Archive for the ‘shopping’ Category

Purple Reign

In home, shopping, Uncategorized on June 15, 2012 at 10:14 am

Hurrah! I’m getting excited now, turns out the best way to get me on board with the outrageous and unplanned expense of a kitchen refit was to allow me to paint part of it purple.

Now that the boy’s agreed*, I am far more inclined to show support and measure walls for cupboards and choose oven hoods.

I’ve now unleashed my inner interior designer and am planning the finished look, which is what I need to do to keep me going through the next few weeks of rewiring, plastering, floor fitting, banging and swearing.

Thanks to the support of my fellow purple passionistas Eve and Liz I’ve now identified tons of purple accessories and appliances, but none of them have excited me as much as this aubergine DeLonghi coffee machine. I may only have one latte a day, but what a stylish way to have it.

Of course, I’ll have to have the kettle and toaster to match.

I’ve also been forced to accept that the Catherine Colebrook picture I’d planned on having simply won’t go with the new colourway, so I’ve set my decided on striking black and white pop-art for impact. Personally, I have set my heart on this shot of Audrey, but as this will be about my fifth attempt to bring her into a room in the house, I have to tread carefully.

But I have a plan – while I see Audrey presiding over the kitchen from the main dining wall, I think I can convince Adam to go for it with the diversionary tactic of suggesting that this guy gets to take centre stage on another.

Not just a hat stand. Oh no.

*in principle, it could all be off by Sunday

What lies beneath

In decorating, home, shopping on December 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I’m not sure I can take much more. Four weeks in, and less than three weeks until Christmas, and the house still looks like a building site. We had a trying weekend… Saturday was spent mopping down plasterwork and fitting radiators – oh, how excited I got! Actual heat! Until, alas, we decided that this would be an opportune moment to take up the existing flooring.

It was logical, we said – once it was taken up, the new one could be laid and then we could have skirting boards. We spent 40 minutes, our hearts plummeting with every one, ripping up the boards and looking despondently at the dark, damp flooring beneath. What had happened, we discovered, was that the former residents of our house, Mr & Mrs Botcha-Job, had basically laid underlay and plastic directly onto a wet concrete floor. And what happens when we lay an air-tight cover over something wet, kids? That’s right, the air can’t get to it and it becomes a nasty black putrid stinking mess.

The Gods of Renovation were, however, smiling down on us and almost immediately, the floor began to dry. We spent a couple of hours chipping up black bubbled surface stone and four days later, the ground is completely dry, thank goodness. Unfortunately, the delay meant another night without radiators.

On Sunday, our carpenter arrived bright and early – oh yes, we have the rare breed of workers who arrive at 8am every day, no chance of a lie-in at this establishment- and spent 10 hours ripping out our cobbled together crappy banisters and replacing them with white pine Georgian spindles and deep hardwood sapele rails.


And – stop press – one of the radiators is working. Not that we’re exactly in a position to sit there and enjoy it, but it makes the next phase a little more comfortable.

The next phases are painting, wiring in lights, fitting new doors, laying the floor,  and fitting the skirting boards, before I actually get to do the fun bit and hang the mirror, picture and start tossing cushions around with gleeful abandon. Last night we went on a window shopping spree to remind ourselves how it was going to be worth it.

I’ve promised myself a reading corner and, further to the devastating realisation that my chaise won’t fit in the alcove I’d earmarked it for, Im buying a striped chair and footrest to curl up on with my kindle.

Of course, the fact that we’re just 19 days away from Christmas puts us under immense pressure, but not as much as I’ve decided to pile on with my insistence that we’re finished by the 19th so that we can put our Christmas tree up, stick on feel-good festive films and wrap all of the gifts that are stacked high in the bedroom.

So, that’s what? 13 days to get it done? Easy.


From skirts to skirting boards

In Christmas, decorating, home, shopping on December 1, 2011 at 11:11 am

Bad times.

Last Saturday, I returned a dress that I really liked, because I thought I was being irresponsible buying two new dresses. Twenty minutes later, I spent £25 on lightbulbs. LIGHTBULBS.

