Sunday, 28 August 2011

Saving money and not shopping

Shoepocalypse - a whole heap of STUFF

As I mentioned before, The Beard and I are making some big life changes next year. In order to do this, we need to save some money. As a result, I'm being forced to rethink my sometimes extravagant spending habits! I have been doing a lot of economising lately, trying to shave £££s off our monthly expenditure where possible, things like finding a cheaper mobile deal, reducing the cost of our broadband package because we didn't need the level of service we were paying for, arranging to work from home 2 days a week to save me petrol. But it just hasn't been enough.

Last week a slightly expensive trip to the health food store for essentials made me think about how I could continue to justify some of the spending I do, when we have a need to save. At pretty much the same time, Sal at Already Pretty was posting about ways to not shop. She too is preparing for a big life change, and needs to save furiously for it. I like some of her suggestions, such as creating stuff rather than buying (having made space for my sewing I am all into this) and setting myself challenges to alleviate boredom. I completely recognise my boredom driven shopping urges, and this is definitely something to work on!

The answer I came up with is that there are certain things I can't stop buying. And I do need to buy some things this winter, like a new pair of boots, and some new work clothes. But... for everything I spend, I have to be able to economise elsewhere. So, I need to stop spending £45 a quarter on mascara
(any recommendations for a black, waterproof, bunny friendly mascara that is under £10 are very welcome!).

I'm really trying hard to economise. It is hard. Our household income is pretty good for our area, and our age bracket. I work hard, and I suppose that is why I have found it really, really hard to knuckle down and start saving/stop spending. A part of me feels as if I deserve to buy these things, to have this lifestyle, because I work hard to get it. Theoretically we can afford it. In reality, we have debts to pay off and we need to save, before we make our change.

The way I am thinking about it is by reminding myself that every penny I spend now unnecessarily, is a penny less for my new furniture in my new home. That might make the difference between having or not having that particular item that I want. So economy is my new friend.

I'm also trying to find a groove, find my style, my purpose again. The last 4 years have been a whirlwind of change and growth for me, and I am finally settling into a place where I'm comfortable with who I am and what I like. I'm starting to find my place and I think, I hope, that I will find the strength to put down the credit card and just be happy with what I have. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Are you worried about the size of your feet? Do you need help?

Ok, so according to this article at the Daily Fail, those of us with large feet should be worrying about it (thanks to Elissa from Dress with Courage for bringing this to my attention).

Well, I'd like to state that I have had large feet all my life, and somewhere around the age of 13 realised this wasn't going to change, and I better bloody well get on with it. I still have fantasies of chopping my toes off, ala Roald Dahl's Witches (incidentally one of my favourite books, and no I don't have witch foot jealousy), but since I was told exactly how much that would affect my already rubbish balance, they are reserved for my darkest, quietest moments. Usually after a sales assistant has looked at me in disdain at my request for a size 9.

Women's feet by and large stop growing around the age of 13/14. Mine certainly did and I've had a hatred and loathing of shoe shopping since that time. I love shoes, I honestly do. Shoes are beautiful creations that allow women to put on a different persona. I feel so different in a pair of heels to the way I feel in my flats. But I loathe shoe shopping, because there are so few places that stock anything anywhere near big enough.

I'm a size 42 or 43, depending on the brand and cut. I tend to use European sizes for my shoes because it is more consistent - in the UK, for some inexplicable reason, a size 8 is a 41. No, shoe manufacturers, it is not a size 41, it is a size 42. Please get this right, there are women depending on you!! Especially when they then put a 9 as a 42, and actually it is a small 8 and you really did need the 9. PAH!!

Don't even get me started on the time I went into Schuh in Exeter (yes, I'm naming and shaming), and the sales assistant promptly declared that they didn't go above a 7 in their shoes (I know full well that Schuh stocks 9s, they even have a stock checker for each store on their website) and I could always try mens shoes.... Or the time I went into the local branch of Office, and asked for a shoe in a size 9, fair enough, not likely to be in stock as it was a sale shoe, only to be asked "will an 8 not do?" No an 8 won't effing do, I have size 9 feet you moron!!

