Monday, 26 November 2012

In which I spend a perfect rainy day in London.

Had a lovely weekend with the fella. For a change we actually woke up at a reasonable hour, and with a hankering for some culture, innit. So we strapped on our walking boots to combat the heavy rain London is currently suffering and headed off to the British Museum.

Our first port of call though was “The Fryer’s Delight” just round the corner (19 Theobalds Road, WC1X 8SL) for a bag of vinegary chips to warm our cockles. This place is known as one of London’s best chippies and my bag of takeaway chips did not disappoint at all. Yummers.

I love the decor here, I am sure it has barely changed since it opened in 1962. 

Thus satisfied we headed into the museum for a little edumacashion.

Oh, but not before the Badgery one took a snap of my very fetching rain hat. Ahem.

Aaaah – BritMus. I love the place. Having studied Classical Archaeology for my first degree I spent a lot of time in the Greek and Roman galleries and every time I visit them now I get this wonderful feeling of coming home. Oh., and I also think we should keep the Elgin Marbles. So there.

Anyway – we had a lovely wander about, avoiding the terribly overcrowded Egyptiany bit and, after stopping for a hulking slice of carrot cake we even made it to the top to see the some of the exhibitions (Renaissance to Goya and the Art of Drinking).

We then raided the shop. I love museum shops and one of the signs of my ever approaching middle age is my collection of museum shop fridge magnets. Sadly the British Museum has a terrible fridge magnet selection. I only spotted three and all were dull. Still – I did manage to find a postcard of an etching of an anteater (we call him Snorky Jim) and two lovely glittery Venetian style masks to add to my dressing up box - a black and silver similar to the below and a plain red glitter.  £3.99 each - bargain - and well within my monthly fun budget.

After being kicked out of the Museum at around 5:30 and, amazingly, hungry again, we decided to visit our current favourite restaurant, Mon Plaisir, and catch their pre-theatre menu. We stumbled across this bargain some months ago, on our way to see The Fitzrovia Radio Hour. We bundled in not expecting much only to be wooed with Toulouse sausages and Brie de Meaux. Saturdays visit was no less wondrous, with a game terrine and pickled red onions to start followed by minute steak (and this was a surprisingly large one...) and pepper sauce with some of the best frites I’ve ever tasted. My mouth is watering already.

For £12.95 for two courses or £14.95 for three, including a glass of house wine and a coffee, it is an amazing place for a quick and delicious meal when in town.

The decor helps too as Mon Plaisir is London’s oldest French Restaurant, based on Monmouth Street and established in the 40s. Their entrance dining room hasn’t changed much since then either – it is gorgeous.

Chips twice in one day, I should be guilty but I'm not.

Full of food we headed home to watch films and indulged ourselves in another bottle (or two) of wine and a riot of diesel punk in the form of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. I was pleasantly surprised by both – Sky Captain being watchable despite the terrible triumvirate of Jolie / Law / Paltrow and Brazil not being the overblown sillyfest I’d expected of Gilliam. I’d recommend both, really, for a quick immersion of wartime stroke sci-fi.

Anyway. Back to work for me now it’s Monday. I hate Mondays.

Have a good week everyone. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Hypocrisy - spending update, indoor cats and a dress reveal

Hello lovelies

Well, my no spend week is almost over and aside from buying some wine - which was very much needed but I won't go into that - I seem to have made it!  I am paid at midnight tonight.

So - I've decided I'm going to attempt some sort of budgeting over December, while I don't usually go any more crazy over the festive season than usual, it would be good to keep an eye.  I'm therefore implementing an envelope system.  I am taking all the cash I need out of the bank in one go, allocating it to various envelopes (cats, going out, cleaner, groceries, Christmas) and will try to stick to these amounts, or under, over the month.  It ain't going to be easy but better to try and fail than not even try, eh?

Most of my allocated Christmas cash is going to be spent tomorrow, on the cats.  Over the past couple of months my two indoor cats, previously soft, cuddly, calm creatures, have becoming increasing whiny. Marlon (the big blue) meows constantly from around 6 in the morning.  He doesn't WANT anything, apart from me to get up.  Once I'm up, he just ignores me.  Little b@$^A£d!  Gene, the small one, likes to sit in the hallway yowling at the front door but seem to have no desire to actually go out.  He just miaows at it.  For hours. 

I adore both my boys and they are, by and large, good natured creatures - I just can't take the noise.  they aren't ill, they are still putting away food like nobodies business and are very perky.  I think they must just be bored, and I can't blame them.  As such I am finally getting them a cat tree.  The one I have wanted for a couple of years is finally on sale at half price.  Half price is still £60 but this is £60 spent on my sleep (i.e. sanity).  With a combination of this, a laser pen for easy playing and a Valerian toy I'm hoping they will chill a bit. 

