Sunday, 26 January 2020

Give and Take Time Again

It was Give and Take time again this weekend. I made sure I wasn't working on Sunday, as there was the first event of the year in our borough. For anyone who hasn't read any of my posts about these events, they are run by the council to try to prevent perfectly good items going into landfill.

Basically, you take along anything you no longer want and donate it and anyone attending can take away anything that has been donated for free, so I guess it's a kind of swap/free jumble sale.

I had a few bags to take that I'd gathered together over the last six months or so, mainly as a consequence of changing over to a vintage style wardrobe.  Most of the things I no longer want, I donate to a charity shop locally, but anything with a bit more wear or that I think they won't sell, but still has lots of life left in it, I donate to the Give and Take.

Here's a picture of the bags I took:

Three of the bags were filled with clothing and one bag was filled with bric a brac.

Today's event took place on an award winning housing development on the edge of a lake and next to a wildlife reserve, so it was quite scenic.  OH came with me as he had a cold and hadn't gone cycling for once. 

We dropped off the donations and then went for a walk around the area with the dog, before heading to a local café for lunch, all of which made it a nice trip out. I popped back into the event later, to have a look around and took just 2 or 3 items away, one of which I'd donated and changed my mind about!

Next stop, we dropped off another two bags of items at our local charity shop. I couldn't resist a quick look, but luckily there was nothing there that I wanted to buy.

The drop offs have cleared quite a bit of space in the spare bedroom, which was well overdue.  We just have to put the Christmas decorations back in the loft now to free up more space.  It took us over six months to get around to it last year.  Hopefully, it won't take us so long this time around.

Friday, 24 January 2020

A Vintage Thrifting Adventure

Yesterday, LB and I had an exciting thrifting adventure. Having gone back to work on Wednesday after my week off, followed by attending two jazz dance classes after work, I'd planned to have a very lazy day on Thursday pottering at home.

However, LB had the day off college and had decided to go thrifting in some of her usual haunts. When I heard this, I asked her if I could come along, partly because it was a good excuse for a mother/daughter outing, which we rarely do these days, and partly because she was intending to go to one of her usual haunts called East End Thrift Store, which I'd never been to. Whilst checking this out online, I came across another Vintage store called Mile End Vintage, which is close to where I go to the gym every week, and so we decided to go there, as I could park for free nearby and LB had never been there.

Now, the procedure for shopping in these particular type of vintage shops, is that you can fill a carrier bag (medium or large (and yes, I'm sorry, but it was plastic!)) with items and pay £10 or £20 respectively for the lot. I'd never actually been to one of these places before, so it felt like a bit of an adventure and I was curious to see how much you could get for £10 and whether there was actually anything worth buying. As I had just £10 in my purse and couldn't really afford to spend any more than that, I decided to limit myself to spending only this amount.

We headed over in the car and eventually found the shop, which was housed quite off the beaten track, in a unit under the railway arches. You could hear the trains rumbling overhead as you shopped, which was very atmospheric and added to the experience.  It was a bit cold in there though, especially when you were trying things on, but it didn't put me off.  To be honest I tried most things on over my t-shirt and jeans and they still fitted, plus I kept warm.

Most of the clothing was hung on rails, so it was a pretty easy shopping experience. I have to say that some of the items were damaged, some more badly than others, so you had to look closely at everything before putting it in your bag. Indeed, some of the items I did buy weren't perfect and needed buttons replacing or changing out, but for someone who can sew and make minor repairs and alterations, this didn't put me off, so long as the garment was basically in good wearable shape and fitted well.

Talking of fit, there was also a changing room in the shop, so you could try everything you were interested in on, which was a definite bonus. Now usually when I go thrifting or look for Volup or plus size vintage clothing on eBay and Etsy, finding things in my size is a bit of a problem, as vintage sizes were smaller and women were smaller too 40-80 years ago, but I actually found quite a lot of items that were big enough, which was a very nice surprise indeed.

