Thursday, 30 July 2015

Off On My Travels

We've been packing our bags and readying our passports, and today we leave.

First Iceland, for three days of mountains, glaciers, volcanoes and lagoons.

Then onto Canada, visiting Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto in a whirlwind eleven days. Most importantly, a family reunion: cousins, aunts, uncles, grandchildren, gathering from across three continents for four days of re-connection. The first time so many of the Kotze family have been in one place since 1991.

So, if things are a little quiet around here, that's why. I've scheduled a post or two but, for the most part, I won't be as present here or on social media. See you all when we get back!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Buyer's Archive: July

Earlier this year Elise started a series called The Buyer's Archive as a way to track her purchases from year to year and figure out which items had been worth it, and which had already found their way to the charity bag. As reducing my spending is always a goal, I decided to give it a go too.

July has followed my usual pattern of very little spending until the end of the month, when I suddenly buy all the clothes - before this weekend, all I'd spent was £30. But preparing for our trip to Iceland and Canada led to a shopping spree yesterday, when I picked up stacks of items... some I needed, some I didn't.

Striped top, H&M £12.99
Did I need this? No. But did I have a space in my wardrobe for a short-sleeved striped top? Certainly. I love stripes and this top has a lovely airy feel, perfect for summer (although not for the summer we're currently 'enjoying' in England, with torrential rain and chilly temperatures).

Floral skirt, charity shop £2.00
I've already featured this skirt in an outfit post and it's shaping up to be a favourite. Originally from Bon Marche, I found it in a local charity shop and was particularly drawn to the floral design and the buttons down the front.

Yellow raincoat, M&S £75
Eek. It actually makes me feel a bit sick to think about how much this cost. However, I'm notorious for not wearing weather-appropriate clothing if I don't feel it's cool enough (I know, I'm such a teenager) and with our visit to Iceland coming up I really needed a raincoat I'd be happy to wear. I know yellow raincoats have become something of a blogger cliche, but that didn't stop me snapping it up. It's cut really nicely, fits well, and the yellow is a darker mustard shade, which is a lot more flattering with my skin tone and hair colour. Plus, I figure a coat is the kind of item where it pays to, well, pay.

Black sandals, New Look £15.99
These sandals fill a gap in my wardrobe: I have plenty of tan sandals but no black ones. I saw someone wearing these on the train home from Bristol a few weeks ago and fell totally in love with them, so as soon as I got home I began an internet search. I was dead chuffed to discover they were not only still available, but also quite a bargain.

T-Bar shoes, Topshop £25.20 (with Thomas's student discount)
These shoes are definitely not something I needed, as they're almost identical to a pair I already own, but I loved the cute cut-out design and when I realised that they were almost sold out I decided to grab a pair.

Polka dot dress, H! By Henry Holland via eBay, £4.20
So much navy blue in this picture! I've come to accept that it's the signature colour of my wardrobe. This jersey and cotton skater dress is something I won on eBay and is yet another addition to my collection of summer dresses when what's really needed in this country is plenty of winter clothes.

Navy blue dress, Joy £24 (not online)
I found this in the sale at Joy in Bristol. Made of a lovely, heavy, lined viscose that falls beautifully, it's well cut and classic, and paired with a statement necklace and some heels, I think it will do very well for my brother's wedding this autumn.

My total for the month was therefore an eye-watering.... £159.38, with almost exactly half of that total being the raincoat.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

A Day Out At Indietracks

I've long wanted to visit Indietracks Festival, a small and family-friendly affair specialising in Indiepop music which takes place every summer in the Derbyshire Dales. For the music, yes, but more so for the lure of the setting: at the Midlands Railway Centre, on a site filled with vintage trains. So when fellow Midlands blogger Laura, of Make Do & Mend, got in touch with me to ask if I'd like to be her plus one, I jumped at the chance.

Arriving at Butterley Station, a beautifully restored building just outside the village, we jumped on a steam train and grabbed our seats for the short journey to the festival site.

After torrential rain the previous day, we were lucky to be met by blue skies, dry ground and lots of friendly people. Indietracks is such a relaxed and chilled out festival, with everything within an easy 5 minute walk of the entrance and a crowd that skews slightly older: 30-somethings rather than cavorting teens, in the main, with lots of families.

