Monday, 31 August 2009

What not to wear

Without a doubt, having children in tow reduces the amount of 'dressing time' for any woman. Whilst some people care about this far more than others, here's a list of things that should be avoided at all costs:

1. Never, ever, revert to maternity clothes. Ever. Yes, they are comfortable but they will never be flattering for someone that isn't pregnant.
2. Your partners' clothes. Especially rugby / football shirts and jumpers.
3. Leopard print. It may be on trend, but unless you're 15, don't do it.
4. Tracksuits. Juicy has got a lot to answer for.
5. Ecco shoes. They make you look 60 regardless of your actual age.
6. Anything that needs hand washing or special care. You won't do it and it will be dirty within five minutes of putting it on.
7. Clothes that are too tight. They just look bad.
8. Too many bags - you'll just end up looking like a bag lady. Invest in two good quality bags - one for you and one for the children - and make sure both are big enough to hold what you need. Clutch bags are unlikely to work. Then be ruthless - if it doesn't fit in the right bag, it doesn't go.
9. Odd socks. Yes, it might have been dark when you were getting dressed, but a pair of mismatched socks will make you look dappy no matter how many excuses you make. If in doubt, find the socks the night before so there can be no mistakes.
10. Dirty clothes. It might sound obvious, but there's nothing worse than dirty clothes - all composure immediately goes out of the window. If necessary, take spares with you - but certainly never accept it as inevitable. It is not.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

On your bike

I've always said that I would never ride a bike to work. It's true that the idea of travelling by bike has always appealed, in the same way that always eating healthily, exercising properly and only having two glasses of wine sound easy enough to achieve - but somehow it never works out that way. Riding a bike in central London seems like an accident waiting to happen - literally. No matter how competent I am (and actually, I'm not competent at all - but more of that later) the fact is there's no accounting for other drivers on the road - black cabs and buses being particularly dangerous.

My vision of people riding bikes to work are sporty types, in full lycra get-up, pedalling nineteen to the dozen. I hadn't ridden a bike since I was a child until a couple of years ago, and then I tried one of these ridiculously energetic bikes that you clip your feet into - not my finest hour. I got a bit cocky and ended up falling off the bike at the side of the A3. I concluded that I was too old for a bike and would never do it again.

However, I recently rethought this decision - for a couple of reasons. First, I hate the tube and although I can get the bus to work now, we're moving at the end of the year, and so I'll be forced back on to the Northern line - even I can't handle three bus changes in a single commute. Second, a friend came to dinner wearing a dress and looking 100% normal until I noticed the cycling helmet. I asked why she was carrying that, and she replied that she always rides her bike to work - much cheaper and quicker. I can certainly believe that. So, on my subsequent bus journeys to work, I started taking a bit more notice of all the cyclists on the route. True, there are many of the hyper-keen, lycra-clad nutters, that race with the lorries as if they are on a level playing field. But there are also many commuters in 'normal' clothes travelling at a much more leisurely pace. Moreover, when I started 'racing' these bikers (me on the bus, them on their bikes) I discovered that they still won most of the time. Hmm.

Then I found out about the 'bike to work' tax scheme - where essentially, you pay for the bike out of your gross income - saving 40% of the price of the bike. Perfect! So, I began shopping around (really, any excuse...). After significant research, I've decided that I'm going to order a Pashley Princess Sovereign:
It's got a brilliant wicker basket on the front, and I'll quite happily be able to wear skirts while riding it - no lycra in sight. Which is a result not just for me, but for anyone that will see me on the bike. Tomorrow, I'm heading to Evans at London Bridge to get fitted...

Friday, 28 August 2009

Bank Holiday Weekend

Thank goodness for Bank Holiday weekends. I definitely think that permanent four day weeks should be investigated more thoroughly. For the first time in a long time, we have absolutely no plans for the whole weekend - and personally, I think there is nothing better than three days in front of you with nothing to do. We might, if we feel really adventurous, venture to Toys R Us on the Old Kent Road - H is definitely in need of some new toys, and I've discovered that when you're shopping for your child, that money doesn't count. I'm thinking a walker could be a good investment. But that's it. Nothing else. No seeing family, no day trips that we have to get up at the crack of dawn for. A Sunday lunch at the pub might be in order, but only if we decide we want to. As a planner to the last minute, this is a wholly liberating experience - and I can't wait!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Uniform Project

