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Thursday, 10 July 2014

Strawberry Dress: Harrogate Vintage Fair

vintage dress outfit
vintage 50s dress with straw hat outfit
Straw Hat: Old
Strawberry Print Dress: Miss Maude Makes (formerly From Vintage to Vogue)
Bag: F&F
Flats: Primark (old)
The other weekend, Ben and I made the short trip over to Harrogate to go to the Vintage Fair that was taking place at the Old Swan Hotel where my work Christmas party had taken place, so we were less likely to get lost, yay! Since I was going to a vintage fair, I decided that of course I needed to wear something vintage. In general I love vintage styled clothes, but don't own a lot of actual vintage clothes themselves - they're fairly difficult to work with my body shape (aside from 50s dress which are practically designed for me, but are usually very expensive!). So I decided to go with the strawberry print dress that I'd actually bought at a vintage fair in York last summer (and wore here), and I'm glad I did! It was a much warmer day than we were expecting and I got endless compliments on the dress.
The stall I'd bought it from was at the time called From Vintage to Vogue because the lady who ran it makes dresses from vintage patterns but with modern materials. It's now called Miss Maude Makes and seems to be just as popular as it was when I saw it last year. It actually had a lot of people fooled because they said they were sure it was vintage and couldn't believe how well it fitted me - they thought I'd had a vintage dress altered to fit my proportions, but weirdly it's not vintage or altered! I'm not so great with accessories, as I always forget to wear them aside from my usual necklace and rings, one plain silver one from Ben, one silver Disney one with the quote "And at last I see the light" from Disney's Tangled from my friends. I'm not a big fan of over the top jewellery as you can probably tell, but I have been tempted to get something dainty but good quality like the Pandora silver rings that you can stack up, although I think that's a birthday present I'll have to wait for! Has anyone got any of these though? I know a lot of people have the Pandora bracelets, but I've never been big on those, but I'd love to know how the rings stack up (great pun there, I know!). But I did manage to remember to accessorize with a hat in this outfit, although that was more of a case of keeping the sun out of my eyes than anything else, and actually I ended up handing it to a begrudging Ben while I wandered the stalls - oops!
outfit with strawberry dress
harrogate vintage fair outfit
I did spot a lot of lovely things at the fair even though it wasn't very big, including a couple of 50s swimsuits that weren't made of that swimsuit material - they were more like playsuits, and I really wanted one, but none were in my size. I also picked up a couple of very cheap gypsy style tops but put them back down as well as some high waisted shorts and a gorgeous 50s full skirted dress that was way to expensive for me to afford.
I'd headed to the fair looking for a couple of things in particular: pin up style clothes, particularly repro ones (like this dress or by an actual repro brand), and some seamed stockings. I'd been following the fair's Facebook page where they mentioned that they would have a retailer called Burlesque Nylons by YLJ selling seamed stockings made with proper nylon on a proper vintage machine, so they were as authentic as could be. I ended up buying a pair of the nylons with seams as well as a suspender belt with 4 thick straps (rather than the 2 flimsy ones you get on fashion ones nowadays). It took me forever to choose just one, and typically I didn't have any cash so ended up having to put my items on hold, run up into town (with a McFlurry on the way - first time I'd been to McDonalds in literally 5 years!), and grab some cash to be able to buy them.
And back to now again, I'm still suffering with my sprained ankles at the moment and am not allowed to drive, which means I've had to work at home a lot recently - sounds fun but is actually really boring. Aside from when the cats decide to bring mice in which I have to hobble over and dispose of, thanks cats! We're also looking after Charley's tortoise too at the moment while she's been on holiday, so during the day I'm resting with my feet up (and my new Mac for working eee!) while he scrabbles around in his tortoise table on the other side of the room - very strange working at home set up, but there you go. 
strawberry print dress
vintage dress with straw hat