The next day, I tried on the stunning blue velvet Charlotte Olympia-esque velvet shoes I’ve been coveting for weeks, and I didn’t buy them, even though they were just be-e-e-ea-utiful, because they were quite uncomfortable. I have at least three pairs of shoes in my wardrobe I’ve never worn because they’re so uncomfortable, so since when did that matter?

And then, yesterday, I’m almost too embarrassed to write it, I spent £300 on bannisters.

Let me tell you, I am rueing the day I started banging on about renovating our house. For the past year I have stomped and stormed about how much I hate the nasty decor and the boyfriend finally gave in. For a month now, I’ve been basically living in one room; the sitting room is empty, fire fitted, walls stripped and replastered. The conservatory is stacked with furniture and the kitchen is just a mess. My bedroom is the only room I see from dawn till dusk – and beyond.

This weekend, at least, the plaster will be dry and the painting will begin. The carpenter will fit my freakishly expensive bannisters, and next week, our new oak floor will be laid and our skirting boards fitted. And then – and I can’t tell you how excited I am about this – we can have the new radiators fitted. At present, it’s like living in a fridge. What possessed us to undertake this project in November and December I don’t know (Yes OK, I do. It was me saying I wanted it done by Christmas).

I know it’ll be worth it, I just hate the waiting. And the fact that my nails are all broken, I’m not getting to the gym, and that I’m having to forsake clothes in favour of wood varnish and light switches.

And yet, I don’t learn. Even though I can’t bear the disarray and the dust, I still want everything done at once. That’s why I bought all the bedding I wanted and why I waited for Adam to be otherwise disposed before sweet-talking his Dad into fitting the chandelier I bought weeks ago (which Adam kicked into the spare room and shut the door, I might add) for me. And doesn’t it look fabulous?

Oh, the lovely purple glamour of it

I confess, I wasn’t prepared for quite how much hassle it would be – it took a good two hours and that’s not allowing for the fiddling about with the crystals (I did that bit), and then I was slightly aghast at the £25 lightbulb revelation. But not as aghast as the discovery that there’s a fault and only one of the five lights works. I am acting oblivious, if it gets taken down, there’s a good chance it won’t get put back…

My current mission – and I do think that Adam will spontaneously combust if I push the issue, which has so far been met with a surprisingly loud ‘NO.’ – is to get a new floor fitted in the bedroom when the lounge flooring is replaced with lovely heritage oak and the stairs and landing is treated to a plush new coffee-coloured carpet. After all, it will just look scabby and untidy, will it not, on traipsing over all that loveliness to tatty old carpet?

I am currently torn between white limed oak and smoke brushed elm boards – rather rustic and gorgeous with the white furniture and deep purple accents, I think. All feedback welcomed.

Smoke brushed elm or white limed oak?

Although given that the bedroom is the one haven I have amidst the mess, maybe I am mad to even think of it.

In the meantime, I’ll just continue to oversee things in my supervisory, tea-making capacity, while demanding to know why everything’s taking so bloody long.

I’ll keep you posted.

Things I want #7654

In Christmas, fashion, shopping on November 11, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I’m really organised this Christmas. I’ve already bought most of my gifts and really only have The Boy left to buy for, which I find really difficult – largely as he generally wants vintage Star Wars memorabilia in perfect condition – which, I might add, he then leaves, untouched, in a dark box so it can’t be damaged by sunlight. How very dull.

Similarly, I am a nightmare to buy for (see previous posts on the birthday of identical thoughtful gifts!) because I like so many things, but invariably buy them for myself before the big day. At Christmas that’s acceptable, right? After all, I have so many parties and nights out planned that all of the shoes and bags, dresses, shrugs and earrings that I covet from mid-November would come in jolly useful before Christmas…

Take later this month. On November 29th, a fabulous new jewellery client of mine, called LaLa Rocks will be launching. I’ve already earmarked these gorgeous blue velvet shoes and clutch for it – and I plan to wangle an armful of matching bracelets for the big event. But then I saw these sparkly beauties at Dune and spied a matching clutch (there’s a theme to my coveting, isn’t there?) and thought – well, how much more Christmassy can you get? From being the hostess with the mostest on Christmas Day to teaming with jeans and a fauz fur jacket to meet my friends for cocktails, I’d wear them to death, so I need those before too…

