Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Cats in bags



There is a big problem in my house with making use of the floordrobe. Whilst this is never a good thing, it is an especially bad thing when you have cats depositing hair over anything that gets left on a horizontal surface. So I caved and got these laundry bags from Wilkinson's for a fiver each. They are absolutely brilliant - I can sort my washing into whites, colours and darks as I put it away rather than having to ferret through baskets of mucky clothes every time I put a wash on. It also lets you see really easily what washing is in greatest need of being done. From an aesthetic perspective I also like the fact that they match the colours in my bedroom. Simple things.





Even Tybbs likes climbing in them. Slightly less after he got his head stuck through the handle and tried to run around the house with a laundry bag attached. It's fair to say that we found it considerably funnier than he did.



While we're on the subject, here's a bonus cat in bag. You're welcome.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The wrong side of the weekend

I've had one of those weekends that seems to have zipped by where it seems like I've been really busy without really achieving all that much.

Saturday

I was quite proud of myself on Saturday for planning my time around the need to go to my nearest University library to abuse my SCONUL card privileges, and use my Groupon cinema voucher to go see Prometheus.

I love my local Uni library. It's also the University I did my first degree at, so I know it well. My current Uni is nearly three hours away and has a shite library collection anyway, spread completely indiscriminately across two equally unsuitable sites, so I usually prefer to stay at home. One of the perks of being a PhD student is that your topic is usually quite out of the way and, therefore, out of the way of the undergraduate hordes. I love visiting in a Saturday because the parking is free and I am usually the only loser there. Even better, almost all the books I need are stored at the arse end of the library in the second floor of the basement. It's dark and deserted and full of lovely 1960s embossed hardbacks with titles like 'Public Finance in Theory and Practice'. The only downside of being a SCONUL user is that I can only have six books out at a time, rather than the twelve I used to be able to take out as an undergraduate.



Then we climbed back in the car and attempted to drive to the cinema. I say 'attempted' because for the second time in two weeks I got completely lost in the University suburbs and ended up driving round in a big circle and getting increasingly hysterical about the poor signage and unorthodox roundabouts. I know the area well so I have no excuse really but I have sadly inherited my mother's nervous disposition when it comes to road navigation - virtually nothing makes me panic more than being stuck in a one way system where I can see the place I need to be and yet am barelling along at 30mph in the opposite direction.

Anyway, eventually we made it to see Prometheus, only three weeks after the rest of the world. My friends had fed back with disappointment so I wasn't expecting much, but I actually enjoyed it. I didn't much like Shaw's character, though. I'm a little frustrated that she seems to be the only character who will be followed through into sequels. I whiled away the rest of the evening pottering about and watching the football.

Sunday

We had a visitor in the form of my boyfriend's granddad. I slept really badly thanks to the cats turning into furry octopi in the night and I spent most of it being assailed by hundreds of pointy little elbows. Still, I managed to haul myself out of bed in time to hoover and tidy ahead of the visit. Then, because I was feeling super domestic, I baked some banana bread. The recipe is from my friend Jen (I don't think she blogs any more, but it's a really good recipe).



Then, we ordered Chinese as a treat and watched the football. I had spent all day counting down the hours until an auction ended (a wardrobe that had ballooned into a desperate want) which I finally won with a last second bid as extra time wrapped up. I couldn't really cope with all the excitement coming from all sides and was aware that my heart was going ten to the dozen! I paid about £30 more than I would ideally have liked to, but it was still less than buying a new equivalent, and in a model that I don't think IKEA make any more. It's huge and shiny and I hope will hang some of my beautiful vintage pieces with slightly more space!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Emergency shop my closet

So I've been a bit down in the dumps for the last few weeks after having an op. It was the first time I'd had a general anaesthetic and I didn't really know what to expect (beyond horror stories that people hide behind grim smiles - I suspect much the same is true of childbirth, that people don't tell you just how bad it is until you've done it, because they don't want to scare you). In actual fact it was totally fine. It felt a bit like being knocked out falling off a horse, which God knows I have done enough times. I woke up and felt really rather excellent, relieved and happy that I wasn't nauseous, or dead. The local also took a couple of days to wear off so I was quite literally feeling no pain. It wasn't until the next day that the fun started. Apparently, my reaction to anaesthesia is prolonged helpless weeping accompanying a crushing sense of depression. I was completely hysterical for about four days. I think the next time I do that I'll be checking myself into a hotel with a Father Ted DVD boxset.

Anyway, I'm fine now, but still having to accommodate a scar which is slightly limiting what I can wear. Jeans, my closest wardrobe ally, are out. The most comfortable item of clothing, I have discovered, is a jersey maxi skirt, but since I am not ordinarily much of a skirt wearer I have been resisting the temptation to shop. (OK...I bought one. But only one. It was on sale. Rather gallingly it is now on sale for even less than when I bought it - grr!).