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Festival Fashion

Denim pencil skirt outfit with crop top
Festival outfit with denim pencil skirt and kimono
Festival outfit with white sandals
Floral Crown: Primark
A very New Look outfit today, and for a reason! I was asked to put together an outfit to match up with New Look's festival fashion range, including their Festival Fashion timeline. As you probably know, I'm not a big one for festivals - the muddiness and crowds tend to be a bit too stressful for me, and that's not even mentioning my aversion to particularly loud music - I'm such an old woman! But I'm not one to turn down a fashion challenge, especially one which includes festival attire, something I am a big fan of (even if the outfits you often see put together in magazines aren't exactly festival appropriate!).
So, I tried to put together my outfit based on the timeline New Look had provided for me. I knew I wanted a kimono in it, and when I saw the heeled sandals they had in, I knew I had to choose those too. So all I needed to complete the outfit was, well, some actual clothes I suppose. I wanted to make sure they wouldn't be things I'd just wear for these photos then never wear again, so it needed to be something not to "out there" and nothing too short, as I'm not a fan nowadays. I decided floaty dress wouldn't work with the kimono, and I couldn't find anything lacey or crochet-y that would work, so I decided to go with this. So, what eras have I taken inspiration from for the outfit? The floral crown and floaty kimono are apparently part of the Bohemian trend popular in 1969 and Woodstock; this was the original plan, to go all out Bohemian, but I ended up changing half way through! The skirt screams of 90s festival fashion, 1992 at Reading according to the timeline, with its acid wash; and the neon necklace is modern "Neon Boho" apparently. Then the crop top is pretty modern I'd say, and the sandals, "Tropical Beach" maybe? To be honest, I just liked them and wanted them too! The crop top is actually from the teens range, because I noticed it was longer than all the grown up versions, and fits like a size 10, so is actually pretty perfect for me!
Festival outfit, pink kimono
White sandals
So, you might notice that I'm not wearing the shoes... and for a good reason! As I've spoken about recently, I've started running recently, and now had to stop. Somehow I've managed to sprain both of my ankes (yes, both!) while running. I did notice some pain in my last run, but then my feet went numb, so I thought "Ah well, the pain isn't there at least!" and kept going. Yeh, pretty silly, I know. I have to run on a fairly uneven field surface, so I have had a couple of twists and tumbles on the furrowed ground, but thought nothing of it, but I think I managed to do that while my feet were numb and didn't realise. It wasn't until later in the evening that the pain set in, and now I'm kind of having problems walking, and moving, and just generally doing anything. It's very odd because the pain feels like a bruise from the outside, but is above the ankle bone on the outside, and I'm unable to rotate my ankles at all. I've spoken to my doctor and apparently it sounds like a classic sprain, most likely a high ankle sprain, which explains why it's above the ankle bone. So, I took the tubigrip bandages off for the photos, but there was no way I was putting the shoes on. I pretty much just kept my feet in place too before hobbling back into the house to put my feet back up again - the things I do for this blog! If they're not feeling any better soon, I'm going to have to go in to see someone properly about them because it's really frustrating now, and very sore!
I also had to have a blood test on Friday, so it wasn't my best day ever! If you've been around here a while, you'll know my veins and I don't get along too well. At hearing there's a needle in the vicinity, they will immediately retreat deep into my flesh and not come out, to the extent that when I had my gallbladder removed it took 16 attempts with a needle, and finally one of them hitting the ligament in my wrist and damaging a nerve, so they just knocked me out with gas. So I now immediately warn any blood-takers as I enter the room and spend the time before ensuring that my hands and arms are as warm as possibly can be to at least have a chance of finding a vein somewhere in there. And of course, this time was no different! It took the normal nurse, the practice's senior nurse and a doctor, called out of his appointment, to finally get some blood out of me. I'm used to it being a hassle now, so I'm prepared, but it still doesn't stop me feeling a little bit worried that they might just hit another nerve *ouch*! Luckily, it wasn't too bad and they did get the blood out eventually. The good thing seems to be though that the veins are so far below the surface that I don't tend to bruise easily at all, so all the stabbing doesn't leave me with bruises at least!
Anyway, that's about it for now! Another "Sian week" to be honest; these happen frequently! We're also tortoise-sitting for Charley at the moment, which is fun, but we have to make sure the cats are away from him and not trying to eat him (not sure this could happen, but you never know). It's been the Tour de Yorkshire around here recently, so lots of excitement, but we haven't actually seen a lot of traffic! It did go through Ripon where I work, but it was yesterday, so I didn't have to battle any traffic luckily. Today it went through York and near where Ben works too, so that was also exciting.
Outfit with kimono and crop top
Floral festival outfit

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Book Reviews: June 2014

june books
Just a few books to report on this month - I did get "stuck" on one for a while, so it took me longer than usual to read, which was annoying because I'd got up to date on my Goodreads reading challenge and that got me behind again! I have been fairly busy too with starting running and getting into sewing my circle skirts too this month, so haven't sat down and read very much, usually only the occasional lunch break at work and half an hour in bed. Again, linking to the books this month because apparently that was useful last week, and on with the reviews.

