Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Geeky Days

Fancied a cream tea today so we used our National Trust annual membership and popped down the road to Canon's Ashby House.  The house and gardens are beautiful and there is vast parkland to wander around - it was the perfect weather for it.  After a nose around the house and a stroll around the grounds we headed to the tea room and had a lovely old-fashioned lunch:  thick cut ham sandwiches with real butter, a pot of tea and scones with clotted cream and jam.  It was such a treat.  They sell my favourite Dandelion & Burdock and now I can't get it out of my head.  I have to find a stockist near me.

Not long now until the wedding!   

I'm getting quite excited and wish I'd bought/made/stolen some bunting to drape around the house.  I was too cool for it a few weeks ago; I should have known I'd revert to type within days of the big day!

Perhaps I'll just settle for a Papa John's pizza with my Dandelion & Burdock this Friday.


Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Wardrobe Wars: The first step to a capsule wardrobe

I cleared out my wardrobes at the weekend.  If you are easily offended look away now:

It took me approximately ten minutes to empty them and more than four hours to sort through everything and put it all back nicely.  The picture above shows the contents of just one double wardrobe.  You can imagine the state they were in.  Grrr. 

I'm so glad I did it though!  I filled two bin bags for the charity shop, have given a few bits away to friends and my clothes all hang nicely on the rails now with space in between things, like a posh shop.  I feel quite smug, can you tell?!  

This little exercise has also given me the opportunity to start afresh.  I don't have as much money to spend on clothes as I used to so when I buy something I have to be sure I need it and I will wear it:  there is no room in my budget for duplication or waste.  I am determined that every single new purchase will be a good one.  I want everything in my wardrobe to fit me (yes, I've bought smaller sizes in the past thinking 'I'll slim into them'), feel comfortable and look gorgeous.  The first step in achieving this wardrobe nirvana was to get rid of everything that didn't tick these boxes.

The second step has been to think a bit more about what my own style is and how I want to look - that's a really hard thing to do!  I have had to be brutally honest with myself for a start.  I would love to be fashion forward and wear achingly trendy clothes but it's just not me - I don't have the right figure for one thing.  I've also had to accept that I'm [a tiny bit] too old for certain looks now, too.  Sob. 

So, I've decided to put together a kind of capsule wardrobe with the clothes that work perfectly for me.  Once I've got the capsule right (! loving this terminology, feeling v swotty!) I can buy a few more frivolous and fashionable things to mix it up a bit.  

This all sounds very straight-forward as I'm typing but I know it will be tough to make such controlled decisions.

So, item number one in my capsule wardrobe is something I already own - my brown leather high-heeled sandals:

They are from Russell & Bromley and I wore them at the weekend with a pair of indigo denim leggings, a white tank top and a floral tunic.  They go with everything I own though: skinny, bootcut, cropped and flared jeans, harem trousers, A-line skirts and my rolled-up chinos.  I even have a couple of maxi dresses which are long enough to wear with them.  I can wear these shoes bare legged or with thick tights in the winter.  They also look cute with socks.  I paid £185 for them in 2006* and they were worth every penny.  To me they are a classic, versatile, shoe; they still look stylish and they are in excellent condition, despite many [often tipsy] outings.  

A solid contender for my capsule wardrobe, I'm sure you will agree!

I'm off to bed now but I'll leave you with another wardrobe essential, particularly when the weather turns like it did for us today:

I like to ring the changes with my footwear!


*Geek Fact:  I know this because I keep all of my shoes in their boxes, stuffed with tissue, and I tuck the receipts inside.  Call me obsessive if you like.

Crochet - I have an actual WIP!

Happy Easter!  Hope that everyone has had a lovely long break.

I've been making the most of the sunshine and have spent most of my time outdoors. I have also managed to squeeze in a fair bit of crochet and have become a bit addicted, to the point where I whipped it out of my handbag yesterday at my Mum and Dad's house to knock up a granny square whilst we had a glass of wine after lunch!  I am totally loving the new pass-time of crocheting outside - what on earth have I been doing in the sun before now?!

