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Sunday, 26 December 2010

Work Style and Work Shy

Sorry about my lack of writing over the last few weeks, as usual I have been getting far too excited and distracted about the upcoming festivities and potential splurging to write anything. No, not Christmas silly. The January Sales! I have been 'saving for later' peg-leg trousers and pure white shirts on asos.com and bookmarking charcoal grey coats on Whistles, H & M and Mango, hoping and wishing that they will go into the sale.

I have to return to work on the 4 January and I might as well face the realities of the office in style. If dressed cunningly I may be able to con my colleagues into believing that I am a reformed apatheticicist and am willing to scale the corporate ladder over communal kitkats and crappy instant coffee. Even if my mouth betrays my shiny new shoes and I blurt out 'I hate you, I hate you, you blood sucking cretins' in the middle of a meeting, I am sure that my choices in tailoring and sharp lines will bely my female hysteria and they will think that they imagined it. By channelling Ms K Hepburn, I will at least have some sartorial satisfaction while hiding in the stationery cupboard. For now, back to blouse browsing and less bureau bitching...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Winter in disguise

I am much better at dressing in the winter than I am in the summer. I hate getting my bare legs out, am naturally pale and do not relish the prospect off wearing skirts or shorts on hot days. Winter is perfect for me, as it provides the opportunity to wear cosy knits, cute hats, black tights or leggings and stomping boots. Black eyeliner never looks out of place on a winter's day and a chunky scarf, or heavy pashmina are just the ticket for pulling messy hair back in a wild and appropriate way. I much prefer arriving somewhere and taking off layer after layer until I am exactly the right temperature, than sitting somewhere in the summer sweating in one item of clothing and wishing I could take that off and sit in an ice bath.

The winter season is also an excuse to dress in disguise. You can disguise those lumpy bits, disguise those hairy legs and pits, wear something more flamboyant (like a bobble hat, or fake fur coat) without feeling like an arse, because it is weather appropriate. You can bundle up to the eyes and lurk glamourously like an undercover spy in Russia, or throw on an aviator jacket or cape and feel like an adventuress, even when popping to the local shop. In the summer over-accessorising makes you a fashion victim, in the winter you can wear fun mittens, a muff (haha), a hat, a scarf, a bag, goloshes (on my to do list), all the usual jewellery as well as a coat, a cardi etc. More items of clothing, means more opportunity for experimentation and more fun!

The only problem is, when there is six inches of snow outside and you have nowhere to go, you might as well be in your birthday suit...still, will look good when skype with hubbie later :)

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Gallery: Christmas Sparklers and Bump

For this week's The Gallery theme of 'Celebrations' I want to post about last Christmas. It was very special for me indeed, as I was pregnant with BB, had enjoyed my first year of marriage to hubbie and was at the stage of my pregnancy where I was full of buoyant energy and naive optimism about parenting. I was a teeny bit gutted about not being able to indulge in my usual pleasures of red wine, port, french cheese and brandy cream but I took on my role as a crazy 'feeder' of others with enthusiasm.

Only two of my close family members actually celebrate Christmas and both had their own plans (all the rest of my family are very religious and think it is a pagan festival, hijacked by the western church but my view is 'and what a great idea that was too'). I think of this as a blessing in disguise, as it means we get to stay in London and do exactly what we want and not put up with the family squabbles and skeletons that seem to spoil some people's Christmases. Last year we also had the pleasure of one of our close friends joining us, so I got to make stockings and loads of food and keep their cups full and still enjoy Christmas alcoholic spirit as a bystander.

We decided to get dressed up as well, so make it seem extra special, so here are the boys, in their suits on Christmas morning playing with the sparklers they found in their stockings. Ah bless...

This one of hubbie is a classic, I imagine BB looking like this in the future when he is made to pose for pictures- fizzled out and unimpressed.

 Our friend was much more enthusiastic:

And here I am with a ghost of a BB bump:

I loved this Christmas, it was hubbie and I's last one as a two and not a proper three, that's why it will always be extra special- but I am looking forward to this year's, as now we have BB with us, we can regress even more!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Gallery: Black and White Wedding


It will be coming up to our second wedding anniversary soon and the theme of the Gallery this week, has made me want to look back at our wedding photos (taken by our friend, so have cheated a bit here) and think about what spurred us on to get married in the way we did. Most of the photographs are in black and white and the look of our wedding venue and the pub we went to afterwards (as well as the style of our friends), make it look like something from forty years ago- which is perfect because most days, that's how long I feel I have been married- in a good way!

