Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Some Small Home Updates

You know when interiors magazine say, "You can jazz up a space with just new cushion covers!" and you think, "Yeah whatever, pull the other one." Turns out they're not lying. Something I've learnt since buying my home is how easy it is to update a room with comparatively tiny changes. 

Prior to moving to this house I'd lived in fourteen places in twelve years: I'd never really had the chance to get tired of a room or flat before it was time to move on. But I've stayed put for almost nine years, which is more than enough time to want to make changes, both big and small. We've just finished renovating our bathroom and I wrote about our kitchen on a budget last year, but it's the little updates that I enjoy the most and today I'm sharing some of them.
Living Room
Something I'm not crazy about in the living room is just how much brown wood there is. In an ideal world, I'd strip and paint the floorboards but just thinking about the dust and mess (and little cat prints on a freshly painted floor) makes me shudder. So I was lucky to find the perfect rug for the space, in simple shades of grey, from my favourite local homewares shop Harriman & Co.

As the living room is at the back of the house it can easily feel dark, so over the past 9 months or so I've collected sunshine yellow accessories to being a welcome pop of colour to the room. I picked up the yellow cushions from Habitat when they were having a discount event, the Hello Sunshine print is from Moonko in Sheffield, the retro-style yellow chair comes from My Furniture, and the vintage floral cushion cover (on grey chair) was from a local charity shop.

Total cost for this room's colourful new look? Chair, cushions and print all came to a total of £120. I've also re-used items where possible - "shop your home" as the fancy interiors bloggers call it - relocating a painted basket IKEA hack from our bedroom and the blue cushions (originally La Redoute) from the spare room, while my beautiful but broken 1960s typewriter sits happily in a corner with some of Thomas's vintage book collection.
Our Bedroom
Our room has always been a space that most reflects my tastes rather than both of ours; it was my pink-toned retreat for years before Thomas moved in and it's been slow to change. The addition of things specific to him - including the bear on a bike print, the custom portrait painted by Laura, and the (in-joke) All I Do Is Win embroidery - plus prints that he's chosen (such as the It's A Wonderful Life poster), and the introduction of teal and yellow as accent colours, are all my attempts to make it feel as much his space as mine.

The geometric cushion covers were a bargain £6 apiece from La Redoute, the Hello Sunshine cushion came from Tesco, while the battery operated string of ball lights are from Tiger and help to pull the different colours in the room together. At a cost of just £27, the room is now a light, bright, colourful space.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

A Buyer's Archive: April

Since February 2015, 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. 

This time last year I went slightly overboard buying midi skirts - three, to be precise, only one of which (the floral charity shop bargain) I wear regularly - a Gap t-shirt that went into a charity bag long ago, and a tote bag that I still love and use all the time. This year? It's not looking like my stripes problem is going anywhere fast, let's put it that way.
Striped t-shirt, originally New Look via charity shop £2.49
I picked this up in a charity shop in Wells and, despite being a size 12, it's the perfect fit to tuck into jeans and skirts. I'm very happy with this purchase as my Primark top of a similar style has recently shrunk in the wash, making it almost unwearable. And as I've already worn this at least six times, I'd say I've got value for money, too.

Button-front chambray skirt, La Redoute £23.40 (with 40% off)
I cannot tell you just how thrilled I am with this skirt. I've spent the last four summers looking for the perfect midi length, button front, chambray skirt and so to find this one for 40% off - and with pockets! - was extremely exciting. I'm not crazy about the buttons so will keep my eyes peeled for ones I like better, then I just need the weather to improve and I'll be wearing it constantly with tan sandals and a white stripey tee.
Polka dot t-shirt, Zara £7.99
Another salutary lesson in not paying attention to size labels - this is an M (and a Zara - home of the tiny sizing - M at that) and fits me perfectly, so I reckon an XL would fit up to a 22 or even 24, depending on height. There's not much more to say about this, I don't suppose: it's navy blue, it has polka dots, it's very very Janet. I'll be wearing this in summer tucked into high waisted jeans and with a headscarf tied rockabilly-style.

