Monday, 26 September 2016

Photo An Hour: Saturday 24th September

Each month Jane and Louisa arrange Photo An Hour, and most months I completely forget to take part. Not this time! Here's what I got up to on Saturday: check out the #photoanhour hashtag on Instagram and Twitter to see who else took part.
Missy has just woken me up by miaowing in my face, which is code - depending on the time - for either 'get up and feed me' or, as in this case, 'move - you're in my spot'. So I duly moved.
Every Photo An Hour day I have the same breakfast: sourdough toast with marmalade, and black tea. What can I say? I'm a creature of habit.
I started a bullet journal at the beginning of this month and so far I am really enjoying the process. I tend to use it for keeping a goals/to-do list - both daily and longer term - and a quick bullet point record of what I've done each day, which can mean anything from what I wore or read, to positive things that have happened, to what I've spent. To anyone considering starting a journal, I'd say: do it.
Getting dressed to leave the house (finally) and despite it not being quite the weather for a t-shirt, I'm desperate to wear my new Fight Like A Grrrl shirt.
Waiting for our train to Nottingham. I realise now that it looks like Thomas isn't wearing any bottoms, but I promise he has shorts on; they're even quite long so where they are in this photograph is beyond me!
My joy knew no bounds at not only finding the previously-sold-out-in-my-size Cath Kinston books skirt, but discovering that Thomas had a few days left on his NUS card so I nabbed it with a discount, too.
Street art in Nottingham.
You know that terrible 50 Cent song that goes, "you can find me in the candy store..."? Well, I'm like that but replace 'candy store' with 'feminist section of the bookshop'.
Laura had alerted me to the opening of a new pub in Nottingham, The Angel, which has a herbivore/carnivore menu - that is to say, for every meat/fish option, there's also a vegetarian and vegan option. So, basically, the perfect place for carnivore Janet and vegan Thomas to eat together. And obviously we needed to have a drink while we perused the menu...
Bonus photograph of our fish & chips. One of these is battered vegan tempeh and one is battered cod: both were very tasty.
I know I'm biased, but I really do think Thomas is the cutest. And this is the face he pulls when I tell him so.
Madly early for our train: standard.
Just about to arrive back in Leicester (it's only a half hour journey, we were really early), and I'd got bored on the journey so cracked open one of Thomas's purchases, a zine about the radical history of brewing. It was more interesting that it sounds.
Home, pyjamas on, candles lit and apple strudel in the oven. Doing Saturday night right.
And it seems appropriate to end where I began: on a Missy photograph. She's only started sitting on the sofa next to us in the last few days, so this was an exciting and momentous occasion. Off-camera is Thomas, who'd been banished to the chair as she seems to like to sit right in the middle of the couch cushion, leaving only enough room for one of us next to her.

Friday, 23 September 2016

A Wedding Planning Update

When you're planning a wedding - whether it be the most traditional, big-white-gown-and-stately-home event or, as Thomas and I have taken to describing ours, an anarcho-punk/feminist leifdesfeestje* - you quickly learn that other people have A Lot Of Thoughts And Opinions about weddings.

And this despite that fact that we've been incredibly lucky that our families, who are thrilled that we're making this commitment (albeit non-legal) to each other, genuinely couldn't be less interested in dictating to us exactly how we should go about it. Our friends, too, have been very accepting of and excited about the direction in which we've chosen to take our wedding: namely, a ceremony officiated by a good friend of ours, with all the readings and speeches and vows one would associate with a wedding but without the legal bit, followed by a three course vegan meal and piss-up in our favourite pub.

But still the questions come...

Are you having a theme? Err, aside from love and commitment? No. 

A seating plan? No. 

Best man and bridesmaids? Well, my little nieces aside (who I couldn't in good conscience deny the chance to put on a pretty dress and call themselves bridesmaids), no. 

Hen and stag dos? Probably not, although Th
omas has expressed a preference to go on a "nature walk" for his stag do. I kid you not.

Changing your name? Erm, have you even met me? Hell no!

As our friends and family have quickly realised, the answer to pretty much any question about the wedding is, "No, we're not bothering with that."

And then, the why.

I'm crafty, creative, details oriented and a micro-manager: all the ingredients for a bridezilla, a wife-to-be hand-stitching favours for a year before the ceremony and obsessing over every element. So it's as strange and surprising to me as it is to those who know me well that, when it comes to our wedding, I honestly couldn't care less.

