for a slouchy look and because H&M jersey does shrink up after a couple of washes (£7.99)

H&M Love

This one is super cute; I saw Jennifer Lawrence wearing it in a magazine and it’s actually from Truffle Shuffle – the wording is from The Twits by Roald Dahl, who’s books I used to read over and over as a kid. Unfortunately it’s described as cropped, and I don’t have the waistline for that anymore!

Good thoughts

Not sure where this one is from (it’s a screenshot from Facebook) but Google shows up a whole heap of variations. Isn’t this what every girl wants?!

Feed me and tell me I'm pretty

And finally, back to New Look, and one I would have contemplated buying in my redundant state (again I realise the irony of spending money to advertise your lack of it).

Skint t-shirt

Except I’VE ONLY GONE AND GOT MYSELF A NEW JOB! 3 days unemployed and I’m already off the market. I had a first interview on Monday, second interview yesterday and the role was confirmed at 5.15 last night. Which is great news. It’s a really great opportunity and one where I can develop new skills as well as using existing ones. Plus I don’t start for 2 weeks, which means an extended holiday, with redundancy pay! I can buy as many t-shirts as I like!

Hidden shopping gems – Matalan

As a great bargain lover who likes to own lots of things (I’m definitely quantity over quality) I find a lot of high street stores too expensive for what they are (I’m talking to you Topshop and Warehouse). I like to shop cheaply and regularly, as I’m fickle and get bored. As much as I love an item, I don’t like wearing the same things too often.

Matalan, for me, fits the bill perfectly. Their footwear especially is great value, there’s often a discount code to be found, and they do free online delivery if you spend over £50 (no online returns, unfortunately, but there are a couple of stores locally that are open late with plenty of free parking, so all good). I’ve bought some great stuff from Matalan over the years, and quite a bit of my work wardrobe is from there (not currently needed as I’m jobless, did I mention that?!) Easy to wash and wear crepe dresses, box tops, jersey midi pencil skirts and tailoring.

I popped in last week and they’re currently swapping over from winter to spring stock. Here are my picks from the latest online range.

Strappy heeled sandals – £15
Pebble (black and white tiny dots), black, coral and pale tan – I’m thinking these would be lovely with my new midi skirt

Matalan strappy sandal 2 £15 Matalan strappy sandal £15 Matalan strappy sandal 4 £15 Matalan strappy sandal 3 £15

Black high cork wedges – £20

These have a sport feel due to the white rubberised sole; I think I already have some that are too similar to justify a purchase though

Matalan cork wedge £20

Moving onto bags

White laser cut tote £20
Love the detail on the front; only spoilt for me by the gold hardware

Matalan laser cut bag £20

Lemon clutch – £8

This is so cute and quirky! Haven’t seen it IRL so not sure on the size or where I would use it, but it’s such a fun item for spring summer (and a total bargain too)

Matalan - Lemon Clutch £8

A couple of clothing items that caught my eye

Yellow jumper – £12

This is a supersoft knit, I’ve seen it in store. I’m picturing it with light blue denim for a laid back casual look

Matalan yellow jumper £12

Ripped jeans – £18

These jeans would fit the bill perfectly

Matalan ripped jeans £18

Floral cami – £7

A great bargain, again would look great dressed down with the above jeans and flat sandals, or dressed up with the jeans and the black strappy sandals above.

Matalan cami £7

Floral kimono – £14

I’ve seen this in store and the colours are more vibrant IRL while still being subtle; black with white, mint and beige. Unfortunately only currently available in petite online.

Matalan floral kimono £14

Jewellery – wowsers, quite a lot I like, I can feel an order coming on!

Filigree disk necklace – £12

Have to say I’d wait for this to go into the sale, I don’t spend too much on costume jewellery

Matalan disk necklace £12

Ear cuffs – £5 each

Love this look – not sure on the logistics of getting your hair tangled though?

Matalan leaf ear cuff £5 Matalan stone ear cuff £5

Black stone split band ring – £5, glass stone statement ring – £5, linked ring – £3, rhinestone double ring – £5

Matalan split band ring £5 Matalan green statement ring £5 Matalan linked ring £3 Matalan rhinestone ring £5

Double pearl bangle – £3

Matalan pearl bangle £3

With the sun shining and the lighter nights just around the corner it doesn’t feel like too long until we can ditch the boots and coats and start to embrace some lighter wear. And bargainous jewellery is always a pick me up, whatever the time of year!