We spent a good hour and a half picking things out, trying them on and each filling a bag. Here's my medium sized bag, packed with great finds:

and here are the items I bought laid out according to what they are.

Four spotted scarves, one full length slip in a nude/skin colour, three blouses, one chunky cardigan and three dresses. Quite an amazing haul really for just £10, I could hardly believe my luck. Everything needed a bit of TLC, mainly ironing, as they were pretty creased up, one dress in particular. The rest of the afternoon, I decided to work on them and make them a little more presentable. 

Here are my favourite items from the haul:

This dress is probably my favourite purchase.  It is made of a thick crepe like fabric and has been very well made with wide seam allowances for letting it out a bit more.  It was terribly creased and as you can see still is a bit.  I might try to take this to work and use the industrial steamer on it to get them out.  I added the red belt as it didn't have one, but it fits like a glove with a side zip to nip your waist in. I did a few repairs to it such as re-stitching underarm seams that had pulled away and sewing one of the buttons back on, but other than this, all it needed was a good iron. I think it's possibly from the 1950's, but can't be sure as there are no labels in it.

This was another great dress, a button through plaid dress with a white collar. Again I added the belt and I also changed out the black buttons, one of which was broken, for some dark green buttons I had in my stash.  There is green in the plaid. I love that this dress buttons right down through the skirt, making it great for dancing, as I can open a couple of buttons at the bottom to gain more room for movement.  It's probably from the 1980's and looks to be home made, by a very good seamstress, but I really like it.
Of the tops I bought, my favourite was this white/cream blouse:

I've paired it here with a circle skirt I bought from a CS last week, but I probably wouldn't wear it with this in reality. I loved the detail on the collar. So pretty.

It did have a few marks in various places, which I will try to wash out, but if they don't wash out, I'm not too bothered, as I'll just wear a sweater or cardigan over it.

I also liked this blue blouse with a geometric print on one side. It looked cute knotted rockabilly style, so had to come home with me. The neckline and sleeves are very flattering, so I like this one. (Apologies for the blurry photograph)

The chunky knit cardigan that I bought was very sweet and a lovely colour. I don't have many thick woollens that resemble vintage knitwear, but I thought that this had a feel of a 40's or 50's look.

I particularly like the buttons. One was missing and I was tempted to swap them out, but I liked these a lot, so just moved one up a place and left the bottom fastening without one.  This cardigan is quite modern, probably 1980's and fastens via poppers. If nothing else it will be good to wear around the house on very cold days.

The full length slip that I bought was also a great find.

This is a pretty style and these are always useful to have to wear under dresses. Finding them in my size can be difficult and you can pay quite a bit for them online. I currently have a black one, but having a pale coloured one might be useful in the summer with lighter coloured clothing.

My last few favourites were all scarves, and all spotted.  These will be great to add a bit of interest to vintage outfits. Once ironed, they looked so much better.

In all, we had a really successful vintage shopping trip. Each item ended up costing approximately 80p, which is crazy.  It felt very satisfying to give them all a bit of TLC and bring them back into circulation in my wardrobe. They may go on to last another 10 or 20 years which would be fabulous.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Dance Mad

I'm really enjoying my dancing at the moment.  In fact, so much so, that last Wednesday night when I went to my usual beginners class, I decided to stay on and do the next level class which followed on.

The fact that the friends I'd hung out with previously, had not enrolled this time around, made it easier, as there were no visits to the pub after class to distract me. 

I'd seen a video sent out by the teacher, to remind everyone in that next class what they'd learnt last week and I felt that maybe I could cope with the class, after three months of attending the beginners class, so I asked her if it would be ok if I  tried it and she was fine about it.