What is important to me is this: that some of my family from overseas are able to be there; that Thomas's friends from the Netherlands come; that our UK-based friends and family are in full attendance; and that we have an occasion full of fun, laughter and love, while lacking in the patriarchal traditions that are so intrinsically entwined with wedding ceremonies. Oh, and I'd like a pretty twirly dress that doesn't cost ££££ (this last has at least already been achieved, with a £16 bargain dress of my dreams).

So there aren't going to be most of the usual trappings of a wedding. Instead we're crafting something that is completely, totally us. Our ceremony is explicitly political, from the readings we've chosen to the promises and vows we will make. It might seem a strange choice but politics - especially feminist and anarchist politics - are intrinsic to our relationship. They are what we first bonded over and are what we both value so much in each other. We have, in our four years together, both politicised the other: me pushing Thomas towards a queer, intersectional, trans-inclusive feminism and introducing him to fat activism; he, coming from an anarchist punk scene in the Netherlands that is extremely active in pro-refugee activism, pushing me to be more radical in my politics and less tolerant of middle-way liberalism. We could no more separate politics from our wedding day than we could from our lives.

And so, an anarcho-punk/feminist liefdesfeestje it is. On 31st July 2017 I will wear my pretty, twirly, £16 dress and Thomas - fresh from his nature walk (insert eye roll emoji) - will be suited and booted, and we'll make our vows in the most beautiful building in Leicester, in front of the people we love most. We'll listen to the music that's special to us**, drink Prosecco and cider, eat heaps of vegan food***, and be merry. I really cannot wait.

*Dutch for love party, which we avoid because in English it sounds like we're hosting an orgy.

** Generously, I have offered Thomas a 35 minute slot on the playlist for his terrible 80s MOR, while I get to choose the rest of the music.

*** See, we both have priorities: mine is music, so I get to pick; his is food, so he gets to make it all vegan.

Monday, 12 September 2016

How We Got A Fancy New Kitchen On A Tiny Budget

When I bought this house eight years ago I, like most first time buyers, stretched myself financially in order to do so. As a result, doing anything to it beyond painting a few walls was out of the question, so I resigned myself to living with a kitchen I hated. From the grey laminate worktops to the torn lino floor and cheap metal sink, this was no-one's idea of a dream kitchen.

So how did it go from this...
... to this?  Read on...
1. Don't try and do it all at once. We just didn't have the funds to do all of the work at the same time, so we prioritised. First up, two years ago, we replaced the horrible lino with slate-effect tiles and, at the same time, repainted the walls, added chalkboard paint to the door, made new blinds and put up some shelves: all small changes and cheap, too, but they made the room much more liveable while we saved for phase two.

2. Ask yourself: do I need a whole new kitchen? The cost of new units was prohibitive but we realised that replacing the whole kitchen wasn't actually necessary. By replacing just the worktops and sink, the whole kitchen has been revitalised. If you want a more drastic makeover, you can replace cupboard doors, paint the existing doors, or - as I did when I first moved in - just replace the handles. Think, also, about using open storage: our shelves, teamed with a wall-mounted pan rack, mean that the majority of our pots, plates and dry goods are out on display and easy to access, leaving the limited cupboard space for the ingredients and equipment we use the least.

3. Can you keep any existing appliances to save cash? I love the original 60s freestanding oven and hob that was in the house when I bought it, so there was no need to buy a new one: having new worktop & tile surrounding it is enough to completely change the look. Likewise, our existing fridge-freezer & washing machine are both still going strong and, as we weren't redesigning the layout, could stay put and save us £100s. 

4. Do it yourself and, where you can't, utilise the expertise friends & family. We were incredibly lucky to have my good friend Abby on board to help us out with this makeover. Abby is a PE teacher by trade but has done three house renovation projects of her own and absolutely loves big DIY jobs (weird, I know). She was more than happy to give up some of her time - paid, of course, but at mates rates rather than full market price - to do the jobs we couldn't manage, like... well, pretty much everything! Abby installed the worktops and the sink and also did the tiling (although I got her to teach me how to tile so that, come the next project, I can have a crack at it myself).