As soon as we knew that we wanted to get married, I knew that I didn't want to wait- I didn't have an engagement ring and didn't want to 'be engaged' either, I felt that the contract of marriage itself was enough (and I knew that we couldn't afford a 'rock'). Hubbie was probably overwhelmed by my enthusiasm for immediate nuptial arrangements and got caught up in my schemes in a bemused way at first, but as soon as we even began to think about where we were going to get married and who to involve, it became clear that we both wanted something simple and honest to us. The more we thought about venues, receptions, who to invite, food, booze etc, the more the wedding started to feel like a ball of snow, picking up size and becoming more devastating, as it rolled haphazardly down a mountain of money that we didn't have. Divorces and separations in both our families, meant that a formal wedding with a sit-down dinner and speeches seemed like a trial rather than something to be enjoyed.  In the end, after a series of phonecalls to our close family, we decided to keep the wedding simple, so simple in fact, that it seemed almost like an elopement. We made an appointment at Hackney Town Hall Registry office, declared the bans and picked the very next Friday two weeks after to say our vows. We decided not to invite any of our family to the ceremony and the only guests were the witnesses that we had picked- we would announce our wedding and our unofficial reception venue (our local pub), as soon as we left the town hall.

Even now, looking back, our wedding seemed romantic, idealistic and also selfish but I know that for us, after unsteady years of trying to make our relationship conform to other's standards and not understanding each other properly, getting married was about telling each other that we were the ones that mattered. We had the rest of our lives to show our families our marriage and prove that it was the right choice, to us it was black and white.

Beauty Sleep, or 'Not-Ugly Sleep'

I'm convinced this is what I look like in the middle of the night
Before I had a baby, I didn't have a single wrinkle and never suffered from bags under my eyes- even after a five day bender I just managed to look a bit pale and wan. If I had a particularly indulgent week, I knew that a couple of nights of eight hours sleep or more, a bath and a facepack would be all I needed to be back in fighting, glowing condition.

What I have discovered in the last six months or so however, is that what beauty sleep means for me now, is any uninterrupted sleep of more than four hours- or what you might call 'not-ugly sleep', or 'not-frightening with some make-up on sleep'. That blissful nights sleep, when you awake naturally and the sun has actually come up? You can kiss that goodbye, if you have children. Unless you are very, very lucky and have a magical child,  planted in your womb by benevolent fairies, or are able to palm your offspring off on some unsuspecting do-gooder for a night or two, you are unlikely to achieve this now mirage-like number of eight hours sleep until they are teenagers (this is based on reading the blogs of mummies with older children).

By this point, you will be an aged parent anyway, so all the sleep you can get, isn't going to reverse effects of eighteen years of remedial caffeine, too oft indulged alcohol and comfort eating.

So if you are thinking of opening a trust fund for your adored child, my advice to you is to reconsider. I am pretty sure that by the time they are thinking of university, or other expensive things, your face will have become so horrificly twisted and destroyed by lack of sleep, that if you wake them from their blissful night of sleep by looming over them without any make-up on, your resemblance to a Dickensian villainness will be the immediate stimulation they need to run away and seek their fortune without any academic qualifications. Then the money you would have spent on darling's nights out puking and carousing, without much investment in any actual education (I've been there, I know it's true), can be spent on much needed liposuction and a facelift.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Food versus Style versus Work


I am very aware that I have been neglecting this blog, in order to get my teeth into my new blog about the food we eat at home and our experiments in baby-led-weaning. I have to admit, thinking up variations on dishes and trying to cook them, photograph them and write down the recipe without making a pig's ear of everything has meant that I feel more challenged creatively, than I have in a long while. I haven't stopped thinking about style related matters though, far from it but the focus on food has definitely diverted me from shopping and knee-jerk consumerism when I have been having ugly/ bored/stressed days, which is very useful considering my maternity pay stops shortly.

