Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

The coming season May 27, 2011

Filed under: Fashion,Shopping — lauravw @ 12:36 pm

And I don’t mean summer. I mean autumn: it’s preview time amongst some of my favourite clothing manufacturers, and there are glimpses to be had of what we could be wearing towards the end of the year.

First up is Boden: their autumn collection can now be viewed on their preview website, and you can get 20% off if you order now. You won’t get your clothes for a few months though, because I expect they are still being made/transported on big ships from China and wherever else they manufacture. I’ve got my eye on a few things already: this skirt (in black flower power) and this dress (in charcoal). And a few other things may have also snuck into my shopping basket… I’ve not placed an order yet though – I think I need to mull it over for a few days longer.

Secondly, Kew. Kew is going to be rebranded,which I wasn’t pleased to hear (I can be a real stick-in-the-mud when it comes to change). I like their clothes, particularly their basics – they are very good at plain jersey tops and simple cardigans, for example. The rebranding comes hand in hand with new prices (upwards, naturally), and there will be greater use of more luxurious fabrics. To me, that sounds like more stuff that won’t go in your washing machine. I don’t know about you, but I only have to see the words ‘dry clean only’ to be put off buying a garment. (‘handwash only’ has a similar effect on me, but I am prepared to handwash a garment if there’s something really special about it). Having said all that, the clothes on display at the preview look very nice, and very much like the Kew of old. I shall reserve judgement.

Next: Cath Kidston. Cath Kidston did a preview of their new season products in London recently, and have published a set of photos from the day on their Facebook page. The product photos look to have been taken from some distance, so you only get the faintest glimpse of what will be on offer. UPDATE: I found some more close-up photos from the event.

Finally, H&M. Holly from Decor8 tweeted about their new season’s collections this morning. It all looks a bit too fashionable for me, but there are some good colours and interesting prints.


Sneaking a peek May 23, 2011

Filed under: This and that — lauravw @ 7:46 pm

I love an open gardens event. It seems so British to open your garden to all and sundry, to let them wander among your flowerbeds and comment on the standard of your roses.

On Saturday we went to a local open gardens event that we’ve been to in previous years. Some of the gardens were new to us, and others we’d seen before. One that we had loved on a previous visit was closed when we tried to take a look, so I had to try to recreate it in my mind’s eye as we arrived at the closed garden gate.

What I’d be even more keen to go on is an open house tour – on a gardens tour, you just get the odd fleeting glimpse of what life is like inside each home. For the most part it looks chaotic – I suppose people who have invested weeks getting the garden show-ready have had to somewhat neglect the inside of their homes… But other houses look more appealing, and I want to have a good nose around.

One family did invite us into their home for a look, and it was fascinating. They lived in a big Victorian house, and it really felt Victorian. There was clutter everywhere, but so much of it seemed to be in keeping with the character of the house.

Another aspect of the day that I enjoyed was the cake: in the scout hut (again, a very British place to be on a Saturday afternoon) was a huge array of cakes, brownies, and other baked goods, served on gingham tablecloths with cups of orange squash and pots of tea.

There’s another open gardens event soon, in a very interesting part of Nottingham, and so I’m hoping the weather will be kind so that we can go and explore that part of the city.


Catching up May 9, 2011

Filed under: This and that — lauravw @ 1:09 pm

So many things have been catching my eye recently. Top of the list is the new photo tour of Amy Butler’s house. Wow. Even her cats look well-behaved. I love the entryway to the house most of all – I wonder if I will ever get to live in a place like this?

Also of interest:

This post on Craft about making green cat toys.

Tips for better composition – I have a new camera and so am trying to soak up advice on photography at the moment. Also: taking great photos of kids – taking pictures of people is something I could do with improving at.

Boden autumn/winter preview – and the range itself will be available to order on the preview site from the end of this month. I look forward to each new season of styles very much (not just Boden, but all my favourite shops). When my dad worked in fashion we had new ranges coming into our house twice a year, and always an incredibly long time in advance of when they would appear in the shops.