I was defeated a long time ago. I stopped wearing pretty shoes. I have a couple of pairs, which are lovely and comfortable (Nine West are legends in my book) but it is so heartbreaking to go shoe shopping when you face disappointment at every turn, so I stopped trying. I remember as a teen going with my Mum around Peterborough looking for school shoes for the new academic year. I remember the floods of tears as the frustration set in, the absolute loathing and hatred of my feet that had begun to develop. Apparently quite a lot of women have larger feet. So why isn't this reflected in the choice and availability?

There are hoards of women out there who have resigned themselves to trainers and boring shoes because that is all that they can find (or can be bothered to find) for their feet. And when your shoe choices are limited, your wardrobe becomes limited. Why would you feel the desire to wear a pretty skirt if you knew that all you had was that chunky pair of trainers to wear with it? I know when I buy clothes my first thought is always "how can I make this work with gigantic boots?". 

I made peace with my feet as an adult, when the acceptance that wearing pretty shoes wasn't ever going to be a part of my life set in. I have my New Rocks, which I love and adore, and have created an image around. Health reasons mean I don't want to wear heels that much anymore, which is ok (except that flats are even worse to find than heels - thanks to a high arch I find heels a bit easier to get my foot into) but why should I have to compromise?

Even when I do find shoes that run to larger sizes, they are often only available in wide fittings. Which is useless to me (and I'm sure many other large footed women) because I have average feet at best! My feet then slop around in these boats that shoe manufacturers think that large footed women want to wear. Long Tall Sally have tried, bless them, but their range isn't great - I can get some good work shoes out of them, but it isn't exactly imaginative.

There are signs out there that things are changing. Irregular Choice now make 9s in some of their shoes, Hush Puppies make 9s and there is a better selection on line. But its swings and roundabouts - Next used to be my staple shoe store for reliable size 9s - alas, they have shrunk their shoes. Either that or my feet have grown, but seeing as I've got some shoes I've had for 10 years plus that still fit fine I think the former is more likely. Maybe it is the recession - I did notice in the boom years that larger shoes were getting easier to find - maybe the sizes get smaller as companies try to increase the profit margin on their product. Hello - big footed women need shoes too you know!!

There are stores out there, largely on the internet, who do make larger women's shoes. Many of those companies cater for drag queens, resulting in shoes that aren't really suitable or appropriate for the office or the town centre on Saturday lunchtime. Those shoes that are suitable are usually too suitable. Great if you like boring, plain shoes, but if like me you want something more from your footwear, then many are not for you. Or if you do find that magical shoe store that not only sells shoes in larger sizes, but they are also fashionable, pretty shoes, then you can hear your bank manager's scream from where you sit.

I could go on. And on. And on. (and Ariston). The same argument applies to tall women's clothing. For an (if the stats are to be believed) increasing number of women, clothing and footwear is more of a chore than it should be. Maybe if we all revolted together, we'd persuade the high street to help us. Rise up big footed, tall women! Let us march on the headquarters of Phillip Green - he owns half the high street. In our best heels of course!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Hair - what colour next?

I've started thinking about my hair a fair bit lately. Well, today.
As much as I love the pink, I'm getting bored. For those that have known me over the last few years will know that I am a bit of a chameleon when it comes to my hair. I have gone from black, to pillar box red, to platinum blonde, to purple, to burgundy, to pink. And now, as my big life changes beckon ever closer, I find myself feeling like a change.

And shock horror - I want a NORMAL hair colour (I saw you faint back there Mum!).

There is a part of me that wants to find a way back to my natural hair colour, although that little devil on my shoulder quickly gets slapped down by the memory of what my natural colour was when I first started messing it - a weird gingery blonde which looks terrible with my odd coloured complexion.