The next challenge I realised for me style-wise though (now I feel that I have accepted my post-baby body changes and vaguely worked out what suits me casually), is coming up with a back to work wardrobe which meets several requirements:

1. It needs to be appropriate for some expected challenges (so needs to give me confidence and be comfortable)
2. It needs to demonstrate commitment and assurance- it needs to say 'I might be a mother but I work better under multiple pressures and I can kick arse at doing a million things at once, including looking great'
3. It needs to be more professional and executive than before (tea dresses and cardigans were my previous work uniform)
4. It can't be boring- if I can't express my individuality through my clothes in some way, I feel like an unexciting office worker (which I am but I am in denial about).
5. It doesn't need to be ironed (don't believe in ironing, don't have room for an ironing board)
6. It needs to compliment my unprofessional hair, not highlight it (thick, wavy, refuses to be straightened, perfect for sixties festivals and just got out of bed chic, not for meetings and when I put it up I look like a pin-head).
7. It has to be budget but ethical.

Any ideas? I'm very, very stuck...

Mess Free Baby 'Painting'


You know those tummy time mats with the plastic 'puddles' that babies can pat and make little shapes move in the water? This gave me an idea for a painting activity for littler babies, where you don't have to worry about them putting paint in their mouths, or getting completely covered in it. I also have to make a birthday card for a friend's thirtieth and thought this would be a fun way to do it with BB, without taking the whole thing too seriously- as in the end result will not really be my responsibility. This will actually make a nice abstract blob that he will have to put in his window every time we come and visit! Hehe.
Masking tape a sheet of overhead projector acetate to a piece of cardboard
Squeeze some different coloured acrylic paint on anyhow- I did lines to see how something quite formal tidy could become chaotic!

After covering with another sheet of acetate and masking tape over the paint, let the fun begin! (I still have an old sheet down just in case)
Let them smoosh it
Lie on it

Try and crawl on it
Squish it with their knees
Cuddle it?
When baby falls asleep on painting, remove from underneath them carefully, remove the tape and peel apart for a wonderous gloopy image. Leave to dry put of the way and give to unsuspecting friends as window decorations!

Next time I am going to start with little blobs, so Baby Boy can really push the paint around, seeing what happens when the colours mix.



Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Dear Santa, if you are listening...

Dear Santa,

I think I have been very good this year. Apart from a couple of tarty stretchy Primark dresses in the last month of my pregnancy when I was huge and desperate, a few floral tent nightmares and some really ugly bras, I have made a lot of effort to be effortlessly chic. I may not look particularly inspired today style-wise and I know my denim stripy high waisted 'summer' shorts over black opaque tights, make me look like a bit of a pirate and not in a good way (like a really weather inappropriate dandy pirate, who spends all their  time strolling around the port looking rakishly flashy and who runs away from stormy weather and any actual fighting). I know in fact I looked like a bit of a t**t this morning as I walked through the park sporting said shorts with hiking boots but the boots are very comfortable and weather resistant. However, I feel you should take pity on me as last week, washing baby clothes took precedence over my own wash and I just don't have any clean trousers that fit.

I know last year I made a resolution to wear minimal chic and I never wanted to be one of those mothers whose baby looked better dressed than them (I never wanted to create a mini-fashion me either) but today Baby Boy is leaps and strides ahead of me style-wise, even if he can't crawl. He has a truly capsule wardrobe anyway, everything goes with everything and everything can be washed at the same temperature, it's just not fair! The washing machine is rebelling against Baby Led Weaning and 'lumps' not by eating his clothes but chomping up mine (another reason I am low on clothing that covers the bottom half).

Anyway Santa, I would like a new washing machine for Christmas please and the entire Celine A/W 2010 and most of the S/S Hannah Marshall collection fitted for someone with a 29 inch inside leg and if you think I have been extra deserving, the shoes and accessories from Chloe A/W 2010 too.

Yours expectantly,

Ready to Throw Entire Wardrobe in Bin Bag in Disgust Mummy
Chloe A/W '10

Celine A/W '10

Hannah Marshall S/S '11- all photos credited to style.com

Saturday, 6 November 2010

The Seven Virtues of Christmas Shopping: Part IV Toys and Vintage Tree Baubles!

All the packages from my previous charity shop purchases have started arriving already- opening them up feels like Christmas morning, especially as I am never quite sure what they are really going to be like. My postman is looking a bit grumpy these last few days, as the items come from all over the country, packaged separately- it is quite a feat getting the little parcel mountains up the steps but I feel that our bond isn't quite broken yet and our baby/ nappy banter of the last few months will keep me going through this period of  demand.

