Out At Sea: A Coastal-Inspired Summer Look

There are two things I love in life (other than Norman, my long-suffering plant buddy) and they are both patterns – tartan, and stripes. I live in tartan through winter, and most staples in my wardrobe do share a theme. Stripes are catching up though – and is it no wonder when Collectif bring out beauties like their lovely gathered Jasmine skirts in a vertical navy and white stripe?! From the very second I saw this skirt, I knew I needed it. I hope you agree that the purchase was entirely justified – it’s beautiful!

standing in front of mural with sun hat wearing collectif skirt

The weather was forecast to be sunny and somewhere between 25 and 27 degrees, so I actually started with my silly oversized sun hat, and thought I’d build an outfit around it. I felt as though it was sending me beachy coastal vibes, so I naturally reached for my striped Jasmine skirt, and dressed entirely in navy and white to match. My bag adds a little subtle colour, and I think softens the look a little – and last I checked, this was in the Asos sale so you might be able to get hold of it for a bargain price!

I’m not going to review the hat, as it was just an Accessorize one I got in an airport…maybe six years ago? I can’t remember where I was going but it was definitely hot enough that I felt compelled to buy the largest and silliest hat on offer. Or maybe it was the cheapest – either way, this was in the pre-Instagram days, and before now I don’t actually think I’ve ever been pictured in it. I thought I’d take it out of retirement and try to make it part of a summery nautical outfit – and I think it works!

The real star of this outfit though is the Jasmine skirt. She’s a gathered skirt with a matching fabric waistband and navy and white stripes. I’m wearing her with a Malco Modes ‘Jennifer’ petticoat, which helps give it fullness and that gorgeous 50s silhouette. Length-wise, this skirt is longer than the other Jasmine skirts at 26” long. If it helps, I am just over 5’8” and when wearing her at my natural waist, it sits at about 1.5” below the knee. I imagine it might be too long for those ladies lucky enough to be shorter than me and might need to be hemmed to sit just right.

sunglasses side view of Asos bag

As with all my Collectif items, it washes well. I’m so tired of buying the perfect item, only to find marked in tiny words on the label the dreaded words ‘DRY CLEAN ONLY’. No problem with this striped beauty! I wash all my items on a 30 degrees wash, and this has washed perfectly with no colour bleeding. (Though it’s worth saying that I do always throw in a colour catcher, just in case, if i’m washing anything with white in it!)

The skirt has my favourite feature – a hidden back zip, but best of all a hook-and-eye at the top. This means the zip doesn’t run the risk of undoing itself and adds extra fit and security. And if the item is a tiny bit big at the waist, I can always unpick the hook and eye and move them so it fits a bit more snugly.

To me, the fabric has less of a stretch cotton feel and more of a slight woven linen feel – it definitely seems to have less stretch than other Collectif Jasmine skirts. The Collectif website says it is 97% cotton and 3% spandex though, so it should stretch a little. It just feels less generous to me. I sized up from my normal size 10 to a size 12 and whilst it is slightly loose, I think it would have felt uncomfortable in a size 10 so I’m glad I did. For comparison, I’m currently waist 29”- the 10 is 28” and the 12 is 30” so I would say this is pretty true to the size chart. That said, I do have cotton Jasmine’s in a 10 that fit me well with my 29” waist – I honestly feel like the fabric of them alters their fit and for me, this one is on the ‘less stretch but true to size’ side of things. I also notice that the price point is different for them too – this striped one is currently £40.50, whereas the fruit print skirts are £45.50. (The fruit skirts are also just over 25” long rather than 26”, so the cuts seem inconsistent too!)

So, to summarise, I would wholeheartedly recommend trying on your Jasmine for fit beforehand as you may find yourself – like me – buying the same skirt style in two different sizes if the fabric is a little different.

wearing floppy sun hat with arm on top of head

 

I wore my skirt with a navy vest top from Next, in a size 10. I love these vest tops and I have about ten of them in all sorts of colours. Why? Well, firstly they’re cheap – I think they’re 3 for £12.99. They’re long enough in the body for me to be able to tuck them in and hold them in place, and they fit my 30G boobs without showing all of my bra and without drowning my waist in fabric. They also wash superbly. Ample-chested friends? These might just be the vest tops of your dreams. You’re welcome.

showing cropped bag side view from Asos with sunglasses

The white cropped cardigan is a MAK one and I really think it goes with the white/navy theme. They’re available in a number of colours at Deadly Is The Female which is my go-to place for these darling cardigans. They’re the perfect thing to throw over your shoulders as a light cover-up, whether it’s the sun or a light breeze. I imagine I’ll be wearing a rainbow of them over summer! I’m wearing this one in size medium, which fits me perfectly. Medium is equivalent to a size UK 10-12. To match in with the white, I added these fabulous vintage-inspired acrylic showstopper earrings from Oh So Flamingo, whose earrings are outrageously cheap and outstandingly beautiful. These are the ‘Petal’ earrings in white, which I bought from her Etsy shop for a budget-friendly £5.

