Monday, 21 March 2011

A Thank You

Like all people, I love a present that has been well-thought out and picked especially for you. But sometimes money really is the best option. Sometimes people really don't have a clue what you want, and sometimes they ask and you don't even know yourself. As much as it's great when people put the effort in - there's respect to be had for people admitting they just aren't going to get it right. Also, It's nice to get to pick your own presents sometimes; a gift of money is a gift of guilt free shopping.

I have always held the opinion that when somebody gives you money as a present it should go accounted for. Often I don't tell the giver where it ended up, but you should know for yourself so that you can appreciate it more. Money given to you can easily slip through every day life without being remembered, but this shouldn't happen to a gift. I'm not saying keep the cash aside, I always forget to take the note shopping with me, plus if you need cash and you have some you might as well use it. Just know in your mind that you have a present to spend - think of it differently than other money, it is a present. Use it for something special.

It may be that you want to spend it on something mundane to lighten the load - but let it be specific; a takeaway treat if you don't feel like cooking, a weeks shopping, a coffee with a friend, a months phone bill, a new kettle or toaster. Treasure it.

I was given some money from my grandparents at christmas, and I knew I wanted some more clothes and accessories, so I used it for some guilt free shopping. I have accounted for the exact amount they gave me with some recent purchases. This time I felt I would let them know where it went and show my gratitude for it. I believe my presents are quite pretty and so I made a nice picture out of them which formed the design of the thank you card.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Newcastle and The Baltic Gallery

I recently visited Newcastle for the first time. There are two particular things I liked about this city.

No.1 : Architecture

I'm told Newcastle is the city with the largest number of historic buildings in the UK. Just from walking through the centre you'd guess it's easily in the top 10. If you look up, along the top of all the shops in the main streets there is some truly stunning architecture. It gives the city an understated beauty and depth of character.





No. 2 : Baltic Art Gallery

I very much enjoyed my visit to the Baltic Art Gallery. It's an old flour mill building overlooking the river.


I like visiting Art Galleries. Either I like a piece of art, I cant decide whether I like it and spend a little time pondering over it, or I just don't like it/don't get it. I'm not someone who thinks all modern art is rubbish, yet if something is unappealing to me, I don't feel the need to try to convince myself that it's good. I think some people feel that if an artist's work has made it into a good gallery then it IS good, and if you don't feel this when you see it then you must convince yourself of it in order to be cultured. Art is to do with individual taste.

In the Baltic there was a film of a man dressed as a woman singing in a deep voice. I didn't get it, and I had no desire to make myself get it because it didn't engage me. However, I was interested in the main exhibition, the work of George Shaw. This is a collection of paintings of average or in some cases quite dodgy looking areas; mostly housing estates, alleyways and urban park areas. The subject areas are by no means picturesque, yet Shaw gives them a beauty in the way they are painted. The way that he paints light and texture is truly stunning, and his fine detailing is incredible. You find yourself asking; how is it possible to paint such small details? Is there even a brush or other implement small enough to use? I appreciated both the paintings and the obvious skill of the artist behind them, and I read the information provided because of this, because I liked it and I wanted to know more. I learnt that the places in the paintings are where the artist grew up and that the glossy sheen on his work is because he uses enamel paints, the kind used in model making.





If you are in the area, go and see it. You really can only appreciate it properly when you see the real thing up close.

The Baltic's gift shop is a work of art in it's own right, it's a cave of wonders for anyone with a love of pretty things. In there I made myself familiar with the work of an artist named Rob Ryan, whose work I had seen a few times before and enjoyed, but never really looked into it further. When I left the book shop I was in love with his work. He creates delicate paper cutting wonderlands threaded with poetic writings that tug at the heart strings.

You can buy books of his creations, mugs, bags, cards, he's created images for magazines and collaborated with Paul Smith. Is it any wonder they all want a piece of him?.....






To find out more about Rob Ryan visit his website: www.misterrob.co.uk

Baltic Mill Gallery: www.balticmill.com

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Potting my Pins

Here is a little idea I'd like to share with you.
I had a little tub of dressing pins, just the container that they came in - I love pretty little containers but I am also sensible with my money (probably because I've never really had a lot of it) and so if it did the job there was no need for a fancier alternative.

In "The Crafty Minx" book, a present from my friend Jenni, there are pictures of reels of thread in old jam jars which look lovely - this may have inspired my thinking. The "It'll do" pin box actually got quite frustrating because the lid kept coming off and pins were going everywhere (never a good thing). I needed something with a more secure lid and was considering adapting an old pill box I'd bought ages ago in a charity shop because i thought it was cute. Then I had breakfast with my boyfriend in a lovely little cafe in his village. We went for proper english breakfast items (I love the scrambled egg and bacon bagel they do) but they were all out on this occasion and so we had croissants with cups of tea instead. Every cloud....and in this case the silver lining was a delightful little Jam pot. Now I don't know why it is, but something pretty often seems to be even more exciting in miniature form. I loved the idea of giving a tiny jam pot instead of a plastic tub and thought it would be a shame for something with such potential to be thrown away - and so I took the pot home and washed it out. My pins moved home, and now not only do they look prettier, with a tightly screwed lid I can even carry them around in my bag. Better still, it cost me nothing.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Chest Enhancement

In my bedroom I have a wooden chest.