So far, so good, with no nasty surprises and only the Liberty tie being a little too 'vintage' and with a few stains in obvious places, I don't feel I can give it to my father-in-law. However, everything else has been brilliant quality and like new. I will be honest with my family about my Christmas shopping challenge (makes me look good and then they can't complain if they don't like what they are getting- hehe) but I think I could get away with not saying anything and they would think they were getting 'virgin' items.

I am going to break my rule ever so slightly and buy hubbie some new aftershave, the last one I got him smells great at first but then after a while smells like old grannies, so he could really do with something wearable. Buying cologne from a charity shop might turn him into Toxic Avenger- so it's only fair!

Here are my last few purchases, again all from Oxfam Online:

More Baby Boy presents- a BNWT penguin puppet for £3.99 with a squeaky beak (he loves the puppets at the sensory development class he goes to) and a brand new in box Leap Frog Twinkle Twinkle Little Scout toy for £7.99



Toddler Nephew- a matchbox Jaguar XJS and Car Transporter for £4.99, as he loves tractors, cars, trucks and anything with wheels in fact (his favourite book is the most technical book on tractors I have ever seen and he can say all the parts of a combine harvester, quite a good party trick, or is he a loveable nerd in the making?)

.

While I was hunting for presents I found these beautiful vintage Christmas decorations- I have a very modern LED circuit board (boring) tree for our flat and won't be taking it any further than that this year but if you are looking for some gorgeous vintage traditional decorations, look no further...




All I have to do now is get wrapping paper, food, booze, stocking fillers and cards...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Show me the funny! The Generation Gap is narrowing

This is the first time I have entered Tara's the Gallery and can't really compete with the geniusness of the entries so far. However, I thought I would share this picture of my Granddad and Baby Boy, who had met for the first time on the day of this photo. They got on like a house on fire and here can be seen talking about their favourite things: food (notice the tummies), trainsets and the annoying TV licence people. This discussion was clearly very serious and noteworthy.

Every time I see this picture it makes me laugh out loud- I don't think there is a generation gap here at all!

The Seven Virtues of Christmas Shopping: Part III plus hats, hats, hats!

I am on a real roll with the Christmas shopping challenge and since I have just agreed a £5 limit for 'silly' presents with my brother, I am feeling a lot more confident about gifts for him and my sister-in-law. After a quick telephone call with my dad and a couple of emails, I have also found something for his girlfriend, which was a bit of a worry before (I really like her but I don't know her well yet and didn't want to resort to soap or candles).

I feel it's a shame that I seem to be finding everything on Oxfam Online but there aren't as many choices on Cancer Research UK yet (it's not been going as long, although their designer offering is pretty good) and I browsed their entire clothing section to try and distribute my purchases a bit more fairly. I did find a dress that I knew my friend would love there though and she says she is going to buy it. They also have great Christmas wrap so I know where to go for that!

Here are today's purchases:

Dad's girlfriend- Evans dress for £9.99-it's a bit of a risk but I have Dad's approval...

More presents for Hubbie- canvas belt for £3.99 and M & S leather belt for £6.99- I really need to find something more exciting than a fondue set, a coat and some boring belts but I am pleased with my finds as they are exactly what he asked for.


I was also browsing the hat and gloves section on Oxfam Online and it is huge (over 400 items), I need never buy a 'new, new' hat again as the range and quality is incredible. I found some great fur-lined gloves for cycling in the New Year and was sorely tempted by a Russian style fur hat. Here are a few choice examples of the bonnets on offer, suitable for winter:

A Harris tweed Trilby for £12.99
A Russian style faux fur hat for £12.99
A 'world traveller-chic', knitted bobble hat for £5.99 or just a silly hat depending on your levels of cynicism

A felt hat (seen on many people at London Fashion Week, I'm still not sure yet) for £14.99

 A 1920's style cloche hat for £19.99- always wanted to dress up in one of these but never had the courage

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Seven Virtues of Christmas Shopping: Part II

A quick update while Baby Boy is having his afternoon nap, to show you some more of my charity shop Christmas gift finds.