oh so flamingo earring

To bring everything together, I decided to wear this cute little shell pink scalloped cross body bag, which is the perfect size for a phone, a wallet, and a lip balm. I think it also adds a nice finish to the rest of the outfit! I love Asos for lovely little novelty and cross body bags.

showing cropped bag side view from Asos

Overall, I really love this coastal-inspired look and it was a really comfortable outfit to wear for a day out – even if the wind kept trying to steal away my hat! Is this picture below showing me wistfully staring after my hat as it tumbles away across East London? Um…probably.

jasmine skirt from collectif in front of mural in east london

Floppy sun hat : Accessorize (old)

Navy vest top : Next 

White cropped cardigan : MAK via Deadly Is The Female 

‘Jasmine’ Skirt : Collectif 

Pink scalloped bag : Asos

Earrings : Oh So Flamingo 

Remove stubborn lipstick with this one (cheap) miracle product

I don’t know about you, but I am having a real love affair with liquid lipsticks at the moment – the best ones stay all day, don’t transfer, and survive the messiest of foods. Yeah, I’m looking at you, tacos. I have a few liquid lipsticks in bold colours because I live in the school of thought that says GO BIG, OR GO HOME. (I spend a lot of time at home these days, so maybe I need a better phrase.)

I have one issue with these beautiful matte colours though. (Well, besides the fact that they are DRYING AF and if I forget to scrub my poor lips, they go all dry and awful). And this issue is this – after a long day of lots of delicious foods, I thoroughly wash my face…and the lipstick is still there. Wash again. Still there. I then panic and/or go to bed with my lipstick on. At least I’ll wake up looking gorgeous.

I know what you’re thinking. But, Caz – why don’t you just use makeup remover like everyone else? Well, I do. And I tell you what, I have sensitive skin, and my lovely gentle L’Oreal and Soap and Glory makeup removers have a good try but they still can’t get it all off. Waterproof mascara? No problem. Lipstick? Hahaha…no.

Slight tangent. You know when you buy a notebook or something, and it has a barcode sticker on it? Or you buy a gift for a mate and you got it at 20% off because the stars were aligned or something, and then you go home to get that damn sticker off and it half rips off but leaves a sticky papery residue? You know those stickers? The ones that were invented to make you cry? Yeah. Well, I had a bit of a Sticker Situation a few months ago and after consulting Doctor Google – it turns out that you can remove sticky residue with oil. OIL. All this time i’ve been scrubbing away with soap and water  (or even vinegar and bicarbonate of soda because someone on the internet said it worked, but I guess this is the same person who said that you can clean forks more quickly if you microwave them. YOU CAN’T, PLEASE DON’T DO THAT.) and it turns out that the best way to get rid of stickers is oil. I know, whaaattt?

So I got thinking. What if it was the same for lipsticks? I mean, they get kind of tacky and sticky when you’ve tried to wash them off but they’re still being a stubborn little shit about it. What if they’re the face’s version of a Sticker Situation? So I got thinking more.

Now, I didn’t want to use my indulgently expensive Kiehl’s face oil to try this out, so maybe that would work even better. But I did nip to the shops and I picked up some baby oil. And I’ll just cut to the chase – IT WORKS. It actually works!

Sorry-not-sorry for all the lips you’re about to see. Maybe you like that kind of thing, in which case, you’re welcome.

Here is Mac’s retro matte liquid lipstick in ‘Carnivorous’, which I absolutely love. I have applied it fairly haphazardly so I’m sorry about that.

Carnivorous liquid lipstick by Mac
And here is what it looks like after I’ve wash my face twice. Yes, twice.

patchy half removed lipstick

Ugh. And here is what it looks like after I’ve reapplied it fully, waited ten minutes for it to dry, then firmly swiped some baby oil all over my lips to remove it.

lipstick removed

Not a trace left behind! It is actual magic. Here’s what I do.

I grab a little cotton face pad or cotton ball, douse it in baby oil, and firmly swipe towards my inner mouth (to reduce smearing colour all over my cheeks/chin) – and the lipstick just comes right off! And the biggest bonus of it all is that baby oil is super, super cheap. Much cheaper than my makeup remover which I can save for the eyes (which I guess you probably don’t want to get baby oil in – so I don’t recommend for removing eyeliner or mascara, I’m not a sadist.)

Swipe, swipe. Oh look, half gone already!

swiping off the lipstick half removed lipstick

My recommendation is to swipe it off before removing the rest of your makeup and continuing with your normal skincare routine, as sometimes the colour smudges as you take it off, and you really could do with washing off all that oil with a cleanser.

So, that’s my miracle product! Baby oil. It is just the best. And, top tip, you can use it to remove those stubborn stickers with it too!

Do you have any makeup removal hacks? Or do you use baby oil?

10 fragrances to make your home smell amazing

Don’t you love it when you walk into someone’s home, and it smells absolutely divine? Well, I’m going to share some of my favourite home fragrances at the moment, so you can make your home smell gorgeous too!