As you'd expect from a festival focusing largely on music from DIY scenes - indiepop, noisepop, punk - the merch tent was a delight, filled with vinyl, charmingly hand-lettered t-shirts and tote bags, and a smattering of zines. The food offering was good, too, and with a number of bars across the site (including one in a static train carriage) you wouldn't go thirsty.

We ended up missing not one but two performances on the steam train, as the carriage was too crowded, but did manage to squeeze in to see London-based punk band Flemmings on the Church Stage (which, as the name suggests, is in an actual church). Colleen Green was a big draw on the Main Stage, and we chowed down on tasty pizza as we watched. My pick of the day, though, were grrrl band Feature: seeing three powerful, cool women rock out on stage is what festivals are all about.

We left to drive home before headliners Wave Pictures and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, which I was sad about but - a real sign of age here - my bed beckoned. But my taste of Indietracks has left me wanting more: I'll definitely be back next year.

(Yes, I took a photograph of the loo sign because INDOOR TOILETS! At a festival!)

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Good Stuff: Links & Likes

Image from The Guardian, copyright Jenny Jimenez/

This Lindy West piece from The Guardian is just about the most perfect thing I've ever read, interrogating the intersections between feminism, fat and capitalist exploitation in the wedding industrial complex. Searingly honest, West argues that the very act of a fat woman being happy and loved is a political statement. I want this piece tattooed all over my body so I can read it at any time.

I loved Laura's chair makeover; I'll definitely be stealing this idea in future!

And while we're on the subject of crafts, how amazing is this statement necklace made from recycled buttons?

I had ALL the feels while reading this piece about being bisexual at Pride. Just... so much yes.

The New York Times feature on two pairs of identical twins, in which one of each pair was swapped at birth, meaning they were raised as fraternal twins, was simply amazing.

Finally, Elise started The Buyer's Archive a while ago, I borrowed her idea, and now Donna of Polkadot Pink and Steffany of Deep Greens & Blues have joined in too.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

What I Wore: A Date Night Outfit

I've always been a dress girl but last summer and this I've also started collecting skirts (not such a great departure, I know, but still...!). I found this one last week in a charity shop for the princely sum of £2; it's originally from mum-store Bon Marche but I really like it. Paired with a grey marl t-shirt, my beloved new clogs (seriously, these shoes are so comfortable and fun to wear, I adore them) and a statement necklace, it was the perfect outfit for date night.

We spent the evening in the The Orange Tree in Leicester, sampling their delicious vegan mac & cheese and a few ciders, before cycling home in the twilight. An outfit I love, great food, cold cider, a bike ride and my boy? Makes for a perfect date night.

* Skirt: Bon Marche via charity shop * T-shirt: H&M (old) * Belt: Peacocks (old) *
* Necklace: New Look (old) * 'J' tote bag: Alphabet Bags * Clog sandals: TK Maxx *

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Photo An Hour: Saturday 18th July

Yesterday was Jane and Louisa's monthly Photo An Hour, and despite having a pretty quiet Saturday planned I took part as usual. Here's how my day panned out.

I'd been awake for about 30 seconds when I took this photograph: the view from my comfy bed, with the sun streaming through the windows.

Still lazing in bed chatting with Thomas. He's working six days a week plus evenings at the moment, trying to finish the second draft of his thesis before we go on holiday, so today was a rare chance for us to hang out. At the time this photograph was taken, we were chatting about the two cats who've adopted us.

Breakfast time, and as a treat I made vegan American-style pancakes with banana and maple syrup (Thomas) or golden syrup (me).

Catching up on the news. Every Photo An Hour involves me reading the Guardian, because it's such an intrinsic part of my Saturday routine, so I tried to take a slightly different shot this time.

Taking outfit photographs in the back garden (which is actually pretty nice, although this photo makes it look a right mess). Thomas is endlessly patient with me while taking the pictures, and today we managed to get five outfits shot in less than an hour: result!

Time to get out and about in the sunshine, we rode our bikes through a nearby nature reserve and along the Great Central Way cycle path. We're so lucky that, despite living right next to the city centre, we have open green spaces just a few moments away.