Restaurant Review: Cafe Rouge, The Mailbox, Birmingham

It’s rare that I eat at chain restaurants. Not because of a sense of snobbery, just because there’s so much choice out there, and so much good cuisine, that it seems somewhat unimaginative. Of course there are times when it makes good sense to use my Tesco points combined with their clubcard boost offer to eat out for “free” because sometimes you still want that dining out experience, even when there’s too much month at the end of the money.

Last Tuesday was my Mom’s birthday. We had tickets for a 7.30 theatre performance so I suggested pre-show drinks and dinner. Now, my Mom isn’t a fussy eater as such, but she knows what she likes. Doesn’t eat Italian food (doesn’t like pasta – I mean, HOW???), doesn’t eat peppers or seafood and I was struggling to think of a place to go where we could park, drink and find a menu that would suit her tastes. Going down the steak train of thought (who doesn’t like a good steak) I settled on Café Rouge, so we could have drinks at the Marco Pierre White Bar at the top of the Cube and dinner overlooking the waterways (Mom isn’t familiar with that part of the City so it was something a bit different) before heading over the road to the theatre.

What can I say. Both the food and dining experience exceeded my expectations and then some. We got to the restaurant at around 5.30 and there were only a handful of other diners so we had our pick of seating. We sat near the window for a canalside view and, as the restaurant is on the third floor, we could see all around across to Brindley Place, Gas Street Basin and all of the city living apartments in the vicinity.

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The interior of the restaurant is decorated in a French bistro style, similarly to others in the chain (I’ve only eaten at a Café Rouge once before, in Nottingham many years ago). Red and cream colour palette, rattan chairs, checked table cloths, wooden floors and soft lighting with a large bar and big airy windows. Background music was perfect – loud enough to hear without being overpowering and a nice mix of mood lifting jazzy numbers.

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The menu is full of rustic and “cosy” food – meats, breads and cheeses with sauces and chutneys. We chose starters of “Champignons à l’ail” (mushrooms in a cèpe & garlic cream sauce on grilled rye & caraway bread) and “Pàté” (chicken liver, grilled rye & caraway bread and chutney). Both were delicious – really good size portions, fresh and tasty . The pate was served on a wooden board with plenty of bread and chutney (I hate it when a restaurant is stingy with accompaniments and you run out before the end of your meal – not the case here) and the mushrooms were plentiful in a rich and creamy sauce.

For main course we both ordered “Steak Frites” choosing the 7oz fillet and peppercorn sauce, with a greedy double carb side order of dauphinoise potatoes. The steak was as good as any I’ve ever eaten – even at 3 times the price – cooked exactly to our liking, juicy, and so so tender.

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I wouldn’t usually order steak in a pub or chain restaurant having been disappointed so many times before, but this was outstanding. I’m so glad I had a last minute change of heart – I was all set to go for the beef bourguignon but then got “The Fear” when my Mom ordered and feared I may be missing out if I didn’t order the same as her.

Overall a great experience – the staff were friendly and attentive without being overbearing, and the early dining time meant the restaurant was nicely empty (from a selfish point of view!) With an outside seating terrace this will be a lovely location for summer afternoons. I was very pleasantly surprised, and I’ll definitely be back!

Knowing Me Knowing You

No, I haven’t gone all Alan Partridge and I’m not referring to the Abba song. I’m talking about interviews. I had my first job interview for 8 years today. I got to thinking about the whole process, and how we’re so keen to impress, but how it’s actually a two way street.

Hire me

A job interview is as much about the candidate finding out if the job role is right for them as it is about the interviewer finding the right person for the job. You may have seen a job description, or have a knowledge of the company, but a lot of it is about the feeling you get – from the people and the place. Is it a nice working environment? Can you envision yourself there? Are the interviewers your kind of people, can you see that your personalities will work together? A job is so much more than whether or not you’re capable of doing what’s required of you.

I’m very keen not to rush into anything even though I obviously need a job! Redundancy is a massive shock but also a massive opportunity (for me) to do something different. Not just to settle or panic, but to make a measured move that is going to give me job satisfaction. Redundancy pay gives me some financial freedom so that I don’t have to get another job immediately, although of course it would be nice if I could find employment and then bank that cash (or spend it on shoes).

So, how did my interview go? I’m not a very good judge of these things, so its hard to tell. But I answered all the questions competently, felt confident in what I was talking about and also allowed my personality to show through as well. And that’s enough for me.