Making Statistics Interesting

I recently discovered a free online platform which offers free templates of infographics to allow you to take statistics and build a visual and creative summary made up of the figures and numbers.

After reading plenty of dry reports regarding the increased popularity of charity stores in the UK, I decided to collate the most interesting ones into my very own infographic!

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To make your own infographic visit http://www.piktochart.com

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Italian Touch In The Kitchen

I’m always in awe of people who can use vintage packaging like old tins as cutlery holders, olive oil tins as converted coffee tables and so to kick start my injection of a taste of the Med influences in my kitchen, I thought I’d share a freebie I got this weekend.

Whilst in Rhyl I stumbled across La Galleria, a little gem of a coffee shop which stocked Illy coffee supplies, quite a rarity in a seaside town in North Wales! I noticed they had shelves and shelves of empty Illy coffee jars. I asked the owner if I could buy a couple from him as I wanted two for tea and coffee in my kitchen.

To my delight, he told me I could take as many as I wanted and he even helped me find two which weren’t dented or scratched (what a sweetheart!). I was restrained and only took the pair but something tells me I could be visiting again in the future when I find other uses for a look of an Italian cafe in my Chester kitchen!

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Is it A/W yet?

It’s that time of year again when September issues land on doormats in homes everywhere, signalling a shift in the seasons.

As much as I love summer, sun and the good mood it automatically evokes, I’m also a fan of layers, cosy scarves and thick leathers. Using the magazine advertising campaigns and features as inspiration for my A/W look, I’m already starting to look for similar items in vintage,second-hand and charity stores in preparation.

Keeping ahead of the seasons is a key tip for finding great items while everyone else waits for the weather to kick in. Be realistic – you won’t find exactly the same product but pull out a detail you like such as the cut and colour of a trouser, the leather of a bag or the tailoring of a coat or jacket.

Below are some of the ensembles/items that I’ll be keeping an eager eye out for in shops before the rain inevitably returns!

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Beautiful Bally Shoes

This July has been the hottest for seven years and the last few weeks have been a perfect excuse for copious amounts of summer drinks, barbecues and real sunshine outfits. As we aren’t normally blessed with enough sun to justify frivolous spending, I’ve loved hitting the shops for tropical prints, pastels and luscious linen.

And these are one of my favourite finds so far (and hopefully with many more to come!)

My latest hunt in the local charity shop unearthed these fabulous Bally mid-heels. In brilliantly clean condition, I plan on teaming with pencil skirts from Monday to Friday and skinny jeans in my time off. Perfect for enjoying the sunshine with the peep toe and for adding splashes of colour to a muted outfit.

And all for £4.95! Another great find and an even greater cause.

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Snapshots of Venice

During a two week holiday in Lake Garda, we jumped on the bustling 7am commuter train and enjoyed a red-hot day of eating, shopping and snapping in the City of Bridges. Below are some of my favourite images from our eight hours when we briefly felt transported back in Venetian time..

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My love affair with Paris

Having been to Paris five times in as many years, it’s my favourite city in the world. With understated style and substance, I adore the effortless chic of everything from the women’s chignon buns to the shabby shutters that adorn the long windows throughout the streets, stacked on top of each other.

Here are my favourite shots from my trips to the city of love.

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“Does my bun look big in this?”

Recently on Twitter I noticed one of my friends commenting that “slapped back hair with a big bun” really bugged her. I quickly responded: “oh contraire!”. You see to me, the trusted bun is a bit like your staple wardrobe – there when you need a quick fix with minimal effort (and in my case, with about 12 kirby grips holding the whole lot together for dear life).

The bun and I were only introduced last year and since then, I’ve accrued an array of doughnuts and become fascinated by the different techniques and particularly the size and height of said bun. The bun also comes with a certain degree of intrigue from others: “what’s holding it up?” and “can I touch it?” are amongst my favourites so far.

As per my friends comment, there’s also the options of fringes that coincide with the bun insertion; slick back, carefree and wispy, blunt with an edge, parted ever so slightly in the middle à la Chung. The options aren’t endless but I reckon our love for the bun is just that…

Some of my favourites Brit girls from Cara Delevingne, Sam Rollinson, Rosie Tapner and Alexa Chung

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And I’ll leave you to make your own judgements on these bad boy buns…

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Sweet Charity Shopping

After a compliment at work on a Reiss blazer I had married with a high-street dress, my colleagues moaned that she never bothers with charity shopping as she never finds anything and asked me how I approach treasure hunting. So, below I’ve outlined my simple guide to successful second-hand shopping:

~ If you know the seasons are due to change in the up and coming weeks then prepare for what items you plan to wear even if it seems slightly premature. Find pieces online or in magazines that you like and look for similar items but go within open mind. You’ll never find a chiffon, knee-length, strapless LBD in a 10 so be prepared to compromise or customise your finds.

