Sunday, 31 August 2014

No-Heat Hair Tips & Tutorials

Yup, back again. Not really been anywhere to be honest - hence lack of blog posts! Being of the same measurements as Mr Greedy and having to do a wee every fifteen seconds does not make for exciting around-town journeys.

With it being summer (well, hopefully it will hang on a few more weeks!) one thing that a lot of us have in common is wanting easy, low-fuss hair - often a bit more natural and tousled than in the winter months. I dye my hair red which is notorious for dulling with heat, so am always on the look out for no-heat curls and other easy overnight styles. Here are a few of my most recent online finds...

A time my no-heat curls worked and did not get rained
on. A rarity in Britain.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Review: Draper's Arms Ealing

Waaay back in the day, Ealing had a Firkin pub (remember them?) where I used to go with my geeky sixth form buddies and drink Two Dogs and Breezers. Ah, those were the days... they don't make music like that anymore. Anyway, after a while, the Firkin became O'Neills, and I went there with my work buddies and drank Guinness.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Back With A Bump! Bargain Maternity Tips...

Hi everyone, yeah I'm back. Been away from blogging and pretty much everything as it's been a bit of a whirlwind. As regular readers may know, we had a bit of a scary situation last year with losses and a scary trip to oncology... the knock on effect being the last few months have been a bit of an anxious kerfuffle of hospital appointment and worry.

Well so far so good. I'm 24 weeks pregnant now, and thanks to my diagnosis and medication all seems normal at the moment. Fingers crossed.

Anyway enough of the House episode. I'm going to get right back into my usual bargain shopping type thing now. One thing I've realised over the last couple of months is that maternity wear is both expensive and incredibly boring if you're into vintage or alternative fashion. No, in fact it's pretty darn boring if you're into mainstream fashion too. Unless you really, really like navy blue and cream stripes with everything - oh, and spending £30+ on a jersey top you're only getting 4 months wear out of.

Here are some of my tips for saving money and looking unique...

Check What You Have

Bloody terrible picture of me in a hospital corridor @16 weeks.
When you start to expand like a balloon get a little bump, spend a couple of hours going through your regular wardrobe. Put aside anything with no stretch, high on the waist, tight on the bust or with pictures/patterns that might distort for a few months time! Bring to the front:

  • Loose, wide t-shirts, tunics or dresses;
  • Low waisted skirts, jeans and trousers (use a hair elastic to 'expand' the fly button a few inches);
  • Leggings, generously sized tights and hold ups;
  • Jersey 'fitted' tops or dresses, such as you'd find on Everything £5;
  • Loose jumpers and twinset-style cardigans you can fasten at the neck, leaving open at the waist.
  • Belts. Fasten them under the boobs. If you've ever had the "is she pregnant or constipated" stare from a stranger, you'll know why an above-bump-belt is wonderful for feelgood factor.
I'm still wearing a lot of this kind of thing at 24 weeks, with a proper bump. Having spoken to friends with children, these adaptations can save you money and preserve your style up to 30 weeks!
Some investments I would recommend would be: a bump band (a band which masks extended trousers or the dreaded builder's bum!) and a couple of pairs of maternity leggings. Oh, and some comfy bras. The only pretty maternity ones I found were in Debenhams, but Primark and M&S standard nonwired bras are just as good and cost much less: the boxed ones from M&S are a favourite of mine.

Adapt Your Shopping

We're going to need a bigger dress.
OK, so after a while you'll want to add to your wardrobe. Many of your saved items will still fit, except that all the belts in the world won't hide the fact you're in Tescos in your knickers with your jeans round your ankles because the hair elastic holding your trews up just busted loose. My moment was 23 weeks. I had some eye watering ligament pain and my waist vanished in 24 hours flat. You'll go into Mamas & Papas do a little bit of sick in your mouth and walk directly out again. Here are some ideas for when you actually need to buy clothes...

