Friday, 31 January 2014

4 things: a conclusion

12 months ago I picked 4 things about my life that I wanted to change. I never do too well with 'new year resolutions' so the aim of this challenge was to actively address the way I thought about  these areas, essentially, teaching myself some good habits that would hopefully become second nature.

So how did I do? 

I hold my hands up - this has in no way become second nature. My flat is still full of stuff, stuff I probably don't need. However, on the positive side, I stuck to my one in-one out wardrobe and shoe rack policy, I sold lots of stuff on ebay, gave lots of things to charity (and Brixton's give & take), sold stuff at a car boot sale, de-cluttered my fabric stash and chucked out a fair amount of odds and ends. The impending swap of the flat for my parents' loft conversion has helped a lot in terms of re-evaluating what I really need. But, the truth is, I am a hoarder and this de-cluttering malarky will never be a completely smooth ride for me. In terms of going forward, as long as I stick to a couple of these good habits (one in-one out, selling stuff on ebay etc) and, at the very least, open and file/chuck my mail I should be able to keep my head above the clutter. 

This one has been rather successful. I've given my health and my body a lot of thought over the last year. Now I'm not running marathons and living off vegetable smoothies but I've implemented a few small changes that really have made a difference - drinking more water, cutting down on coffee and tea, eating less meat and more green vegetables, and exercising regularly. Yes, I know, there's nothing revolutionary going on here but, what is revolutionary is that I'm actually taking that v.simple advice, and it's working very positively for me! And the best thing about it is: the longer you keep it up, the better you feel. No, I'm not a size 12 and no I don't really look any different but I feel great and, thanks to six months of the gym, I can now run 5K without wanting to vomit/die at the end of it. And, the more I go to the gym (or for a run in good old brockwell park) the easier it becomes and the further I get. Being able to see my progress is a massive encouragement factor for me, so much so that I'm aiming to sign up for my first official 5K run this year! Don't get me wrong, I still eat crisps, cake, pizza (a lot of pizza) and I still drink beer but because I'm actually exercising I don't have to give them up. It all seems to be about balance and I think I've finally found mine :) 

A combination of saving, being thrifty and budgeting meant that I most certainly bucked-up my ideas when it came to my finances this year. I think the impending wedding should take most of the credit. Not only did it make me actively save every month but it also introduced me to spreadsheets and budgeting. Weirdly enough, it turns out, I really like spreadsheets and budgeting. Saving for the wedding cut considerably into my personal spending allowance (the money left over after paying rent, travel, etc) so I had to make it up elsewhere. Selling stuff on ebay and making my own lunch sound like petty amounts but it all added up throughout each month, and the cash saved could then be spent, guilt-free, on fun stuff - cinema tickets, dinner/drinks and the like. Anyway, suffice to say, with my new-found love for budgeting I have high hopes for the wedding fund and the house fund after that.

The most successful change, probably because as soon as I started trying new things it was easier to say 'yes' to the next opportunity. I have no doubt that this has become a good habit of mine. There's no telling where something out of your ordinary will take you and after all, isn't there an excellent saying about trying everything once?

So there we have it, a year of focusing on 4 things I wanted to change about my life. Overall, I'd say that it was pretty successful - 3 out 4 ain't bad. If you find that 'new year resolutions' don't really work for you, I'd say this is a good alternative to try. I'm off to think of 4 things for this year - happy friday everyone!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

long lost tumblr

I'm not sure what train of thought led me there but yesterday, I suddenly remembered: many moons ago I started a tumblr. A tumblr which, as soon as set up, was promptly abandoned. Logging back into my account, it all came flooding back to me, why I'd decided to start it in the first place. It was to be a place to post/store/collect all things beard related so as not to overwhelm you all on here with my love for beards and (most) things which relate to them.

So here we are - 14 months later and I've breathed some life back into the old girl. It's had a bit of a makeover and I've added some new stuff! I'm feeling pretty motivated to keep it updated so do stop by (especially if you like beards - if you're not a fan of actual facial hair, there are other beard related goodies such as home ware, illustrations and the like - I realise a bearded ryan gosling is not everyone's cup of tea - but he should be).

All you need now is the link! Here it is: 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

thinking about...a tattoo

I've been thinking about getting another tattoo for the last 18 months or so (which is waaay more thought than I gave my first one, but that's another story) and I'm quite sure I want one. Not 100% set on the design but, due to my penchant for geometric shapes and patterns, that's the direction I'm heading in (something most probably involving triangles). There is no end of inspiration on pinterest, these are just some that caught my eye...
1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8

Most frustratingly, half of these are without original sources. The shape of the first one is perfect and I'm loving the selection of 3-demsional shapes in that third pic (especially the one second from the left...). What are your thoughts on tattoos? Ever thought about getting (another) one? 