I’ve put them into three budget categories to make it easier to find one within your budget range – Low, Medium and High. Low means that they are the lowest cost, Medium means they are pretty average, and High means that you might need to take out a small mortgage to buy them.

I also calculate the price per gram or millilitre where I can, so you can see how much bang you get for your buck. And please note that prices I state here are as they were when I wrote this, which was in April 2018 – they may have changed since.

So, without further ado, I present my top 10 candles and diffusers in no particular order…

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My First…holiday abroad

HOLIDAY ABROAD

My first holiday abroad was in 1997, when my family went to Ibiza for a week. I remember being so excited about it, rushing around imagining what it was going to be like on a plane, what the food was going to be like, whether there would be a beach or a pool. I packed carefully, over the space of about three months, conducting a little social experiment with my toys to check which ones were suitable to remove from the group for a week and to weed out those who might not deal well with the aeroplane. My brother had this fantastic book which had drawings of all sorts of vehicles that had been visually chopped in half so you could peep into all the rooms. It was meticulously labelled, and I pored for hours over the image of a military aeroplane so I knew exactly what to expect from our flight.

It’s amazing how much detail you remember as a child. I can remember the name of the person who took care of our table at the hotel restaurant – Raquel, her name was. She had a kind face and bright auburn hair, and teased us over our Spanish pronunciation. The hotel felt like a 5 star mansion to me, and I explored it as if I were its king. The restaurant was tired and clearly hadn’t been updated since the 80s, the ornate coving around the top of the room had paint peeling off it. But to me, it was a fancy palace. It was so fancy that they had wall-to-wall buffets where you could choose to eat whatever you wanted. I could eat chips for dessert? I didn’t have to eat mushrooms? I was giddy with all that power.

I feel like that was my first true taste of what it is to be able to choose, a privilege that middle-class westerners like myself are very much spoilt for. It’s a bit sad that I can remember this being a novelty. Now it’s just life, I guess.

I got carted off to some kind of activity camp for children for a number of days a week. Actually, now I think about it, I can’t remember whether I was forced to or whether I chose to. Thinking about it, I imagine I probably wanted to – I liked meeting new people. We did arts and crafts all day, and there were water fights and origami planes, and these wire bound notebooks with a very special pen that we could write in over the course of the week. There were tasks and activities in the books that we could do when we were back with our families, and we could note them down and win awards. At the end of the week there was a prize-giving ceremony, and the kids that received the awards had these weird cardboard cutouts of armless people that I now realise were supposed to look like Oscars, but at the time I had no idea what that was, of course.

The holiday wasn’t just my first trip abroad. This was the holiday where I first learned to dive, something I was both petrified and excited about. I was awful at it. Belly-flop after belly-flop I went down, red marks stretching across my tummy and my goggles dislodged. Chlorine in one eye. A tear of frustration quickly wiped away.

But I practised. Diligently, every single day, I insisted that we go to the pool. I marched us to the deep end, and I asked for help. And over and over and over again I threw myself into the water until finally – I did it. I remember that feeling of my arms outstretched, the water coming towards me and my dumpy little legs held as straight as I possibly could. And then that feeling of euphoria as I find myself suddenly able to glide down into the water with no resistance, the water pushing on my body and that second that I crash to the surface, momentarily so blinded by excitement that I forget to breathe.

I did it. But, I wasn’t done. With a determination that I wish I had even half of as an adult, I got straight back up and did it again. And again. And again. Until I could do it perfectly.

On the last day of our holiday, I was so nervous I would forget all about everything that I needed to buy a momento I could keep forever. I used all my pocket money on a terracotta figure in the tourist shop, a dancing woman with a determined grin and the fanciest ra-ra skirt. Black and white polka dot. And although I think she disappeared in about 2002 when my parents moved house, I can still remember her tiny painted face perfectly, forever engraved in my memory.

Weekly Quirk – Issue 06


Issue 06 : 08 May 2018


Welcome to my weekly digest, covering things I’ve been reading, and interesting fact, my favourite posts on Instagram and a few things I’ve spotted that are on my shopping list. 

I feel like I’ve walked out of a dark room after being trapped inside for about 6 months – finally, the sun is peeping through my window at about 6:30, and the city feels more…alive. It’s amazing how just a little taste of summer makes everyone that much nicer.

I’m really sad that the bank holiday weekend is over, as it has been absolute perfection. We’ve been spoiled by the blue skies and the unusually warm weather, and I’ve eaten ALL.THE.FOOD. On Sunday, I had two ice creams in one day.

This is the time of the year that I suddenly go from being miserable to briefly relaxed, as the sunshine is a novelty. I haven’t endured days of sticky tube journeys where Londoners are irritable and shouting profanities at each other for little more reason than the fact that it’s over 40 degrees and we all just want to go home. At the moment we’re unzipping our summer wardrobes and ambling around in awe of the weather, as though we can scarcely believe our luck. We’re planning trips to the beach. We’re laughing because the sun is in our eyes – isn’t that strange? The sun, in our eyes? Almost as if it’s summer! – and we’re not yet crying because we’re squinting hopelessly at our computer screens as the deadlines loom and the salty stench of summer is just sitting in the room, pressing down on our motivation and telling us to go put our face in the fridge.