This chest serves two purposes. Firstly, it acts as a bedside table; housing a lamp, a photo of my long-distance boyfriend and myself at the beach and a little cuddly toy that he bought for me. Mugs of tea and coffee, pots of hand cream and reminder notes for the following morning also make regular appearances. Secondly, it provides storage for bedding and pyjamas.

This is all very well and good except for one crucial flaw - the contents can often have a musky smell which isn't very pleasant. And when you get into new bedding or a new pair of pyjamas, you want to feel clean, cosy and relaxed - not smell like you're sleeping in a damp shed.

The beautiful scented and patterned draw liners I had often looked at in Tk Maxx but thought to be an unnecessary cost, were now the perfect solution. I had a good look around and found some Knayton Hall French Silk fragranced, pretty patterned draw liners.

I can also reuse the box for wrapping gifts - I tested whether a bottle of wine would fit and it's the perfect width - with a space above the bottle for some jewellery or little chocolates.

Also, Tk Maxx had some lovely stickers that are just perfect for the scrapbook I intend to make with photos and bits and bobs I have collected over the four years of my relationship with my boyfriend, for just £3.


Pretty are'nt they?

Anyway, back to the wooden chest.
I first took out the dirty looking piece of card that was at the bottom, gave the chest a quick clean, and replaced with some clean brown paper that came with a recent parcel.



I arranged the pretty fragranced paper all around the box, and still had enough left to line 2 small drawers.
Et Voila!

Much Better :)

Friday, 4 March 2011

Fair Play

We are currently in the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight. I was discussing this with some friends last Monday and we were talking about how we always think it's great when we see that things are fairtrade but we rarely go looking for it when shopping. Starbucks coffee is now fairtrade, and Costa I thought would at least have the option if you asked like Starbucks used too. So when I had a meeting in Costa yesterday morning I intended to make sure I asked that my coffee was fairtrade. I forgot. But I remembered whilst in Costa and checked the board behind the counter - I was shocked to find it wasn't an option!

One problem is that Fairtrade coffee and tea can be very horrible. A friend once said to me 'Don't have the coffee here, it bad', to which I asked 'Is it one of those horrible big tubs of Nescafe orginal?' and he replied 'It's even worse, it's fairtrade'. So I would like to share the the coffee and tea I know to be good.....

COFFEE - Starbucks, obviously. For Instant coffee, I recommend Lidl's version.


I used to buy this all the time when I was at university. It tastes good and is only about £2 so it won't cost you any more than ordinary coffee.

TEA - Sainsburys.


Sainsburys Red label tea has a really nice flavour which I believe to be just as nice as leading brands and it's also very reasonably priced. I noticed for the first time when shopping yesterday that all of Sainsburys own range of tea is actually fairtrade.

FRUIT TEA - Clipper


I'm not a Fruit tea drinker, but my mum is a huge fan of the stuff. She has high praise for Clipper's wild berry tea, claiming it is just as nice, if not nicer, than the highly acclaimed 'teapigs' berry tea - and it's much more purse friendly too!

Another point made in our converstation was that the only thing you really think about buying fairtrade is tea, coffee and bannanas. What else is out there? My friend Kerstin likes to give her little girl dried mango and wondered if it was possible to get some that's fairtrade. One of the other girls, Lora, has since found some! In Co-op.

Kerstin also wondered what was available in terms of Fairtrade fashion. I knew I'd seen plenty of articles about fairtrade fashion but for some reason I could not think of any other than People Tree (and that was because of recent press about Emma Watson's new line). There are some fairtrade cotton t-shirts in Sainsburys and Tesco, but other than that, what was there???

I've been doing a little research this morning, and here are a few links.....

Traidcraft's shop had this pretty bag

One Boutique is cute

As mentioned, People Tree

And various designers, including Katherine Hamnett ones in her famous slogan style, have created t-shirts for The Environmental Justice Foundation Shop

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Could D&G be winning me over?

I am a sucker for fashion photography. Beautiful pictures catch my eye and draw me in. You often hear designers talk about the character they aim to create in thier designs, 'the chloe girl is...', 'the burberry girl is...' etc. The fashion ads capture this. I flick through magazines and some ads I think are garish or odd and others truly beautiful, and yes....if I would love to be living in that picture I am more inclined to check out the brand and become a fan of it....so it works. Most will never lead to a purchase as they are usually well above my budget, but it inspires the outfits I put together and the cheaper things that I do buy.

Dolce & Gabbana has in recent times been one of those brands whose ads make me cringe. Ads blaring out piled on metallics and tiger prints that are reminisant of market stall fakes which will look even more garish on people who aren't models. My all time worst, was this one......

Disgusting, isn't it?

But last week I purchased a pair of D&G jeans. Not at a D&G price of course; I found them in an Oxfam. But I have been looking for a new pair of jeans with a straight leg cut and these were just the ticket.

So I forgave them for the sickness they erupted in me on seeing the above ad. When I next flicked through a magazine, the D&G ad was a totally different story. A picture of spring sunshine and smiles.

The Spring/Summer 2011 ad campaign is just so...well happy.
And it reminds me of my current most-loved ad campaign; Martin Morrell's shoot for Miss Dior Cherie.
Heres my favourite.....


Truly Beautiful.
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