Hubbie- Oxfam Online- a porcelain fondue set for £4.99 (don't ask me why, he is always going on about fondue, so I have given in, although I'm pretty sure will sit in cupboard gathering dust until regiven to another charity shop) and a heavy wool Topman winter coat for £19.99
 


Father In-Law-Oxfam Online- genuine Liberty print silk tie for £8.99
Has anyone got any ideas as to what to get for your Dad's girlfriend? I am a bit stuck...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Seven Virtues of Christmas Shopping

Since when shopping in town things are prone to getting out of hand (sprees) and I have abysmally failed at giving up clothes for a year, I thought I would seek some 'spiritual' inspiration to help me resist the usual temptations. What better way divert myself from a Christmas consumer orgy than setting myself a new challenge, to find all my Christmas presents from online charity shops? I can then employ the seven virtues in shopping.

1. Prudence- I love shopping second hand -I have always found the items I have bought from Oxfam Online and other charities to be great quality and excellent value- you can find some pretty amazing and unique items (often designer) for the fraction of the price.
2. Justice- I will balm my environmental conscience by recycling what others don't need
3. Restraint-I will save myself from trips to town and tempting products not on my list
4. Courage- I will take some risks in what I buy, instead of opting for easy pleasers
5. Faith- well if all goes wrong, it's the thought that counts, right?
6. Hope- If it is succesful this year, I may have found a way to satisfy my shopping addiction in a more fruitful way...
7. Charity- well this one is obvious...

 Here are my motley efforts so far, I will keep you updated as I find more presents- what are your tips for ethical spending and saving money at Christmas?

Baby Boy's First Christmas Present-Oxfam Online- A Sterntaler Rocking Boat Toy for £5.99
    My Niece's First Christmas Present- Oxfam Online- A wooden xylophone for £7.99

    Mother In Law- Oxfam Online- 1899 edition of Elizabeth and her Garden for £4.99

    Dad- Oxfam Online- 1952 addition of Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea for  £12.99

    Best Friend- Cancer Research UK- A cute Miu Miu top for £10.00!

      Saturday, 30 October 2010

      Never, Never Land

      After another night's seemingly endless adventures, where I played Captain Hook, to Baby Boy's Peter Pan, I know for certain that there is no point hoping that a sprinkle of fairy dust will be the answer, or a magic X will mark the spot- a good night's sleep will come,when it comes.  However, after sword fights (with dummies); searching for hidden treasure (same dummies flung into the darkest corners of Baby Boy's room); blood thirsty yells (for milk) and voodoo chanting (please don't wake up, please don't wake up, please don't wake up), a short list of what I ought never to do, in order to maintain some levels of sanity in the house might be the answer.

      I know that as soon as night falls again, all rules fly out the window (if only babies would too, in true Peter Pan style) but as I wait for my super-strength coffee to brew, this list (or rant) is making me feel a bit better.
      1. Never, never, say out loud, or even write down that I think my baby is sleeping through the night. It is an automatic curse on sleep- every time some well meaning person asks me if he is and I say yes, I have jinxed a good night's sleep for at least seven days.
      2. Never, never, agree to let my husband have a lie in advance- it is guaranteed that the morning of the agreed lie in,  I will really need him to get up with the baby. Today after waking every three hours to battle with Baby Boy, I could really do with that extra couple of hours in bed- by 11 am I will be a flickery-eyed drooling zombie.
      3. Never, never, ever again, teach Baby Boy sound related tricks- noises that seem amusing and cute in the day time, quickly become the stuff of nightmares at  3am- in Baby boy's case endless raspberries- I literally think he has mastered circular breathing- although the first three months of colicky crying should have made that obvious.
      4.  Never, never, teach Baby Boy hand related tricks- I taught him to clap down on to my hands the other day, which seemed like a good idea at the time but he likes it so much that he has taken to clapping his hands down on everything. This is normally absolutely fine but having my breasts 'clapped' enthusiastically in the wee hours while trying to feed the hungry boy, jerks me out of autopilot mode and ensures that after putting Baby Boy back down, I take that much longer to get back to sleep.
      5. Never, never, ever again, let my husband order baby equipment- it is guaranteed to arrive loudly (scary door buzzer) by weird courier at 7.30 am on a Saturday morning, just when I have persuaded Baby Boy that sleeping for an extra half an hour is a good idea.
      6. Never, never, forget to put my glasses in the same place every night- stumbling downstairs to the front door, first peering at the delivery man, then having to bend down in my dressing gown and put my face three inches away from the box to read the lettering and work out the item is actually for us, is not good for my self-esteem (why would you ever courier a Baby Safety Gate, on a Saturday morning, at 7.30 am ?!!)
      7. Never, never, leave what can be done the night before, to the next morning. Once contact lenses are inserted, the revelation of a turmeric stained playmat from last night's takeway curry is not an improvement to my mood and the prospect of a kitchen full of washing up might be the straw that breaks the donkey's back.
      8. I would try and think of two more things but I can feel my zombie self eating my brain...