I was intrigued when I read about The Uniform Project this week. Sheena Matheiken, who works at an ad agency in New York, had pledged to wear the same little black dress (designed by Eliza Starbuck) every day for a year to raise money for charity. Well, not the same dress everyday - she has seven identical dresses that she'll rotate. At first, it sounds totally impossible, but actually, the dress is very versatile and lends itself well to accessories. Every day, Sheena takes a picture of her outfit and posts it online. She's three months into the project, and personally, by now, I'd be totally out of ideas. Clearly, however, she is far more imaginative than me.

This does remind me, though, of my maternity wardrobe. Whilst I could not have managed with just one dress, I didn't actually have that much more. I made it through my 30th birthday, two weddings and the whole Christmas season with just one dress and a couple of different scarves. Yes, I was sick of the dress by the end of it, but rather than purchase multiple maternity dresses I decided that I'd rather save the money for a post-pregnancy splurge. But, now I'm back in my 'normal' clothes, I've realised just how much excess there is in there. When I packed away all my clothes when I finally couldn't squeeze myself into them any longer, I was proud of my wardrobe 'cull' - the local charity shop probably couldn't believe it's luck with all the brand new clothes with tags still on them that I'd finally admitted I would never be wearing. However, when I unpacked these clothes again four months ago, I couldn't believe how reserved I'd been.

This second cull has left plenty of hanging space in my cupboard. Rest assured, though, it will not be empty for long. The one dress strategy is not for me. But, eco shopping definitely is. Vintage, second hand and ebay buys are the order of the day - there will be no more tags on for me!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Me - cynical? Never

I have to admit that I was somewhat sceptical when we were invited to attend a Naming Ceremony last weekend. I'm not really opposed to them - I just didn't really see the point. If you're not religious then why bother with anything? But I have to say, it was a very enjoyable experience.

After the service, we all went outside for a picnic and to put the time capsule together (ah, now the scepticism becomes clearer). The invite had made it clear that presents were not wanted - instead every attendee had to donate one item that they felt was 'of the moment'. The plan is to give the capsule to said child on his 18th birthday. Yup, I rolled my eyes slightly at this too, but the donations were brilliant - a real range of ideas. Our donation was a Michael Jackson biography. Other items included magazines, a bottle of wine, DVD sets, information about the latest HD technology from Sky (I bet he'll laugh when he sees that in 18 years time - a bit like someone telling us cassette tapes were once cutting edge) and an NHS leaflet about swine flu. Genius!

Overall, it was a great opportunity to get together with friends and celebrate a new life. And, having experienced one, I definitely think this shouldn't only be reserved for people with a more religious take on life. Even better - there's no false pretence about the motive behind the ceremony. What more could you ask for? Roll on the next one, please...

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Corporate Fashion? It's a good question

The blog Fashionista raises a good point in the article Corporate Fashion? Whilst the people in the corporate world are those most likely to afford the latest pair of Prada over-the-knee boots, they probably don't get to wear them as often as someone that, say, works in the offices of Vogue. There is no doubt that before I had H, I'd become pretty lazy when it came to arranging my working wardrobe. I've always been quite the follower of fashion, but working in a very corporate law environment means that anything other than a traditional black skirt suit tends to raise an eyebrow or two. And the simple fact was, it's easy to put on a suit, pull out one (of several) Thomas Pink shirts and walk out the door.

Having H changed all that. During my maternity leave, I'd started to feel that I was living in tracksuits and t-shirts. That's fine one week after you've given birth, but it does start to get you down after a month. Especially since I was lucky enough to have bounced right back into all my pre-pregnancy clothes. (Actually, they were a bit loose, since I seem to have lost weight, but that's another story.)

Going back to work was the perfect reason to start caring about my appearance again. I did notice that other mothers tend to look on with a mixture of scorn and patronising concern if you make too much of an effort for baby group meetings (thank God I don't have to endure those any more) - the inference is that if I've taken too much time putting on makeup, I'm very likely to have neglected my child in the process.

