Monday, 19 September 2011

Everyone has to watch 'Justified'

I love Justified, it is seriously awesome. That's the only word for it. The first series of Justified is a slow builder. To begin with you think it's merely a vehicle for U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens and his general awesomeness. He's played by Timothy Olyphant, who also produces the show. He is a bit of a wonder as an actor, portraying a multi-dimensional/anti-heroic hero. However, come the end of series one, you realise that this is truly an excellent ensemble piece. The supporting actors are just brilliant, most notably Walton Goggins, don't you just love his name? As the relationship develops between these two you realise it's not a clear case of villain versus lawman, there's an element of the buddy movie about their relationship, a not-quite-friendship which draws comment from other characters

Love the opening theme, Long Hard Times to Come, by Gangstagrass. Love the accents. LOVE the dialogue. Love the depiction of redneck/appalachian life. Somehow it seems to make Kentucky kinda cool. Well Givens is cool, no question and he makes an unusual kind of hero. It means that when everything goes belly up, it takes the characterisation way beyond your usual television drama.

Whatever you do, DO NOT start with series two. You need to know what's happened in the first series in order to make sense of what occurs in the first episode, even the first scene. However, if you do start from the beginning you will not regret it.

Image via

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Book Review: One Day by David Nicholls

I've been sick in bed with flu this week, so some time after the rest of the world, I found time to catch up and read One Day by David Nicholls.

It is very readable novel, and captures elements of an era perfectly. A generation older than myself, the characters nonetheless were a vehicle for a bit of nostalgia. Nineties throwaway culture such as Shed Seven, Kula Shaker, late-night extreme sports TV, the onset of mobile phones, and the nay-sayers who claimed they would never succumb. The description of the CD changer in the boot of Dexter's car definitely caught me with a wry smile on face.

Was the book any good? Certainly thousands of people seem to think so, given the reviews out there. Personally I think people might just be having a meander down memory lane, pointing at the scenery in their near past, and saying to themselves "I remember that!" Exactly as I have just done here.

However, does it's readable nature, and tapping into a bank of common memories make this an important work? I would have to disagree with all people claiming the brilliance of this novel. In getting caught up with the atmosphere, they are overlooking the fact that the story is, at best, not-very-original. In fact, it felt to me very much like a rip-off of Cecilia Ahern's Where Rainbows End. Which is just yer basic honest chick-lit, not trying to be anything else, but with a far better twist in the story. Now of course that book is one that the Guardian-reading masses really can't admit to having read. I'm not going to go down the 'reaction to male writers versus female writers' route. It would be interesting to know if V.S. Naipaul had any thoughts about One Day! But I think the chances of him reading it are pretty slim, even if it is written by a man.

Then you've got the perpetual near-misses which serve to keep our protagonists apart, thereby prolonging the agony, and functioning as a plot device. Even Thomas Hardy never had this amount of tragic near-misses in any one novel. IMHO less is more with things like that. Of course in this book, they are the whole story.

Plus, let's be honest Dexter is a truly hideous character. He never convinced me that he was Emma's soul mate. She was somewhat witty, intelligent, with a social conscience. He was mean and shallow, even during his "nice" period. It just felt like she wasted most of her life waiting for him.

So One Day by David Nicholls,the book that has a nation in its grip. It's a Bridget Jones for blokes. Fine as a holiday read, but it failed to make my heart go boom.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Sorry it's been so long

Sorry little blog. I hadn't forgotten about you, I'd missed you actually. But a month in England catching up with friends we hadn't seen for 3 years, then returning and moving house to a place with no internet. Scarcely even a mobile signal in fact. Well, it was all stacked against you for the last couple of months. But I'm hoping to be able to make it up to you...

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Hit & Miss

My posting has been, and will continue to be, rather hit and miss, because we are getting ready to move house. We thought this move was going to take place at the beginning of September. However, it has now been brought forward to the middle of August, and prior to that we have an extended vacation in the UK. Meaning I have scant time to pack. So with everything, my little blog is last on a very long to-do list.