I have to admit, the second class was a whole new level of exertion, but I liked that about it.  It felt like I got a really good work out, both physically and mentally, and actually, I don't think I fared too badly and managed to have a good go at all of the more complex steps we were taught or that were revisited. As well as 20's Charleston, we learned some Josephine Baker moves and some Black Bottom moves. You can check this dance out on YouTube if you're interested.

It felt good to push myself on and try to progress a bit more, so I'm signing up for the rest of the block and doing two classes each week, at least for the next 3 weeks.

In addition, I've finally booked a Lindy Hop workshop, to learn how to dance with a partner, and will be doing that in a couple of weeks.  It's for a full afternoon. OH paid as part of my Xmas present, bless him. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

A Week Off

Today, has been the start of my first week off work since July last, when we went to Australia. I've desperately needed some time off for a while and felt like I was working on fumes, but with Christmas and other people going on leave, this has really been the first chance I've had to take any. Besides, I do have rather a lot of leave left to take, so I needed to make a start on it.

We had a really busy weekend this weekend, as it was LB's 17th birthday yesterday, and foolishly we agreed to her having a party in the house with some of her friends. Going to parties is a regular occurrence for her, so we were pretty chilled thinking that she would be sensible. What I completely forgot, was that you can't rely on other peoples' children to be the same and after having spent a very civilised evening at a jazz gig, we came home to chaos.

I was a bit disappointed, but I realise that there wasn't really anything LB could have done to prevent it, and we'd definitely been very naïve in agreeing to the party in the first place. Needless to say, there was a lot of cleaning up to do.  It felt like our home had been violated.  Thankfully, everything is now back to normal and there wasn't too much harm done as I'd removed anything precious from the main rooms, thank goodness, but I didn't enjoy the experience, so we won't be repeating it in a hurry.

Sunday, was a day of cleaning up and then just chilling and being grateful that the party was over and we could get back to normal. Monday was LB's actual birthday and I'd bought tickets for us to go to see the musical Waitress in the West End, which was a treat.

I was back at work on Tuesday, just for the day. I'd taken my week off so that I could work at least one day of each week to help get clothing into the shop, as I am the main person responsible for this, so I spent a very intense day yesterday, trying to get on top of a very large pile of donations that had come flooding in over the weekend. I did my best, which is all I could do and was very happy to come home last night in the knowledge that I didn't have to go back for 7 whole days.

So, today, day one, has been very chilled indeed.  I went on a two hour dog walk this morning, some of which was spent in the local RSPCA shop, as the dog is allowed in. I bought myself a book and DVD, which I watched later this afternoon whilst doing some ironing. Aside from a bit of washing, I haven't actually done anything today. I think I just needed a day to decompress from work.

There are lots of things I need to do this week, including a tax return (possibly), book appointments, repeat prescriptions, attend appointments, get my hair cut, plus get up to date on all washing and ironing and other domestic tasks.

I'm thinking of having a day out and about tomorrow, and I've got a dance class tonight. I was also hoping to attend a Lindy Hop dance workshop on Sunday, but unfortunately it's sold out. I'm on the waiting list, so I'll just have to wait and see if a space comes up.  If not, I'll book another one for a couple of weeks time.  It's part of my Xmas present from OH.

Anyway, I must dash as I need to eat before heading out to my dance class.  Hopefully, I'll have a bit more time to blog this week, so see you in the next one.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Back to Dance Classes

This week has heralded a return to the Jazz Solo/Charleston classes that I've been attending for the last 3 months. There was virtually a completely new crowd of attendees, apart from about 3 or 4 people that I recognised.  I always find it strange to have to get used to a whole group of new faces.

In honour of it being 2020, the next five week block is 20's Charleston again, which I don't mind, as I quite enjoy it. Some dance shoes came in the shop the other day and whilst pricing them I noticed that one pair was my size, so I'll be buying them next week and trying them out at next week's class. They have leather soles, which is useful for helping with the swivel in 20's Charleston.

I've missed dancing over the Christmas period.  It was good to have a break, but I enjoy going every week and learning new steps to add to my limited repertoire.