I'm also finally going to attempt to leash train them.  I can quite see myself, decked out in my vintage regalia, visiting the local hostelry with two cats on leads.

Anyway - the real reason I popped in today was to show you my new baby.  My Christmas present to myself.

Feast your peepers:

Oh yeah.  Sexy innit?  Could there be anything better than a full length emerald green velvet dress with a matching turban?  I don't think so.  And heavens, she fits like a glove.

Thank you to the lovely Kellie at Via's Vintage on Etsy for answering my many questions.  It really was a dream of a transaction and its a dream of a dress.

I've paired her with some stunning and scandalously cheap repro shoes (dance shoes) I picked up on eBay from Freed (used to be Equity).  They aren't quite like these but almost.

I shall go to the ball, I shall.  Whether I have a prince to take me, well, we shall see.  ;-)

Monday, 19 November 2012


I am dreadful with money – just dreadful. I earn more than enough to live comfortably – given my super low rent/mortgage deal – but I always, always spend more each month than I earn. I’ve tried spending less on food, I’ve tried going out less, shopping for clothing less, but all to no avail. Small changes aren’t helping as I just find other ways to spend my cash. Frankly it is pathetic.

I really need taking in hand, and with no one to do that but me I just haven’t known where to start. Time for a spendervention.

After not even making it to the end of the month before scraping the bottom of my overdraft this time (thanks to an extravagant dress purchase – I’m a fool for a frock) I’ve decided that this week is a no spend week. i.e. I will buy nothing but essentials until payday. As such, I have been out and bought food for lunch for the week. A loaf of bread. I already have tins of fish and a slab of cheese at home so that is work lunches covered. I also have tons enough in the freezer to eek out for dinners for the week (two servings of pie, some chicken,a chickpea curry and one spag bol – oh the excitement!)

In addition I am not smoking or drinking until the weekend. Well, I can’t, I only have £5-odd. Yes, that pic at the top is my actual purse right this minute.

I know, a week sounds pretty lame. However we are about to enter the festive Season and even one as lacking in Christmas cheer as myself would like a roast and a bottle of bubbly on Turkey Day. Really, this week is a trial run for January 2013. My designated No Spend Month – or as my Ameri-pals call it, a “No Spender Bender”. I’ve decided, see, that 2013 is the year I “sort myself out.” Well, my finances at least – and hopefully with that other great things will follow.

I’ve taken some steps already which have been:

• Cancelling my gym membership
• Taking out a loan to pay off 2 of my credit cards thus reducing monthly repayments by half
• Switching gas and electricity suppliers (such a faff – almost done, now have to give them meter readings for the BILLIONTH time)
• Joining the local library – I’ll pick up my card and some books this week.

So this week I am going to be scraping by on the cash I have and spending my time thinking about:

• Why I shop – what does it give me? What am I rewarding myself for?
• What do I spend money on? Other than awe inspiring vintage dresses.
• What else can I do to save more cash?
• Are there any “luxuries” I cannot live without?
• What do I have that I can sell on eBay?

Ugh. It is going to be a tough week of self analysis – or, well – selfish analysis as heaven’s, I think I just realised how gluttonous and selfish my life really is.

Have any of you managed a no spend month? 

Any frugal tips or tricks you can offer to make life a little less painful?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Rumble in the jumble

Well, not quite jumble but almost.  Last weekend was Hackney's latest Vintage Kilo Sale event.  I was in two minds about going, I knew it would be 99% retro stuff (i.e. 80s and 90s) and they chap had woken up in a decided grump, but I fed him tea and dragged him our of bed and off we went.

It's pretty simple really, you purchase your vintage by weight, a kilo of items is a flat £15.

As expected, there was A LOT of utter dross,and by that I mean ugly 80s dresses, 90s sweatshirts and lots of Indian and African dresses which, though pretty, aren't my cuppa cha. 

Still, after rooting thoroughly through every rail and pile I managed to unearth a few gems.

First up is a bright pink and bright green little knit, not vintage really, but will look OK dressed up correctly I think.

Pretty little 70s does 40s jumper.

I like the flowers.
 Then this strange beast which to me looks terribly like a late Edwardian / 1920s sports jumper. It can't be original though, it is just in too good condition.  I am a little foxed however by the inclusion of what appear to be genuine Edwardian buttons used as decoration at the neckline and arms.  They are VERY similar to the buttons on my one Edwardian piece (a lovely burgundy suit) so I am convinced these at least are real. 

