Monday, 31 December 2012

A Polish Christmas

My mother's parents were both Polish, they escaped during the Second World War via Sweden where my Uncle was born, Scotland where my mum was born and then had six months living in Argentina before finally settling in London. For fear of being arrested, they never went back to their homeland. Nan worked as a bookkeeper on Fleet Street and Granddad worked for British Rail, they got a decent sized house in Southh West London, which my Grandmother at 91 still lives in (Granddad died in August 1991).

Like many Europeans, for Poles, the Christmas celebration was on Christmas Eve, so every year we'd drive up to my Nan's from Kent. With my cousins and aunts and uncles, she'd do a full Polish Christmas dinner for us, complete with herring, breaded fish, potatoes and bigos, and poppyseed cake for dessert (eurrgh!). After that, we'd open our presents from that side of the family then head home, before celebrating a British style Christmas at home on the 25th.

As the years went on, the dinner stopped, as cooking for 12 people was all too much and we'd go for coffee and cake instead, but now, Nan isn't really able to do much as the host, and the tradition has stopped altogether, and my Uncle's family prefers to take holidays in the UAE at Christmas, so Nan comes to us, along with my Dad's mum, all the way from the Black Country.

This year Nanny Kiki (so-called as that's what she called me when I was a baby) had a heart attack the weekend before Christmas and spent the 9 days in the run-up to Christmas in hospital. Her hearing is dreadful and her memory worse, but she loves to talk and is always cheerful. She had us very much on edge all over Christmas though with sudden gasps and grunts, and I felt I shouted "ARE YOU OK?" more than I said anything else! What I love about my Nan is her relentless cheeriness, even though it's repetitive, her most used words are "unbelievable", "lucky", "amazing".

Nan probably won't be in her own home much longer. The vast amount of medication she was given is too much for her to remember to take properly, the stairs in the house are steep and it's all becoming a bit of a worry. For years my mum has been doing the Christmas shopping for her, as it's difficult to get to the shops, find the gifts we want and carry them all home. This year my mum bought me on her behalf the stunning Rose Petal Jam Polish cookbook by Beata Zatorska and Simon Target which I thought was a particularly thoughtful given the circumstances.

My Nan may be with us for many years to come, or this heart attack may be signalling that her rich life is coming to an end, and even though she didn't choose this book for me herself, I can remember her by it.

2 days after Christmas, Nanny P went home from our house, and on the very next day, she fell over and broke her ankle. If it doesn't rain it pours (all this follows my Dad's back injury which he is still recovering from)! She is 96, and is very, very immobile anyway, so it's unlikely that she will recover well and will probably need to go into a home too. I am glad we go to spend Christmas with them both at home this year, and in subsequent years we can make the best of whatever the situation is.

I grabbed a handful of old photos from Nan's house yesterday. Unfortunately I don't know who's who in most of them. With my grandparents escape to the UK, I never knew my other older relatives or their friends. That's them at the back, top left.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Early Christmas presents for me....

Christmas time is a time for giving, and people have given me some amazing gifts already so thank you! Today my boss gave me this Bare Minerals lipgloss set. I've sniffed 'em all and they smell gorgeous, and come in great, wearable shades.

I also have been given some of the amazing Lotus biscuit spread by my friend and flatmate. We love this stuff, and she sprung it on me at the weekend after we'd said we weren't doing gifts! It's available at Le Pain Quotidien or at a much more reasonable price from Waitrose. Someone get me a spoon....

On a serious note, Christmas is a time for giving and for being with the ones you love, although getting stuff is always a nice little bonus! My sister is in Australia this year and it will be the first time I've not seen her at Christmas. My dad, as mentioned has had two serious bike accidents this year and is only just out of his backbrace, and my beautiful Grandmother had a heart attack last weekend. At present, the hospital are saying that they will be able to let her out on Christmas Eve, and she will be able to spend Christmas at home with us, and I really hope this is the case. This Christmas is definitely about spending time with loved ones. To my family.... cheers!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Christmas shopping...done!

I started my Christmas shopping a little later than usual this seemed to creep up so quickly! Here's a run down of some of the awesome stuff we got for friends and family this year. I can't tell you what I got the Boy, as there is a danger he might read this. Maybe after Christmas.

My mum: Bridesmaids DVD which I hope won't give her a heart attack, Hairy Dieter's cookbook - she's been doing WeightWatchers and has lost 4.5 stone since last October so will need some inspiration to keep up the good work! On behalf of my sister, who is in Australia for the year, I got Champneys Spa Treatments Citrus Blush Hand Lotion which mum adores and I'm hoping to sneak a little trial on Christmas day when she's opened it.