On a different note, I like this these cute veggie slogan magnets! However, with all the time I have had to spend away from home recently my veggie growing capabilities are also proving to rather hit and miss (see what I did there!). We've eaten our first courgette, but I was expecting stacks and stacks more. Instead the plant seems to be a bit depressed-looking these days. Not being helped by the English-style weather at the moment either. Shame I'd found a nice courgette chutney recipe I wanted to make with my surplus!

Image via Amepix.

Monday, 27 June 2011

City Girl Style

I am seriously loving this outfit. The colours are spot on, the pleats are there...still loving pleats, the platform shoes, and the skirt length is just perfect. Also, her fringe is really great, a big reminder to me that my fringe is long over due a serious chop. Love, love, love it.

I can get away with being fairly untrendy on a daily basis at the moment, with just occasional moments of brilliance. However, I'm thinking about my trip back home to the UK next month (yay! can't wait). I'm going to have to sort myself out, so maybe I'll try channelling something like this.

Image via Asos

Monday, 20 June 2011

Etsy lovelies - Travel Inspired

My wedding anniversary is coming on apace (next month), so it's got me thinking about travel and France and other romantic things! Buy these lovely French postcard cushions from Lisa Wine Studios.

This necklace will tell the world you're feeling a little French. Buy it from Exultation.

Saving up for a romantic trip away? I love the idea of scrawling your spending intentions on this chalkboard piggy bank. Available from Chalkoholics.

Here's a beautiful vintage wicker picnic basket for a romantic lunch. Buy it from Etsy seller GlassnMore.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

My Wardrobe Essentials - Nude Look Accessories

Here are some accessories that I either own, or would love to own. I think they fit in so well with the nude look right now.

Bumblebee Necklace by Alex Munroe

Gold Bangle Watch by French Connection

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Roof Gardens

Reading about city roof gardens is quite inspiring, and it's lovely to know that I have my own little burgeoning vegetable "patch", located on our flat roof space. Well it's a grand total of 4 pots of various veggies, but I'm proud of them, grown from seed and everything! My box of salad is looking pretty verdant, but most exciting of all I have little mini courgettes, currently about 5cm long. Nom, nom. I can't wait to eat them.

In the picture above, I like the idea of this herb garden. I thought it looked like a good idea for those who want to save their back, or perhaps don't have very much space for pots and things.

Ah growing vegetables, who would have thought it would be so enjoyable!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Cats, Books, Writers

It is possible that some among us are bookish-cat type people, right? Ever worry about being a cat person? 

Well seriously, have no fear, because we are officially in excellent company. I came upon this little site, Writers and Kitties last week. Check it out, so cute! 

And you know what this all means don't you? You can treat yourself to taking a peek at the new Simon's Cat website, launched last month. The Box is my current favourite film.

Image 1 via urbanlegendTitle The bookseller's cat
Image 2 via Documentally

Friday, 10 June 2011

Expat Living - Cleaning Materials

Recently read this post over at the Haus Maus blog. My first thought was "only one thing she doesn't like about expat living"! If that is true, and dodgy German cleaning supplies really are the worst thing, then this lady is doing very well indeed.

I too have experienced the fickleness of foreign cleaning products. What about the difficulties of finding thin bleach...? Who would have thought? Or buying an antibacterial spray for a year, only for the supermarket to then mysteriously discontinue the line.

This happens to us a lot, when things we like go on sale we try and buy in bulk, too often have we had things disappear on us. Which can make me a little teary! Fortunately bicarbonate of soda is available in if only I could find some Marigolds!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

My Wardrobe Essentials - The Nude Look

I am really loving the nude look that seems to have captured imaginations this summer. On Pinterest for example, there is a frenzy of people are pinning delightful pieces in camel, beige, ivory, caramel, stone and so forth. These colours have such a light summer feel to them, I really enjoying wearing them regardless of whether I'm having some downtime, or dressing for work.