 Perhaps it was knit up for a play or by an equally geeky vintage enthusiast back in the 70s.  Who knows.

pretty little buttons

 This is the sort of thing it reminds me of:

Finally, the piece de resistance.  A leopard print fur hat.  These often go for silly money on feeBay and I've long been waiting for the right one to show up.  Of course the styling on this is a little later than I'd like but I am confident that, with the right outfit and hair I can work this.

And all for the princely sum of £5.

Love it.

So despite the rooting around and the concentrated dose of Hackney hipster, it is definitely worth giving these sales a visit.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The First Bitch of Cinema

Oh yes, the one and only Miss Bette Davis.

I'm off work this week and indulging myself with lots of tea, biscuits and knitting....and old movies of course.  Might even start reviewing them again if I can be bothered but at the moment I'm just too relaxed. *happy sigh*

The Badger and I had planned a jaunt abroad, and I am a little miffed that I'm still in bloody London, but we WERE going to go to Venice which would have been a mistake given the current flooding and, bonus upon bonus, with some of the money saved I have purchased the most extraordinary 1930s evening gown which I am just dying to show you.  It is currently on its way over from America-land.  Squee!

Anyway - back to to divine Ms Davis.  Bette is to me, along with Missy Stanwyck, one of Hollywood's finest.  More depth than either of the Hepburns, more fire than Garbo.  Sigh, I just adore her.

Today after getting in from an extremely achy and cold run around Hackney I decided to finally watch a recent download: "Stardust - the Bette Davis story" - a somewhat dated TCM documentary.  Golly, it was worth watching - lots of fabulous anecdotes and great visuals.  My title refers to Bette's own comment that her character in "Of Human Bondage" was really cinemas first "leading bitch rather than leading lady".  Oh, Bette could do bitchy, and they key to her bitches was a glorious combination of the melodramatic and the subtle.  This woman could express all emotion without moving a muscle or speaking a word.

We often celebrate modern actresses for their "bravery" when taking on a less than glamorous role - for example Charlize Theron in Monster or Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovitch.  It is seen as bold and is an almost certain way to get oneself critical acclaim if not an award.  But, as usual, Bette did this first.  She was, in her own words, not bothered about what she looked like "as long as I looked like the character."

For a lady with such a lot of poise and glamour - she had taken to heart her theatre training where she was told to always walk tall, always consider every movement - she was not afraid to "ugly up" for a good part.

Mildred in Of Human Bondage

Charlotte Vale in Now, Voyager

Queen Elizabeth I - obviously
As an old maid in... The Old Maid
As Baby Jane. 
If I have to tell you what film this is you can just unfollow my blog.  Ta.  ;-)

To even the balance I'm also going to post some glamour shots.  No, I don't mean boobs out, get your head out of the tabloid gutter people.  Tut tut.

Right, I'm off to go and set my hair and pluck my eyebrows even thinner in homage.

Happy Tuesday everyone.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Free vintage knitting pattern - chunky diagonal jacket

Hello - well here goes - my first time posting a free pattern.

It has been a long hard slog setting up the scanner, converting the pdf to jpg and then posting this so I bloody well hope it works.

If anyone can tell me how to do this is the most faff free way possible please do!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A somewhat pointless and slightly hungover ramble about tea

Yes, tea.

I am so English it hurts. 

This affliction is so severe that I refuse to make tea for others at work because I know then that they will offer to make me tea back and I will have to refuse or face drinking some sub par slop.

For me, a proper mug of tea is made thusly.  I won't go into the use of a teapot here - sadly my place of employment is just not civilised enough to provide such essentials.

Select a mug in a pale tone.  Nothing like a dark mug to make your beverage look insipid even when it isn't.  People who use black mugs for tea are mad at worst, misguided at best.

Boiling water should be poured onto the teabag.  Tea in first then the hot water - not the other way around - it ruins the delicious effect of the swirling water shifting the leaves about.  If using sugar add it here so it can evenly disperse.

Tea should be left to left to steep or "mash" for at least a minute, preferably two.

Bag firmly squeezed and then removed.

Then, and only then, when the bag is removed, can milk be added.  Add milk before the hot water and the liquid is not hot enough to steep the tea. People who do this get firmly tutted in the works kitchen.  I mean - it defies logic.

Sit down and then drink tea.  With reverence, and biscuits.  Ideally three custard creams.

Anyway.  Tea.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

sewers and knitters: catnip mouse time

Not sure if you have heard but there is a huge cat rehoming problem this year.  Being a cat lover I only wish I could give them all a home. Me and thousands of cats...bliss.

Reality bites though, so instead I'm asking for your help to make catnip mice for all the kitties we cannot house.