Other than that, I have been in full on shop my closet mode. I have so far found:

1. Two A-line skirts I haven't worn since last summer.
2. A pair of ASOS jeggings I haven't worn since the summer before.
3. A pair of black trousers which I have worn for work but which are too big.
4. Another pair of work trousers (I don't wear work trousers very often - perk of being a PhD student) which are very definitely too big, even for my current loose-fit loving self.
5. Some mango legging jodhpur things, which are in an odd shade of tan/mustard and which are incompatible with all but one pair of pants without producing the worst VPL in the world.

I'm quite glad to have been able to dig all these things out and to push my boundaries in finding ways to wear them. It turns out that I can see the appeal of skirts. I still tend to default to trousers because I find them easier to throw on, but on a sunny day (not that we've had many) skirts are, indeed, pleasant. Still, I will be very glad when I can wear my jeans again, and it does make me think that I need to have a wardrobe cull to store away or sell the things that don't fit.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Fixing my cardy

I've had this cardigan for years. In fact, by this point, it's probably less cardy, more bodily comfort blanket. I wore it a lot when I was an undergraduate, when I was perpetually skint and had very few clothes. In fact, shockingly few now I look back on it and compare it with my now quite full wardrobe, but that's another story.

Anyway, I wore this so much that I put both elbows through sometime during my final year. My mum tried to sew them up, but the holes were so huge that they really needed patching, so I decided to pop some leather elbow patches over the tear.



Sewing them was a complete arse because the stitches are teeny tiny but I like the result, and I hope it will prolong the life a few years longer. The patches were only £2.50 off ebay (from this seller who was excellent) and they come in a range of colours so I am almost certainly going to repeat this trick with some of my other shabby jumpers.



Even Dinah loves it. Not that this is a good thing, since it's shedding season.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Summer sandals

Summer sandals


I'm in the market for some summer sandals - preferably black, preferably not cripplingly high, preferably perfect. I'm increasingly bad at making decisions of this nature because invariably the things I end up gravitating towards (like the nude Swedish Hasbeens, which also look incredible in silver - since when do I wear silver??) are not the things that fulfil the requirements I start out with (which were black, wedge, wooden). The fact that I can't try on the ones that are currently edging ahead (those and the Kork-Ease wedges) doesn't help either.

I'm sure there's something to be said for listening to gut on these occasions...or just hiding my wallet and waiting for inspiration to strike.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Acne Shank boots

Something I really enjoy doing is stroking documenting some of my more interesting wardrobe finds. I have absorbed an awful lot of my mother's shopping and collecting habits when it comes to clothes, and one of her 'rules' is to either buy cheap basics (such as my beloved £7.99 H&M cotton long sleeves) or save up for something perfect. Never go for something in between - expensive enough to require consideration, but not special enough to be timeless*. Whilst most of my recent purchases have fallen into the cheap category due to being pretty short on disposable income of late, I have saved up for the odd splurge.

These are my new babies: Acne 'Shank' boots from the AW 09/10 collection. I loved these for ages after trying to find the heeled equivalent of my beloved and knackered Doc Martens to wear under jeans in winter. But, whilst I had a google image, I couldn't find out what the name was to hunt down a pair.

So one afternoon I decided to google in earnest. After a bit of investigation, I was able to find the model name (the original Shank) and discover that there was an updated version in current production (the Shank Lea). Which, as it transpired, I didn't like, and couldn't afford anyway. So I inputted it as a saved ebay search (I already had various vague 'Acne boots') searches, but they mostly pulled up spot treatments) and vowed that if a pair ever came up in a 39, I would pounce, even if I had to sell a kidney.

At about 11.30 that night, as I was going to bed, I did a last internet check before switching my iphone off. And what should come up on my saved searches, in my size and for about a third of the retail price? I barely read the description before hitting 'Buy it Now'. Fortunately I had some spending money saved up so I could afford them without doing anything rash, and when they arrived they were in astonishingly perfect condition (I doubt they've been worn more than twice) and are a great fit. So hurray.



*As someone who has been called an economist (although it's not a label I use), I absolutely hate the casual throwing around of 'investment' purchases in fashion. 'Timeless' is probably the closest synonym I could come up with.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Bags. Bags bags bags.

Whilst I do like clothes (cue snorts of derision from my nearest and dearest) I have to confess that bags and shoes really hold my heart. They have a veneer of functionality. They allow me to indulge my tactile obsession with leather. They never make me feel fat. And in the case of bags, they hold all the reams of other things I manage to accumulate.

I don't tend to buy bags very often because a) I have enough already and limited space and b) I am enormously fussy. Indeed, I have a few of the 'I like it, but...' variety that I have mentally earmarked for the charity shop in future years, once I have found the perfect replacements.