Quite simply, I like arranging what I'm going to wear for the week. Previously, I wouldn't have worn my precious Louboutins at work ('they're far too good for that') but now, there's no stopping me. It's definitely made a difference - both in terms of how I feel and how I'm perceived at work. It was tough to keep the smug look off my face when my boss said I looked like I'd 'just stepped off the catwalk' but I did manage it...just. Admittedly, he probably has no idea what a catwalk looks like, but it was very pleasing just the same. It's not quite roll on Monday - but almost. And that's good enough for me.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Babylicious - food just like you'd make it yourself

What a find! Quite possibly, the best baby food in the world. Don't get me wrong, Hipp Organic is all very well (and jars are great for being out and about) but after finding out the process the food is treated with in order to give it a longer shelf life, I wanted to find an alternative. (You can read about the process here.) Bablylicious is basically food prepared exactly as I would at home, and then frozen immediately. It comes in little cubes so you can use as much or as little as you like. It's not the cheapest option - obviously, that would be to do it myself - but it is convenient and healthy. What more could you want?

Babylicious used to be available online from their website, but alas, no more. Ocado is the only place I've managed to buy it. They do say that Asda stocks it too, but I've never been able to find any in store. I'll just be sticking to the online shopping fix then.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Anyone for coffee?

Over Saturday night, we had friends over for dinner (just months ago, we'd have gone out, but that's another story...) and I decided to experiment with some cocktails. I love having cocktails when I go out - lychee martinis are a particular favourite - but I rarely make them at home. Somehow it just seems too fussy. However, we had the previously untouched cocktail glasses from our wedding list (yes, it was last November and no, I don't know what we were saving them for) and I was feeling particularly like a domestic goddess, so I decided to give it a go.

My first choice was dirty martinis because I remembered spying some olives in brine in the fridge. What I hadn't spotted was the decidedly cloudy colour the brine had turned - perhaps indicating that the olives were past their best? A quick check of the best before date confirmed my suspicions. So an alternative was needed. A friend had recently been waxing lyrical about the fabulous espresso martinis at One Aldwych - 'how hard can it be?' I thought. Well, harder than anticipated. As well as espresso (very strong coffee had to make do in my house), the recipe also called for toffee vodka. Toffee vodka? Who on earth ever has that? Not Tescos or Sainsburys near me, that's for sure. Refusing to be beaten, however, I did come across some toffee fudge ice cream topping that I decided would probably serve just as well.

Despite only having one of the actual ingredients required - vodka - as I'd also had to substitute Kuluha for a bottle of Tia Maria I found at the back (way at the back) of the drinks cupboard - I began cocktail shaking like a demon. And, despite not having the right ingredients, or the space in the freezer to chill the glasses appropriately, they actually turned out remarkably well. Very well, in fact. Luckily, there's more than enough of the ice cream topping to last for several more rounds.

If you're interested, this is how I made them:

Ingredients - vodka, tia maria, toffee fudge sauce, very strong coffee

1. Put a handful of ice cubes in each martini glass
2. Put a handful of ice cubes in the cocktail shaker
3. Add a single shot (or double if you can handle your drink) of coffee, tia maria and vodka per person. Then add a teaspoon of the fudge sauce per person - this can be more or less depending on your taste - and shake vigorously
4. Pour over the ice in each glass and drink immediately

The next time I make this, I'm going to try adding Baileys instead of the fudge sauce - I think that might taste good too.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

New York, New York

Finally, the time has come. Every mother goes through it. I'm referring to the first time you leave your child for a prolonged period of time (i.e. longer than the couple of hours where the babysitter sits in your house and gets paid to make sure your child is sleeping). My sister is having man trouble (ahh, the heady days of man trouble and a worry free life) and so, as the dutiful sister, I've booked a ticket out to NYC for a much needed girls night. Indulgent? Yup. But (and this probably goes against all PC lines) I'm quite looking forward to two nights of girlie eating, drinking and a baby-free existence. Don't get me wrong, I love H, but there is something quite intoxicating about a completely stress free night - no feeding, no worrying the baby is suffocating, no having to get up in the middle of the night. Freedom!

We're staying at The Gansevoort and I'm in the process of planning various bars, shops and restaurants to visits during my flying visit. I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with my sis whilst at the same time enjoying some 'me' time. H will be six months old and it will be the first time I've left him overnight. I'm sure he'll cope - and I'm sure I will too (once I've downed a couple of large glasses of wine).