I have a pale "English Rose" complexion, (e.g. my foundation has names like "Porcelain" or "Ivory"; pink blush doesn't go amiss, and I have mid-brown/fair hair). Due to this I was initially very concerned that I wouldn't be able to work this look, despite loving it so much. I thought I would just look ill, washed-out etc. However, I now think that the nude look can work quite well for the 'pale and interesting' among us. Our skin tone may be lighter than some of the pieces we are wearing, but this can produce quite a nice, gentle effect.

With that in mind therefore, here are my personal wardrobe essentials for the Nude Look (or very similar to at least).

Stone Chino Trousers from Topshop. Chinos are having a real renaissance at the moment. I like to pretend I'm a little bit French, a little bit chic, when I pair them with ballet flats, and a stripey top.

I have a similar skirt to this Zara Button Skirt, and I wear it all the time. It's so comfortable, and I can wear it with almost every top I own, it's flattering and makes me feel a little bit "put-together", even when I've hardly put any effort in at all.

I don't own this dress from H&M but I do love it. I've seen it in the shop, and it looks really, really great on. Will work with heels or flat, can be made to look dressy or casual. I own a similar type of dress in floaty material, but in a much lighter blush colour.

This crochet trim cardigan from Promod is a really useful addition to my wardrobe because it goes with everything I own pretty much, but has the interesting trim detail to stop it looking just too, too boring. But I don't know what it is with this website, every time. The picture manages to make this cardigan look disgusting. But I do vouch for it in real life.

Another skirt...what can I say, I wear a lot of them, I like them. I'd like something a bit like this pleated midi skirt from New Look. Beautiful, floaty material. Lovely colour. It would fit right in!

They can all be mixed and matched, but they also work well with brights, polka dots and breton tops, so it means I don't have to be completely flesh-toned 100% of the time!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Becoming Jane (Eyre)

A little while ago I read this post on Sugar City Journal and it really made me chuckle. I love the idea that some of us might want to "be more like Jane Eyre".

For large sections of society celebrities are our go-to guide, people we look to for fashion/life/style advice. I too have my moments of wanting to look like Alexa Chung and/or [insert edgy, yet chic celebrity crush here.] At other times perhaps we look to poets, authors, musicians.  Even characters from our favourite novels become our personality pin-ups. People we wish we could be more like.

In my early teens I must admit, I always wanted to be more like Catherine Earnshaw rather than Jane Eyre. Jane was just always a bit too sensible for me. I was already a bit too much like Jane Eyre! A little later some friends used to call me Lizzie Bennett. Probably mainly due to a very slight resemblance to Jennifer Ehle in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, coupled with a tendency to sarcastic wit. And of course Ophelia has always been my ultimate tragic heroine.

If I had to pick just one character however, the hands-down winner would have to be Dorothea Brooke. She for me is the ultimate mix of someone who lives by her principles, yet experiences the overwhelming strength of unconditional love. I love her!

However, it is true that no matter who we are or what we accomplish, as women we are always pestering ourselves. "Must do more, must try harder, must be more beautiful." Of course, there is always room for improvement, ways to become a nicer person and so forth, which is where I really appreciate the original blog post I mentioned. That idea of being motivated to study harder, learn a new language, be modest in our expectations. They certainly are excellent qualities that I should work on.

Image via Jezebel Charms
Buy the lovely Jane Eyre pendant from their Etsy shop.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Etsy lovelies - Red & Black

I'm always on the hunt for lovely stationary, greetings cards etc. I keep thinking one of these days I'll get around to designing my own. Anyway, I have seriously fallen for this little card, from Sapling Press. I think it would be a lovely one to give to hubbie on our wedding anniversary (next month! Already!)

This silk screen cushion is delightful. The description is Red Carp...but to my eyes it looks like a goldfish, anyone agree with me, or have I got this wrong? Anyway, I love goldfish and goldfish decorated items. So this is a winner. Created by Maite of Minimonos, who is a trained fashion designer, but has moved into home design items. I really like the little drawstring bags too.