Daddy's Little Princess by Cathy Glass - 8/10 (Kindle version
I tend to read Cathy Glass books as quickly as I can whenever I've found she's published another, hence the fact that I have in the past reviewed six of them on the blog (reviews: Another Forgotten Child, My Dad's a Policeman, Will You Love Me, and Please Don't Take My Baby, A Baby's Cry and I Miss Mummy). Though the subject matter can be difficult to deal with, they're very quick reads for me. This one follows Cathy when she has only just begun fostering and has two young children herself. It isn't as harsh as other books, as Beth, aged 7, comes from a home where her daddy, who loves her very much according to the girl's reports, is staying in hospital recovering from a mental breakdown. It explores the concept of "emotional incest", which isn't necessarily harmful for the child at the time, but can have a huge impact on their future relationships if continued. It was very interesting to read as it explains another method of abuse that isn't frequently talked about. The book also sees Cathy's marriage breaking down too alongside the main storyline. If you like books about fostering or Cathy Glass' other novels, you'll definitely like this one too, and I would recommend it.

The Last Human by Ink Pieper - 6.5/10 (Kindle version) (reviewed via NetGalley)
Okay, yes, it's pretty clear from the title that this is another dystopian future - I know! Also another one that sees the world decimated by a virus concocted by human hands, but this time on a larger scale as it is used been different nations' warfare. It doesn't focus much on the virus itself, but rather the impact on a smaller scale on a group of young people, watching the world through the eyes of Clay who is taken from his home and held in one of the worst facilities where he is tested, beaten and battered, kept in a tiny dark cell. There is, of course, a girl involved who he escapes with, but here is where it changes slightly from other dystopian novels, in that there doesn't appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel throughout pretty much all of the book. There is a pretty big twist too towards the end which actually really confused me, but was very interesting indeed. I did enjoy reading it, but often found the story could be a little bit strange and confusing - it did bring across the atmosphere of a dying world very well though, and I suppose it makes sense as the characters struggle through a world they no longer understand.

The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon - 5.5/10 (Kindle version)
I picked this a while ago off Amazon because it mentioned that it was about the world of Ancient Greece and Aristotle's daughter, which sounds just about right for me, plus it was one of the Kindle deals. The book opens with a "cast" of characters; people have commented that some of the names are confusing and to be honest, even with my pretty extensive knowledge of Ancient Greece (I did do a degree in it!), some of the names were weird, a couple were similar and I ended up mixing them up occasionally. Pythias, the main character, truly is her father, Aristotle's, daughter, spending her younger years outdoing his friends at dinner parties and helping him dissect creatures for his studies. She certainly doesn't conform to the standards that women in Ancient Greece should uphold. Then, banished from Athens, the family, including her father's mistress, her younger brother and a layabout cousin, flee to a small town, where her father soon falls ill and passes away. The family is split, and Pythias has to learn to live without the protection that having a father brings, and she flits between places including the family home where the servants run amok, a temple to a goddess, the chambers of a strange house owned by a woman with three "daughters" and the care of a midwife. It was definitely interesting to read about Ancient Greece from this point of view, and see what life might have been like for a woman of her standing, but I found the story to be convoluted and have no clear purpose at times. I often couldn't figure out where things were going, but I suppose it was probably more realistic than other novels as it followed a more daily kind of life.

The Nightmare Place by Steve Mosby - 7.5/10 (Kindle version) (reviewed via NetGalley)
This was a pretty good crime mystery novel that had me thinking a bit, scared in parts, and shocked at others. It follows two main characters: DI Zoe Nolan, the lead police investigator on a case of women being beaten, raped and finally murdered by the "Creeper" who has a troubled past which is introduced to us in the prologue, and Jane Webster, a volunteer at a "listening" helpline, who receives a call from a man claiming that he is carrying out the crimes. The opening chapter (after the prologue) was pretty fantastic, I have to say - read it to see why, but I loved it. The story definitely kept me interested, unveiling clues here and there as to who the Creeper is and why he's doing this, although there were also other parts that I found to be a bit random to be honest - there were parts inserted into the novel that were unconnected until the end, but of course this made it quite clear due to the fact that they had nothing to do with what was going on at the time that the characters in these parts would be important later, so was a little obvious in those aspects. I did find the characterisation of Zoe excellent, with parts of her history slowly coming out through the book to connect her then with her now, and to explain the way she acts and treats other, particularly in the relationship with an old policeman friend who she cares for. I would recommend it, but certain bits could have been put together a bit more slyly so as not to give anything away too early.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Gingham Circle Skirt