My Dad: Bradley Wiggins' biography and some cycling gloves. My dad is an obsessive cyclist, it's a 40 year love affair. He used to race with Bradley's dad, and also won the fire brigade world championship in 1983. He's had two accidents this year, having fractured his pelvis in March and then in October, he came off again in the final sprint of a race, and has been in a backbrace up until now. In the new year, he'll be looking forward to getting back on the bike.Maybe I'll get him some stabilisers too.

My fiancĂ© got some really nice gifts at the Seven Dials shopping event a couple of weeks ago, where there was 20% off at nearly all the shops (and where we also splurged at Superdry as per my earlier post). For his brother, he got this amazing t-shirt from Super Superficial. It's so incredibly random, it was just begging to be bought, I am looking forward to seeing his face when he opens it.

For his cousin's little ones, who are 2 and 4 years old, we got this gorgeous stamp set from Magma. They love dinosaurs and we thought it was adorable, and a bargain at £15 instead of £20.
Also in Magma, we picked up this gorgeous print by Katie Viggers for his mum, who loves foxes. Katie's work is beautiful, and I've just found out she has a blog about children's books, which is delightful, and going on my Google Reader instantly.
Speaking of Google, I am also very excited as I have ordered a new phone. I had the good fortune of winning a BlackBerry a few months ago with free credit for a year, but after 2 years on Android prior to that, I have realised I just can't do BlackBerry again. I am getting a Samsung S3 Mini and included in my contract package is a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, so I really can't wait to  get hold of these so I can start playing with them! I popped into the store earlier on the offchance that they would be ready to collect but alas, it wasn't meant to be. A couple more days on BlackBerry it is then.

We had a burrito each at Chipotle Islington today and it was delicious. I am a real Mexican food lover, and the burrito was probably overkill after last night's chilli pie (make a chilli con carne, then use flour tortillas as lasagne sheets, and bake with loads of cheese- delicious) but I could not resist a burrito for lunch. We usually go to Chilango, but in an effort to try new places we chose to Chipotle instead and it didn't disappoint. Good guac!

Tomorrow I am excited to be going to a quote-along screening of Mean Girls at the Prince Charles Cinema tomorrow, followed by a Christmas lunch with my friends in our flat. It's going to be SO FETCH.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Pre-sales perving

Here are some bits I am hoping to snap up in the January sales!

I love this Mango dress. I am really attracted to this shade of blue, I love it and am planning to feature it in our wedding. This isn't a bridesmaids dress though, more of a work dress. If I manage to find it in the sale, I might even snap up the black version too!

I also really loved this coat in Zara. I tried it on last week however and found that the L was too small (!? I am a 12-14!) and the XL was slightly too big. If I find it in the sales however I might try it on again. I definitely need a warm coat to bring my wardrobe up-to-date, my H&M number from last year is far too thin and I'm really feeling the chill.

On my web-surfing mission I've also found these wedge boots on the New Look site. I really struggle sometimes to find shoes, as I have size 9 feet. This is a royal pain in the arse, and really restricts where I can buy shoes, but luckily New Look do a really good range of affordable shoes in a 9. The fact that they are on sale now might mean a sneaky trip to New look at lunchtime tomorrow....

Sunday, 9 December 2012


My sewing machine is broken. It is probably easily fixed but I don't know enough about them to achieve the desired effect. I'm disappointed as I dragged all my fabric out today so I could make some progress with the mini-quilts I started early a year ago. I've got two small ones I started, a cushion cover, fabric for one more all cut, and fabric for another ready to cut. And one of my many resolutions is to get them finished and use up the scraps on the way. The first quilt I made is in the middle, in green , brown and pink, I put it there to remind myself what a finished job could look like!

I bought this beautiful book by the incredibly creative Jane Brocket a few months back, but since moving I haven't managed to do anything creative but the ideas in there are truly inspiring and after grabbing it for another look today, I really want to get cracking.

So, my resolutions, the definitive list:

1. Treat my body like a temple - eat better, exercise more, look after myself
2. Find my style and stick to it, buy good quality clothes
3. Get the sewing machine fixed and USE IT to finish all these projects so I can start exciting new ones!
4. Read more - my mountain of books to read is teetering and there's even more on my wishlist. I've had to put a stop on my book swapping until I finally get through the stack I have.
5. Watch all those classic films that I really should have seen already (I love movies, but people are always utterly shocked when I tell them I haven't seen some absolute classic).
6. Take more photographs
7. Cook new things
8. Get that wedding venue and date sorted, hopefully by the end of February so we can actually start planning the fun stuff. 
9. DO MORE! Say yes to things, trips, events, social occasions. Live!
10. Save money. I'm pretty good at this anyway, I'm a cheapskate. I'm currently saving for a trip to Australia to see my baby sister in Spring 2013. After that, I need to start saving for the future, so that I might get to be homeowner one day. So the challenge will be achieving all of the above, without spending too much money.
11. Blog about all of the above!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

In the beginning, there was a careless young lady....