The weather is rather wet and windy today so I'm debating whether to venture out to the gym...or I could just stay in and crochet...hmmmm...

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

the times they are a-changing

A few months ago Mitch and I made a tough decision: to leave Brixton.

We're leaving Brixton to, temporarily, move in with my parents. Yup, I'm moving back into my old bedroom from when I was 18. I'm not going to lie, it's taken me quite awhile to come to terms with it and I have, just about.

The reason why is pretty simple: we'd like to start putting our money towards a home that's ours.

Over the last 6 months or so we've been talking about our future together (I think the proposal had a big part to play in this) - what we want to do, what we want to see and of course where we want to live. We don't really have a definitive answer for that last one but I know, pouring our money into a hole - a leaking, mouldy hole with broken windows (we've had some amazing times in our flat but it certainly hasn't blossomed in the last 2 and a half years) - isn't going to help. I'd like to put my hard-earned cash towards something that's ours, that we have a say in, that we can make into a home. Perhaps I am looking at this through rose-tinted glasses. I know, from experience, that there are many benefits to renting, but for us, the time is right to try something new.

So why move back to my parents'? I love Brixton and I love living in South London, but a combination of my average salary and eyebrow-raising rent prices means that, if we continued to rent our flat until we had a big enough deposit to buy somewhere, it would take approximately a 1000 years. My parents saw our predicament and offered to take us in until we have saved a deposit-sized amount. I have no idea what kind of state I'd be in without them and I'm so unbelievably lucky that they are letting us stay. That said, it's going to be a bit of a test, for all of us. I moved out four years ago and my parents' probably thought they'd seen the last of me - sorry ma and pa. We've all got certain ways of doing things (I'm quite messy - much to my mum's amusement and my sister's horror) and Mitch will be entirely new to all of them (apart from own habits of course). Similarly, my parents and my sister will have to get used to Mitch and his laid-back-ness (they don't believe me when I say he's messier than me - they're in for a shock). Oh, and Moriarty is coming too (obvs), so although my parents have had him to stay, will it be different when he's living there full time? Who knows. Truthfully, I'm quite excited to see how this year will pan out for us - that sense of heading into the relative unknown is disconcerting but rather exhilarating at the same time.

I can honestly say, with hand on heart, that Mitch and I got a hell of a lot out of Brixton - we soaked it all up, tried lots of new things and met new people. Yes, we're sad to leave but thankfully, with a fair wind (read: trains running smoothly) it takes 35 mins to get from my parents' house to Brixton. Plus, a huge number of my friends are all Brixton-based now so I've got plenty of excuses to visit (not that I'd need an excuse) and, potentially, a choice of couches to crash on after large nights out.

Ordinarily, I'm not a fan of change but I'm feeling a lot more positive about this move compared to a few months ago (living in a flat that is literally crumbling to pieces around you really puts things into perspective). You'll have to forgive me the odd "au-reviour brixton" post over the next month. They won't be mushy, more along the lines of my favourite places and some of the things I want to do before we leave. So stick with me, we've got six and a half weeks left and I fully intend to make the most of it :)

Monday, 20 January 2014

half way

A little update on my crochet blanket - I'm halfway there!

After a rather raucous friday and saturday, about all I could really manage on sunday was to sit around in my pjs, watch come dine with me and crochet. And, thanks to that boozy weekend, I have now joined 120 granny squares. It really has become a labour of love, one which started last spring, but I'm slowly getting there. The end is most definitely in sight. 

So, today is supposedly "Blue Monday" - the most depressing day of the year. Thankfully for me, this monday feels like every other monday but in case you're feeling a little blue, have this gif of a v.happy alpaca.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Friday's Jams!

Just a couple of tunes that are getting me in the mood for the weekend. I was alone in the office earlier for about an hour and these were on, perhaps a little louder than is neighbourly.

It's looking like a busy weekend - tonight it's dinner, drinks and a catch-up with some friends I've not seen in aaages, my last wedding dress appointment before I need to make a decision and a friends birthday tomorrow, and on Sunday I think I might pay a visit to the work in progress show at the royal college of art.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

art & too much wine: a tuesday night at the hay hill gallery

A colleague at work v.kindly invited Mitch and I to the private viewing of her partner's show at the Hay Hill Gallery on Baker Street. Not having been to a private viewing (nor the gallery) before, curiosity and the wish to show support meant that I RSVP: Oui!