For now, I’m enjoying this novel weather though. Perhaps I’ll plan a trip to the beach. Perhaps I’ll put my face in the fridge instead.

 


Susan Pinker/Brian Gallagher : ‘Why women choose differently at work’

Which came first, orange the fruit, or orange the colour? Apparently the word orange was originally used to describe the tree the fruit grew on – a fruit that actually doesn’t exist in the wild, it was a hybrid between two other fruits created in South-East Asia. Only as language evolved did it come to describe the fruit itself – which wasn’t actually orange! In fact, in many areas across South-East Asia, oranges are bright green on the outside. This is because oranges are sub-tropical, and in cooler climates they turn orange on the outside – in hotter countries, the chlorophyll is preserved in the skin and so they remain green.

The word orange was first used to describe the colour in English in 1542 – weirdly enough, the first recorded example of the word appears in a will!

More here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_(fruit)


I can’t say I’ve been pumping out the summer tunes this week, but here are three albums I listened to, in no particular order!

Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa

This self-titled album is a rare dip into post 2000s music for me. I heard the single New Rules a number of times, and I loved how catchy but confident it was. I looked up the album, and there are just so many strong and emotional tracks on here – apparently she leans into hip-hop, which I can hear, but I’d classify this as pretty pop. This has been my go-to “I had a difficult day and I need something to make me strong again” album recently. (You can check out the album here)

 

Rubber Soul (UK release) – The Beatles

On Sunday evening, as the hot sun rolled behind the houses opposite and the temperature dipped a bit and the sky began to get darker, I put some candles out, popped this album on my record player and sat on the balcony to write for a bit. It was great, until I had to get up halfway through to turn the record over (I really need to upgrade to a record player that automatically flips the LP over) but I have one of those cosy mermaid tail blankets and my legs were somewhat trapped in. Wriggling out of it every 20 minutes was a bit of a pain, but it’s okay, because this album is so fun and energetic and happy that I didn’t mind too much at all. This is such an upbeat and happy album – well, unless you start listening to the lyrics. Any song that refers to grown women as girls kind of infuriates me, and Nowhere Man makes me cry a bit if I start thinking about the lyrics too much. Anyone else…? (You can check out the album here)

 

Aja – Steely Dan

I love how peculiar yet immediately familiar this album is to me. Each track feels like it has been etched somewhere in my memory but my brain doesn’t quite recall where. This was released in 1977 and although it has really split opinion, it is an album that I keep coming back to when I need something peaceful, uplifting, but at the same time with enough urgency that I still get the little things done. (You can check out the album here)


Basically the entirety of Collectifs SS18 collection, if you wanted to know. I mean, have you seen it?! A cracking mix of pastels and tropical fruits. And one jacket that I NEED.

1. ‘Outlaw’ Holographic Biker Jacket (COLLECTIF)

 Collectif Holographic Biker Jacket image

Sadly for me and perhaps thankfully for my wallet, this is a little bit steep for an instant buy – I guess I’ll agonise over it for a while before making the plunge! What is there to dislike? Holographic rainbow 80s feels that I can mix and match with my pastel-inspired spring wardrobe? Hell yes. Postage with Collectif is £5.50 if you’re in the UK. I tend to save up for a few bits and buy them altogether, or look out for the free postage events that they have every month or so. I’m praying this beauty won’t have sold out before then. (£67.50)

> Available from Collectif’s website in sizes 6 to 22

2. ‘Camilla’ Candy Stripes Skirt (COLLECTIF)

image of camilla skirt from collectif

This skirt just screams neapolitan ice cream to me. I’m a big fan of stripes, but the navy and pastel combo here (yes, that is navy and not black!) is really unique. I can see her matched with ruffly white peasant tops, or a vest top for days where you’re going to don a pair of sunnies and make a dash to the shops. The 97% cotton and 3% spandex is also screaming neapolitan ice cream – maybe even second helpings. And the best thing about it? It’s machine washable too, for when I drop that second helping of ice cream all down myself.  (£52.50)

> This skirt is available in sizes 4 to 22 from Collectif, but is currently sold out in some sizes

3. ‘Joyce’ Plain Swing Dress (COLLECTIF)

Joyce plain swing dress collectif image

If I asked you to describe a dress that looked like summer, could it look any more like summer than this? As you might already know, I am a member of the squeaky “It has pockets!?!” club, and these pockets look roomy enough for your wallet and your phone. I’m almost going off the pockets that are sewn (or should I say hidden?) in the side seam as I’ve nearly washed my debit card too many times to count now. It’s nice to have pockets where you can see them. I feel like you can match this piece of sunshine with a pair of wedges and a floppy straw hat, and you are BEACH READY. Or park ready. Or shop ready. Or wherever the hell you want to go, it’s your choice, ready. (£65)