I am ridiculously pleased with my efforts so far although the prospect of stitching them all together (and sewing in the ends... urggh) is fairly daunting and that's a whole other learning curve I think.   I couldn't crochet until I started learning about two months ago; to begin with it all felt so awkward and my fingers cramped up within minutes every time I tried.  When I asked for advice everyone said the same thing - keep trying and one day it will 'click'.   I was convinced that I was a lost cause and it just wouldn't happen for me but something seems to have clicked and I kind of get it now... I'm so excited to try other stitches!

(Also, I've learned how to create photo collages ^^ !  So excited... sigh... me and my little life...!)

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Friday, 22 April 2011

Summer Skin

Another gorgeous day and this time I got my legs out.  Scary.  This is not a decision I took lightly and, let me tell you, it took quite a lot of prep in the bathroom for me to feel confident enough to leave the house!

I don't really enjoy getting ready in the morning - putting on make-up, deciding what to wear and sorting my hair out always seems to take ages and I get impatient.  Not only that, it frustrates me that I spend so long getting ready (anything from half an hour to a an hour) yet look as though I take no more than five minutes.   But I love showering and bathing.  I spend ages and have a very particular ritual that I follow every single morning. I love beauty products, choosing shower gels, soaps, body scrubs and body lotion - you name it.  I buy these things a lot.  Some products are a real disappointment but there are others that I buy again and again because they do such a great job.  Here are my current faves:

Bliss Soapy Suds:  this shower gel is fresh and zingy, perfect for summer, and makes me feel squeaky clean without drying out my skin.  

REN Moroccan Rose Otto Sugar Body Polish:  Love love love this stuff.  It's a very thick sugary paste and smells absolutely divine - like actual roses.  Ones that have been freshly rained on.  My skin always feels super soft when I've used this.  It's quite a coarse scrub -  I usually use it on wet skin but on dry skin it gives an even deeper scrub and really gets rid of scaly or peeling skin.  It's quite expensive (£30 a pot I think) but definitely worth it.  I think I'm on my third pot of this stuff.   

Dead Sea Spa Magik Body Lotion:  I discovered this by chance recently in Waitrose.  It was lurking on quite an empty, slightly dusty, shelf.  They obviously don't stock it regularly because I'm now on my second bottle and the display doesn't look any fuller.  Whatever, I love it.  It is quite a rich lotion but sinks in quickly and leaves my skin very soft.  It also smells beautiful; fresh, clean and doesn't interfere with my perfume.  My only, very minor, complaint is that it makes the soles of my feet a bit slippy (gives yoga an element of danger!).  A bargain buy though for just under £4.

The MD Formulations Facial Cleanser and Illuminating Mask are quite simply the best facial products I have ever used.  End of.  I've tried all of the usual suspects (Clinique, Clarins, Origins, Lancome, Decleor etc) and nothing comes close.  I started using them because a patch of skin on my forehead is a little pigmented (sunbathing and the contraceptive pill don't really mix).  The pigmentation is still there but it's fading more all of the time.  The cleanser has a little acid in it I think (it tingles when you first use it) so it brightens, firms, tones and closes pores.  I wear the illuminating masque whilst I sleep, twice a week, and when I wake up my skin tone is definitely more even.  I can't recommend this range highly enough.  Not cheap at around £25 each but worth it all day long. 

In the foreground of this photo you can just see the bristles of a brush.  I use this on dry skin all over my body before I hop in the shower.  I've done this for years and it wakes you up if nothing else! 

What products do you rely on to give you confidence to bare all (or a little)?  


Monday, 18 April 2011

Dogs and Dentists

The dog has had a dental treatment at the vets today so she's sitting with me as I type.  We're sitting on the bed for a change.  She isn't usually allowed on the bed so it's a little reward for her being so good.

I don't really like her to come into the bedroom and I certainly don't like her to jump up on the bed - I wouldn't curl up in the dog bed with her - but she's a bit clingy and I was feeling kind.  Since taking these photos I have got the heebie jeebies and she's now on a massive freebie L'Occitane towel.

She's a good little dog and they all loved her at the vets surgery.

Spring in my step

We're back from Norfolk a little bit sunburned - wasn't the weather gorgeous!  Saturday started with an early downpour but by the time we'd eaten a leisurely breakfast the clouds had cleared and it was just beautiful.