Breton top, La Redoute £11.40  (with 40% off)
Funnily enough, last April I bought this same top from La Reodute but in a white/black stripe and had got tons of wear out of it, until a recent encounter with tomato-based pasta sauce saw it relegated to gardening wear. I'm gutted that they don't still do the original white top, but this navy and cream is a decent enough substitute in my wardrobe.

Overall, then, I'm still ploughing away at my blue, striped, polka dotted style rut, but it's not for wont of trying: I swear the shops are full of rubbish at the moment, it's either cold-shoulders or bell sleeves as far as the eye can see. That's my excuse, anyway.

Total for April: £45.28

Total so far for 2017: £240.69

Total this time last year: £203.64

Look out for the #buyersarchive hashtag on Twitter and Instagram to see the other bloggers taking part.

Friday, 5 May 2017

The Thrifty Gift Swap: Summer Edition

My friend Rebs recently got in touch to ask if I fancied running a summer gift swap like my annual Christmas swap. Never one to pass up an opportunity to send and receive parcels, I leaped at the chance. So here's the Summer Thrifty Gift Swap! If you want to take part, have a look at the guidance below and then get in touch with either Rebs or me.

1. Send your name, address, social media links and blog address (if you have one) to jbistheinitial@gmail.com by May 31st. Please also include in your email as much detail about your likes and dislikes - including any dietary requirements - as possible, so your giver has a starting point.
2. Once you receive the information about your recipient , you can start putting together a box of bought, thrifted and handmade goodies you think your recipient will love.  In the Christmas swap there have been a huge range of thoughtful gifts exchanged: last year my haul included enamel pins, a tote bag, secondhand books, a beautiful handmade embroidery hoop, and zines.
3. Limit yourself to a £10-12 spend (not including postage).
4. Pop your parcel in the post by June 30th.
5. Sit back and wait to receive your own box of delights from a mystery giver!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Life Lately

Life seems so busy at the moment, between work and home and my busy staring-at-the-cat schedule, that I haven't always had the chance to blog as regularly as I'd like. Not that I think I, or any blogger, has a duty to keep to a schedule, but I do like to keep a record of what's going on in my life here. So, what have I been up to?

We've had some big celebrations in our house recently, with Thomas accepting an offer of a full-time, permanent lecturer role here in Leicester, and me an offer of a place on the Gender Studies MA at Leeds University. I'll be starting in September on a part-time basis, travelling up once a week for lectures and seminars. Meanwhile, the fact that Thomas has a job locally - and, more to the point, a permanent, well-paid job - takes the pressure off for the next few years. As he's only one year post-PhD, we feel very lucky (although his hard work and amazing talent have more to do with it than luck).

I'm really excited about starting the Masters - it's a course I've wanted to study for years and I spent the last few years of teaching saving like mad so I could afford the fees - but I'm apprehensive too. Nervous about the workload and the travel, the new people, the pressure I can tend to put on myself in academic situations (and my corresponding tendency to give up on anything I find too challenging).

Somewhat linked to this is that since the start of the year I've been challenging myself to do things that scare me and as a result my anxiety has been both debilitating and something I feel like I'm getting a handle on. Often in the same day. A lot of what I've been doing isn't big stuff - 'just' things like driving to a new place, or being the one who goes to the bar to order food - and I'm not always being successful, but I do feel like I'm making progress. I've also started being more open with friends about my mental health instead of pretending that everything's fine, which has been a massive relief.
Finally, travel-wise I feel like we're all over the place at the moment (in a good way).

I spent a really nice couple of days away this week, visiting Bath, Wells and Glastonbury with a friend. We pretty much ate and drank our way around Somerset: from afternoon tea to local cider to Glastonbury pasties, we tasted it all.

Now Thomas is in Wales, hiking and camping with a friend, before we head off to Barcelona next weekend, which will be a challenge to my travel anxiety but, I'm sure, a lovely trip. Then in May I have trips to London to release my inner rock chick at a Deftones gig, to Bradford to see my mum, and to Nijmegen to hang out with Thomas's friends for a long weekend.

What's new with you?