>You can get your hands on Joyce by heading here – available in sizes 6 to 22

4. Hawaiian Circle Skirt (VIVIEN OF HOLLOWAY)

image of vivien of holloway hawaiian skirt

I was just having a peek at the Vivien of Holloway spring sale when I saw this tropical darling pop up. It’s a shame she isn’t discounted and she is very similar to the birds of paradise pattern (which I believe IS on sale!) – but on this one the colours are more muted and the pattern larger. It feels like the more serious skirt – those dusky red flowers and the dark background really contrast against the leafy greens. It feels like the kind of skirt I’d either dress down with cork heels and a white halter neck, or I’d wear a a long-sleeved black wrap top and a pair of heels – and make her fabulous print the absolute centre of attention. (£59)

The Hawaiian skirt is currently available from waist size 24 to 38


The London Marathon was a few weekends ago, so here’s the oldest entrant in the race crossing the finish line. And some happiness from the Happy Newspaper, because it’s nice to remember that there is some good in the world.

 

Still a long way to go but it’s a start 🌎💓 #issue8thehappynews

A post shared by The Happy News (@thehappynewspaper) on

 


 

Thank you for making it all the way to the end! You, my friend, are very special to me. I hope you’re having the loveliest of weeks.

Let me know if any of these items are on your wish list too, and if not, what is? And what are you listening to at the moment? (I feel like people used to ask that all the time when I was a teenager!) I love discovering new artists and albums so please spam me with all your music recommendations! The only thing I’m afraid I really can’t listen to is heavy metal, but I’m all ears to anything else.

image of my signature

May The Fourth Be With You

I’m a few days late to the Star Wars party, sorry about that. But let’s all pretend that it is actually Star Wars Day today, and that my t-shirt says ‘alliance’ underneath, yeah?

sassy woman holding a delicious cake

For anyone else in London or the South East, there seems to be a feeling of collective euphoria – Londoners are offering each other seats on the tube and in a demonstration of highly irregular behaviour are even going out of their way to help tourists. Why, you ask? Well, it’s a Bank Holiday so a delicious three-day weekend – and if that wasn’t enough, the weather is forecast as sunshine all weekend, a veery light breeze, and between 22 and 25 degrees celsius. I’m currently sitting under an arch in the old Royal Naval College in Greenwich listening to conservatoire students polishing their piano and violin pieces and bathing my toes in the sunlight.

As with many of us, I really struggle with winter. The days are so awfully short and the weak sunlight begins to fade from about 3pm. Trudging home in the dark, shivering as I lose the feeling in the ends of my fingers and close to tears because I forgot my gloves or someone shouted at me on the train for shoving them when it was the person behind me pushing me forward. People seem terser, meaner, and colder in all senses of the word. Winter feels like a million miles away as I’m sitting here in May, the sun bright and warm, in just a t-shirt. These moments where I look back on just a few months ago bring a strange sense of calm. I’m grateful when winter ends, and I’m grateful for these days when I remember just how lucky we are to have some days where the stars align and bring us the perfect day.

I hope you all manage to find something perfect in your long weekend. And if you don’t, or you’re not lucky enough to have a long weekend, I hope you remember how you feel now so when the perfect day does come along, you can be grateful to have experienced it.

(Also, I ate a cake today and there’s a chance I’m actually just feeling really happy because cake is bloody excellent, and this one had a little doughnut on it and it was all gloriously gluten-free. Or it’s the lovely weather and the fact winter has cleared off. Could be either.)

image of my signature


For delicious gluten-free cakes in London, I can heartily recommend Ruby’s of London who have a stall at Greenwich Market at the weekends. They have plenty of vegan options (and gluten-ful options for you lucky ol’ wheat eaters out there!) – but get in early, as the cakes sell out fast!

Weekly Newsletter – Issue 05


Issue 05 : 11 February 2018


Welcome to my weekly digest, covering things I’ve been reading, and interesting fact, my favourite posts on Instagram and a few things I’ve spotted that are on my shopping list. 

So January went quickly – or it went slowly, depending on who you ask. For me, it sauntered along at first, stumbled a little bit in the middle and tumbled unexpectedly right smack-bang into February.

I kind of feel sorry for Feb. It’s normally the month that brings yet another blanket of snow, and this time round we’re all a bit tired of it so it isn’t all excitement and sleds – instead, it’s trying to get to work only the trains are all broken and I fell over on the ice this morning and my bum hurts and my coffee went everywhere and can I please go back to bed now. Generally, it’s still cold and miserable enough for people to think that winter will never end. I’m actually trying to be optimistic – the shortest day of the year is behind us now and that means that it’s going to start getting lighter in the evenings. And every day that passes in February is a day closer to it being summer again.



 

You know Grandfather clocks? Those tall clocks that appear in plenty of period dramas, or perhaps stood in the corridor at your uncle’s house where it would deafen everyone on the hour with its obnoxious ringing? Those clocks? Well. It turns out that we’ve been calling them by the wrong name for all these years. They’re actually called long case clocks. (I know, I think that’s a much more boring name too.) Apparently they earned this adorable nickname thanks to a 1876 hit called ‘My Grandfather’s Clock‘ and the name just stuck.