So they don’t help with the compilation of my Christmas List because I know I’ll end up splashing out beforehand.I think gifts have to have that element to them where it’s something you’ve admired for a while, but haven’t been able to justify spoling yourself with – something that to be fair, I do too much of anyway. It’s difficult, but not impossible…


For example, I’ve seen this cute coin purse from Tiffany, which would probably see the end of me flinging my   change into the depths of the Bag Of Doom never to be seen again, and this ultra-sparkly cocktail ring by Thomas Sabo which, again, is something I’ll admire and desire but can’t justify buying for myself – though it would be a beautiful match for my Chanel Paradoxal nail polish…

That said, since I’ve been so sensible with my Christmas requests from my parents – namely asking for new lighting for the in-progress lounge, maybe such sparkle wouldn’t be frowned on. Now, where’s my fountain pen? Dear Father Christmas, I have been ever so good this year…




The strangely therapeutic art of stripping

In decorating, home, shopping on November 10, 2011 at 11:19 am

I’ve discovered a rather unexpected new way to tone up and release stress – stripping.

To clarify, there’s not a sequinned G string in sight, just a bucket of hot water, a sponge, a stepladder and a scraper, and a load of walls just waiting to be attacked. Yes, the great renovation plan of 2011 has begun, and the clock is ticking.

Having never had to strip wallpaper before; I’ve only ever come across smooth plastered walls; I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the task ahead, but I found the whole thing very therapeutic – watching the reams of paper come away from the wall, removing the remnants of lining paper and – best bit ever – the feeling of satisfaction when great swathes of paper came away from the staircase reaching right up to the ceiling that I hadn’t a hope of reaching.

Quite apart from the opportunity to either bawl my lungs out singing along to my music or simply use the time to think about things that are festering anxiously in my mind, I also lost several pounds over the course of three days – clearly all that reaching,balancing,  heaving and pulling was as good as any Body Pump class. Right now, the sitting room looks ugly, and is so cold without its dado rail and coating of nasty 70s paper, but it already seems so much bigger.

Work In Progress

In the next couple of weeks, the walls will be re-plastered, our flooring will be ripped up to be replaced with rich deep brown elm, and our nasty fire will be removed, to be replaced with this…

We’re at loggerheads at present over new iron balustrades and radiators, but I’m just waiting for the chance to splash out on all of the rugs, cushions, candles and finishing touches that will make the show-house a home.

In the meantime, Project Bedroom is so far going to plan; the chandelier is waiting to be hung, the sumptuous duvet, throw, cushions and candles are all in place, and I’m just waiting for the right weekend to paint the feature wall a deep damson shade. Who knows, maybe I’ll decide I love that too.

In terms of toning up, it’s proving a winner, Karate Kid style. It’s not so much ‘wax on, wax off’ and ‘paint the fence’ as ‘wipe on, yank off’ and ‘paint the wall’. Not that I’ll be winning any trophies soon…

Conserve Cash October

In book, cinema, food, gym, shopping on September 29, 2011 at 4:55 pm

So, it’s the end of September. It’s been a great month – not least because of the amazing weather we got to see the month out. I’ve caught up with a ton of friends I don’t see enough of and it’s been wonderful. I don’t realise how little I see them until I do start seeing them, and then I realise how much I’ve missed them. From catching a chick-flick with Marv, to dinner with Donna, to Sunday coffee with Nicky to a networking-cum-free-champagne-turns-into-cocktails event with the girls and a night of crazy dancing to live music at the Jam House, I’ve gone out more over the past month than I normally do in three, particularly when you count the fact that Adam and I go to the movies and for dinner every week as a matter of course.

Plus, obviously, I’ve had a birthday, which means I went out for even more meals, and of course had my fantastic weekend away with more cocktails, fab food and posh afternoon teas. And I have loved it. It’s been brilliant to let my hair down and remind myself how many fantastic friends I have and how lucky I am. But, on the down-side, well, I have spent a bit. I’ve not been too bad on the shopping front (though I did get the gorgeous coat I was coveting. And the evening bag to match the birthday shoes. And some new gym stuff. And bedding. And candles and stuff to match. And a bit of jewellery. Okay, I take that back…) but I’ve spent a fortune on food and drink, generally being a social butterfly, and it’s made me take a pretty stern look at my finances.