Maybe I will find a way to be at peace with a version of my hair colour, but I think it is going to be a while before that happens. For starters I have shocking pink hair right now. There is no way I am putting any more bleach near my hair, so I have to find a way to get it out in a graceful fashion, and I suspect the only way to do that (without enduring weeks of horrific hair while it gradually fades) will be to go darker. Or spend a weekend in the house with a bottle of fairy liquid and a tub of coconut oil (that sounds a bit kinky... maybe I should try that?).

I may have to embrace light brown with a healthy hint of pink... we shall see.

I'm a bit stumped about what colour to dye it to be honest, and I'd be really grateful for any help in choosing!

Do I go dark and splendidly gothic, enabling the use once again of my beloved dark colour lipsticks which currently match the colour of my hair, making wearing them a little, um, weird, or do I go for a slightly darker version of what I think my natural hair looks like, so I can still wear those lovely gothy lipsticks but in a slightly more edgy fashion?

To help you choose (and I am one of those annoying people who can probably pull off any hair colour thanks to my fantastically awkward skin undertones), I present to you a visual guide of the hair colours I have sported in my adult life....

Red to blonde in one night... fruit salad hair!

Circa April 2009

Aged 19, and no, this is not my natural hair colour!

I actually don't remember when this was, possibly 2009


Purple in 2009

Mar 2010

This week!

I actually love the platinum blonde, it was great fun, and looked so cool, but... and its a massive, baby-got-back style but.... it is hell to keep up and I stopped because my hair starting falling out. I admire those who can keep platinum blonde hair without wrecking their own, but unfortunately my natural hair has a tad too much of the ginge to be able to sustain platinum without falling apart.

So amigos... where to now (excuse my best Westcountry parlance there)? I ask as it appears my favourite 'go to' hair dye (Garnier 100% Color shade 426) has been discontinued.

My thoughts so far are:

Garnier Nutrisse in 4.26 Blackcurrant
Schwartzkopf Bitter Sweet Chocolate (I just did my best mate's hair in this yesterday and it is a fab colour)
Some kind of mid brown with a view to going au naturel (this isn't really that much of an option tbh).
Back to black, circa 2006/7, which was Indola Violet Noir (if you think the upkeep of dark roots against light hair is bad, try it in reverse)
Or ginger (The Beard isn't keen, not that I care, seeing as it is my head. Not sure it would jeopardise my relationship too much but, you know, when you're loved one tells you he's not keen, it is probably him being diplomatic to stop him screaming "NO, don't do it, you'll look shit!" at you)

So tell me - I'm at your mercy. Oh, and any recommendations for good shades/brands would be gladly welcomed, because as much as I love my hairdresser (and he's a Master Colourist too), I can't afford him.


Saturday, 20 August 2011

A Modest Soiree and a new dress

Wednesday was LoveAudrey's birthday and I spent a lovely evening with her in a local pub. The invite said glamourous attire was essential, and the pub is lovely (one of our dear friends is in charge too!) so of course I had to find something appropriate!

As it happens, I'd started making a dress a couple of months ago, that had been put aside due to making a small error in the pattern cutting and it not really fitting... it was half finished and I haven't had time to deal with it so far. Tuesday night I decided, would be set aside to completing this creation, because I wanted to wear it to the pub last night. To my joy, I appear to have lost weight around my middle (where the problem was) sufficiently to just be able to sew the dress up as intended!

So here is it is:

And I was going to take loads of pictures of the night out, but I totally failed!! Too busy chatting and drinking (cola)!!

We had an ace night, and it was nice to get out to the pub!

Loving who I am, and a little blog link love

I used to look like this (from 2009):

This is me this week, approximately 3 stone heavier:

Please excuse the terrible face - I hate having my photo taken!

I look back on those photos from 2009 and before, and I have a mixture of emotions. In some respects I was too thin at points, especially following dramatic weight loss in 2007 as the result of my marriage breaking down. My sister has a photograph of us as a family on Boxing Day that year, me sans slap, and I look skeletal. I don't like it. But although I am fairly comfortable with me now, I often mourn for those days when jeans weren't the enemy, where my figure fit more with the accepted shape for a woman my age.