Small business lessons. “In negotiations, be as quiet as you can” – this is a very good tip.

Quick and easy Mexican cooking – a sample recipe from a new book that I’ve had my eye on.


Of birds and music May 6, 2011

Filed under: Music,Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 1:02 pm

Last night I was able to see one of my favourite musicians, playing live in a small club just a short bus ride from home. Laura Cantrell is a singer songwriter. Originally from Nashville, she now lives in New York City. I first heard her music on the John Peel show some years ago – as did many other Brits, which is why she’s reasonably popular on this side of the Atlantic. He said her first album was his “favourite album of the last 10 years – and possibly my life” – and that was enough of a recommendation for me to buy it. (Is it really amost seven years since John Peel died? I still miss hearing his voice on the radio.)

Since then I’ve enjoyed all of her music, but I didn’t think I’d get to see her play live – until I noticed on her website that not only was she coming to the UK, she was coming to Nottingham. I’m sometimes cautious about going to see people whose work I admire a lot – I’ve been disappointed once or twice by musicians (notably another country singer, Ryan Adams, whose concert I still regret not walking out of). Bill Bryson is one of my favourite authors, but I’ve deliberately not gone to his book signings and talks when he’s been in town, just in case he didn’t match up to how I imagine him to be (though for the record I’ve heard him on the radio often, and he sounds thoroughly nice, so perhaps I should just get over myself!).

But the concert last night was every bit as good as I had hoped. I love seeing small-scale acoustic concerts, where the musicians can take requests and play whatever songs take their fancy at the time. She played so many of my favourite songs, some lovely new ones, and told us stories about female country singers from the 1950s and 60s. I think what really helped her win over the crowd was the way she kept pronouncing Nottingham – in that charming way Americans sometimes do.

But that wasn’t the only thing that made last night memorable. Before the concert, I had dinner with a friend at Wagamamas, which faces out towards the Trent University building that’s currently home to a pair of peregrine falcons. The birds have been nesting there for some years, and this year a webcam was installed so that people could watch them raise their young. They laid four eggs, which hatched out last weekend. I kept my eye on the building through much of our meal, and towards the end we finally saw a big bird swoop towards it, and perch on a ledge. We paid our bill and went outside to get a better look, and I was delighted to see it really was one of the falcons. I took two pictures – one of the view from our seats inside the restaurant, and a slightly closer one to show where the bird is. I find it amazing to see such a rare bird right in the heart of the city centre.


The big event May 1, 2011

Filed under: This and that — lauravw @ 1:48 pm

I really didn’t intend to watch the wedding.

I’m not a royalist, and I’m uncomfortable with people being born into so much wealth and privilege, without ever having to earn it.

And yet… I spent all of Friday morning glued to the television. I got caught up in it all, same as so many other people. In hindsight, if I’d realised I was going to watch so much of it, I would have arranged to watch it with friends – but I suspect my friends were of the same mind: being aloof, thinking they wouldn’t want to watch it, and then doing nothing but watch it for hours on end…

I loved Kate’s dress, I loved her low-key bouquet, and I loved the trees in the Abbey. Most of all, I loved how London looked covered in flags. I sat with a blanket over my knees, and laughed when I saw the Queen travelling to the wedding with a blanket over her knees.

I loved watching all the different outfits. I liked what Camilla wore, and was amused by the Queen having to sit in front of Beatrice and Eugenie in their comedy clothing.

Other than Kate’s dress, my favourite aspect of the whole day was Grace van Cutsem. Until Friday I’d never even heard of her, but now I’m a big fan. She was the three year old flower girl who scowled and pouted her way through the day, and then stood on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with her hands over her ears. Brilliant. She’s going to struggle to live that down as she grows up.

In the afternoon, we walked to the local shops (I was amazed by how many of them, M&S included, were closed during the wedding itself), and passed a couple of street parties, with roads closed and bunting strung across. It reminded me of the previous big royal weddings (Charles and Diana, Andrew and Sarah), when there were street parties on the road where my grandparents lived.