Archive for October, 2012

October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

It’s finally Halloween, though it feels as though we’ve been celebrating it here for about a fortnight already. The kids have been dressed up at every available opportunity and we’ve already celebrated at school, at the local sweet shop and on Primrose Valley with crafts from Wyke Beck Valley Pride, an environmental project happening locally.

But now is the day itself. Happily, we managed to grow a pumpkin to carve this year. It was supposed to be Atlantic Giant, the large orange ubiquitous pumpkin. Clearly, it is not orange. It’s not round either, but that might be because we rested it on something to keep it away from slug damage. I cannot decide if it looks like this because we did something wrong or if it was a rogue seed from a different pumpkin variety that found its way into the packet. Either way, it is suitably scary, and with a bit of imagination from my daughter and carving from my husband, it now looks like this…

I will be dressing as a Mexican sugar skull for our family party, so if you want to see what I look like,  follow my Instagram feed, because it’s sure to show up! I’m Margotbarbara on there too. If you’re celebrating Halloween, I hope you have a great time. If you’re not celebrating, I also wish you a lovely evening, and hope you’re not disturbed by pesky trick-or-treaters…

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October 29, 2012

Anya Hindmarch for British Airways: A Little Luxury.

Have you ever turned left on entering a plane? I haven’t. Not for me the luxuries of First Class, sadly. It has to be said that I’ve not been on a long-haul flight (the only time I think upgrades are really worth it) since 2006, when I flew to New York. I was in the second trimester of pregnancy and so spent the entire flight either walking around to stave off the threat of DVT or going to the loo. Given that, a First Class ticket would have been something of a waste of money!

Luckily for me, I do know people who turn left on entering the plane, and not only are they fortunate, they’re also kind enough to share their goodies with me. Now that I’m in the throes of saving up, I’m trying very hard not to spend money on luxury things, but I do love a bit of luxury (and who doesn’t?) so this really does help make up for my economising.

If you travel First Class with British Airways you are fortunate enough to receive a lovely Anya Hindmarch bag, filled with REN skincare goodies. REN skincare is a great brand and creator of my favourite Rose Otto bath oil. Inside this kit, which is structured like a little framed doctor bag and utterly lovely, is everything you could need to emerge after a long haul flight feeling as fresh as a daisy. Well, nearly… I’m sure the flat beds in First Class help with that too! Alongside the all-important sleep mask and ear plugs, you get the following things: Active 7 Radiant Eye Gel, Vita-Mineral Day Cream, Neroli and Grapefruit Hand & Body Cream, Biominetic Lip Balm (all by REN) and a toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash. So very lovely.

Now, I don’t have any long distance travel plans in the near future, but I am going away to Whitby for a couple of days in November to stay in the fabulous looking Bensons Townhouse, which was all booked and sorted before I made my decision to save up for a bigger trip! I’ll be taking this perfect little travel bag of luxury with me and will very much enjoy a brief interlude from my economising…

October 22, 2012

Goodrington Sands, Devon.

In my last post, I said that I would attempt to make a doll’s dress in a week and then post my results up here. Those of you who read this blog regularly might have noticed that I’ve not posted for over a week now. That’s because during the week in which I was going to sew a dress, I actually went to Devon. Which I knew I was going to be doing when I wrote the post. Sometimes I baffle even myself with my idiocy.

So, the dress is half made – but it is in progress which is still something worthy of a celebration and the content of a post for later. Today I wanted to talk briefly about my trip to Devon and in particular about Goodrington Sands.

Goodrington Sands is a stretch of beach in Paignton, and it has the richest rock pools I’ve ever come across. We regularly go rock pooling with the kids in the summer, searching for crabs, little anemones and other sea life in the still pools of water left behind when the tides are low. In Robin Hoods Bay, we’ve had some success at finding crabs and limpets, but nothing much beyond that. But at Goodrington Sands, I saw so much more. Starfish, anemones, hermit crabs, blennies and sea urchins to name but a few. We even saw an anemone on a hermit crab shell, in a real life version of Julia Donaldson’s beloved children’s book ‘Sharing A Shell’ which was a brilliant moment for me. I know the words to that book off by heart, because of the number of times I’ve read it! The Seashore Centre, right on the edge of the sands, and run by the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, was a great place to learn a bit more about the things we’d seen.