I’m not going to dwell on it, because it’s been an awesome month and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, but I’m going to endeavour to make up for my loose purse-strings over the next four weeks. In fact, I’m going to take a leaf out of the book of Helga Henry. Helga’s coming to the end of what she dubbed No Shop September – which entailed exactly what you’d expect – and I am going to nick her idea and launch Conserve Cash October.

Less pigging out, more piggy bank

That’s with the obvious exception of two key direct debits – I can’t default on previously agreed commitments, they’ll send me to prison – which I’m going to really maximise to help me achieve my goal: my monthly gym membership, which I plan to step up a notch (I need to go some to shift these scones and daiquiris, believe me) and my unlimited cinema card.

The last movie I went to see was Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and I’ve gone a decent amount this month, watching the Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Friends With Benefits and I Don’t Know How She Does It (not on my cinema card but as part of a treat from Marverine so that doesn’t count), but with a host of new ones I have my eye on, including Abduction, In Time, The Three Muskateers and The Help, being due for release, I should be able to keep busy, and I’ll have to strive to ignore the lure of the various pizza places, bars, tapas restaurants and, naturally, the sweet counter, that stand between the car park and the screen.

Adam’s currently training for the BUPA Great Birmingham Run, which takes place in three weeks time. In theory, he’ll be on a mission not to eat too much before that to make sure his efforts are worthwhile, so with that in mind, I plan to work out a home-cooked menu (I envisage a lot of home-grown tomatoes playing a part) to boost energy levels and have him fighting fit, leaving both our wallets and waistlines thanking us for our dedication.

It’s only 31 days after all. From then on, with Christmas – so sorry to use the C word this early – skateboarding ever closer, it’ll be a case of going back to my common sense approach – always choosing somewhere to eat with a voucher code offer, or treating ourselves to a posher restaurant after a tough week, but making the most of our Gastrocard subscription to save some pennies.

My final cutback – and one I had never envisaged would be so out of hand – is that I WILL STOP BUYING E-BOOKS IN THE AMAZON KINDLE STORE. I’ve had my kindle for 16 days and I’ve spent getting on for £100 on books. happily, there’s a good 12 or so I’ve yet to read, so I figure if I spend the whole of October working, watching movies, working out and reading my way through my Kindle library, then it should be November in no time.

I suspect the harder part will be keeping those pennies somewhere sensible, rather than somehow hemmorhaging them elsewhere, as I am wont to do…

So there you go, I have announced an intention, and I shall try to fulfil it. However, there’s one more day of September left, and luckily for me, one more afternoon tea to be had. This one’s in aid of Acorns Hospice though, so my conscience, for once, is clear.

Living the Langham Life part 2

In fashion, Holiday, Hotels, London, shopping, Travel on September 23, 2011 at 10:45 am

The best thing about the Langham, better than the crystal glasses in the bedrooms, the branded mineral water, the luxurious complimentary toiletries, better even than the enamelled pink and gold pens (I won’t nick stuff from a hotel so was so chuffed when they gave me one to keep!), was the bed. The gigantic super-kingsize bed was easily the best I’ve ever slept in. Comfortable enough for me, with my rigid agenda, to consider abandoning the whole of Sunday’s plan in favour of just lying in its cloud-like loveliness until checkout.

I didn’t though. Instead, we hot-footed it to South Kensington for breakfast, then visited the V&A museum. Again, a magnificent building with superb details that have you wandering around with your head spinning, the museum has more than 2 million pieces in its collections. Through Asia, China and the Islamic Middle East, we moved onto the cast courts of Europe, the Medieval and Renaissance, Raphael and sculpture collections, before heading to theatre and performance. Here, we visited famous costumes and the temporary Annie Lennox’s House exhibition, celebrating her music, her costumes and her humanitarian work.