This is an origami wall decal by 15tangerines. I love origami cranes (much like I love goldfish!), and I love black and white line drawn items, so this really caught my eye. Would look very beautiful on an otherwise blank wall.

 And then I also spotted these coasters which seemed to fit in very well with the red and black theme I have going on here. I have soooooo many coasters, but if I did need some more then these are very pretty. They come from Ruby Press who make some really cool stationary items too.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Making the iPad more useful - Sourcing a case

Ok, so I've posted before about my extreme good fortune in becoming an iPad owner. (I would have said proud owner, but unfortunately it's still not true.) I've now found its principle use in my life, that of running the Kindle app, reading eBooks and so forth.

However, I've decided it's time to move to the next level. My iPad needs to get a life, it spends far too much time moping around the house. It needs to get out more. And so for that, I come to my hunt for an iPad case. Currently iPad just stays at home, while I show my extreme preference for old laptop, carting that around with me on occasions where, if I'm completely honest iPad would function just fine.

I mentioned this predicament to the husband, he being the gateway to all things technical in our household. I thought he would instantly alight on something funky and lovely for stowing away the iPad machine. Unfortunately to my disappointment he suggested something like this, or this. Not exactly what I had in mind, so uuuuuugly. And look at the websites they come from! I mean, who does he think I am, a techie?

What about these lovelies from Etsy seller Tovi Sorga instead? Oooooh yummy, perhaps something like this could make me love my iPad! They are London-based outfit, producing really pretty leather goods for all your technological concerns. Check out their Etsy store.

Image via Tovicorrie

Saturday, 4 June 2011

A Commentary on Kate Middleton's Wardrobe

I'm not in any way a royalist, although I'll put my hand up and admit that I did see a little of the Royal Wedding. As I've explained countless times, it was only because I wanted to see the dress. And of course it was beautiful. I loved it's Grace Kelly-esque quality. So yes, and that was the end of that....

Until I saw the pictures of Will and Kate along with the Obamas at Buckingham Palace last week. Kate, (I should really call her the Duchess of Cambridge shouldn't I?) was wearing that beautiful nude-coloured Shola dress from Reiss. She looked stunning. Michelle Obama, had up to that point looked fairly good. In my opinion though next to Kate she just didn't look very polished or streamlined. In these pictures it is Kate who has the gravitas.

So, why am I so obsessed with these pictures. I suppose it has something to do with the notion that Kate still shops on the High Street? And I think I find that reaffirming. I feel that by choosing Zara, Reiss, Whistles and Jigsaw she is affirming a decision I myself made a long, long time ago. The decision that the high street was enough, and I don't need to feel pressurized to shop beyond my means. I don't think I'm alone in this decision. This article in The Telegraph quotes Tina Gaudoin from the Wall Street Journal saying "Britain has the best high street in the world." 

In the Shola, Reiss have produced a dress in a very similar vein to the Galaxy dress by Roland Mouret. I'm sure that Kate could quite easily afford a couple of those bad boys if she wanted to. But no, she wears the Shola instead and looks as beautiful in it as Victoria Beckham ever looked in her RM numbers.

Now of course my version of the high street is quite different to Kate's! In fact the high street I frequent most regularly is actually segregated. Topshop, New Look, River Island and H&M at one end. Karen Millen, LK Bennett, All Saints and Reiss at the other. I look (of course I look!), but if I'm honest Zara (in the sale) is really my cut-off point. But Topshop and New Look, Zara and H&M, with a sprinkling of Urban Outfitters and carefully cared-for really can make for a good wardrobe.

So, we'll have to see if Kate stays true to the British high street and continues to make such shops the backbone of her wardrobe. I may just keep half an eye on the press for that!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Written Word As Art (and Jewellery)

I have always been very partial to a bit of written word as art, or in the case of these lovely silver bangles, the way the words contribute to the jewellery.