      Thursday, 28 October 2010

      Ten things to be grateful for: A mantra for returning to work

      I go back to work on 4 January after approximately nine months on maternity leave. As the days spent with Baby Boy slip away I am already mourning the missed moments yet to come. Every hour it seems he has a new expression, or gymnastic ability and the the developmental milestones are about to get so much more interesting!
      I have to go back for monetary reasons, as taking the full year off would be too much of a financial risk- my income is the consistent, secure one in my marriage (hubbie is Flexible Working Artist Man, FWAM) but my maternity package ended this week. If I go back to work in the New Year and if my husband looks after Baby Boy 90% of the time, we will be able to afford the childcare when he needs to travel abroad for work. I must return to work for at least three months in order to not be asked to pay back the maternity pay I have received while off, so it makes practical sense to go back full-time before money gets tight and then think about alternatives.


      Despite a dull ache in my stomach, feelings of dread, jealousy (towards hubbie) and an expected seperation anxiety, I am determined to take account of all the advantages I have had over the last nine months, so I can make the most of the time I have left and not let the return to work be a cloud hanging over us. So here is a list of things I am grateful for, or a mantra I will keep repeating to myself when the pressure is back on at work and everything is being carefully held together with bits of blutack, post-it notes and string ( that's what is feels like in our office):

      1. Good timing- I work at a local council and on my last working day before going on leave, I had a meeting with HR that informed me that the restructure of my section meant they were deleting my post- if I had not been on maternity leave at the time of the following consultation, I might not even have a job right now! As it is I was directly assimilated into one of the vacant positions left- phew.
      2. Luck- The election of the Tory/ Lib Dem coalition means that they have removed yet another post from my team- as I am on maternity leave while they are implementing the face stage of the cuts, again I am safe for now and still have a job!
      3. Benefits- Neither my husband or I are in the higher income bracket, so I am still receiving child benefit payments in my next two brokest months.
      4. Flexibility- When I go back to work I can take advantage of flexible working hours and hopefully arrive and leave early, to get home to Baby Boy sooner.
      5. Location- I can cycle to and from work and get home to Baby Boy quicker.
      6. Modern Man- Baby Boy will be looked after by his second favourite person in the world- Super FWAM Daddy!
      7. Options- If I can't bear being away from Baby Boy, I could hand in my notice at the end of February and we could scrape by, or I may be able to negotiate a job-share.
      8. Responsibility- If I hadn't been a sales obsessed clothes freak, I could have saved up some money and gone back to work later (okay this isn't something I am grateful for but I should face up to this and take some responsibility for my bad budgeting choices and make the most of an eclectic wardrobe)
      9. Choices-There are a lot of people out there less fortunate than I, who haven't had same number of choices available (so suck it up woman and count your lucky stars you whinging cow!)
      10. Memories-I had over eight months of precious time with my lovely little boy.

      How are you finding the prospect of returning to work? Are you dreading it, or relishing the prospect?

      Wednesday, 27 October 2010

      Shopping again: falling off the wagon, to get back on the bus

      I wrote a guide last week on ten key items to help others in the quest for style simplicity, smugly believing I owned everything I needed for a practical, minimal, effortless wardrobe. I even made a commitment not to buy any new clothes for a year a few weeks before. My husband laughed (until later he realised it didn't count if he bought clothes for me), my mother laughed and my friends laughed behind their hands.

      Those who love me well, know of my skill at putting the cart before my high horse, but having bought the items that were previously missing from my wardrobe before my 'no clothes' resolution, I was still stubborn in my belief that I could go clothes cold turkey. The problem was, having lost any desire to spend long periods of time in changing rooms, with a bored baby, I bought them all online- and when they turned up (after having blogged my resolution- schoolgirl error), the blazer I needed was too small, the 'perfect' black trousers looked cheap and my boobs made the buttons pop off the 'essential' white shirt in seconds. The cardigan is fantastic and I have been wearing it relentlessly but I am currently only hanging on to my high horse by a stirrup.