Starfish

The whole of the Torbay area is the English Riviera Global Geopark, which was designated to protect the geological important of the area, but also to promote responsible geo-tourism. Even we were able to find fossils just in the afternoon we were wandering on the beach having a quick look for them. On a sunny October afternoon, with the waves crashing into the shore, it felt pretty much a perfect place to be and if you’re interested in marine biology, geology or sustainable tourism, it’s definitely worth spending some time there. I travelled by train, and the Brunel designed train line runs right by the coast. On my way there,  after about five hours’ of travel and just when I was ready to fall asleep, I was greeted with the beautiful sight of the sunshine glinting off the sea. Wonderful…

The view through my train window.

Obviously, please be responsible when you’re out rockpooling – be careful on slippery rocks and seaweed, and make sure you don’t take any sea creatures away. Don’t keep them out of water and always carefully return them to their habitat.

October 12, 2012

Saving up and sewing.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve made some travel plans. I really want to take my kids on a big trip when they are a bit older and so now comes the dull part – saving up. I’m awful at saving up, but I’m determined to try my best. I don’t want to miss the chance to visit the places on my long-held wish list and share an exciting adventure with my family, purely because I’ve spent all my money on magazines and takeaways. I have also asked a Twitter friend to act as my spending police, and she’s being rather vigilant, which is a good thing…

Of course, there lots of other grown-up and serious things that I spend money on too, but (apart from trying to get better deals on things) they are non-negotiable so I’m going to focus my efforts on the areas I can change.  Which is primarily food and entertainment. Food I’m going to tackle in another post. Today I’m going to tell you about my new plan. Which is to go back to attempting to learn crafts in order to enjoy my new Blythe hobby without it bankrupting me. Blythe is one of the most expensive hobbies I’ve stumbled into. And I talk as someone whose long term hobby is horses, for heaven’s sake. The point to the exercise is that it’s likely to take me four years or so to afford the trip I have in mind. That’s a long time to save. So, I’m hoping to still do the things I love, but in a more economical way!

Anyway, I’ve mentioned in the past that I feel as though I will never, ever learn to knit and I’ve shared my attempt at crochet with you. But I do feel reasonably confident that I might be able to sew. I had a lesson in machine sewing at the start of the year with the supremely talented Abi Manifold and I’ve been promised the loan of a couple of sewing machines so that’s all lovely (and free!) but the first step is to learn how to use a pattern to create something.

There are lots of free patterns for doll clothes online so I’ve printed one off and I’m using a bag of things I bought in a fit of enthusiasm a while ago to try and hand-sew a simple dress. In a week. Which to those of you who know what you’re doing must be laughable. But to me, is about as easy as performing surgery. You will notice from the photograph that I also have glue, but I’ll try my very best not to use this!

This time next week, I will either share a blog post with you in which I share my success or my failure. Fingers crossed…

October 10, 2012

Making things happen.

I’ve been feeling a bit glum recently. Nothing major, but just a bit unsettled. Partly it’s because I’ve realised it’s October and so 2012, a year I had high hopes for, is almost at an end. I’m not exactly sure how we’re in October already. With that comes the realisation that I’ve not managed to do many of the things I had planned for this year. In some cases, that’s because I’ve done different things instead, which is fine, and in some cases there are reasons beyond my control. But in some cases it’s because of nothing more complicated than my own behaviour.

I’ve talked on here before about my top time wasters – the things I do instead of the things I should be doing. I’m still battling with them, although I’m relieved to report that my Moshi Monsters obsession has abated. To be replaced with a Blythe obsession, naturally. Honestly, sometimes I don’t quite understand myself, so I really don’t expect anyone else to…

The other night I had a bit of a revelation though. Mildly inebriated (which is when I’m the most honest with myself) I wrote a list of things I wanted to do before I reach forty. Now, I’m a bit scared of forty. With apologies to those of you who are there already, but it feels incredibly grown up to me, and if there is one thing I don’t feel, it’s grown up. I have dolls! I also have a mortgage and two children, but I sometimes still wonder how I got to be thirty six in the blink of an eye. What I began to realise as I looked at my list and thought about the reasons why I’ve still got to make some of these things happen,  is that often the things I consider to be helping me achieve my goals are in fact, hindering them.