And that is the key really - my problems with my body shape are related to the way in which the media portrays the ideal figure. As The Beard says when I tell him I'm feeling down about my body, I should stop comparing myself to other women. Because all people are different. I'm just a different shape.

The blogosphere can be an immensely positive place, and can be incredibly negative; but being a person with an irritatingly sunny disposition I like to focus on the good (yes, I am one of those cheerful goths!). I've found a few blogs that make me nod as I'm reading, smile at the sentiments and give me inspiration and acceptance from thousands of miles away. I'm thankful to these delightful writers who take their time to put things out there to make us all feel a little bit more secure in ourselves.

So I want to share with you some of the wonderful bloggers who have given me a little ray of sunshine every day, who reinforce positive messages and who are just generally awesome.

Already Pretty - who I think I found through my Google recommendations and I am so glad I did. She is witty, intelligent, posts great tips and advice and wears sassy clothes. She's got a pretty awesome tattoo on her leg as well!!

Dress with Courage - Elissa has great hair, great tattoos, and is a thrifting fiend. Open and honest about her battles with body image, she is pretty darn inspiratonal! Her recent series on writing blog posts has helped me get my writing mojo back and I thank her muchly for it!

Gala Darling - This lady is fabulous! She is all about Radical Self Love, her programme designed at helping you love yourself. She's stylish, cool, and gorgeous. I love her exuberance and giddiness!

The Snug Bug - Recommended by Sal at Already Pretty earlier this week, I've only just got round to taking a peek. I liked what I found, and I think The Snug Bug will become part of my everyday reading.

Next time I look at myself and think "gah I'm so much bigger than so and so", I'll try to stop, and remember that I am me.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Doing battle with stress

Stress makes me want to Scream

Stress is my worst enemy. My body as a whole reacts very badly to stress, but generally mentally I am fine. It takes quite a lot to have me sobbing into my tea feeling like I'd rather crawl into a hole and go to sleep.

Unfortunately this last fortnight has been one of those times. A combination of factors, including an essay from hell and a random bout of PMT (I don't have periods because I have a Mirena, but I still get the joys of PMT at times) have led to some predictable but annoying physical symptoms.

Obviously the best way to deal with stress is to attack the cause of the stress, but in acute situation this simply isn't possible. No matter how much I plan or study early, I still get stressed about essay deadlines. So I thought I'd share with you some of the symptoms I experience and how I deal with that immediate problem.

My skin goes to hell
I have stress triggered acne. This appears to be a family trait, as my sister also suffers. My skin would suggest that I am permanently stressed about something, and I guess that wouldn't be far from the truth! When I'm really really stressed my liver acts up (according to the herbalist I saw last year) and causes me to have spots on my chin and jaw. It doesn't help that I have sensitive skin as well, which has a tendency to be dry.
The Treatment: A face mask, such as Boots Botanics Conditioning Clay Mask, which doesn't dry my skin out but makes me feel like I'm doing something. I wash my face with Lush Angels on Bare Skin, Nivea Pure and Natural Cleansing Lotion and hot water. I also make sure I keep up with my supplements.

I get very bloated
Stress triggered IBS. I can thank my ex husband for that one. And maybe a dose of genetics. I take aloe vera tablets daily to try and keep these kinds of symptoms at bay, but when I'm stressed one thing that tends to go to pot is my supplement regime. The bloating is very uncomfortable and while I'd love nothing more than to sit in a room passing wind, that isn't the most pratical or friendly thing to do in the office.
The Treatment: A hot bath works well to relax the abdomen. Drinking plenty of water, particularly when you add barley grass powder, and Aloe vera is very good, whether taken as a gel or tablet. Do not eat a large Dominoes Reggae Reggae pizza all to yourself. This will not help. Brown rice and wholesome grains will.