  • By now, you will probably have the leggings and tights and bump bands. If not, invest. They're perfect bases for everything. I promise you they'll be on you or in the washing machine 90% of the time;
  • In charity shops...
  • Maternity jeans. Choose them for the right season - ask mates who have kids, they may well give, sell or swap an old pair. Ditto black or grey trousers;
  • Second hand maxi dresses - just normal ones - often they're very flared with plenty of space for bump growth. Look for adjustable straps and be open to trying various sizes. These can be picked up at any charity shop, EBay and of course those cheap, slightly dodgy shops on the high street that spring up where there used to be a Woolworths or Jessops. In cooler weather, a loose t-shirt or blouse over the top makes them do double duty as a skirt;
  • Band t-shirts (or any oversized T). Again, charity shops and even Primark stock these cheaply. They're a perennial favourite and can be worn all year round. Plus, they're meant to be baggy, so will be fine when you hopefully  spring back into shape afterwards.
  • Look out for longer, tunic style jersey tops. Bought in a larger size, these are an easy way to mix n match in colours you actually like.
  • New...
  • The most stylish reasonably priced maternity shops I have come across are all online. Topshop, ASOS, New Look and George (Asda). Unfortunately with the exception of Toppers, few high street shops keep their range on the shop floor these days, so P&P it is.
  • EBay is great for basics. I have made several purchases from Purpless - great value basics in a range of colours. Happy Mama Boutique also does some great jersey bits, and their cropped jeans are excellent.
  • With all this 90s stuff in the shops, harem pants and maxis with elastic waists are everywhere. They're cheap and cheerful - I buy a size up and pair with a long top (worn 'under bump') with ballet pumps for work. Again, as well as the high street keep an eye out at markets - the cheap and cheerful 'one size' versions have a LOT of stretch!
Happy Mama dress, Purpless Leggings.

For Best...

Blue Maxi Dress £129

If you have a wedding or event to attend, you will need to invest in a better quality, specially designed item. Check out Isabella Oliver - a known brand for classic chic which can be adapted to a sophisticated vintage style if that is your taste.
Yes. Yes it is a bit expensive and posh for me isn't it? Just as well they have an OUTLET then isn't it?

ASOS Maternity Lace Bodycon Dress £40

Asos also have some slightly edgier and more fashion-forward formal wear, as does Rock-A-Bye-Rosie at Debenhams. These are rather more affordable than Isabella Oliver.

A nice thing about maternity evening wear is that it holds its value, so you can always EBay it afterwards. And of course, for a cheaper option (which avoids the turning-up-in-the-same-outfit situation too) it's a great idea to pop these brand names into a second hand EBay search. I have two weddings and a prom (to chaperone) this year - all three dresses purchased for under £30. I used my usual Ebay rules (low top bid, try unusual end times, blurry photos ... ) and it paid off: all three have clearly only been worn once and will be re-saleable after I've used them.

Well there you go ... my tips. Have you got any?

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

All About Me (Tag)

Sorry folks ... been obscenely busy of late and blogging has had to take a back seat. I found this great quiz tag thingy over at The Jolly Fashionista and thought I'd give it a go...

First of all tell us your name and what you do...
I don't give my real name online. I am a teacher, Head of Department and Head of Year at a large comprehensive so online me has to be official and serious if I name myself fat chance of that happening.

I live at home with...
My husband.

My favourite thing(s) to do are...
Drinking Baileys coffee in PJs long walks, meaningful books, exercise. Hahaha who am I kidding? I like buying crap and going to the pub and doing my nails. This is why I can't name myself on here.

My favourite thing to eat is...
Japanese food - sushi, tempura, noodles, salads. Any of that.

When I get cross...
I get my way. 

Sometimes I worry because/about...
My health at the moment. The situ is OK right now though, thanks to the NHS.

My favourite book is...
Fiction: The Complete Sherlock Holmes Colllection
Non-Fiction: Nigella Kitchen #TeamNigella

My favourite toy...
My tablet/kindley thing and my Nicer-Dicer (in the kitchen).

I dislike...
Cold, wet weather. Clothes that accidentally don't match. Liars and hypocrites on any level (bar hilarious blatant lies that make me laugh e.g. people smuggling booze in tucked in their stocking etc').

When I grow up I want to be...
All powerful  Comfortable and healthy. Preferably well dressed.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Party Frocks For Pennies

Well, not quite pennies. But not breaking the bank. You know what it's like ... Christmas again and you have soooo many glamour-filled parties to go to*...

Whoo yeah! Chrimbo! Let's party like it's 1899!