gingham circle skirt
outfit with gingham circle skirt
circle skirt outfit
Gingham Circle Skirt: Handmade by me
Heeled Sandals: c/o New Look (several colours available)
I think you probably won't be surprised by this post, considering I've been alluding (or just shouting about!) my new circle skirt making talent (not that great of a talent, but it's still something!) for my last few posts, and you saw a sneak peek of one here. And finally, I'm here with an outfit post of my first one, and actually my favourite so far. This was my first attempt at making a circle skirt, which is actually a much easier process than I thought, but it also included adding a zip which I hadn't yet attempted (spoiler: it wasn't as bad as I thought at all). The sizing is slightly off, being a tiny bit big in the top of the waistband because I overmeasured my waist measurement, but I sorted that out in my next attempt by bringing in the top of the waistband around the zip, so that one fits perfectly, but I still prefer this one anyway!
The fabric came from an old friend of my mum's who has recently moved into a home. When clearing out her house for her, they came across a small stash of fabric, some of which has been partially used, and some never used. It could be decades old, so I'm calling it my "vintage fabric stash" even though I'm technically not sure how old it is. The handwritten price labels and super cheap prices for large pieces of fabric do suggest that's it's pretty old though! This gingham was absolutely perfect for this project though and worked really well considering gingham is apparently right on trend at the moment, although I've always been partial to a bit of gingham, even insisting on my parents buying me a gingham school dress when I was little despite my school not having gingham school uniform!
outfit with white top & gingham skirt
yellow gingham
outfit with circle skirt
I apologise for the massive amounts of creasing on the skirt - I wore this to go to my parents' last weekend for a BBQ with my baby cousins, and the first thing my mum said was: "Couldn't you have ironed it?" Well, actually I did iron it as soon as it was finished right before putting it in, but then I sat around in it for a while before getting into the car to travel to my parents' house, so I'm sorry, but it got creased - these things happen! I persuaded Ben to stop along the way somewhere so we could get some photos of the outfit.
I've been wearing these off the shoulder tops from ASOS almost exclusively recently - I ended up buying another white version since we don't often put on a white wash (with there just being two of us and the fact that I shouldn't wear white too frequently...I'm a bit clumsy that way), and I also have a black one. The shoes are new but definitely a new summer staple. They're part of an upcoming collaboration with New Look, but I just had to wear them a couple of times before getting the post up. They're perfect because they're really summery, go with pretty much anything and have a nice heel height that's good for work, although they do make my toes a bit chilly, but I guess that's to be expected with sandals! In the same order that I got these, I also bought Ben some chinos, but he didn't like them, so I'm being a bit cheeky - I sent those back for a refund, and I'm planning to use that money to buy another pair of these sandals in pastel blue rather than getting Ben a different pair of chinos!
And back to the skirt...again. I have big plans now! As I said, I've already made another out of some heart print fabric which fits better but is very slightly shorter. I also spent the end of last week making a couple of teeny tiny circle skirts for my cousins with elasticated waistbands rather than zips, which was another new thing to learn. Mollie's is in a red polka dot fabric (just like Minnie Mouse she says!) and Eva's is the same yellow gingham as mine. I presented them to them at Eva's first birthday this weekend and forced them to try them on - luckily they fitted perfectly! Mollie then insisted on wearing hers underneath her dress for the rest of the evening, so I was pretty pleased with myself! I'm also hoping to try out making a longer version too, but that means making it in two halves that need to be sewed together as the width of the fabric dictates the maximum length, which is what I have been making. And finally, I'll have a tutorial up in the next week or so to show you how I put it together so you can try it out too :) I'm also planning on making a few for my friends to practise my skills a bit more, then hopefully I may be starting up something to sell them - let me know if you'd be interested in buying one at some point in the future!
handmade circle skirt
white sandals & circle skirt
diy circle skirt