~ Explore the shops in different areas accessible to you. Vintage, second-hand and charity shopping is particularly popular with students and young professionals so shops in areas such as cities often sell out of their golden nugget items early in the day. Instead visit shops where there’s an older demographic where charity isn’t trendy.

~ It’s not just clothes and accessories that you should look out for in charity shops. In the smaller shops less aware of the popularity of second-hand items, you know, those in by two best friends in their 80s called Flo and Ivy, you often find an old box crammed with LPs. Record players have made an unforeseen comeback recently so before you pay over the odds on Amazon, have a rummage.

~ Do your research – find out if the stores get deliveries from the main depos on certain days so you get the cream of the crop tops or for the serious thrift devotees, volunteer at your local shop and purchase the best items yourself!

If you’re a charity queen and have some of your own tips, why not leave a comment!

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Elbowing The Elderly In Oxfam

I’m not an aggressive shopper for the most part (unless Mulberry announces a sale) but there’s something about charity shop shopping that gets my pulse racing and makes other shoppers, whatever their age/disability/zimmer frame status, completely intolerable. I realised I had a problem back in 2007 whilst manically hunting for a Chanel-esque 1.55 quilted handbag…

After countless visits to various second-hand shops, I called for drastic action. My grandma and a trip to “over-70s-only-ville” Llandudno, North Wales. I spotted it immediately, its chain glistening through the sunlit window. Before I knew it I’d abandoned 75-year-old grandma’s frail arm (and all my principles it seemed), rugby tackled an old man contemplating a battered box of Scrabble out of my way and grabbed at the bag. Leather? Yes. Quilted? Yes. Chain and leather combo strap? YES! Price? £1.49. Happy did not cover it, I was ecstatic. They say the first kick is the most addictive and they’re right. Knowing no one would have the same and it cost less than grandma’s pot of tea earlier made me feel victorious. (In case you’re worried about grandma, she was leant against the pet shop window next door, no need to panic).

After interviewing a lady who owned a vintage designer shop in Hollywood it was clear the love for second-hand stuff stretched to A-listers in Silicon Valley for the same reason. In an industry where money really is no object, vintage clothing means there’s no risk of a celebs PR nightmare – a “who wore it best?” comparison feature. Phew.

So since the thrill of my first hit of the quilted bag, I’ve elbowed the elderly in Oxfam and side-shunted students in Save The Children to find my little gems and it’s become a hobby without even knowing it. I enjoy being complimented on my finds (often married with high-street and designer investments) and observing people’s surprise when they hear it’s from a charity shop. And OMG it cost less than a copy of Vogue.

Happy hunting… And try not to sacrifice any family members on your quest.

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Fleeing The Warren

They say three time’s a charm. Well, my parents didn’t seem overly charmed when I returned home after not one, not two but three attempts to move out…

The media is full of tales of the 30-somethings dubbed Boomerang kids, enjoying their disposable incomes at the expense of their parents but not all of us are enjoying occupying the nest.

I truly want to leave home, I really do and realistically I could have left six months ago but they’re making it so incredibly easy to stay…

Since the recession which, let’s face it feels like it has been blamed for pretty much every unfortunate or less than desired situation, the media has loved regaling the tales of the generation who have had years of fun at university courteous of the bank of mum and dad and have repaid them how? By returning home, eating their way though the cupboards and not showing any signs of departing anytime soon.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there’s plenty of stay at homers who simply want to take advantage of endless hangover sympathy from mummy (boys) or countless lifts from dad because he still thinks you’re 16 and therefore unsafe to get taxis alone (girls). But there comes a time when I’m now longing to watch Pointless in silence and not be force fed shepherds pie (my food hell if I ever appear on Saturday Kitchen).

And on more than a handful of occasions I have seriously contemplated that living alone and tolerating a diet of crackers and whoops grub would be preferable just so i don’t have to closet my love of expletives, instead adopting ‘parent-safe’ equivalents such as WTF and shut the f…. front door. My mum has even started to use mother trucker in her every day vocab. It feels too late now to tell her the truth.

But what these case studies forever in the press fails to say is that not everyone living at Casa Parental wants to be in the situation. After 15 months back at the nest, I’ve had a handful of final straw situations which have forced the flat hunting to begin. The first was when I was about to cut myself some chocolate cake one day when suddenly a booming voice in my left ear said: “let me do that, knives are dangerous.” I’m 30 years of age, Dad. The second was when it just became too humiliating having friends in my room and explaining the matching curtains and bedspread from BHS that my grandma bought me at age 9. For my single bed.

“So why don’t you leave?” I hear you cry! 2013 is the year it’s happening. Whatever is thrown at me and whatever quandaries it poses I shall move out. But I’ll still accept food parcels from mum and let dad give me the occasional lift though, you know, just so they feel needed.

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