The Quest for a new bag: Anya Hindmarch & Lulu Guinness

One of the wisest purchases I ever made was this, my Anya Hindmarch cross-body bag. 

It's a few years old now. It is big enough for my phone, keys, purse and sunglasses and...nothing else which my back and shoulder thank me for.

It can be dressed up or down. It was my bag of choice for the Singapore Grand Prix, a Mexican wedding, my solo adventure in San Francisco and every weekly shop I've done over the past couple of years. It wasn't the cheapest bag in the world, but the price-per-wear has justified the spend. 

But I got bored.

I was going to write, 'I really needed another bag'.  But let's be honest, how many small cross body bags does a person need?

I went back to Anya Hindmarch and discovered the brand had moved in a curious and expensive new direction: 

AH's latest offering didn't quite suit me and so I shopped around.  I only had two prerequisites: no chain straps (painful, they slip off my shoulder and my hair gets tangled) and something structured. 

I found two Lulu Guinness bags which I absolutely, absolutely love.

I showed a picture of them to my mum and she said they looked weird and asked if the eyes fallen off. Sigh. Parents. Sigh. 

ANYWAY, I ended up buying the squarish one, but in a dove grey colour. She's a beauty.  #fineleathergoods  #treatyoself. 

Lulu Guinness Marcie | Laughing Heart

Treat yo self: this month’s gifts from me to me

I'm really reaping the financial rewards of my new 'spark joy' philosophy for shopping. I only bought things which I love or which sparked joy. So this month hasn't been crazy. 

Laurie Lee ‘As I walked out one midsummer morning’

I had to go to Wales for work last week and, a consequence of being averse to tardiness, I had a lot of time to kill in Paddington Station. This book jumped out at me in W.H. Smiths. I liked the title. I didn’t know much about Laurie Lee, apart from that he wrote Cider with Rosie which I read at school. This is a sequel to that. I decided that if I was still thinking about the book when I got back from Wales, I’d buy it, and so I did. It’s fantastic. It’s about how he leaves his home and travels first to London and then to Spain by foot. He makes leaving home and travelling with no money seem totally do-able. On our last holiday, we went to Spain and visited a tiny town where my husband spent his summers as a boy. The people we met were so kind and this book echoes that. 

Laurie Lee | Laughing Heart

Zara shirt

This was an attempt to inject some colour into my black, white and navy wardrobe. It actually looks quite nice on with my gold chain. I continue my experiments with colour. 

Reiss trousers

This was another attempt to inject colour into my wardrobe. I love the colour and the fit. My crumpled pair on the left (I had to take them off to photograph them, sorry) and the way God intended them on the right. 

Office flats

I googled ‘how to look more sophisticated’ and the first article I clicked on said ‘get rid of ballet flats and go for a pointy toe flats’ and so, after an intense period of loyalty to French Sole,  I did that. I love these shoes. they’re comfy and make me feel like a put-together gal about town. Although I wear them with opaque tights which looks a bit weird. I will reassess this next week and my well opt for a less intense denier.

Frames

My husband was sent some pictures of his grandparents on their wedding day and a picture of his great grandpa playing polo in the twenties which I thought would be nice to frame. I bought them in Zara Home. I also had a picture of my grandmother which found a home in a Zara frame and a cute picture of my dad and picked this up this silver plated frame in John Lewis for a bargain £6. 

Sparking Joy (what I got for my birthday)

I am now in the latest of my late twenties and I just really don’t even want to talk about it. But I have realised:

1. You only start saying ‘age is just a number’ or ‘you’re only as old as you feel' when you turn 29.

2. When you see anyone younger, you feel like this:

Inspired by Marie Kondo, I spent the day tidying. I used to identify as a minimalist and I suppose I do have less stuff than the average person, but after reading Kondo's The Life-changing Magic of Tidying up', I realised I had a long way to go.

Calling myself a minimalist was really just an aspirational claim - like when I was 16 and used to buy bras in the size I wanted to be, not the size I was. A roomy bra, just like having too much stuff, is a lie and enhances nothing.

So I got rid of a lot of stuff and was happy to find that the gifts I got this year allowed me to only let in what I found useful or sparked joy. 

Behold

JOHN LEWIS GIFT CARD 

My in-laws gave me a John Lewis gift card and with it I bought A DYSON. I'm so excited. Finger cyclone technology, I am ready for you.