Our weekends in Norfolk seem to be dominated by traditions and rituals from start to finish, I love it. We always arrive early evening on a Friday and the first thing we do is dump our bags and walk over to the fish and chip shop to pick up our supper.  This weekend we did plenty of walking, ate lots of ice cream and enjoyed a bottle or two of wine.  I also managed to fit in some crochet and a bit of reading. 

We left the house in a bit of a rush on Friday evening and I forgot my camera - was so annoyed with myself.   I always forget my camera when we go on little holidays.  So I'm sorry for the lack of seaside pics - I'll take a few next time.

We got home and had a cup of tea in the garden and I noticed there is a little more colour than there was on Friday.  

The clematis along the side of the house is starting to flower up:

I love it; it looks so wild and pretty to me.

You don't notice it this clearly 'in real life' but in the photo above you can see that the area near the window used to be a door.  There are a few doorways in our house that have been bricked over - it was two very small cottages once that have been knocked into one.  I think it's kind of quirky.

We've got another clematis which grows over this pergola into the back garden but that seems to flower much later - late August/early September.  Here's a photo of it right now; not at all pretty but starting to green up.  It looks beautiful in full bloom; the flowers are white.

And this little tree.  Is it a lilac? I have no idea but it wasn't in flower on Friday:

Starting to get very excited about the summer now!

What did you get up to at the weekend?  Is your garden plumping up nicely?  If you can tell me what type of tree it is above, I'd love to hear from you.

Nicki xx

Friday, 15 April 2011

Peeping out of the shadows.....

I feel like I've let myself down by not blogging for the last two months but I've been so busy.  In any spare time I have been reading other people's blogs rather than focusing on my own.  So hello again and thank you to my 6 followers (yay me!) for sticking by me.

Firstly, I feel like I'm starting to get the knack of crocheting.  I have been using the online tutorials I've mentioned before (courtesy of Do You Mind if I Knit, Attic 24 and Julia Crossland).  I have recently started to feel a bit panicky that the tutorials will be removed so I've been frantically trying to write down the patterns in a little notebook.  Here's my attempt at the sisterhood blanket square from Do You Mind if I Knit:

I have also knocked up about 30 small granny squares and am proud to report that I can make them without looking at instructions or a pattern now (!)  Go Nicki.

I also ordered a bumper pack of lavender and got the sewing machine out:

My hand-sewing needs some work: I'm rubbish at it!  But I felt these were good enough to give to my Mum in a little goody bag for her birthday. (You can always rely on your Mum to appreciate your handiwork, however rubbish.)

The biggest thing that has been taking all of my brain space and energy is the fact that I'm on a diet.  I know that sounds very sad but when you love food as much as I do a diet can be all-consuming.  Until I met my husband, fast food was just not on my radar but he loves anything naughty:  cakes, ice cream, doughnuts, sweets, crisps, chocolate, you name it.

I love all that stuff too but would never buy it to keep in the house.  Until now.  So I've been joining in, having a thoroughly lovely time and my ridiculously tight Paige jeans are my come-uppance.  

I'm also a comfort eater.  I got married last year and it was a big expensive bash which I found quite stressful to organise.  Everyone told me the weight would fall off with the stress of planning a wedding but no, I put weight on.  My wedding day was the happiest day of my life and I loved every minute of it, but I do regret that I wasn't a tiny bit thinner.  Shallow, I know.  

So I've been dieting for two months and I've lost 9lb.  It's slow going and it's so blinking hard but I'm heading in the right direction.  Starting to feel better about myself.  With my excitement that the weight is finally coming off I have been buying clothes and make-up again.  I'll maybe share my purchases in another post - I have indulged in a couple of Mulberry handbags (eeeek!), some snakeskin shoes for work and I'm really loving the new tobacco/deep caramel colour that's around at the moment so a couple of silk tops may have sneaked their way into the wardrobe. 

So, that's my last few weeks in a bit of a nutshell.  We're going to my parents' caravan in Norfolk this weekend and I'm really looking forward to it.  We will be participating in the usual Great British Holiday activities:  fish and chips, seaside walks, amusement arcades and bingo.   I'll be packing my crochet and my Kindle too. 

Have a busy day at work first so I really must crack on.  What am I doing, faffing around with blogs?

Ciao for now!