Monday, 17 April 2017

Eat: Oscar & Rosie's Pizza

Oscar & Rosie's has long been one of my favourite dinner destinations in Nottingham, so I was excited to discover they were opening a location in Leicester. So excited, in fact, that Thomas and I visited within 24 hours of them opening their doors last Friday.

Why all the excitement over pizza? I hear you ask. Well, although Oscar & Rosie's isn't the first independent serving decent pizza to open in Leicester, it is the first to offer vegan cheese and a huge range of vegan meats. It makes such a huge difference to eating out together when neither Thomas nor I have to compromise; when he can have great vegan food and I, well, don't have to have vegan food! 

The Leicester venue is smaller than their Nottingham branch, but offers the same mid-century-cum-junk shop style of shared seating along long wooden tables, and the same extensive menu of pizzas and both soft drinks and beer from small producers (although, at the time of our visit, no cider yet - unfortunately for me). From a menu boasting options as diverse as the beetroot, goat's cheese, & pesto Frenchman, to the Hamster (ham hock, mushrooms and ricotta), it felt a bit lazy to go for the Margherita, but with top-notch ingredients it was anything but boring.

Like all the best indie businesses, there's a slightly ramshackle feel to Oscar & Rosie's which is entirely its appeal; there's no slick corporate marketing needed when the pizza's as good as this. If you're local to Leicester - or even if you're not - I can heartily recommend you paying them a visit at Market Place, just off Hotel Street.

Note: this is not a sponsored post and  - more's the pity - I didn't get free pizza for writing about Oscar & Rosie's. I just really love the place!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

A Bathroom Makeover

When I bought this house eight years ago, the bathroom was resplendent with peach & green floral tiles straight outta the 70s. Not having any spare cash at the time, I slapped some white tile paint over them, painted the walls grey, and hoped for the best. Over the years a combination of peeling tile paint, hair dye stains on the grout, and mouldy sealant had left the bathroom an absolute embarrassment; I dreaded people coming to stay and having to use it.

A makeover was well overdue.

My talented friend Abby, who also redid our kitchen, came to the rescue. With her handling the tiling and drilling, and me on interior design and painting duties, we turned this...
... into this (note - taking photographs of a dark room with a big window is extremely difficult).

This is one of the first rooms that I've done a complete makeover of; my usual approach is to change a bit at a time, as and when we can afford it. It was really fun to go into it with a clear vision - I wanted white metro tiles, dark blue walls, reclaimed wood, and the contrast of textures provided by industrial wire accessories and woven baskets together with lots of plants.
As much as I possibly could, I reused items we already had in the house. The vintage pharmacy labels came from an antique shop near my dad's in Lancashire years ago, while the plants and pots were all rehomed from elsewhere in the house. The chest of drawers - an IKEA cheapie - had lived in the bathroom for years and just needed a lick of paint, and the bathroom mirror is one I salvaged from a charity shop and repainted.

Abby found a section of old railway sleeper while walking her dog and wasted no time working her magic on it, cutting it to size to make two shelves before sanding and oiling them. The basket - a handy home for toilet rolls - came from Ikea and I painted it with a couple of coats of the same paint I used on the walls.

The only things bought new for the room - apart from tiles and paint - were a sparkling chrome shower curtain rail and riser rail, the industrial wire shelving for the alcove, and a beautiful print by Eloise Renouf.  To save money, we retained the wood-effect lino which, to my surprise, actually goes really well with the new look. Overall the total cost for the makeover came to about £600, however this includes the cost of a plasterer after half the wall fell off when the old tiles were removed. That hitch aside, we could have managed it for less than £300.
One of my favourite things in the room is this mobile, which my step-mum made from sea glass and driftwood. Can you see what shape each piece of sea glass is? I was so touched when she gave it to me.

Overall, both Thomas and I are completely thrilled with our new bathroom. Whereas before it was a room I avoided unless absolutely necessary, now I love to light some candles and lie in the bath to relax. The blue walls give the space a cosy, cave-like feeling at night, and during the day it's fascinating to see how light affects the shade - sometimes appearing grey-blue, at other times a brighter navy.