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From ’80s glam we moved on to sacred silver and stained glass, gold, silver and mosaics, and jewellery. The jewellery collections were my favourite – a vast, glittering, dimly-lit collection including emeralds worn by Napoleon’s wife Josephine. The plethora of richly-coloured precious stones, diverse shapes and sizes of the pieces, and rich heritage surrounding them only compounded my desire to go and see the Crown Jewels on my next visit.I was disappointed to see that the fashion exhibition is closed until spring 2012, but it’s another excuse to visit. The beautiful John Madejski Garden is a gorgeous retreat in the centre of the museum, the perfect spot to enjoy a drink by the fountain to break up the tour, and inevitably the viisit ended with a browse in the V&A shop, packed with fabulous cards, souvenirs, crafts and gifts. I’d been pretty determined not to buy anything if I could avoid it on this trip but I was inspired by the jewellery collection to buy a pair of violet shimmering drop earrings – they may not be as dazzling as Josephine’s emeralds but they’re quite sparkly enough for me – and a Christian Lacroix journal…I do like my snazzy stationery.

A short stroll down the road inevitably leads to Harrods, where we had plans. First, inevitably, came the scout around the Food Halls, admiring the stunning chocolates, the biscuits, teas coffees, olives and ice creams, before heading to the fourth floor and the sophisticated Georgian Restaurant, where we closed our trip with a decadent afternoon tea. Finger sandwiches, scones, green-apple macaroons, raspberry frangipan, fresh fruit tart, afternoon fruit cake and chocolate slices, served with specially blended teas and champagne… it was absolute bliss, and a real high to end on before trooping back to Euston.


It’s very difficult to keep a promise to yourself not to buy clothes when you’re in one of the fashion capitals of the world, but that’s intensified somewhat when you’re there during London Fashion Week and every single shop has pulled all the stops out to put together alluring shop-fronts to entice you inside. I did hold firm, and – apart from my V&A earrings, journal and some Harrods biscuits – I didn’t indulge. I didn’t even set foot into a clothes shop despite Adam trying to pull me into French Connection every time we passed it and I gasped with desire for the gorgeous coat in the window.

You can imagine my chagrin on returning when I discover that, not only is the coat far less expensive than I thought, but it’s also called The London Coat, and is a limited edition piece to mark London Fashion Week. If that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what was. Let’s see how strong my willpower really is…


We’re already planning our next weekend of decadence and culture. Next time, maybe we’ll stay at a Travel Lodge, and we will go shopping!

Grand Designs – part 1

In decorating, home, shopping on September 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm

A month or so ago, I announced that I’d declared war on The Boy’s house, and was preparing to turn interior designer for a while. We’ve had a few discussions about it, and the quotes for the plastering are in – they’re not cheap, and it’s going to take a lot of time and money to revamp our sitting room the way we plan to.

Adam is one of those people who goes by the ‘if it has to be done, do it properly, or not at all’ mantra. That’s fine, but when budget issues dictate that you can’t rip out a kitchen and start from scratch along with everything else, to my mind, a refresh is perfectly acceptable – a coat of paint, some new details, and a change is as good as a holiday. He’s still not on board, but I’m working on it.

I’m making headway… he was adamant we weren’t touching the bedroom – remember my plan to get rid of the boring white embroidered bedding, the non-descript pottery vases and vamp up the blah lilac wall with a rich damson shade? Courtesy of the Next vouchers I was given last week for my birthday, I bought deep aubergine bed linen and velvet, textured and Mongolian cushions, along with rich damson candles and diffusers for a vibrant contrast against the white woodwork of the window ledges. I made up the bed, arranged the candles, and didn’t say a word…

Grape stuff

“WOW” – that was the word he used when he came across it… Not “Er, I thought we’d agreed not to do this,” not “I don’t like it”, “It doesn’t work with the white” or even “You could’ve consulted me,” – just “WOW”. He’s now agreed that the room looks great and is happy for me to finish it off for the full effect. I’ve roped my rather meticulous mate Mark in to paint the wall for me, and I’m aiming to have the room finished within the next month, by which time, I’m hoping that we’ll have started stripping the sitting room walls and be one step closer to completion.