We stopped for a picnic lunch next to the canal and then popped into a cute tearoom in an old lock-keepers cottage. Poor Thomas was desperate for his lunch and I was being a total blogger and stealing his food to style photographs.

Home again, and I'm spending some time setting up a belated birthday present from my mum and step-mum: a new record player.

Time for a cup of tea. On Photo An Hour day, Instagram becomes awash with tea between the hours of 4 and 5. This mug always gets a lot of love, but as it was a gift I've no idea where it came from.

Putting together a post from some of the outfit photographs from earlier today. My laptop is painfully slow at uploading photos (or maybe it's my internet at fault: either way, it drives me potty).

Cocktail time! My current tipple is vodka, mango juice and soda water.

This is a very sleepy Theodore, one of the two cats who've pretty much moved in. When this was taken Matilda, the second one, was sleeping upstairs on the landing. They spend hours at our house and we very rarely feed them, so it feels like we're getting all the benefits of cat ownership with none of the expense or hassle.

Just finished eating dinner (vegan chicken in pitta with sweet potato fries) and watching some old episodes of Happy Endings. Still gutted that this was cancelled a couple of years ago.

And, like clockwork, just as at around 4pm Instagram becomes all pictures of tea, the final image of most people's Photo An Hour is our bedtime reading. It amuses me that we're all so alike in our habits. I'm early to bed as I'm feeling exhausted for some reason, which gives me more time to read Mindy Kaling's book. I'd downloaded it to my Kindle for our holiday but couldn't resist starting it early.

Friday, 17 July 2015

At Home: Our Travel-Themed Spare Room

I grew up in Yorkshire, to South African parents, and have family & friends on every continent bar Asia. Thomas is Scottish but has also lived in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. It's no surprise, then, that we enjoy collecting things to remind us of our global heritage. When decorating the spare room it was an easy choice to make it loosely travel-themed, with a mixture of maps, vintage railway posters, and tchotchkes from our travels. 

Some homemade map-themed art is on display: a gift I made for Thomas after our first year together featuring heart-shaped map cut-outs and a cardboard B covered in a vintage New York transit map, which together flank a gorgeous soapstone carving from my second visit to South Africa in 2002.

Something new I've put together, after an increase in visits from overseas guests, is a small basket full of useful bits and pieces: pen and paper, tissues, a mini first aid kit, basic toiletries (nicked from a hotel room, obviously), a UK charger plug. I'd also like to add a small local travel guide. Anything else that you think might be useful to a visitor?

The bed frame in here is identical to the one in our room - a bargain eBay find. A string of Cable & Cotton lights entwine the frame and the cushions are a mixture of high street finds, a beautiful African map one from Etsy, and one made from scraps of sari fabric. The rather forbidding wooden mask on the wall was brought back from Malaysia by my mum and step-mum.

Finally, my new homemade poster hanger continues the map theme with a vintage map of the USA, together with a sign that Thomas salvaged from his old home in Nijmegen, and my bridesmaids dress, which hangs from a flower hook on the back of the door. It's too beautiful to keep shut up in a wardrobe!

With this room being so light and bright, it's also the only room in the house to be painted a colour other than white: I think the bold teal feature wall looks great and I love how it ties together with the blue shades from the maps and railway posters. Like every other room in the house, though, it's been done on a mega-budget. The bed frame and mattress were a steal on eBay, the chest of drawers cost a whole £5 from a junk shop years ago, and pretty much everything else was picked up in sales or while travelling. I haven't done the maths, but I'd be very surprised if everything in the room, furniture and decorative items, came to much more than £250.

* All frames: Ribba by Ikea * Chest of drawers: Junk shop find * Drawer knobs: eBay *
* Bed frame: Ikea via eBay * Lamp: Tesco (old) * * Bed linen: Matalan *
* Cushions L-R: homemade, Tesco (old), My Bearded Pigeon on Etsy, Matalan (old) * 
  Lights: Cable & Cotton * Snake plant: Wilko * Plant pot: Ikea *
* Vintage map paper: Baileys Home & Garden *