5. Know where to find a bargain. Abby's advice was once again invaluable for us: because she's done so many renovations, she knows where to source affordable yet good quality materials. She pointed me in the direction of Wickes for our worktops where, thanks to a discount event, two 3m lengths of solid beech worktop set us back just £130, and Homebase, who had the white metro tiles we wanted on special offer. Do you know someone in the building trade who can give you tips on where to find what you need at a good price, or have any friends or family recently completed a big project? If so: ask them where to shop.

6. If in doubt, chuck it in a jar. Finally, open shelving may be a cheap storage solution but if that's where most of your dry goods are kept, it could easily look messy. I spent £25 on glass jars in Ikea, bought a labelmaker from eBay, and hey presto! We have well organised, neat rows of food instead of half empty packets shoved into the back of a cupboard. Although I have to say that making labels for lentils, roiboos tea and udon noodles is about the most middle class thing I've ever done.
We spent just over £500 on this second phase of the makeover, which included all materials - worktops, new sink and mixer tap, tiles, shelving timber, brackets, and jars - plus labour. And the result is nothing short of amazing, turning a dingy space into one of my favourite rooms in the house: light, bright, airy and modern.

* Beech workstops: Wickes
* Reginox ceramic sink: Amazon * Mixer tap: Amazon
* Shelving timber & brackets: B&Q * Korken jars: IKEA
* Orla Kiely coffee jar: Douwe Egbert's Ltd edition *
* Freda white leaf jars: Habitat * Utensil rail with hooks: IKEA *
* Screw The Patriarchy print: Redbubble *
* Quotation chopping board: handmade by Abby *

Saturday, 3 September 2016

The Buyer's Archive: August

Since February last year, inspired by Elise's Buyer's Archive project, I've been keeping a record of all my clothing purchases in an effort to track what works and what doesn't and - in theory - cut down on my spending. Check out the #buyersarchive hashtag on Twitter/Instagram to see posts from everyone taking part, which usually includes Elise, HazelKezzieDonnaLucy and Charlotte.

Last August I spent a whopping £206.75 on twelve items. Of what I bought, some have become wardrobe essentials - the burgundy H&M cardigan, the polka dot jumper, and the striped Gap tee especially - while others - the Emily & Fin dress, the polka dot charity shopped dress, and the bird print skater skirt - have already been donated or re-sold. I haven't worn the Saltwater sandals as much as I expected, but that's mainly because until the last few weeks, summer weather has been in short supply.

My spending was a lot lower this year; however my addiction to stripes shows no signs of abating any time soon, with three new additions to my collection.

Burgundy cord skirt, Dorothy Perkins £16.75 (with 25% discount)
The black denim skirt I got from Primark last month has already become a wardrobe staple, so I'd been on the look out for with a similar fit (priority: pockets) in a different fabric or colour. This Dotty Ps cord skirt hit the mark perfectly, and as they're currently having one of their many discount events, it wasn't too expensive either.

Black striped knit top, Primark £4
Because it was £4, and it goes brilliantly with the skirt. And, ok, because stripes.

Blue striped Breton top, La Redoute £9.75 (with 25% discount)
Last month I got a blue striped top from Sainsburys, which I then managed to ruin with impressive speed. This is its replacement and will, I suspect, get lots of wear at work this autumn teamed with my new jeans.

Breton top, M&Co via LOROS charity shop £4
This might be my favourite and best-fitting Breton for a while, and a great replacement for my long-lamented favourite H&M Breton that I spilled a tomato-based pasta sauce down the front of. And, in my defence, on the day I got this I managed to resist buying a Fat Face striped top in another charity shop, so perhaps I'm finally learning to exercise restraint when it comes to stripes.

Black Jamie skinny jeans, Toshop via eBay £9.50
Oh how I love my Jamie jeans, so I was super excited to find a bargain pair with little wear on eBay.

Tan sandals, Dorothy Perkins £7 (in sale)
I bought these in July but forgot to add them to last month's Buyer's Archive.  They are SO comfortable and a great addition to my collection of tan sandals; I'm already kicking myself for not buying a second pair for next summer while they were still in stock.

All of which brings my August total to a pleasingly rounded £50 for six items. A much more palatable spend than last August's. My goal for September is to not buy any striped tops. Yep, you heard me: I'm going cold turkey on the Breton. Wish me luck!