Please, if you can, spend a little time knitting or sewing mice, to these patterns or your own, and send them to me or your local cat shelter.  I'll be delivering them to the local rehoming shelter just before Christmas.

if you want to send to me, e-mail me at

please share.

Rationing: an update and an admission.

Right, no beating about the bush, I’ve quit the ration book plan, at least for now.

Why? Well, I recently changed my birth control (must persuade the man to get the snip – yes – you, I’m looking at you) and piled on 13 lbs in around a month. I am at my heaviest ever and not a little bit coping with it.

I have to get rid of it. None of my clothes fit and, as I’m sure you all know, it isn’t easy or cheap to replace a vintage wardrobe you have been collecting for several years.

So, I have instead moved to the 5:2 diet, as recommended on the BBC Horizon programme, Eat, Fast and Live Longer (August 2012).

Put simply, two days a week you eat a measly 500 calories a day (for women, 600 for men). The rest of the time you can pretty much eat what you like. Though of course gorging on fast food isn’t really a good idea.
The diets main benefits are said to be reduced risks of cancer and Parkinson’s disease, reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and, well, weight loss. I’ve generally been trying to lose a little weight for over a year, battles with my BC (formerly Depo now Mirena) have not helped and despite trying every calorie and exercise plan under the sun I’ve been gradually gaining. Now at last something is happening. I’m losing around 1lb a week, I feel a lot healthier and more energetic.

I’m not sure why it works. At the same weekly calorie deficit but spread across the week I was still gaining. Somehow this “shock to the system” method seems to work better for me.
It is surprisingly easy to manage. I can slot the fast days in at any point in the week. I usually do Mondays (super easy post weekend) and then either Wednesday or Thursday depending on social plannage. This means I can be on a diet, losing eight successfully, without having to worry about what to have on the menu or whether I can squeeze in a glass of wine.

500 calories doesn’t sound much but I have never been a breakfast fan, I’m barely sane before around noon and eating before then is tough. As such on fast days I have a couple of cups of tea until lunch, either a salad or soup for lunch, tea in the afternoon and a healthy dinner (fish / meat / veg). Getting through that day is easy as I know I can eat properly the day after.  I don’t feel tired due to constant calorie restriction so can even exercise on my fast days.

I just can't seem to mix this with the ration plan however, as, though food was scarce what was around was incredibly calorie dense.  Cakes, pies, stews. 

Anyway – enough of my diet evangelism. Just wanted to explain.

Will go back to rationing once I fit into my favourite dress again. 4lbs down, 10 to go!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

A woman's home is her castle...

...or in my case, more of a ruin.

Owning your own home is a mixed bag.  It provides a wonderful sense of permanance and security - something I've never really felt before, but also it is a cause of constant work.  In a previous post which I deleted, due to a combination of depression and bitchiness, I mentioned that I just can't get my home sorted out.  It's always a mess and even after four years here it still feels unfinished. 

I never seem to have the money or the time to devote to getting it looking the way I want.  I have too much stuff, but not enough of the things the place needs to feel the way I want it to.

I long for that organised clutter vintage look (not shabby chic, noooo, never shabby chic)

and instead I feel like I'm living in an episode of Hoarders

a glimpse into my future
I'm not quite this bad, yet.

So today I started operation clean up.  I've spent 4 hours going through the cupboards preparing throw away piles and charity shop piles and eBay piles, and putting all my summer dresses into storage.  I even sorted my yarn stash (must knit through this huge pile of yarn I've amassed) and sorted my bedlinen following this amazingly simple tip from the ever wonderful A Thrifty Mrs.

While I've gained about 30% extra wardrobe space my flat now looks messier than ever, with piles of stuff to sell, donate and throw littering the hallway. 

I still need to get rid of more.  It's so hard though, so very hard.  So far today I have considered selling but kept:
  • Several 50s outfits that aren't my style anymore but which I love.
  • My 30s tea set which takes up a whole cupboard.
  • The 30s picnic set that has china plates and is too heavy to carry even to the nearby park.

Anyway.  It is still progress, right?

I've also made a short list of things I need to help make my flat more homely.

Aside from painting the living room, a task I have been putting off forever, I want the following items:

I'm rather in love with this bathroom accessory set from Next - should help me keep my sink tidier though the cats would probably smash it in seconds:

£35 of elegance - but out of my price range right now.
And I really need lampshades for my living room, I'm thinking these.

Too granny?  Is there such a thing as too granny?
Or maybe these tiffany style shades for a little Edwardiana:

This knit throw should hide my tatty sofa:
£7.49!  I love sales.
Anyway, I can but dream as I have no money to spend, so back to the sorting and eBaying!

Happy trails everyone.