It's a lovely gallery, a 5 minute walk from the tube station with floor to ceiling windows encouraging you step inside. Once we ditched our coats and were given some wine, we took a wander around the gallery.

The title of the 14 piece collection was: "The Financial Crisis Show: Art as a Derivative". Which did sound a little dry on paper but on canvas they were great! As you may know, I'm a sucker for colourful geometric shapes, lines, repeating patterns etc - so these certainly appealed to me from a distance (and especially as a collective). But, once I got close enough to read some of the 1,500 or so words on each painting, I realised that they also appealed to my love of a good quote. Yes, these were quotes relating to finance, wall street, bad loans and the like, but they were poignant and some were rather amusing ("Mr Perkins is an extreme risk to the market when he is drunk" - was a favourite).

After listening to the artist give a succinct and interesting speech about his work (whilst quaffing our third glass of wine) we decided to explore the lower floor of the gallery where this painting caught my eye. It was completely made out of wax - crazy eh?

Also downstairs we saw this painting and, egged on by another gallery-goer, decided to take some pictures with it. I sincerely hope the artist wasn't in the room.

Clearly we were in need of some dinner to soak up the booze. With hurried goodbyes and a short walk down Blandford Street, we found ourselves outside Pieds Nus. A teeny tiny little place with a tasty sounding menu and stripped back decor. On offer: a varied selection of small, tapas like dishes, but, as we soon discovered, the flavours (and ingredients) were very big indeed. We opted for the bread selection (avec hummus) to start, followed by the salt baked artichoke, wild mushrooms and truffle supplement (I'm still not entirely sure what that is but this dish was divine). Next we had the scallops followed by the spiced lamb neck with aubergine purée - ohmygod it was amazing. Melt-in-your-mouth, drooling-about-it-now (two days later) amazing. Can you guess it was my favourite of all the dishes that night (in spite of my guilt at eating lamb - something I haven't done for over a year)? To round off the dinner we shared the Tart Tatin which was v.nice up until I crunched down on a big star anise. It was pretty gross, particularly as I hate the taste of liquorice.

It was expensive, or what I would deem expensive, but the flavours (save for the star anise) were insanely good. I looked it up when we got home and it turns out that Pieds Nus is actually a pop-up from the owner of two michelin starred restaurants!

So Tuesday turned out to be a rather fancy affair. I do love it when a lack of planning leads to fun new things :)

Hope you're all having a good week!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

nice things in the post #2

Some lovely things have been posted through the letter box recently so I thought I'd share them with you. 

Simplicity pattern - Katie's dress has seriously inspired me to have a go at making one of these
Floral fabric from The Village Haberdashery - after I've done a trial with some plain fabric, I'll be using this to make the simplicity dress.
Dress and socks - bought in the ASOS sale.

This rather excellent haul was courtesy of various xmas cheques (thanks famille!) and is a v.welcome break in the constant stream of rubbish (no Orange, I do not want another phone from you) that comes through the door. 

Received anything nice lately?

Monday, 13 January 2014

five hours in birmingham

On Saturday I dragged my three lovely (not to mention patient) bridesmaids to Birmingham all in aid of the search for a pretty special dress...

Upon arrival, we headed away from the bull ring and city centre in search of The Custard Factory - once the old Bird's factory but now home to a collection of delightful little independent businesses including Le Keux Vintage Salon (we only peeked through the window but it looked fabulous), Urban Village (packed full of vintage clothing and accessories at seriously good prices - nothing like the ridiculously marked up stuff you get in London), Yumm (a v.cutesy little deli where they called out our names when our drinks were ready) and, most importantly, The Couture Company, specialisers in unique bridal dresses. My pinterest board is full of their designs so it was great to finally try some on!

After the appointment we headed back towards the centre and on the way stopped by Cow Vintage. This shop was a gold mine *ahem* we were in there for nearly an hour and it's really not that big. The clothes were ace and also incredibly well priced. I picked up a dress for £15 and a checked shirt for £6.50! Bragainous non? Oh, and another thing, their changing rooms were super sweet too. When we were finally able to drag ourselves away (with several purchases between us) we had just enough time to grab something to eat in the bull ring and make our way back to the station.
Cow changing rooms

Izy: found a pretty mental hat at Cow vintage
El: in mint framed specs at Urban Village
My sister: doing her best Velma impression
Me: modeling my shirt from Cow

I think Birmingham is sometimes the butt of quite a few jokes, especially from Londoners (myself included), but this weekend I discovered that there's a lot more to it and parts of it are pretty cool. If you'd like to see for yourself you might like to know that it's only an hour and half by train from euston and our tickets were £15 return each (not bad eh?) from I'm quite up for exploring more UK cities this year as there's still SO many I've never been to. Perhaps Manchester next...