I want to eat carbs by the bucketload
I get really hungry and want to eat crisps and biscuits. Sometimes that is ok. I devoured half a packet of Hob Nobs in an afternoon whilst tackling my essay last week. Today I ate a whole bag of Nando's Peri Peri Chicken crisps with my lunch. This week I've drunk nearly 4 litres of Coca Cola. Healthy eating has gone out of the window!
The Treatment: I never stop drinking the barley grass water, especially when I'm at work. It has become so ingrained in my life now that its easy to keep it up when the rest of my routine goes to shit. And then when I'm done, I do a massive refeed of good proteins and lots of vegetables. In fact, I think this weekend there will be a stirfry full of tofu, vegetables, served with brown rice noodles. The Beard and my visiting best friend will love me for that! The main thing in situations of acute, short term stress, is just to do what your body tells you to do. As a very wise friend told me: Tomorrow is another day.

Late nights become de rigour
Essay writing tends to mean late nights. This week I've been up until 2am every night, and still had to be up for work at some stupid hour of the morning. I am, understandably, knackered.
The Treatment: plenty of caffiene, sugar and apples until the weekend, and the SLEEP. There will probably be some falling asleep on the sofa in that time, but maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to sleep for a good 8 hours on Friday night.

I am acutely aware that the reason I suffer so badly with acute stress is my tendency to internalise everything, and my complete and utter inability to ask anyone for help. I like to think I'm superwoman (I think exploring that will be another post!) but really I'm not. I am incredibly grateful to those around me who put up with my crying, staring into space, inability to think about anything other than the task at hand, forgetfulness and my general inability to organise my life properly. Especially The Beard, who deserves a frickn' medal.

How does stress manifest for you? How do you deal with it? Do you have any super zen tips? I'd love to hear your comments and experiences :)

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

MAC Me Over collection from MAC

Sneak peak pictures posted over at Temptalia have just caught my eye....

The whole collection looks absolutely fabulously right up my alley. Coming in September internationally, I'll definitely be putting aside some pennies to buy some items!

Here is my initial pick of the best bits, all pictures via Temptalia

Avenue Fluidline

Midnight Blues Fluidline

Evil Eye Quad

Lady Grey Quad

Monday, 8 August 2011

New skincare regime?

I have been having massive issues with foundation lately. It has been driving me bananas - I have some largish pores next to my nose, where foundation has seemed to collect. The end of my nose is a place where foundation likes to just slide off, and recently it has been so much worse. Add to that the appearance of dry, overpowdered skin on my tzone, I was feeling like I'd never be able to wear foundation ever again.

Something obviously wasn't right. Turns out it was my moisturiser. Weleda Almond Sensitive Skin is a lovely moisturiser, but it just doesn't work on my skin under foundation.

As fortune would have it, my Summer Tesco Clubcard statement popped through the door on Saturday morning. Tesco are also doing a 'double up' promotion on selected departments this summer, and Skincare and Cosmetics happened to be one of them. And, better yet, you can do all of the doubling up online and print them yourself! All that remained was what to buy.

That was a fairly easy proposition - I'd seen the Nivea Pure and Natural range in Tesco last week whilst doing my grocery shop. I was intrigued but decided to wait until I had finished my Weleda to buy, because I'm on a serious saving kick. Of course free money can't be saved, so it has to be spent.

I did a bit of research on the net about the products and had a good think about my skin. I decided to purchase the Moisturising Day Cream for normal/combination skin, the Cleansing Lotion and the Body Lotion. All for a grand total of £11.80, so really only £1.80 with the £10 off voucher.

I have to say, I am so so pleased I made the decision. I've only been using it for 4 days but the difference is amazing. My skin appears to be clearing up, my foundation went on like a dream this morning, and best of all it is easy on the wallet!

Obviously it has only been a couple of days, so I'll come back and update with proper reviews in a few weeks, but I'm quietly confident that this is going to be a life changing set of products!


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