* Basket: IKEA * Print: Eloise Renouf from Mustard  * Window film: B&Q * 
* Shower curtain rail: Homebase * Shower riser rail: Homebase
* Metro tiles: Homebase *

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Why I Love Zines

In 1994, when I was 16, I made my first zine. My mum photocopied it for me at work, I put an ad in the back of Melody Maker, and before too long letters with 50p pieces sellotaped to them were arriving through the letter box. My life as a zinester had begun.

A zine, for those who don't know, is a homemade booklet or pamphlet. They can be fanzines (zines, as the name suggests, about something you're a fan of - usually music. My first zines were Britpop fanzines), perzines (personal zines), comics or instruction zines. What they all have in common is that they're a DIY form of creativity: more often than not hand-drawn, photocopied, and either sold for a low price or swapped.

After making both fanzines and perzines for four years I stopped when I was about 20, and it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I felt like I wanted to get back into zines. In the interim blogging had become for me what zines once had been - a way of communicating, of practising my writing, of meeting people with whom I had a lot in common but whom I otherwise wouldn't have met - but within the last two years I've felt increasingly less motivated to blog. Instead, I decided, I would make some new zines.
My first new zine was about abortion, telling the story (largely through cartoons that could kindly be called naive, otherwise known as crap) of a termination I had in my early 20s, and it took me two years to finish. Luckily, I picked up the pace after that and, since the beginning of 2017, have written and made two more zines: Barren, about being childfree by choice, and a perzine called, like this blog, Someone, Somewhere.
When Laura and I visited Sheffield Zine Fest last year, we promised ourselves and each other that this year we'd return to table. And so, at the end of February, we set up stall: Laura selling her My So-Called Life compzine and her comic about turning 30, and me with my little stash of zines and badges.

Zines don't replace blogging for me but they do complement it, giving me a creative outlet that's about more than just writing, and a space to share things I wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable sharing online. The zine world is as wonderfully welcoming and diverse as it was when I was 16, too, and I've met so many brilliant people through making, sharing and buying zines. As the blogging world becomes increasingly mainstream, and often focused on people trying to make money, I value the truly DIY ethos of zines and the sense of being involved in something so firmly outside of the mainstream.

I'm now working on two compzines and would love contributions: Mixtape is a 90s nostalgia zine that Laura and I are putting together, and Cherry is about virginity - the loss of it, the concept, the problematically heterocentric nature of the concept, whatever! Email me at jbistheinitial@gmail.com if you want to submit something for either zine.

You can buy my zines from a range of places: by emailing me for Paypal details (they all cost £1 plus 50p P&P), or alternatively Brick is carried by both Penfight Distro and Vampire Sushi Distro, with the latter also selling Barren and Someone, Somewhere).

I have also contributed to a number of compzines in the past year, all of which you can buy on Etsy: Laura's zine The Boiler RoomVersions Of Violence, a zine about heterosexism, and Yr Faves Are Problematic

Monday, 27 March 2017

A Buyer's Archive: February & March

 Since February 2015, 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. 

This time last year I was buying a lot of polka dots and stripes (some things never change) and picking up beautiful jewellery in Cape Town. My buys from February and March 2016 have varied in wardrobe longevity - the black polka dot top (February) and the Breton top (March), both from La Redoute, have predictably become staples and I get frequent wear from the jewellery, too. However, both the Closet dress and the Dorothy Perkins one have been sold on, as neither fitted me properly. 
Striped top, Primark £3.50
I regret to inform you that after a month or two of cold turkey, I've fallen off the stripes wagon once more. As always, I had oh-so-many justifications for why I needed this top (it being scoop-necked where the rest of mine are crew- or boat-neck being the main one) but ultimately it comes down to the old addiction rearing its head again.

Mustard snood, Fat Face £12
Did I really need another mustard scarf/snood? No. But when I found this in the Fat Face sale I couldn't resist.