Tonight, I've been out dancing again at the monthly social dancing night.  It's only the second time I've attended, and this time I went alone, as my friend is taking a break from classes and didn't want to come.  I decided to go anyway, as I could always leave after the class, which constitutes the first hour of the night, if I wanted to.  In the end, I stayed for an hour or so and sat watching everyone dance.  A few people took pity on me and asked me to dance.  They were very kind and it was good experience to dance with different people.

I didn't dance any solo this time, mainly because the music didn't really lend itself, or maybe that's just an excuse. I didn't really even try this time around.

I have to admit that I'm not too good at Lindy Hop partnering.  I'm a bit stubborn I think and find it hard to follow the lead partner. In fact, a couple of men more or less told me so tonight.  They didn't seem too happy with me, well one in particular.  Not that it bothers me. I'm sure I'll get used to it with practice, but at the moment I feel like a fish out of water.  I will probably need to take some lessons to get better, which I'm considering as my next step.

Regardless, I felt quite proud of myself for going and just getting on with it. I'm not going to learn to dance with a partner just sat at home, watching dancers on YouTube. Thankfully, OH is supportive, he even offered to go with me, but not dance. I couldn't let him do that.  He'd hate it. He's just not interested. In any case, I don't really need him to go with me.  When you go on your own you take the opportunities that present themselves and that's a good thing I think.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Buy Nothing New in 2020

This year, I have decided to try to Buy Nothing New for the whole year.  By this, I mean clothing mainly, but also homewares, etc. as well. Sometimes, I buy things without thinking too much about whether I really need them or whether I can buy the same thing second hand, so, this way, I'm hoping to be a bit more mindful when it comes to spending.

I don't feel like I've been buying many new clothes from actual high street shops for a while.  Well, I say that, but it's probably more than I think.  I do sometimes indulge in a small haul from Primark or H&M, but this year I'm trying not to shop in these places at all and am trying to buy everything second hand from Charity Shops, eBay or Etsy or wherever else I can buy them. I buy quite a lot of things from the CS where I work, as I see it come in, so I often don't feel the need to actually go shopping anywhere else. This suits me fine as a trip to the mall isn't my favourite outing.

I did almost break this resolution today, after I popped into H&M to see what they had in their sale.  This is a weak spot for me, as I can always find a sweater or two in this shop in their sales, and I did.  I found 3 to be exact, but when I tried them on they shed so much hair (Alpaca mix) that I left the shop with enough to knit a jumper on my person.  As a consequence, I didn't end up buying the sweaters, although they were an amazing bargain at £9 each. Getting the lint roller out each time I wore them, would just drive me mad.  Serves me right for even thinking about breaking my resolve.

In order to keep a check on what I buy, I am keeping a list of every non-grocery/gift purchase. I will try to buy gifts and cards at CS's, but I may need to buy the odd one on the high street, as I don't want to inflict my values on others, if there is something specific that they would like as a gift.

In the spirit of re-using, today, I got some boots that I bought on eBay before Christmas, re-heeled. When I bought them, I knew they would need re-heeling pretty quickly from looking at the photographs, but I didn't let this put me off buying them, as they were only £8 including postage and were just the style I was looking for. In all honesty, I just don't find myself wanting to buy new pairs of shoes/boots or bags anymore, when there are so many already out there, that can be given a longer life of wear.  Wearing things in can also be painful (literally), but with second hand they have likely been well worn in and are more comfortable to wear. I like to wear my shoes until they wear out completely, as this feels so satisfying to me.

Luckily for me, the boots in question are incredibly comfortable. I can wear them to work all day and then go dancing in them and they still feel comfortable, so they were definitely a good buy that I don't regret for a second. It cost £12 to re-heel them today, with extra hard wearing heels, which seemed very reasonable to me, as I've paid more in the past. I now can't wait to wear them again.