I've just come across this delightful jewellery made by Stella and Stokes. Diane Stewart is the person behind the name. She does all the work apparently! She's based in Glasgow (extra points from me for being my place of birth!) and creates these handmade items from sterling silver.

I think the bangles pictured are beyond wonderful, I really love the edgy, unfinished quality they have. She also has some wonderful charm necklaces which would be ideal engraved with a special name or date. If. however, the decorative properties of the written word leave you cold, she has loads of lovely pieces that need no writing at all! For example, her caterpillar earrings featured in a shoot last month by Rock My Wedding. And the blokes aren't left out either, I really like those thistle cufflinks.

But for now, I'm going to while some time away wondering to myself what I would have engraved on these bangles were I to be purchasing one any time soon. I really think that with a well-chosen word these could be statement pieces. A line or two of poetry perhaps?

"Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
    Of five long winters! and again I hear
    These waters"
William Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey (Too long I know!)

Or a song lyric:
"You are worth hundreds of sparrows" (as per the engraving on my iPod gifted from a friend.)
Sparklehorse, Hundreds of Sparrows

I'm being lazy, just writing down the first quotes that instantly come to mind. This is a decision that would need to be agonised over of course! What would you have engraved on yours?

Update 4th June 2011:

I recently received a reply from Diane, and she truly sounds like a lovely person, pouring her energy and love into this business. She started silver-smithing as a hobby 4 years ago, and then a year later set up Stella & Stokes.  Her success so far relies on word-of-mouth recommendations, so if you like her jewellery do tell your friends about it! 

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Notebooks I Met and Liked

Oh my goodness, aren't these gorgeous! I'm a total sucker for notebooks, and indeed stationary of all kinds.  As soon as I saw these beautiful notepads (care of this post on Black Eiffel) my brain was sent into a spin. Which book would I buy for whom:

Wives I Met and Liked - The Husband obvs
Celebrities I Met and Liked - Tash
Doctors I Met and Liked - Mum
Equestrians I Met and Liked - Jas
Travellers I Met and Liked - Josh
Communists I Met and Liked - Lou W
Estate Agents I Met and Liked - MIL

It's a great game. You should try it!

Image via Archie Grand

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Holiday Memories - Crete

The last couple of years during May we have managed to take a holiday to Greece. We've gone back twice to Crete, staying in a small town on the north coast half-way between Chania and Heraklion. Prior to that we have also been to Halkidiki. This year we couldn't make it, and the last couple of weeks I've been missing the sights and sounds of Greece. Not that I've got anything to complain about really, I don't do badly for holidays. But I wanted to just pause for now and remember Crete in May. The beautiful beaches, the clear waters, the wonderful food and gorgeous geraniums. Here are a few of my memories....

A Thank You Post

Well I'm beginning to think it really pays to write a blog!

We had some visitors over the weekend, it was absolutely amazing to see our dear friends again, after a pause of about three years. There was so much to catch up on, so many stories to tell, jokes to laugh at.  And at some point over the weekend I was handed a gift, a lovely wrapped book...

This book just happened to be The Handmaid's Tale. Which only happens to be a book I had previously mentioned here as being one I hadn't yet read. My friend had been reading my blog. (I don't know what I was more excited about, the book or this knowledge!) Anyway, she was horrified to hear that I hadn't yet read this book, so had hastened to the shops in order to rectify this terrible discrepancy. Which I am very grateful for...and I literally can't wait to read it.

We are also very proud owners of some lush new Cath Kidston mugs. I can't get pictures of all of them, here are just a couple. They are absolutely gorgeous, and I really think the tea tastes even better in them.