I always drool a little at the workmanship on French English confectioners bags. I dearly wish I'd bought one of these amazing backpacks when I started my PhD, since I think it might have spared me quite a few back injuries on the long commute it takes me to get into my department. Now that I'm beginning to look forward to new jobs and opportunities the moment may have been lost (if all goes to plan, I am dearly hoping for a much shorter commute), not to mention that I can't afford one. But I would love to add one of these beauties to my collection in future. (Here it is on a person, if you need any more convincing).


This, by Garvan de Bruir, is beautiful. I love the unusual styling, the sturdy leather, and the unconventional practicality of it. Not to mention that even the smaller sizes would allow me to accommodate my beloved beast of a 17" laptop. It is also somewhat hilariously out of my price range but I can dream!


For now, I have ordered one of these:
With a handle and engraving. I've been coveting the 13" for ages for my holiday in July since holidays appear to be the only time that I can pare down my everyday crap, and this size fits an iPad perfectly and will dissuade me from also carting around 15 different lipsticks and the kitchen sink.  The customer service has been superb thus far. I hope the bag is as good!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Storage porn, part the first

I'm not even going to make excuses for poor blogging activity. I'll pretend this is some kind of quarterly magazine (readership: me) to assuage my writing guilt. Anyway, I am, as anyone who knows me will know, obsessed with storage and organising. Whilst my base level of activity in this area is probably alarmingly high, I've recently been on a bit of an putting things away binge brought about by the feeling that I was drowning in STUFF. And so after finally seeing Glasgow blogger E's shoe shelf  (which had already achieved a degree of near infamy as I know her other half and had assumed from his griping about history books that the thing was about twenty foot tall) I felt I might as well post a picture of mine in solidarity.




This is my heels and fancy shoe shelf. I wear about two thirds of them regularly. The rest fill up with dust and make me feel a bit guilty (but they do look pretty, which somehow makes everything all right). The two boxes at the end are my most super special shoes (a pair of Acne pumps and some Alice in Wonderland special edition ruby slippers my mum got me) and they live in their boxes since they are saved for special occasions where I don't have to walk very far or drink very much.



Boots live underneath, next to my basket full of crap. I hate hate hate resorting to the 'floordrobe' so in an effort to retain some sense of civility I bung everything I might want to wear again into a basket instead. This isn't every pair of boots - my Doc Martens live downstairs and once again my favourite pair ever (LAMB, 21st birthday present) stay in their box under the bed. I should have my own museum.



This is a great little shoe rack from IKEA where my flats live. My boyfriend swore a lot while trying to affix it to the wall so I know it's there to stay. It's a great little unit actually. On top I have artfully arranged some shoes in colours that match the room's decor in an effort to pretend they are decorative since I loathe spending money on actual decorative objects (I also have blue children's books on the fireplace and some casually arranged statistics books on top of a trunk).

Just to prove my insanity I did seriously consider photoshopping out the grubby paw marks by the water bowl. Note: not actually cleaning them. In my defence I currently can't reach the floor in order to do so even if I wanted to. Also in my defence les chats are filthy little buggers and would just muck it up again within ten minutes.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Lit Cosmetics review and swatches, part the first.

Dare I say it, I've been stuck in an eye makeup rut. I fell out of love with MAC pigments a long time ago when they shafted their customers changed the jars (although my train case full of them perhaps belies that statement), and in any case, all the colours I really loved weren't eye safe, which frankly sucked. On a day-to-day basis my work makeup is pretty dull. I usually rely on lipstick to jazz things up. But there has been a bit of a creativity void where beautiful, colourful eyeshadow once was, and I miss it.

So I was very excited to discover a company called Lit Cometics. They make eye-safe glitters in a huge number of shades, four different sizes, and when coupled with their liquid glitter base your glitter will stay put all night. Needless to say I was sold. I hung about, wanting to order but trying to justify it, and then heard (via their facebook page) that they were making some very generous Black Friday offers (which also happens to fall right before my birthday, meaning unusually I had spare reddies). So I jumped right in!

The ordering process

I found the website a little confusing at first, but this is mostly just because it's a bit different from the standard cartel cut and paste shop website. It's actually really intuitive: you flick through their catalogue, select things that look interesting, and click to add to the cart (which is displayed at all times under the catalogue). Something I really like is that products stay in your cart via cookies for the next time you visit; this means I can compile a wishlist, leave it, and know it will still be there when I come back.

Once I decided what I wanted, I managed to check out with no issues, and left Jodie Perks, the owner, a little note thanking her for the sale and for supplying me with a birthday gift-to-self. In the end I decided to just order glitter, rather than a bottle of the liquid base, because I was trying to be frugal and I wasn't sure if I'd really need a whole bottle of it when it would probably work OK with pixie epoxy or similar. I got an email a couple of hours later letting me know when the parcel would be shipped (30th November).