 

More here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longcase_clock

 


 

1. Deaths-Head Hawkmoth Necklace (SUGAR AND VICE)

This amazing acrylic statement necklace is from the talented Sarah and Matt who run Sugar and Vice Designs. I’m in love with the detail on this, and I can’t wait to make her mine! (£25)

> Available from Sugar and Vice’s website

 

2. Kingfisher Necklace (TATTY DEVINE)

You probably know by now how much a love my novelty items, and my acrylic jewellery – making the list is this colourful kingfisher necklace from Tatty Devine, which is on the pricier side – but you can’t go wrong with the quality and craftsmanship and TD are pretty much my go-to for statement items. I love the little things, like the mirrored feathers and the little fish. Absolutely beautiful. (£125)

> Find it here, at Tatty Devine’s online store

 

3. Hipster Chic ‘Hepburn’ Dress (LADY VINTAGE LONDON)

Every time Lady Vintage release a new collection, I feel like they’ve outdone themselves – and yet they continue to bring out increasingly diverse and fabulous dresses! I love all their latest items – but especially this hipster-themed one, which is hilarious yet still glamorous. I live in my Hepburn dresses, and own at least 12 of them. What harm would one more do, I moustache you? (£50)

>Available in sizes 8-28 from the Lady V site

 

4. Harlequin 50s Dress (HELL BUNNY)

I don’t know about you but the second I saw this dress, I knew immediately that it had to be mine. I literally ordered it that very minute – the pink and black harlequin design is such a stunning combination, and with the rose detailing? Beautiful. And I am a complete sucker for a gathered waist, such a rare treat in the repro vintage world! I hope I am united with this, the love of my life, before Valentine’s Day arrives. Hurry up DPD, I can’t wait this long!! (£46.99)

> Hell Bunny Harlequin 50’s dress is available in sizes XS-4XL

 

5. Orange Puffins ‘Audrina’ Dress (LINDY BOP)

Lindy Bop always do the most amazing prints, and whilst I find the quality of their clothing to vary wildly, I have to say that their recent collection has made me want to buy EVERYTHING. I don’t know if you can see, but this dress has the loveliest puffin print, and on such a vibrant peach background, it has me aching for long summer evenings and iced tea. 

The Audrina dress is a shorter ‘above knee’ version of the Audrey dress, which is another one of my favourites. A shorter length would be ideal for summer…if I can wait that long to buy it and wear it, that is. (£38)

> The Audrina dress is available in sizes 8 to 26 from the Lindy Bop website

 

 


Story Time : Calamari

One of the foods I miss the most is calamari.

My journey into the living hell of a gluten-free life started in 2012, and I’ve spent the past six years thinking about eight-legged sea creatures an unhealthy amount. I’ve never been the biggest seafood eater, and I mostly blame my parents for that. They are horrified at even the thought of eating something as small and adorable as baby prawns, and seem very happy on a diet of steak and chips. I’ve been a stubborn vegetarian since I was about five, so I guess my diet until I left home was basically chips. I had a hard life.

Calamari though. Crispy, and breaded, with a soft chewy middle. Like the savoury fishy equivalent of posh cookies.

I discovered calamari mostly by accident as a kid, when I was on holiday in Spain. I found these breaded things on the dinner buffet, labelled with a peculiar name I’d not seen before, and thought I’d try one, chancing that they were onion rings.

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that I may have been a little mean about my parents’ diet. They don’t just eat steak and chips – sometimes they eat onion rings too. It isn’t unusual to go out to a restaurant and for my dad to order an enormous side portion of onion rings that he polishes off himself without offering to anyone else. My dad loves his onion rings.

Anyway, let’s go back to Spain (which is preferable to the cold winter evening I’m experiencing here in the UK right now) and imagine my childish curiosity when faced with this weird onion ring. Being an overly sensible child – or perhaps, less greedy than my parents – I get just one from the buffet. I sit down, and examine the onion ring. It looks delicious. I ditch the knife and fork and my manners and I pick it up with my fingers, and – as delicately as you can do as a seven-year old eating with their hands – I bite into it.

It is not what I am expecting, but actually, it isn’t bad. It’s a bit chewy, with a slightly strange taste I can’t really put my finger on, but it isn’t completely unpleasant. I have no idea what it is, but it seems nice. At this point, I look up to see that my dad is watching me. Well, correction, he’s watching the little breaded guy in my hand.

“You didn’t mention they had any of those.” The saliva is virtually dribbling down his chin. “What are they like?”

I look him in the eye. I am seven years old, but I am an awesome seven-year old. I smile. “Nice. A bit chewy,” I say to him, going in for a second bite.