Great: an excuse to buy a new dress. Only there are a few problems; Christmas is a fricken expensive time of year, you're likely to get photos all over Facebook so are perhaps reluctant to wear the same thing again and again and it's freezing cold out so all day shopping would be a pain. Yeah. And you need to save your pennies for Bailey's mint chocolate liqueur and biscuit selection boxes. If your anything like me, that is...

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Oakley Court Hotel Review

If Oakely court looks familiar, that's because it is. Before it was a hotel, it was owned by a local production company and used as the setting for a host of movies and TV shows including the St Trinian's series, various Hammer Horrors and the singalong favourite The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In fact, so recognisable are many of the fixtures and fittings that you may, if you are a kitsch film buff, start pointing out where famous scenes were filmed the moment you walk into the venue.

Recognise me?
Thankfully there are no monsters or monstrous schoolgirls there now, it's a four star hotel.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Bargain Review: "Everything £5"

£5 clothes, brand new. I know what you're thinking: how could there possibly be a website selling clothing for just £5? It sounds too good to be true. It sounds like they must sell seconds or the garments would fall apart. You wouldn't go for it unless you head someone tell you it's OK.

Skater Dress: £5
So, I tried it. And I can tell you ... "Everything Five Pounds" is OK! The clothes are absolutely, positively normal high street stock. Indeed, my latest purchase had a tag on it with an RRP of £15.99. I would guess that they buy up old sale stock, deadstock and the like and sell it on - meaning, interestingly, that those of us with slightly alternative tastes are well catered for. Many of their items tend towards a retro or rock-chick style (perhaps that's why they didn't sell out on the high street?) and I've noticed the plainer and more 'key basics' an item is, the more unusual the sizes (top tip for you big or small footed ladies- black flat shoes- only ever in large or tiny).

Thursday, 10 October 2013

I'm still here! Rambling...

I'm still here! Still alive and kicking. It's just this old blog that's gone all droopy and wilted like a neglected houseplant at the back of an office. Interesting metaphor, given the reason for my absence has been the fact that I myself have been droopy, wilted and at the back of an office. I'm a curriculum developer. That means I figure out how to fit all the things kiddliwinks in my school need to learn into the school year. Now, as you'd expect, usually the National Curriculum and exam contents are published the year before so I can set it all up. Which I do, over the summer holidays. But oh no, this government like to make major changes saaay ... over the weekend in the middle of term time. Requiring an extra fortnight's work to be done on top of my term time workload, quickly, without error or teething room. Irritating. Not going to bore you with some political rant but suffice to say it has, as they write in management documents "impacted upon my work life balance" (and I've had to do things twice, down to someone else's fickleness. A pet hate of mine).

So, I have done nothing of any interest to anyone since early September. Honestly, the highlight of my month has been finding a runner bean cutter at a boot sale and being able to trim vegetables more neatly. Sad!

Anyway, if you want to be more interesting than me at the moment (and trust me, that is very easy. You could be a potato, or a neatly machine cut runner bean, and be more interesting) here are some of my favourite blogs, they actually post stuff (!!) and don't abandon y'all for months at a time. You all know my usual list of vintage reads (they're linked down the side of my page, innit), but these are some more eclectic choices:

A Thrifty Mrs - currently my go-to lifestyle blog. Realistic, thrifty, witty. Also, she has a tiny little miniature doggy and basically when I'm not being all cynical and Lahndan I secretly click and go "aww look at the ikkle puppy!!" before normal service is resumed.

One Nail To Rule Them All - If I wasn't a rambly slightly vintage type blogger I'd blog nails. But not as well as this site. A-maz-ing and UK based so you don't love a colour then find you have to pay for postage from the US...

All The Dresses - a new project from Gemma of Retrochick. Just loads and loads of dresses. All the dresses, indeed. AAALLL OFFF THEEMMMMM!

Do you follow blogs of the same genre, and if so what? Or do you have a more eclectic reading list..?

Thursday, 29 August 2013

My Youtube Channel

Howdy folks! Hope you're enjoying ekeng out the last few weeks of summer. If you shun the sun like a mysterious vampyre, delicate flower or erm like, a worm or something you might enjoy going on Youtube. Even if you enjoy the sun, Youtube waits faithfully for those rainy weekends or days when you're on your own in the office.