One down… two to go. Watch this space.

Shoe in

In fashion, shopping on September 20, 2011 at 9:21 am

A while ago, I blogged about a pair of marvellous shoes I had my eye on. I’d been waiting for them to go on sale, but, alas, Dune were wise to my online predatory stalking and failed to rise to the occasion.

Last Monday was my birthday, and I was inundated with annoyed friends and family members muttering about the fact that I was impossible to buy for because I just buy what I want if I want it – the reason for that’s simple enough – I was turning 36, not 21. I don’t think that really warrants gifts on a great scale.

So spretty. So high.

However, turns out people actually read this, because a few days before my birthday, I opened the door to a courier and he had a Dune shoe-box in his hands. I was so excited I shut the door in his face. I obviously re-opened it and apologised, I might add. Sure enough, my best friend Donna had gone way above and beyond and bought me the fabulous stripy shoes I’d been coveting.

The next 40 minutes were a little tense as I discovered that the matching clutch had sold out online across the board – Dune, John Lewis, House of Fraser… all of them had a little ‘out of stock’ footnote beside the bag.

I tore into Solihull to John Lewis and was told by a lovely saleswoman that they too had sold out of the bag. She contacted every other branch of John Lewis, and they sadly confirmed that they too had sold out and couldn’t have it sent to the branch. Alas. Perhaps I was destined not to be well co-ordinated. No, I don’t give up that easily.


I called House of Fraser in Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham. No joy. And then, I remembered that there was a HoF in Solihull, I never remember it as it’s tucked away from the main shopping area.

Quest complete

I shuffled over and up the escalators to the shoe department, and half way up the moving stair, I saw it. On the top shelf. Gleaming in the lights, its jewel colours vibrant and all striped and silky and lovely. I think the assistant thought I was barking as she confirmed that it was the last in stock and wrapped it up for me, but she was under no illusions that she’d made me very happy.

The boyfriend was somewhat bemused at my endeavours that night, you’d think he’d get it, but he doesn’t. I showed him my treasures and watched as his jaw dropped and he erupted. It seems, after all that, that the reason John Lewis in Solihull had sold out was because his family had bought me the shoes and bag.

While they were then returned, I did feel guilty, but it just goes to show, not only am I damn lucky, but one way or another, if you want something badly enough, you’ll get it. Sometimes twice.

Made up

In cosmetics, shopping on September 2, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I made a brilliant discovery this week. To me, Amazon has been the place to buy myriad books and the odd CD to cram into my already bursting boxes/shelves/space under the bed. But what I didn’t know, never having looked, is that you can buy make-up!

As someone who is an advertiser’s dream, and always buys the latest resins/primers/glossers etc etc, this was a revelation, and I’ll tell you why: As every woman knows, the day your concealer runs out is generally, without question, the day that your eyeliner, mascara, lipgloss and tinted moisturiser run out. And while that’s all fine and dandy, because what could be better than shopping for lovely, clean, shiny new cosmetics, it works out hideously expensive.

I digress. Anyway, I now find that I can actually save not just pennies, but actual pounds, by ordering through Amazon.

Arriving in a fat little package this morning was my Benefit Hoola powder (RRP £23, to me: £9.99 –  I KNOW!!) and my magical Ooh La Lift eye brightener (RRP £16.50, to me: £6.99!!!). In the next day or so, I shall receive another fat little package, this time containing three gorgeous Urban Decay eyeshadows, which had I just bowled down to my friendly neighbourhood department store, would have cost me £39 but has in fact cost me…wait for it…£12!








It’s a bloody revelation, I tell you. Enough to render my Boots Advantage Card obsolete if I wasn’t so obsessed with accruing points for ‘a rainy day’.

Of course, the down side is that I’ll now end up buying all of the gorgeous things I manage not to ‘because I don’t really need it, and I’ve never really tried it’, on the basis that, well, why the hell not?

My quest for the Sindy-doll style dressing table becomes ever more important. After all, all this stuff is soooo pretty, I’m hardly going to shove it in a drawer am I?

PS – don’t you actually go and buy any of it, I don’t want them to sell out.