He hasn’t even waited to hear past the word ‘nice’ – he is not a small person, and has to physically tug himself out of the chair to release himself from the table and he is basically running as fast as he can towards the trestle tables with the buffet. I watch him. He takes a small plate, and I count as he loads the calamari onto his plate. One. Two. Three. Ten. Fifteen. Eighteen.

“Ho, ho, ho,” he says gleefully as he arrives back at the table. Yes, I’m not kidding, he does genuinely say ‘ho ho ho’. He’s not emulating Father Christmas, I don’t think it’s a jolly “well, presents for aallll, ho ho!” kind of thing. He is just so pleased that he didn’t make the same mistake as me to just get one. No, he’s fooled the system. He has eighteen of the fuckers. He’s ho-ho-hoing in the ho-ho-hopes that he can eat them as quickly as possible and get another eighteen because he is possibly the world’s greediest person.

I watch as he takes a bite out of one of them. There is a small delay, before the horror reaches his face. He removes half the calamari from his mouth.

“What the-?!” he says, appalled. “It’s bloody squid!” My mum starts laughing. Then my sister, and my brother. Until we’re all laughing, and he’s sitting there sadly looking at his eighteen fake onion rings – not at all sad because it’s a waste that he’s just going to leave them, but sad because now he isn’t going to be able to eat eighteen onion rings in one sitting.

This isn’t the reason I miss calamari though. That was just the first time I remember eating it. And I have to admit it has left me with somewhat of a sweet spot for them.

No, the real reason I miss calamari is because they are breaded, so they’re cooked with wheat, and so far I haven’t found a gluten-free alternative. That means that it has been six years now where I haven’t been able to savour one of my favourite foods. What makes it worse, is that most of my favourite restaurants serves calamari as a starter, so I have this constant reminder every time I eat out that I can’t enjoy nice foods anymore.

So I guess this is really a plea to all the eight-legged friends out there – could you evade detection for the foreseeable future? If they can’t catch you, then they can’t cook you, and if they can’t cook you then they won’t cut off your delicious legs and cover you with gluteny breadcrumbs, and serve you on the menu in most restaurants I visit.

What it means to be queer

I’ve gone through many stages in my life. At times I’d have described myself as heterosexual, regarding homosexual couples with a strange judgement that probably came from a deep-seated denial, helped along with an upbringing that showed very little liberal thinking and encouraged an ‘us and them’ mentality. As far as anyone told me, my dream in life was to marry a lawyer, settle down, get married and have two children. I had no role models in my life that showed an alternative to that – and, I’ve come to realise, all the heterosexual relationships I was surrounded by were dysfunctional and broken. My expectation in life really became about finding a partner who was just less dysfunctional than my immediate family were.

Being a teenager was awkward and confusing. I had a string of ‘boyfriends’ but these were really just companions. I was so afraid of intimacy that I would actually run away whenever things looked like they would cross the line into a territory I wasn’t comfortable with. At one time when I was in my mid-teens, my boyfriend leaned in to kiss me. Just as he was centimetres away from my mouth, I panicked and shouted “You’re it!” and actually sprinted off across a carpark to find somewhere to hide. So it would be no news to say that sex was completely off the menu, and I honestly couldn’t understand why people seemed to actually like, or want, something so horribly intimate.

A few years later I would have described myself as bi-curious, but this was still a little muddled. I was still confused about my identity and who I was, and really couldn’t shake off that weird sense of judgement I’d had drummed into me as a child. If that wasn’t enough, society also convinced me that being bi-curious was just something that all women were, and this was only reinforced by the fact that it seemed most men I came across were interested in women that showed more ‘exotic’ preferences. Being asked to kiss your female friend in a nightclub seemed to be something that impressed the lads, but at the same time, I wasn’t exactly mad at it. In fact, I was more than okay about it. But that’s just being a ‘bit bi’ as all women are, isn’t it?

It was a few years later that I realised that not all women who described themselves as bi-curious actually enjoyed their sexual encounters with women and regularly daydreamed about having them. I thought that was all totally normal. I don’t watch porn, and I never really have. Mostly this is because I can’t find much porn that turns me on. I’m also not exactly into all the unrealistic expectations it sets women in general – really? Am I expected to pay for a Brazilian every two months just because that’s what people are used to seeing? I remember struggling to find anything that matched my fantasies, and actually, I find my imagination in many ways far more pleasurable. I have the freedom to imagine whatever I want to.

When I did first try porn, just really out of curiosity, I remember being primarily drawn to videos that were just women, or both men and women. The only video I still remember watching and being turned on by was a home-video quality clip of a beautiful blonde woman sitting on a chair masturbating. I liked the raw ‘realness’ of it, and I guess what I took away from that was that real experiences to me felt more exciting. I didn’t want to watch someone else’s imagining of something; I wanted to know it first hand (pun intended). Sex wasn’t exciting really unless it felt ‘real’ – unless it felt human.

Then came a number of years of what I would call my ‘sexual exploration’. I didn’t really define my sexuality but instead went on a journey of self-discovery in the hopes that I could find out who I was and what I wanted. I’m bursting with pride at that younger naïve me who realised that there was a wider world out there and just wanted to try everything out, just to see what it was all like.