Why not watch my most recent attempt at a video? As with this here blog, I can't always guarantee focused content (Vintage? Beauty? Creepy? WTF?) but the general theme is nosing around my stuff. Don't worry, burglars wouldn't want my stuff. I don't even want some of my stuff (see freaky musical box for details) but it's there for your viewing pleasure.

Nose Through My Nail Art Stuff!

Yes, I know green isn't a primary colour. Sue me.

And heyyy, subscribe while you're at it! I haven't got a cute or funny kitten but I do have a purple Hello Kitty onesie so a cute cat video isn't out of the question. Although I would also need beer to do that. Lots of beer.

Classic Creepy Music Box Video

Actual Vintage-Educational-Type Video! Wonders never cease...

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Swimming at Serpentine Lido

As we are having such a great summer (compared to last year) I thought I would share an idea for a thrifty and fun-filled day out in the centre of London, with a difference.

Hyde Park is a wonderful resource and a fantastic day out for anyone living in, or visiting London. Served by several tube stations, and with a wealth of free attractions such as the Diana Memorial and Serpentine Gallery, the highlight on any sunny day has to be a stroll around the epic man-made water feature The Serpentine. Created for Queen Caroline in 1730, a walk around this lake (starting and ending at Lancaster Gate tube) offers a range of elements. You start at the Italian fountains - this formal garden is incredibly beautiful on a summer's day; benches face white stone fountains - lots of them - with the odd swan swimming in the pools. A dramatic waterfall fountain with ornate carvings sends the water crashing down into the next phase of the lake; a section where reeds and plants are encouraged and many rare water birds feed in peace. Following on from that, The Serpentine becomes more recreational, and it's here that you can hire rowing boats or, for a unique experience, spend some time swimming in the lake yourself in the wonderfully beach-like Serpentine Lido.

It's an incredible experience sunbathing and swimming surrounded by the world famous park and rooftops of London. What's even more incredible is it only costs £4.50 (Adults - £1.50 kids) for unlimited time - and you can bring your own snacks (although there is a tea/coffee/ice cream stand too). There are changing rooms (of course) but also a well maintained garden with picnic benches, separated by a small footbridge from the lakeside sunbathing/swimming zone - so it really is set up for you to stay all day! Now that is fantastic value.

 As the water is in a lake, in the full sun, it is not as cold as sea or river bathing. The lake swimming area is safely roped off from boats and pedalos (although ducks do pop over to look at the curious swimmers) and fully supervised by lifeguards. In the garden area, there is a kiddy-pool with fountains - and if swimming isn't your thing, many people came to sunbathe and enjoy the beach-like ambiance.

We went on a Sunday afternoon - we expected it to be rammed full but actually, we were pleasantly surprised! The building dates from the 1930s and is quite quirky, so a few tips I would suggest are:

  • The Ladies' changing rooms are very small. If you're shy about changing, I would suggest wearing a cossie under your clothes upon arrival, and waiting for a cubicle only as you leave;
  • Lockers cost 20p, however they sometimes run out on busy days. The Lido itself is secure, and many people choose to bring their bags with them to the lakeside, perhaps leaving someone who swims less to keep and eye on them;
  • You may hire sun loungers but there is a grassy bank on the lakeside upon which most people simply used towels to sunbathe;
  • The showers are outdoor cold water showers and you can't use soap (because it would run into the lake!). If you have very sensitive skin - or are worried about being muddy - do as I did and take some baby wipes.
  • You cannot take alcohol or glass over the bridge to the lake area, however disposable plastic containers are fine. Normal picnic ware was being used (even champagne bottles!) in the garden area, and there are tables there too.
  • There is a cafe just outside the Lido, however it is quite expensive. If you don't want to bathe but fancy a picnic instead, the grass area by the Italian fountains has a marvellous view and toilets, recycling bins, benches etc'.

Now I have tried the Serpentine Lido I shall definitely be returning; a clean, comfortable beach-like experience in the centre of the city. It goes without saying, I paid for my own ticket and this review is simply based on a day out we thoroughly enjoyed!

Where is your favourite 'unexpected gem'?