Friday, 10 January 2014

Reading & Seeing 14

The Gigantic Beard that was Evil (2013)
In case you didn't know, I like beards. And, I like books, particularly beautiful books with lovely covers and great illustrations. So, you can imagine how chuffed I was when my lovely friend Alex gave me this for Christmas. It's a short graphic novel about Dave, who, you've guessed it, begins to grow a very big beard. But it's no ordinary beard - this one's got a mind of its own and doesn't care to be trimmed... I need to read more graphic novels I think. This one was perfect for reading in bed just before going to sleep (you could easily read it in one sitting but I wanted to savour it). Also, the author/illustrator, Stephen Collins, is a south londoner so that's pretty cool plus the book itself smells amazing.

The Fifth Child (1988)
A chilling novella about a couple, Harriet and David, who decide, against the advice their respective parents, to buy a huge house and have lots of children to fill it. Sounds pleasant enough and about half of the book sets the stage - family life is good, one baby after another is born and the house is full of relations during the christmas, easter and summer holidays. But then, the fifth child is conceived and everything changes. Harriet's pregnancy is terrible and serves as a warning as to what is to come once Ben is born. His destructive presence slowly destroys the idyllic family set-up and it's Harriet who's ultimately left isolated. It covers a number of issues: people's perceptions and the effects of those judgements, genetic throwbacks, disabilities but it also seems to show that you plan your life to a 'tee' but that doesn't mean that life will follow your plan - anything can and will happen. Not up-lifting stuff (there's a scene in an institution which will probably haunt me for a long time) but it really made me think and has definitely encouraged me to read more Doris Lessing for sure.

The Maltese Falcon (1930)
One of the classic detective novels, it was originally serialised in a magazine in 1929 which is perhaps why each punchy chapter ends in such a way that you want to read on (even if the tube has pulled into Brixton and you've got to get off). The story centres around Sam Spade - clever, quick-thinking, if rather cold, private detective - who's boat is thoroughly rocked when the beautiful Miss Wonderly is ushered into his office and asks for his help. The plot moves at a fast pace, the narration following Spade from confrontation to confrontation as he attempts to solve the murder of his business partner and the mystery of the Maltese Falcon. There's a lot of talking which, along with the succinct descriptions, really sets the scene and gives the great characters a 3 dimensional quality. As if I hadn't tempted you enough already, it's super easy to read and there's a great little surprise at the end.

The Hobbit - the desolation of smaug
Having watched the first instalment of this story last Christmas, I confess I wasn't too keen on watching part II. But, eventually, I gave in and I was pleasantly surprised - it's way better than 'An Unexpected Journey'. Saying that though, it does have a few faults: 1. it's unbelievably long 2. there seems to be a lot of unnecessary 'laying the groundwork/backstory for the lotr films' 3. the weird love triangle between kili, legolas and evangeline lilly 4. it's unbelievably long. And the best bits? There's an excellent sequence which involves the dwarves escaping the wood elves via wine barrels in a river, whilst also killing orcs. But it's Smaug that really steals the show. The conclusion, or rather abrupt end, of this film is a bit of a cliffhanger and has obviously been engineered so that audiences will want to see how the story will conclude. But, if I remember correctly, there's really not much of the story left which either means "yay, the third film will be an hour long at most!" or "wow what a drawn out, misshapen, hash-up of a film, with all that CGI and added on stuff the book of my child-hood is unrecognisable". Perhaps I'm exaggerating a bit but I have a terrible feeling that it'll be more like the latter. We'll see.

Parks and Recreation
Oh my god, this show is amazing. Mitch and I only started watching it about a month ago and we're almost up to date, with season six ready to be viewed over the weekend. In some ways it reminds me of 30 Rock - a bunch of odd ball characters all thrown together into the only environment which brings all types of people together: work. It's so good to be watching a comedy again, because although I do enjoy a good drama (House of Cards season 2 - feb 14th!) I also love having a good laugh.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

this time last year...

This time last year, Mitch and I were stomping around in Manhattan (or Brooklyn if we want to get ultra specific about dates). Judging from the news and weather reports, it's looking pretty damn cold in NYC (and actually, the whole of north america and canada in general) at the mo, so actually, for once, I'm glad I'm not there right now. It's definitely hammering home the fact that I really shouldn't complain about the rain that's happening in London. I've got my fingers and toes crossed that this gang of storms will bugger off soon.

Anyway, enough about the weather. It was very hard not to keep comparing this new year to last new year (apologies for banging on about it) but, I'm going to afford myself one more slice of reminiscence pie before I shut up about last year. And that slice of pie will take the form of some of the things we brought back from our holiday across the pond. Our NYC haul, if you will.