HARRODS GIFT CARD

From my husband. He did actually buy me a necklace but it was so so so delicate that I knew it would break when caught up in my hair (which happens all the time, I need a sturdy chain). So we transferred it into a gift card, I haven't spent it yet, still deciding. Here are my thoughts so far...

MARA HOFFMAN SWIMSUIT

I love this designer so much. So this was a birthday treat to myself. I actually bought it after my birthday and after our last hot holiday but I will treasure it until next year for its debut. 

M&S gift card

My mum always gets me something M&S related. I haven't spent it yet, but here are  my ideas

Treat Yo Self: This month's gifts from me to me

I shouldn't have!  But I'm glad I did.

Nars Sheer Glow Foundation (MINI REVIEW)

I finally came to terms with the fact that my tinted moisturiser wasn’t doing the job for me face-wise. 

It’s hard to find a colour match for my skin but after walking past hundreds of foundation shades on the NARS counter in my local department store, I decided to try their Sheer Glow foundation. i use the shade 'Punjab' which is slightly warmer because we're heading into summer. 

It’s really transformed the way I feel about myself. It looks really natural.

It stays on all day and it’s not in the least bit drying. My husband said my skin looked 'perfect' yesterday. He then said: 'See? You look better with no make up on!' THAT'S how convincing this foundation is. 

It’s quite expensive (more than a tinted moisturiser) but totally worth it. The downside is that you need to buy the pump separately (£3) which was annoying but for me, necessary. It's like when you happily take an armful of merchandise to the till, knowing you’ll spend a fortune but when you have to pay the 5p bag charge, it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. 

I had a colour-match appointment at Westfield London. I went straight from the gym without an appointment but it’s best to book. 

The lady who helped me, Brenda, put zero pressure on me to buy. A good shopping experience! 

Sheer Glow £31

Make up mirror

I needed a new one because my old one kept falling over.* I spotted this in John Lewis.

I can’t say too much about a mirror that will blow your mind - but it reflects the light which hits it and I like the clean perspex and chrome design.

One side is a normal mirror and the other side is magnified for people who must be really confident or insane.

Buy it for £20

Warehouse Dress

I suit pencil shaped dresses, I love planning my summer wardrobe and I hate showing my legs (you wouldn't know it by looking at the picture but i do) so this dress is a total winner.

I scroll through so many items online without success that if I see something I instantly like, I go for it. I love it so much. We’ve got quite a few short holidays lined up in Berlin, Spain and Portugal and I will wear it LOADS.

On sale for £44!

The Design of Everyday Things - Donald A. Norman

Bad design is something we encounter it every single day: the kettle spout which pours boiling water everywhere when you’re trying to fill your mug, the CCTV footage which is ‘too grainy’ to make out anything, machines which don’t give change, the mirror which won't stand up*.

The author of 'The Design of Everyday Things', Donald A. Norman gives the famous example of poor design is the door which you have no idea whether to push or pull (now called ‘Norman Doors’).

Norman is the possibly the world’s most influential designers, in part because he is an engineer and a psychologist. This book champions design which meets the psychological needs of people. And he also makes you feel better for not understanding instructions or how to work an object. It's not you, it's poor design! 

If you're interested in design and psychology, you must read it. 

Buy the book for £10.95

Pants

In the series Girls, there’s a scene when Ray goes through Hannah’s underwear drawer and says: ‘Crotchless panties! Wait, those are holes. There are holes in these underwear.’ I found myself in a similar situation. So I went to M&S and bought some pants and now I feel like $100.

Pants on the left are on sale for £4.25. Pants on the right are £12.50. 

Gifts for new jobs and promotions

It was a strange week. On Tuesday, I sat in front of three kind strangers in a tiny room and sweated a lot and on Wednesday they offered me a job.

Of course this was good news and should’ve been a gift in itself. Of course. But I still wanted a ticker-tape parade or a shower of glitter confetti. See below.

When I was younger and I passed a piano exam, I got new nail polishes. When I did well at school (the event stood out) I was allowed to have my ears pierced.

When I had surgery shortly after because my studs got stuck in my earlobes, I received an enormous jar of pickled onions. I didn’t even do anything and I was celebrated.

But as you get older, you just have to accept that the presents for doing well don’t roll in like they used to. Especially when it comes to your career. Sometimes you just get a text message saying ‘nice one’ from a friend and that’s it.

What would I like for this small success? What would be an appropriate gift for a promotion or a new job?

I think I’ll treat myself to new trainers for the commute and possibly a new coat because my current coat is a cocoon-shaped coat which gives me the silhouette of a bowling pin. I was motivated by the fabric (cashmere) and the price (under £100).