On December 6th - my birthday! - the parcel arrived. A week from Canada is good going! The first thing I noticed is that she had undercharged me for shipping, which was really sweet, although I did wonder how glitter managed to weigh so much. I soon found out: she'd put in a mini sample kit of the liquid base, a glitter puff, and some brushes - and the liquid base comes in (heavy!) glass jars. I was so touched. Also included was a long handwritten happy birthday note with some great tips for using the glitter, and a pink glitter I hadn't ordered. How's that for amazing customer service? I honestly can't think of another company I've used that have impressed me so much - Illamasqua come seriously close, but this was above and beyond. 10/10. Awesome.

The product

If you order them separately, the glitter comes in little screw top jars encased in clear plastic boxes. You can if you wish remove the lids and screw them together, since the base of each jar acts as a 'lid' (I believe the stack kits come - well, pre-stacked). I can tell you they're well packaged, because I broke a nail trying to open it! The packaging is really appropriate for the brand - it's fun, but expensive and classic. They feel really nice to hold and certainly push my aesthetic buttons.




You get a decent amount in a jar and don't have to use very much each time. The application method is to dip the brush in the base, smush any excess off against the side of the jar, then stick one side of it in the glitter. Being an idiot and a klutz I was worried I would make a mess of the application, but it was dead easy to do. The liquid doesn't come off IN the glitter, which is something I had worried about, and it's not difficult to get an even application. It dries down to an even finish and lasts. Hurray!

The colours


I ordered Beach Baby, Soul Sister, Hulk, Rich and Famous, Seeing Stars, and Siberian. Jodie kindly included Pretty in Pink as a bonus. I strongly recommend clicking to embiggen; glitter looks amazing in close up and one of my smarter moves was blowing quite a lot of money on a macro lens, which now has a happy and fulfilled life taking pictures of makeup and nails. Arm swatches are below, with the colours listed L-R.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Information overload

Something I am very interested in as a social scientist (even if it does't directly touch on the kind of things I write about on a day-to-day basis) is the concept of heuristics and biases. In effect, these are the things we use to make decisions without thinking - rules of thumb and innate leanings that we develop both as individuals and as a species. They don't always serve us very well, as when we cease worrying about earthquakes because there hasn't been one for ages (geologically speaking, the riskiest time) or when we start devising stereotypes and discarding any information we gather than doesn't fit what we expect to see (which is a big problem when you start considering how that impacts our perception of individuals we do't know very well).

Associated with this is the fact that we tend to default to snap, intuitive judgments when we don't have much time, or there is no obvious need to devote brainpower to a problem. Dan Gardner calls this 'Gut' vs 'Head'. Gut is a caveman, Head is a lazy teenager, and they're both fighting for control of the wheel. Whilst I think the book doesn't exactly break the mould - if you've read any social science, none of what Gardner says will be new - he does communicate the principles of evolutionary psychology and probabilistic judgment in a witty and engaging way, and I liked the analogies he uses to explain often quite inaccessible concepts. So, I will borrow the Gut/Head analogy, because it's a nice way of explaining the issue that has led me to write this post: when I buy shoes, Gut and Head have a falling out.


Gut was in charge when I bought these

No, really. More than any other item of clothing, shoes leave me painfully divided over whether to go for love or the practical option. With clothes, beautiful fabrics can seduce me into choosing something that it both beautiful and sensible, since half the joy of wearing clothes is the sensation of having something that feels amazing next to your skin. But there is no such pay off with shoes. Inevitably the shoes I love are not the ones that will do my feet any good at all. Hence, my Gut will pick a pair of shoes, and my Head will say 'no'.
Head: That's £88's worth of 'no, you're not having them'

So where does this leave me? Totally paralysed, usually. On the one hand, I am able to very quickly select shoes I love. (I mean...who isn't?). But when Head gets involved trying to select shoes I need, I usually end up confused and upset, flicking through 3,000 pairs of semi-identical black flats on Shopstyle, and so fed up that I no longer want to leave the house ever again.

This is another example of our dysfunctional brains, by the way. Rationally, you would expect that the more information we have, the better able we would be to make good decisions - because you could sum up which information corroborates others, and therefore which has the most weight. But we can't. Once we get past a critical mass of information, we freeze up, and can no longer prioritise which is most important (as Malcom Gladwell, the author of Blink, explains). And once I've put 'black flat knee boots' into google, it isn't very long before I'm reduced to a sobbing wreck, pummelled by information I don't want or care about.

Google helps us sift through information, but it also gives us access to a huge quantity of it. And it's virtually impossible to make meaningful decisions about the range of options now available to us. One shoe shop is manageable, but an entire globe's worth isn't. Which is why, without Gut (who has a penchant for 6" block heels in bright colours) to guide me, I can't pick shoes I will actually wear to save my life.

Perhaps I should just go with Gut and buy the blue snake print heels.