Take, for example, my magazine habit. I buy a lot of magazines. I love them. Many of those are travel magazines. I have a list of places I want to visit as long as my arm. Yet many of these places have been nothing more than a pipe dream for years and years. Imagine if, instead of buying a forest’s worth of travel magazines, I saved up the equivalent amount of money. Where might that have taken me?

Another thing I do is look at design magazines, books and blogs. I spend hours and hours of time reading, and  thinking about decorating our house. At the moment, I’m focussed on the bathroom. I’ve even had the stuff I need to do it (sander, paint, willing accomplice) ready and waiting to go for weeks. And yet, the bathroom remains undecorated, because of all the time I’ve spent being inspired to do it, by reading about other people and their perfect bathrooms. If, instead of reading about all those perfect houses, I picked up a damn paintbrush and started work, it would have been finished by now.

My tiny front garden is another thing. I’ve got a plan to re-design the whole thing with bee-friendly plants. I’ve had that plan for ages. But instead of picking up my trowel and getting on with making it happen, I spend ages looking at beautifully designed huge gardens in old copies of Gardens Illustrated.

I’m not saying for a moment that seeking inspiration is a bad thing. I’m not saving that I’ll stop buying the odd travel magazine. But the proportions are all wrong. I need less time spent researching, or reading about other people having adventures (or perfect bathrooms!) and more time doing, whether that is saving up harder (by wasting less money on dolls or on food that gets thrown away – more on that subject in another post) or picking up that trowel or that paintbrush.

So, that’s my goal. I’ve got dates booked in with my willing accomplice to get the bathroom finished, and I’ve got myself a savings account (and home designed money pot for loose change!) to make some of those travel plans less of a pipe dream. I’m going to change the proportions of my behaviour and make the things I want to do before I reach the grand old age of forty a reality, instead of something I read about someone else doing.

Oh, and one last thing. Never, never, introduce me to Pinterest. Because  that seems like the ultimate way in which I could lose hours, days even, just thinking, planning, dreaming and researching. I need to act

October 3, 2012

Space NK and leaving beauty boxes behind.

I had a subscription to one of the beauty boxes until recently. Each month, I’d get a pretty box filled with a selection of sample beauty products posted through the letter box. And for a while, it was great. I love to get exciting post, and this was a little treat just for me. But after a while, the lustre wore off the whole thing. I heard rumours that beauty bloggers were getting different products to the rest of the subscribers, purely so they could act as free PR for the companies, and then another rumour about a ‘premium, invite-only’ box, that the company were going to just make available to a select few people. Quite how they were going to decide whose £12 a month was the most deserving of this premium line, I don’t know, but it seemed a little bit of ‘us and them’ behaviour to me. Of course, these were just unsubstantiated rumours, and I’m no beauty expert, but I decided to leave.

The other thing that I really realised about the experience is how much I love to go into stores and play around with products before buying them. Even getting the samples in the post wasn’t really the same, because part of the fun for me is chatting to the staff and learning more about the products that way. So, I’m back in the stores, trying things out, and enjoying the great customer service you often find with beauty brands.

One of my favourite places to do this is in Space NK. I like that they have a range of different brands, and that the staff in my local branch all seem to be really passionate about what they do and what they sell. Maybe they’re on commission, it doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that I always feel as though I’m being treated well and leave the store with a happy feeling.

At a brilliant card holders’ event recently (where I had my hair straightened) I came away with a incredible free bag of lovely goodies, after spending enough money (on gifts and for other people, so not spending money to get freebies, which is really bad maths!) and I really don’t think it would have been bettered anywhere else. I have favourite brands elsewhere (Liz Earle and Neal’s Yard Remedies for example), and favourite brands in Space NK (Eve Lom, Darphin, Caudalie, Diptyque to mention a few) and there is room in my life for them all! I’m enjoying the process of choosing things in store again, and I don’t think I’ll be going back to a beauty box subscription any time soon.