      Two weeks after this decision therefore I am backtracking as quickly as I can. Having had time to think about what is actually possible for someone who is addicted to clothes and who still has a wardrobe as haphazard as a church jumble sale, I am going to follow my own style advice and base my wardrobe on ten key pieces. Of course I am actually going to have to go to the shops (leaving Baby Boy with his dad) to get the ten key items, as although I own some of them, they just don't get my style juices flowing and if I happen to buy anything else not on the list while I am out, well 'Que sera, sera.'

      What do you think? Could you not shop for a year?

      Monday, 25 October 2010

      Wearing the trousers in the house

      Following a recommendation, I have been reading 'The Women's Room' by Marilyn French. This account of domestic repression (reviewed here), has provoked quite serious thinking about my role as a mother and the politics and power relations in my own house (possibly to be blogged about later when I reach some conclusions). It has been a while since I have read any feminist writings outside of articles posted on the web (read this and tell me if you think it's still disturbingly relevant) and I appreciate the way that this book is challenging my choices (and what I think are my choices), even though it was written over thirty years ago.

      As usual however, some of my deepest thoughts have overflowed out of the profound part of my brain and ended up trickling, partially evaporating and then settling into the more shallow regions of my mind. The result? A couple of hours of browsing for inspiration for more androgynous dressing ideas and literal trouser wearing possibilities. I really like the collection of images 'curated' by Lizzie Garrett at Tomboystyle.blogspot.com, I am only surprised that I haven't found the site before. Take a look if you veer more towards simple, practical and in control style, rather than floral and flounces.

      Surround Me: Art Lullabies in the City, for you and your baby

      We have attempted only three 'Art events' so far with Baby Boy. The first was a private view for 'Surreal House' at the Barbican when he was a couple of months old. He had a nice time and went to sleep in the Baby Bjorn, as lots of people talking drunken pretentious nonsense about Art, layered up into handy white noise. However, it was so busy with cheap-skate artists and their partners drawn to the free bar (I confess I am in this category) of Pernod cocktails (yuck), that it was really hard to see the work. Later hubbie said this my fault, as I was too busy finding a prime spot between the bar and the exit to look at anything- it was my first time out after giving birth though, so I feel justified in my philistinism.

      Our next go at Baby plus Art was visiting the Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery. This went quite well, as the space is fairly pushchair friendly and on a weekday it is not too mad. A positive by product of a visit to the Serpentine Gallery, is a walk through Hyde Park and an ice cream (for hubbie and me, anyway). Baby Boy seemed to enjoy staring at the people in the gallery and responded positively to the red light effect of the cafe/pavilion outside where we went for a coffee- there was also a higher ratio of granny age women in attendance (who are his biggest fans at the moment), so lots of cooing and smiling to keep him amused.

      Our last attempt and most stressful, was visiting the Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern last Wednesday. We went purposely in the week to avoid the crowds but it was crazily busy ( I'm not in half-term mindset yet). Using the Baby Bjorn was a good choice but the massive overstimulation of crowds, brightly coloured paintings and lack of air (I am always yawning after I leave any of the bigger galleries and it's not out of boredom, I really think it's the air-con), was too much for Baby Boy and he started 'singing', almost immediately after entering the exhibit.We are lucky that Baby Boy is not a huge crier and the way he shows his ambivalence to his surroundings is by 'singing' (sounds like an early X-factor audition) and not bawling but unfortunately it seems that people who pay £11.50 for a Gauguin ticket at Tate, find it a lot less cute than people who go to the Serpentine for free. We had to rush around to avoid people peering over their spectacles at us disapprovingly and as they had jammed people in like commuters, to maximise revenue, it was hard to really take full advantage of what is a really fantastic show of Gauguin's work (and the right sort of colours to really interest a six month old). I also found it hard to find somewhere to quietly breast feed- I am less worried about wardrobe malfunctions now (especially in an Art gallery, where is seems quite natural to get your nipples out) but any sudden noises and Baby Boy gets really distracted and forgets to feed, getting more seriously grumpy later as his hunger catches up with him.