My first on my new blog about how utterly uncool I am. I was telling a couple of male colleagues at our Christmas party last night how little I care about what I look like. They accused me of exaggerating this for their sakes, which may have been the case. I guess the truth is that I do put a little effort into looking passable in everyday life, but perhaps not enough, so this blog was born to help me keep focus on my efforts in taking a little more pride in myself and my wardrobe.

For a while, my shopping motto has been: Don't buy anything unless you love it more than your very favourite item of clothing. Naturally, we all need those staple items like the essential black vest top (H&M is your friend, but I do think this is a good rule to have. I don't stick to this religiously, sometimes it slips, but I think its a bloody good benchmark for making sure you're not Just Buying Tat. At university, I bought new clothes on a daily basis, I was out most nights of the week. I would wear them once then sell them on eBay when I realised my bank balance was about to enter dangerous territory. Now, I really try to think, "Do I need this, do I really want it?" and am pretty strict with myself. This has been helped by the fact that, much of the time, I find high fashion utterly ridiculous and unwearable and dress for comfort.

I've made slight improvements already. In my last job, which was going nowhere fast and had me at my lowest in terms of motivation, I would often wear a plain top and the same pair of trousers all week long. Since moving to the capital, starting a new job that's actually going somewhere, with a great, nurturing boss, I've realised that I have worn skirts and dresses every single day and felt all the better, and more professional for it.

I also pay little heed to how I treat my body and my skin. I am currently a smoker, though this is set to change very soon (again). I frequently go to bed without taking off all my makeup. Since walking a lot my holiday to Japan in September, I haven't done even a tiny bit of exercise. So like many people, I am setting a new resolution to treat myself a little better. 

As the name suggests, this isn't a fashion blog as such. I see this as a diary of the start of a new effort to start treating myself a little better, pay more attention to what my body needs, what I look like and as a result, feel happier and have a more fulfilling life, on a bit of a budget. I am going to talk about products I've started using, the gradual improvement of my wardrobe through the purchase of inexpensive and interesting items, maybe some recipes I've tried, books I've read and the occasional brief film review and suchlike. 

With that in mind, here's my latest purchase!

Essentially, it's a blue jumper. Nothing special, but I realised I didn't really have any knitwear apart from a comical Christmas jumper (45p from a flea market in Tallinn last year!) and a dodgy Pringle style number I bought for a pub golf expedition, and neither are fit for public consumption. This is by Superdry and was RRP £44.99, but I snapped it up at the Seven Dials Christmas shopping event, where everything was 20% off, so this comfortable but presentable piece of knitwear was only £35.99. My boyfriend has cultivated quite a collection of Superdry checked shirts, they are his uniform (he does look really, really good in them) and I've never really considered the ladieswear because I've always been a cheapskate but after he queued to buy the latest addition to his checked shirt collection (orange and grey this time), I thought I'd have a little ganders at the ladieswear. There were two other shades of blue which we were equally tempting but my practical side told me to go with this one, which would ultimately go with more. 

Also this week, I've been to see Pitch Perfect, which I really rated. I scored some free tickets to a preview screening at the Courthouse Hotel, which was a lovely setting, right by Liberty's of London, and managed to drag the Boy along, after I couldn't find a girlfriend that was free at short notice to attend. It was really good, and even he, hater of musicals was impressed. It's not a musical as such, but it is a movie about a capella singing, and these aren't for everyone. I'd say even if you've read the synopsis and think it sounds lame, give it a chance anyway if the opportunity arises. A feel good film, with some hilarious moments (thanks Rebel Wilson), and some really, really good musical numbers. Anna Kendrick can sing? Who knew? 

We also ate at Bi Bim Bap on Greek Street which was pretty darn yummy. I loved Bi Bim Bap when I first tried it in Shanghai in 2008 so when I saw this Korean eatery in Soho I mentally filed it for later. A shared starter of squid, two mains and two beers came to £33 including service, so it's not bank breaking either. Really yummy food, nice cosy laidback little restaurant, no complaints here!