Thank you N&R! xxx

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Having a girlie moment

Another thing about living abroad is that you miss that network of friends that you usually rely upon so heavily.  Girls to gossip with, go shopping with, laugh and chat with. They are one step removed from me now, our communication now relies on Skype chats and weekend catch-up trips. When we do catch up there are always more important things to talk about than clothes and make up (hang on a minute...did I really just say that!). And I miss it. So I have to look elsewhere for styling and make-up advice. Preferably not to the husband, although he doesn't do too bad a job, it's just that not all his commentary is entirely welcomed.

That's why I am loving Sali Hughes Beauty column at the moment. She's like the big sister I never had, going back to basics on so many subjects, and she has a lot of helpful words of advice. Many of the readers comments are pretty useful too. And this is how I came to choose Maybelline's The Falsies mascara. Mascara...possibly the single most important item in my cosmetics bag. I literally can't live without it. On the days I go mascara-free, it's usually a conscious decision because I am trying to elicit sympathy. People will always tell me I look ill if I'm not wearing mascara! Sad but true. So then, as I've not gotten a little older a flaky old 17 mascara just doesn't cut it anymore.

Side point: Not that I have anything against the 17 brand I hasten to add. It's part of my cultural landscape, cheap enough for teenagers and great for experimentation. I remember when it used to have a "No." at the beginning of the name. And in fact one of their eye shadows has become an absolute staple for me: 17 Solo Eyeshadow in Ivory Coast...ooooh it's a lush neutral, yet provides a perfect base for lashings of eyeliner pencil and mascara.

Thus bringing me back to the mascara issue...I have quite long eyelashes, and they need something fairly thick and luxuriant. A mascara that is too watery or thin just doesn't look right on me. The best-selling Maybelline's Great Lash mascara for example...YUK, absolutely hideous on me. So that's why I'm so happy to have found this one at a decent price. Yay...happy days.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Expat Living - Shopping

I had to go Bratislava about two weeks ago. Unfortunately I didn't get to see much of the city, but the brief glimpse I did see I really quite liked. It seemed quite a lively place. Living where we do, in a slow, backwater, where all the shops close at noon on a Saturday and the town literally empties of people, this was quite welcome to me. I like quiet when I'm in the countryside, but in a city it's just unnatural. I prefer somewhere with a bit of a buzz.  Anyway, one place I did visit in Bratislava was a massive mall, I can't remember the name now I'm afraid, but it was the one near Ikea.

People talk about the pull of the Golden Arches, but for me it is the lure of the Green Lettering. Marks and Spencer. I used to hardly ever shop there when I lived in the UK. Underwear yeah sure. And the occasional sandwich, (I do remember an especially nice cheese and celery sandwich). Now however, I can spend hours gliding through the shop, running my fingers through the racks of clothes. I still don't buy an awful lot of clothes here, but it's weird, I enter the shop and I relax.  It all feels very familiar, it feels like home! A new style of retail therapy perhaps. Even the customer service is more what I'm used to. Polite, fairly accommodating, but not over the top. And not rude for the sake of it, as I have otherwise grown used to here.

So now, whenever I visit a larger city here in central Europe, a visit to M&S (if they have one) is a must. And if the aforementioned store has a food section well even better. I stock up on English Breakfast tea bags, Ploughman's Pickle, wholemeal pasta (my local Tesco has stopped stocking this!) and tortilla chips! Also, if I'm feeling flush then naan bread, indian snacks, mango chutney and those chocolate biscuits that M&S do so well. You know the type..."more chocolate than biscuit type" thing. I think they might even use that as one of their tag lines. It all feels so decadant, buying food in M&S! Imagine. Something I would never have dreamed of doing while back in the UK. But living abroad is a strange thing. When you can't get hold of "staples" the idea of value for money seriously fluctuates!

Elsewhere in the store I love their toiletries, can't get enough of the shower gel and bubble bath. Also their 'South of France' range of hand wash and hand creams have the most glorious scents. They really do remind me of my Proven├žal holidays.

And every now and again they'll have a fab sale, and I'll get some expensive dress or skirt for a knock-down price. Then I really feel as if I'm back on the British High Street!
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