      I am quite enthused therefore about the prospect of the 'Surround Me' installation by Susan Philipsz, which is on in the City of London from 9 October until 2 January (on Saturdays and Sundays only).
      The installation is completely pushchair and baby noise friendly (Baby Boy's singing might even add to the effect), as it is a walk based piece, where you visit six easily accessible locations in the City, in any sequence to hear six different 16th and 17th century songs being sung by the unaccompanied artist, either every five to ten minutes or so, or on continuous loop. I quote here directly from the blurb on the piece:

      'SURROUND ME: A Song Cycle for the City of London takes inspiration from the heightened presence of the human voice in Elizabethan London. To be heard over one another a natural order and harmony evolved in the cries of the street traders which enthused composers of popular song such as Thomas Ravenscroft to write canons where one voice follows the other in a round. Another popular song form for several voices, the madrigal emerged in Italy in the 16th Century and soon travelled to England where it flowered as the English Madrigal School.
      SURROUND ME embraces the vocal traditions of the City of London connecting themes of love and loss with those of fluidity, circulation and immersion; the flood of tears, the swelling tide and the ebb and flow of the river, to convey a poignant sense of absence and loss in the contemporary City of London.'

      I love the strange and evocative silence of the City on the weekends, how the streets which normally buzz with hive-like activity become almost completely empty. The general silence is almost oppressive, especially as you wander through the narrower medieval streets, where the old and new buildings have combined to loom threateningly. The only noises you do hear, seem to have seeped out of the old walls, like damp accumulations from the breath of the past, with no connection to the modern City (I read too much Iain Sinclair and have a very active imagination).

      I really look forward to taking Baby Boy on this walk, without worrying about pursed lips and raised eyebrows. I relish the possibility of my spine-tingling, as we stroll from location to location, hearing what sounds like the voices of ghosts. Baby Boy loves hearing singing, even my cracked tones make him happy and a likely result, in combination with the gentle bumps of the push chair, will be a long afternoon snooze.

      Saturday, 23 October 2010

      Make do, or dye? Sagas in bad hair colouring

      My natural hair colour is according to my mum, medium brown,with some reddy bits in. I can't really remember, as since I was 16, I have been dying it either myself, or getting it coloured professionally darkest brown/ almost black- some innate gothic tendencies I guess. Having glossy long dark hair becomes almost as much hassle as having sunshiney blonde hair and getting rid of it is actually a more painful process (has to be grown out or bleached), so you can end up stuck with it for years, as you fight funny lighter roots every six weeks.

      Knowing that I wouldn't have time for hair fuss and bother with a baby (and a desire to spend less in the future), last winter I bit the bullet and had my hair bleached professionally. Instead of having two tone hair by completely growing it out and since black plus bleach equals ginger, I decided  I would cheat a bit and embrace a radical new red-head look for a bit before recolouring to my 'natural' colour when roots appeared.  £200 lighter of pocket and six painful hours later however, I walked out of the salon with bright ginger hair darkening into auburn at the ends- all completely unintentional and quite scarily clown-like- I ended up two tone anyway (I of course thanked the hairdressers kindly for their efforts, as I am useless at complaining). I was imagining Karen Elson but it went more Tori Amos.

      I ran home and after a few goes, managed to colour it and achieve something close to what I thought my natural colour was- but by this point my hair looked like a horse's breakfast. I desperately got my husband to cut the dry ends off (by this point I was no longer caring about the obvious mistake this would be, I just didn't want to spend any more money). Following this foolhardy enterprise, I asked my best friend to tidy it up a bit, as it was pretty lopsided- I somehow thought hubbie's artistic sensibilities would make him a natural hairdresser, my best friend was infinitely more gifted in this area. Finally, after a few weeks of chopping a bit every day as I spotted more 'asymmetry' I walked back into a different salon and got a bob cut. I have spent the last eighteen months growing my hair out so I no longer have to dye it and to try and get the condition back. Up until today I was feeling pretty damn pleased with myself and by ability to 'make do' without hair colouring and smug about all the money I have been saving, that was until my hair caught the light as I was looking in the mirror yesterday...

      Grey hairs! Grey bl**dy hairs! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!

      I believe in growing old gracefully but I am still in my twenties, so I am going to be a hypocrite for a little bit longer (or at least another 30 years). So with all the money I keep spending on the next 'best teething thing ever' to distract Baby Boy from his teething misery for five minutes (nothing really works), my haircut budget has just thrown itself out the window and ran shrieking down the street to Boots for a packet of Nice N' Easy.