Washed black Jamie jeans, Topshop £42
It's so rare that I pay full price for anything, but I was in dire need of a pair of jeans and these Jamie jeans aren't always reliably in stock in my size, so I grabbed a pair when I saw them. 
Polka dot dress, H&M £12.99
H&M now go up to a 20 online in their Divided range, which is great news for those with boobs like mine, which generally preclude squeezing into even their biggest size in store.

Scallop collar top, Tu via Oxfam £3.99
Because it's navy blue and it has a collar. It would've been rude to leave it, right?
Black jersey skater dress, Simply Be via charity shop £2.50
I had a great jersey skater dress from H&M, which went AWOL a year or so ago. This is a great replacement, handy for those days you don't really want to think about what to wear: with a chunky cardigan and boots, it makes for a comfortable and easy outfit.

Organic cotton striped t-shirt, Mango £6.99
I have a lack of short-sleeved stripe tees to wear with jeans once it warms up, and this one is the perfect combination of fitted and slouchy. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.
Red Pour Moi bikini top, Next £14 (inc. £10 off code)
Red polka dot bikini bottoms, part of set from Amazon £12.99
This has the potential to be the most expensive bargain bikini ever. Let me explain: it's extremely rare to find a bikini top that's both big enough for my HH boobs and and provides enough support. It's even more rare to find one for less than 40 quid. So when I saw (and fell in love with) this rather vavavoom top by Pour Moi, I needed it in my life. And then obviously I wanted bottoms to match. And now obviously I want to go on a holiday during which I can wear said bikini, and have talked Thomas into taking a late-summer break in the sun. Hence, this supposedly cheap bikini will end up costing me a few hundred pounds (totally worth it though).

Looking at this collection of purchases, it seems they continue to stick to the themes well established within my wardrobe: polka dots, stripes, blue, mustard, collars. I'm starting to feel like there's a very fine line, though, between having a defined style and being stuck in a rut, and I worry I'm the latter, constantly buying the same things over and over. Hopefully the coming spring and summer will see me in a more experimental mood.

Total for February & March: £112.96

Total so far for 2017: £195.41

Total this time last year: £149.49

So it seems like my whole "spend less in 2017" resolution isn't going to plan. Oops.

Look out for the #buyersarchive hashtag on Twitter and Instagram to see the other bloggers taking part.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

How I Use My Bullet Journal & Passion Planner

I literally could not think of a non-wanky title for this post: My Bullet Journal Journey? Vomit. From Bullet Journalling To Passion Planning? Bleurgh. The terminology is all ridiculous and eye-rollingly silly*, but the practice of it? Brilliant.

* Especially Passion Planner, which brings to mind dodgy sex tips from Cosmo.
Bullet journals: just hipster to-do lists?
Unless you live under a rock, the bullet journal craze won't have passed you by. At its most basic, a bullet journal is a fancy name for a book of to-do lists. Of course, for most people it's far more than that. They can be a home for reading logs, gratitude lists, and I know lots of people who find it an invaluable tool for managing their mental and physical health, using habit and mood trackers to monitor their weeks. The appeal of a bullet journal is the ability to craft something completely unique, flexible and suited to your needs.

However, that benefit comes with a cost: chiefly, for me, was the time it takes to plan and draw layouts, and the fact that my lack of artistic skills meant it never looked as pretty nor as neat as I wanted it to. I went from using it daily, to only remembering to pick it up once or twice a week, to barely using it at all.

And so, enter the Passion Planner.
I saw Ingrid talking about the US-made Passion Planners on Twitter and, as I was struggling to think of what I wanted for Christmas, I took a look at their website and decided to try one out.

The biggest and most obvious difference is that the planner, while not providing the unique flexibility of a bullet journal, has a pre-printed layout that gives structure for each week and month. Briefly, there are monthly planning spreads, weekly planning spreads, and then within the weekly spread each day is broken down into 30 minute intervals. The weekly spreads also have a space for To Do lists (both personal and work) and a list of Good Things That Happened (providing the gratitude journalling element I liked about bullet journals).
I personally find this method of organising myself enormously more beneficial than the bullet journal.  While my bullet journal provided so much opportunity for creativity that I became almost paralysed by it, the Passion Planner gives me a structured space and keeps me focused. I especially like the opportunities given to reflect on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. The Space Of Infinite Possibility at the bottom of each weekly spread gives a little of the flexibility of a bullet journal, too - I tend to use mine for habit and spending trackers (on the website you can print off - for free - trackers to stick into your planner). I suspect that the planner will especially come into its own come September, when I start a part-time Masters and need to organise myself to do things a little more complex than 'wash hair'.