I actively sought out experiences with different people, mostly casual one- or two-night occasions with men and women – anyone who I thought was attractive. I wasn’t in it for any long-term relationship – I just had a burning fire inside me and I desperately wanted to learn what I liked, and what I didn’t like. It was like an evolution. I came out of it knowing that I hated it when people slapped or punched me in the bedroom. I also discovered that I actually quite enjoy threesomes. I learned that I really can’t stand it when people ‘talk dirty’. And I found out that I like to laugh a lot, I like to get to know the other person. Sex isn’t sex if it isn’t with someone else, and the best sex was sex that was shared – it was sweaty, funny, beautiful, and all about finding that happy place where you share a rhythm with that other person.

That period of my life helped me understand myself so much better, yet it still didn’t help me understand the lables that people inevitably seem to apply to each other. I still wasn’t quite able to assign myself a label I was comfortable with. I was a lesbian when I was in an unhappy whirlwind relationship with a woman I’d drunkenly hooked up with in a bar. After that, I was bisexual. I described myself as bisexual for years as it seemed to cover how I felt I was. However, the more I have felt a sense of belonging within the LGBT+ community, the more I have challenged and questioned myself and these labels we give ourselves. Being bisexual actually isn’t something I’m happy calling myself now, as it suggests that I would never date anyone who wasn’t the gender they were assigned at birth, if they weren’t male or female. The truth is that I’ve never dated anyone who wasn’t cisgender, but that doesn’t mean I’m closed off to the idea. I like to date people because their personalities are beautiful. I don’t really care about their gender. I could call myself pansexual, but pansexual seems to be specifically taking a fancy to anyone and everyone and for me, it is more than just liking anyone – it’s about acknowledging that you don’t have to look or act a certain way to be LGBT+, and feeling like there’s an uncomfortable tinge of politics about it. The role of a patriarchal society growing up did nothing to help me understand myself and I shouldn’t have to be defined by such a specific label. It’s strange to be living in a world where people feel so entitled to question or understand your sexuality, and where you’re either considered their ‘normal’ or you’re something strange to be ogled at.

I’ll be honest. I really struggled with the word queer at first. I thought for a long time that it was just another word for lesbian. I feel really stupid now, as that was clearly lack of research on my part and in some ways judgement of women in a relationship with another woman. I know this might sound really obvious, but it turns out that not every woman in a relationship with a woman is only interested in relationships with women. It also turns out that some women don’t want to appear closed minded, or feel that lesbian can be a loaded term and could exclude those who identify as women.

After a lot of consideration, and a lot of research, I’ve become much more comfortable with being queer. Queer for me is a reclaimed word, but its new meaning is just someone who doesn’t fit within the current heterosexual standard. It feels like an all-encompassing umbrella term that means that I don’t have to define who I am; I’m just not straight. And it’s that simple.

 

 

Further reading:

3 differences between the terms ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ – and why it matters

A glossary of LGBTQIA terms

Wikipedia

Missing Stars

I have a really good habit of missing good things. I don’t know how it happens, but I just find out about them last minute, or I live in a place that makes them impossible to appreciate in person. A prime example of this is last weekend; it was the Perseid meteor shower, a breathtaking sky of falling stars that happens once a year. I think I’ve forgotten about this for about four years running now, although this year I remembered two days before. Hurrah, I thought to myself, now I can plan to watch them, and get a cosy blanket and a thermos flask of tea (note to self: buy a thermos flask) and sit on a hill somewhere with a great view of the sky. What a brilliant plan.

Then I checked the weather. And of course it’s summer here in the UK, so it was overcast and miserable all fucking weekend. Just my luck.

Two years ago, I went on the holiday of a lifetime. I went to the island of Fiji, which is about a thousand miles north of New Zealand, and stayed in a hotel on the north of the island. It is probably one of the most remote places on the planet, and is one of the best star-gazing spots I have ever experienced. Seriously, if you are into your stars, I thoroughly recommend a trip there. It was so clear that I could see the Large Magellanic Cloud – which might not sound very impressive, as I bet you see clouds all the time, right? But the Large Magellanic Cloud is a pretty misleading name. It’s actually a galaxy – that’s right, an actual galaxy – about 163,000 light years away. And in Fiji, it’s visible to the naked eye. Whilst lying in a hammock drinking cocktails. To try to put that into any kind of personal context, in London I struggle sometimes to even make out the moon clearly (although to be honest, sometimes that might be because I’ve had too many cocktails and I can’t tell the difference between the moon and the reflection of a lamp in the window).

On the last two nights in Fiji, after spotting the Large Magellanic Cloud in the sky, I planned to spend some time down on the beach with my DSLR trying my hand at photographing the stars. Not celebrities, as I wasn’t cool enough to be hanging out with them, I mean, actual stars. Turns out, on the last two nights it poured down with rain both evenings and I couldn’t see a thing, let alone take any photographs. As I said, I have a real habit of missing good things.