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Aldi GPS Watch Review

Aldi GPS Watch with heart rate monitor
Something a bit different today: a review of the Aldi GPS Watch! So Ben and I went out shopping this morning, and since starting running a few weeks ago, I've been wanting to step away from the Endomondo App and up to something more functional and reliable. I'd had my eye on the pink Garmin Forerunner 10 (mostly because I know Charlotte has one, and I'm basically following her lead with running), but I'd been holding off buying one. So when we went into Aldi this morning and spotted their GPS Unisex Watch on their special buys section for £64.99 as part of the Tour de France range, as opposed to the £72 for the Garmin 10, Ben said I should just go for it. After a quick scan of the box, I realised it did exactly what I wanted it to do, and a bit more: it has GPS, a heart rate monitor with chest strap, a compass and probably a lot of other things I haven't figured out yet.
Aldi GPS watch manual
So as soon as I got in the car, I opened the box to take a look - it came with a nice quick start guide as well as a thick instructions booklet, which is what I like to see really! It also has a 3 year warranty, and is rain and splash-proof, but can't be submerged in water (although to be honest, when will I be out in the rain?!).
Aldi GPS Watch HR monitor
Aldi GPS Watch
I'm only onto Week 3 Day 2 of the Couch to 5K, although I'd done an extra 2 minutes running on my day 1, so today was supposed to be my rest day, but I just had to give the watch a try. I was surprised at how similar it looks superficially to the Garmin Forerunner 10, but then again, that's what these stores do! It seems to have more similar functions to the more expensive Garmin Forerunner 110 though with the heart rate monitor too, although that one doesn't come in pink (which appears to be my running gear colour scheme - accidentally, I swear!). The watch is fastened by a series of rectangular holes along the strap and held in place by a band that can be moved up and down the length of the strap depending on where you need it (again, similar to the Garmin watches I believe). I found it held in place very well and was comfortable to wear. It has five buttons around the face: "Light", "Mode", "Start/Stop", "View" and "Lap/Reset".
The "Home Screen", as you can see in the pictures above displays the day, time and date as set by GPS, so it should be very accurate. Pressing "Light" with "View" will put the watch into Lock mode so you don't accidentally press any buttons while running. Pressing the "View" button will show you the battery life, followed by a timer, an alarm, and dual time (an hour ahead), see below:
Aldi GPS Watch
You can also programme it with your gender, age and weight so that it can calculate the calories that you burn more accurately. Holding down the "Mode" button will allow you to change any of these settings, including "Workout" to choose from running, cycling, hiking, sailing and "user" (which I imagine means user-set?!). In this menu, you can also change settings such as "Navigation", switch the GPS and Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) on and off.
Aldi GPS Watch HR monitor
Aldi GPS watch HRM chest strap
Aldi GPS watch chest strap
Aldi GPS Watch with Heart Rate monitor
This is one thing I was quite intrigued by: the Heart Rate Monitor and chest strap. I have a tachycardia anyway, which means I have a pretty exceptionally high heart rate (don't worry, I'm going to the doctor to check up on this with running next week!) - my resting heart rate is between 100-130 on average (when it should be between 60 and 80 apparently). So I wanted to see how I was doing with the running and my heart rate, so thought this would be great.
I got my running gear on, then strapped myself into the chest strap. It has two clips (see above) on either side of the monitoring part, and has an elastic back strap which can be adjusted by a slider (see above). I have a narrow ribcage, so may need to do some sewing adjustments on the strap as I had it on the tightest and felt it moving a bit while I was running. The wavy panels on the second section sit at the front of the strap, and these need to be dampened and placed on the skin underneath the breasts (on me anyway!). I just managed to get it positioned under the band of my sports bra and ended up securing it place a bit better by placing the very bottom of my bra's band of the strap. I expected it to feel weird and uncomfortable while running, but it didn't at all. It's important it's touching the skin though or else it won't work. It connects wirelessly with the watch then to send the HR data over.

So, as it was W3D2 of the C25K, I was running 90 seconds, walking 90 seconds, running 3 mins, walking 3 mins, and repeat. I also added in an extra 2 minute run, 5 minute walk at the end. I kept checking the watch throughout, and found this much easier than pulling my phone out the sports bra (sshh, I need an arm strap!). Several times I was alarmed by my heart rate (oops), but it was nice to see how long I had left of each running/walking session and how far I was already. I set it searching for the satellites a few minutes before starting, so as soon as I stepped out the door and started the warm up, it was ready to go with the press of the "Start/Stop" button.
Aldi GPS Watch
Aldi GPS Watch
Aldi GPS Watch
The above is the screen displayed while running, showing your distance, HR, percentage of max HR (I think?) and time. Pressing "View" will then show you the "Lap" screen with an average time for a mile and overall time. Pressing again shows elevation, the present time and calories burnt. Pressing "Mode" also shows you the compass (not pictured) with a direction of travel and degrees.
Aldi GPS
The device uses the GPS Master software which can be downloaded from a website using the code provided in your booklet. It records all the information you'll need including map of where you've run, elevation, time, distance, speeds, heart rate etc. The chart at the bottom can be changed to dispay any/all of these, but this is what I had mine set to (again, please ignore the crazy HR).
So overall, I've only used this once, but found it's been really useful and does exactly what I need. I can't directly compare the functions to the Garmin Forerunner since I haven't used it, but looks-wise it is very similar and does similar things. I think the programme used to record the data could be brought a bit more up to do aesthetics-wise, but it does everything I currently need. For the price of £64.99, I think I've done pretty well here. As I said, it's available on Aldi's special buy for today, and seemed to be selling very well.
Does anyone else run and use a GPS watch to track it? How do they compare to this one?

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