We went to a free exhibition at the NY Public Library, it was called Lunch Hour and, shockingly enough, talked you through the history of NYC lunches - from 'power lunches' to the Automat (essentially a vending machine with lunches in it). It was pretty interesting. In amongst the exhibition they had a number of old  menus from long-gone city restaurants, as well some rather amusing 1960s cookbooks and an impressive collection of kids' lunch boxes. The exhibition was also giving away recipe cards taken from the original Automat kitchens. Mitch and I picked up pumpkin pie and mac'n'cheese cards.

On our last morning in new york Mitch and I went to the Guggenheim Museum. This painting, 'Yellow Cow' by Franz Marc, is part of the museum's founding collection. I just love the cow's expression - she looks so blissfully happy. When Mitch and I first saw this painting we both turned to each and, at the same time, imitated that happy cow's expression. I couldn't leave new york without a postcard of it.

This is the cork - still in the cork screw - from the bottle of wine we had on new years eve. Call me mushy, I don't care. I think it's fun to keep it Plus, the cork bears the name of wine we drank: Smoking Loon :)

The most expensive purchase I made in New York? This leather bag from a leather stall at a flea market inside Chelsea Market on Dec 31st. I've been wearing it nearly every day for a whole year and still bloody love it. The bag gets a lot of lovely compliments and whenever any body asks me where I got it from I am immediately transported back to that flea market in the Meat Packing District.

These two prints were also purchased at the flea market sold to us by the artist herself. She takes well known paintings and adds her own little characters to them. We actually bought five of them but I think these two are my favourites. They're so weird but great - I cannot wait to be able to frame and display them properly.

We picked up a few coasters over the holiday - the beer one from Blue Smoke is a favourite.

The mug was bought at Brooklyn Flea. It was, hands down, the coolest flea market I'd ever been to and I really wanted something to commemorate that day. Can't go wrong with a good mug.

The 'greetings from' postcard I found in a lovely bookshop but can't for the life of me remember where... And just to the left of it, is our ticket to the Top of the Rock :)

After I took these pictures I realised that I forgot to include our largest purchase of the holiday. Also from the Brooklyn Flea, this awesome cushion cover which, to be honest, looks a little big for our tiny crappy sofa. However, once we eventually buy our dream sofa (it exists - I've seen it!), this cushion will look right at home.

So there you have it - our new york goodies :)

Sunday, 5 January 2014

pin stuff, do stuff: paper flowers

After the shock of having to return to work on Thursday, I decided that this weekend should be as chilled as possible. I can confirm that this was achieved. Along with leisurely breakfasts, crocheting, two tea dates with two of my favourite people and watching a sh*t load of parks & recreation, I also made a tissue paper flower garland. Ta-dah!

Pinterest informs me that I pinned this tutorial from A Beautiful Mess 29 weeks ago, and I say: better late than never. It is the simplest DIY (tissue paper shaped like starfish layered on top of each other) in the world but I love it. Plus, this was kind of a test as I think I'm going to do something similar as part of the decorations at the wedding :)

I also made a little flower to pretty-up this hair pin. Yes, it's been a productive but chilled weekend - I hope yours was grand too!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

so long 2013!

I know lots of people say "wow, what an amazing year 2013 was" but seriously, 2013 was the best year ever. Starting it in New York (and being proposed to on Brooklyn Bridge) was easily the best Jan 1st I've ever had and the year just didn't let up from there :)

Moriarty arrived, I completed a number of sewing and crafty projects (including two quilts, a couple of dresses an a scarf), we saw The Postal Service perform at Brixton Academy (and Arcade Fire at the Round House), I spent some quality time with my fabulous sister, we relaxed for a glorious week in the Italian countryside, I saw my quilt displayed at the Festival of Quilts, we went to a silent disco at the science museum, conquered mount Snowdon and generally soaked up as much brixton/south london goodness as poss: country fair, car boot sale, meeting some lovely bloggers, the horniman museum and gorged ourselves on the culinary delights of the village and beyond!

Thanks 2013, you've been grand and have also perfectly laid the way for this year to come. Lots of exciting things are already in place and I cannot wait! Mitch and I went to a friends' (beautiful) flat for our NYE celebrations last night - much prosecco was consumed and Mitch, in what appears to have become a tradition, made punch. We were feeling a little worse for wear today so we whiled away the afternoon watching numerous episodes of Parks and Recreation whilst eating pizza. It's been great. 

Hello 2014 - I think it's going to be a good one :)

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