Whilst there, I asked them to put a couple of holes in a belt I also bought before Christmas from a CS, which they did free of charge, making me a very happy bunny, as I can wear this now.

I have to admit that re-heeling shoes is a bit of a bug bear with me.  We get so many beautiful shoes donated to the CS that have completely worn out heels and we can't sell them. Very few people will buy them, knowing they will have to spend more money to re-heel them. This to me is a complete waste, when they potentially have years of wear left in them, if people just took the time and effort to take them to a shoe repairer. If I could do it myself, I would, but it's just not cost effective for the charity as they still might not sell.

Anyway, grumble over, keeping a list of things I buy and where I buy them from, should also help me to understand how much money I'm spending on certain categories of things, particularly clothes, which I've spent a lot of money on recently, having changed back to a vintage style wardrobe.

Looking in my wardrobe this morning, I saw quite a few things that I haven't even worn yet, so it would be a good idea to get some wear out of these items, before I start buying more. I began that today, by wearing a top I bought over 6 weeks ago from a CS for the first time. I finally found a way to wear it that made me feel comfortable in it and I need to do that with some other things in my wardrobe too. I guess that is the difficulty with vintage items, finding the right combinations, but I'm getting there slowly.

Are you having a Buy Nothing New Year this year or do you do this anyway on an ongoing basis?

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Two Days In

Two days in to 2020 and things are going okay.  We had a quiet New Year's Eve. We don't go out these days, as we don't like to leave the dog, who absolutely hates fireworks. They start early here and seem to go on all night and well into the early hours. We spend all night cuddling her and she always sleeps on our bed.

LB is usually out with friends until after midnight. This year she was supposed to be staying at a friend's house, so I fell asleep by about 12.30am. It was only when we heard some noises in her bedroom the next morning, that we realised she'd come home instead. Normally, I'm waiting up for her and can't settle until I know she's home.

Anyway, New Year's Day was very relaxed.  We all headed out for a dog walk in Epping Forest and then went to a pub for lunch. LB and I didn't actually go on the dog walk, on account of having inappropriate footwear on to brave the mud in the forest.  We retired to the pub for a drink in front of a roaring fire instead.

After lunch, we stopped off to pick up some bags of manure from OH's favourite spot, and then headed home with the car boot full of it. We dropped the bags off at the allotment on the way back and OH tipped them out onto the plot.  The manure just needs spreading around, digging in and covering now and then we can forget about the plot until spring. That will be one more job ticked of the to do list.

Today, I was working again.  My last working day for 4 days or so. I'm back at work again on Tuesday next. It was a busy day, but we got a lot done and took a good amount of money, which is all you can ask. There are lots and lots of unwanted Christmas presents coming in. It's good that people are donating them to charity, but I can't help feel that it's a little ridiculous that people don't want perfectly nice things that could be put to use. Who knows the story behind each unwanted gift? I do try to hang onto any unwanted gifts for a while, in order not to seem ungrateful, but maybe that's less honest than actually sending them out into the universe to find a new home and benefit charity at the same time. It's each to their own I guess.

I'm looking forward to having some spare time over the next few days to get back to normal after Christmas, take down the decorations, pack away everything related to Christmas and look forward towards the year ahead. I only managed to unpack from our break at Christmas yesterday. With working so much after Christmas, I just didn't get the chance.  On doing so, I realised I'd left something I really liked at the cottage and felt very disappointed about it. I so hope that I might be able to get the item concerned back.

I haven't made any resolutions this year, save that I just want to keep on enjoying life and I want to try not to buy anything new (unless it's from a CS) for as much of 2020 as possible.

I've started off the year reading Gretchen Reuben's most recently published book Better Than Before, which I think I got for Christmas or my birthday last year. I'm enjoying it thus far and hoping it helps me to create and maintain better habits in some areas of my life this year. (Like blogging more regularly!!) We'll see about that one.