My plan for 2016 is to dress like Victoria Beckham in 2014.  

Anyway, here are my ideas for gifts for new jobs and promotions.

Update 1: My husband took me out for dinner to celebrate. 

Update 2: My mum and dad sent me a card and £10 to buy myself some flowers

BOY do I feel ungrateful now.

I used my mum and dad's money to buy these roses from Tesco and they lasted  two piffling  days! What a waste! 

I used my mum and dad's money to buy these roses from Tesco and they lasted two piffling days! What a waste! 

Gift of the Week: Watercolour Set

One of the best gift I received at Christmas was a watercolour paint set.

I come from a long line of people able to draw and paint things. I lamented this to my dad.

He was baffled: ‘All you have to do is look at something and keep practicing until it looks the way you want it to,’ he said.  

And it turns out that my dad’s idea is simple and right (and blunt).

People aren’t born being able to draw. Artists have to learn how to hold a pencil, work out perspective and depth, light and shade just like everyone else. Michelangelo attended dissections in order to understand how the muscles around the mouth worked. He sketched them over and over again so he could paint smiles more convincingly. A person doesn’t sit down and decide to produce a great work of literature. The read widely and write a lot first.

I was reminded of Lady Catherine De Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice who says: ' No excellence [...] is to be acquired, without constant practice.'

When I realised this, suddenly the world opened up.

So many great experiences are missed because we tell ourselves we can’t.

Like attending that wine course in France but you tell yourself you can’t travel there alone. Or the degree in archaeology you’d love to get but you tell yourself you’re too old to go back to university. Or the clothes you walk past in a shop because you think you don’t suit them.  

I began sketching and painting petals. I figured that if I could paint a petal successfully then I’d be better able to paint a flower and then a vase of them, then one day, a garden.  Progress is slow because at the moment, I'm really enjoying painting flamingos. 

It doesn’t cost much to get started.  I’m currently painting a little monogram as gift for my friend. 

The only downside to my new hobby is that I keep dipping my paintbrushes in my tea rather than in the water pot. Which I then drink. Which is disgusting.   

GET STARTED

Afternoon tea at Biscuiteers

On Saturday, Marianne and I took afternoon tea at Biscuiteers in Notting Hill.

An estate agent would describe the shop as ‘ideally situated’ and it truly is. It is my embassy, my lighthouse, my place of salvation in times of gift-giving need.

Its huge variety of beautifully-iced biscuits make ideal presents. Last month, I ran in there asking for anything squirrel-shaped. Did they come up with the goods? Just ask my squirrel-shaped cookie cutter.

It occurred to me that I’m either dashing into the shop to grab last-minute gifts it or trudging past it en route to the gym. I’d never taken the time to enjoy Biscuiteers so I booked afternoon tea as a pre-Christmas treat.

I love afternoon tea and I’m won over by any establishment that serves it. I love the fluffy scones, clotted cream and jam. I love the thin cucumber sandwiches and tiny cakes. I believe that afternoon tea is the second greatest thing to come out of the UK after the internet. 

The scones at Biscuiteers were warm when they arrived. Heaven. The cake stand was filled with London-themed biscuits, scones, slices of mini Battenberg, tiny cupcakes, brownies and finger sandwiches. All drinks on the extensive menu were included in the price but I just stuck to Earl Grey and sparkling water.

The lady who served us was polite, accommodating and cheerful.

Happy staff members make all the difference. During my stint as a waitress at an Indian restaurant, I found it hard to maintain (or even establish) enthusiasm but I think this was mainly because I had to wear a costume. 

Though seating is limited at Biscuiteers, we didn’t feel rushed. It’s hard to find any eatery in central London on a weekend which doesn’t hurry you along or seat you next to a queue of people waiting to take your table.

It felt like a village tea room, not least because my next door neighbour popped in to purchase a box of Mexican-themed biscuits.

Payment was taken at time of booking, which seems a bit risky but it actually made things much more civilised at the end of the afternoon.

There was more than enough food for two people and the biscuits and cakes that we couldn’t manage were packaged up to take home.

The London Afternoon Tea is £48.00 and serves two. Arrive hungry and book in advance.

Biscuiteers

194 Kensington Park Road

London

W11 2ES

0207 727 8096

notinghill@biscuiteers.com

 

Closest tube stations:

Notting Hill Gate (Central, District, Circle)

Ladbroke Grove (Circle, Hammersmith and City)

 

 

GIFT INSPIRATION FROM BISCUITEERS