However, I haven't entirely abandoned my bullet journal. Now, instead of using it daily to plan, I use it as a reflective space for longer pieces of writing than will fit into my planner; for keeping track of specific things (such as reading lists); and as a scrapbook and journal of important or notable days and events.
Practicalities & Details
- I have an A5 undated Passion Planner, because the dated ones ran from Sunday-Saturday and that's just totally counter-intuitive to me! I think next time I'll try the A4 planner, as the A5 - although super handy to carry around - obviously doesn't provide as much space for writing.

- Not sure a Passion Planner is for you? Brilliantly, they offer free downloads via their website, so you can print off a month's - or even a year's - worth of pages and give it a go without spending your pennies.

- For my bullet journal I use a Leuchtturm 1917 journal from Fred Aldous. I chose graph paper, which makes drawing layouts much easier.

- I write with Stabilo fine liners in both books, and don't experience any bleed-through in my Passion Planner and only a little in the Leuchtturm.

- Other supplies I use are washi tape, to stick photos, tickets and other ephemera into my journal, and To Do stickers (from Etsy) for my planner, to provide a visual focus for my daily lists. I also print the Passion Planner finance sheets and habit tracker sheets from the website.

This is not a sponsored post, I just really like the Passion Planner!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Photo An Hour: Saturday 18th March

Another month, another Photo An Hour day, organised by Jane & Louisa (thanks guys!).  My day was a fairly typical Saturday of pottering at home, reading, a bit of shopping, and hanging out with the cat, before ending the day with a glass of fizz.
One of my favourite things about participating in Photo An Hour is seeing what other people get up to, and I especially enjoy it when our photographs all synchronise. This month, it was a rare first photo that wasn't of a book in bed.
Leftover pancakes from yesterday for breakfast, together with banana and raspberries in an attempt to claim it as a healthy meal. I mean, that's two of my five/seven/ten/whatever they're going to claim next a day, right?
Shower time. It's like hammer time but with more water. And considerably fewer baggy trousers.
Reading through the first submissions for the two zines I'm currently working on. Laura and I are making a compzine about 90s nostalgia called Mixtape, and I'm also editing a zine about virginity called Cherry. I'm still seeking submissions for both zines, so let me know if you want to write or make something!
I only wear stripes on days that end in a -y.
A vintage warehouse has opened up not far from where I live and I went to have a browse to see if I could find a chair for our kitchen: sadly I didn't find anything suitable, but there were lots of interesting bits to look at nevertheless.
Time for tea and cake in Clarendon Park. I was feeling a little delicate after an evening in the pub on Friday and hoped that mint tea will settle my stomach.
Home, via the bike shop where Thomas splashed out on a new ride (after being told that his old bike needed repairs that would cost 5 times what it was worth), and a chance to hang out with Missy cat. This photograph doesn't properly reflect how lovely and affectionate she was being: lots of of head boops and nose kisses.
My pins and badges had been scattered across the mantlepiece in our bedroom - I found a scrap of linen fabric in my stash and 5 minutes of pinning later, had a much neater storage solution for part of the collection.
For the past 6 weeks we've been in bathroom renovation hell, having tiles (and bits of wall) ripped off, walls replastered, new tiles put on and finally, applying coats of paint. Now it's onto the fun bit: Thomas had just put up the new wire shelving so I got busy styling it with vintage Penguin paperbacks, pretty toiletries, and a plant.
Onto outfit two of the day (I was freezing and felt the need for a big cardi), ready to go round to my friend Leanne's for the evening.
Doing Saturday night right with pizza and Prosecco. It's also where I abandoned the photos, as I didn't much move for the next four hours!

What did you get up to this weekend?