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  • Inlifestyle

    The Anti-Baby Shower :: My Other Best Friend is Expecting

    What do you do when your pregnant best friend doesn’t want a baby shower? Well, you plan a girls’ night in and spoil her rotten, of course! Katie is 33 weeks pregnant with the most beautiful, round baby bump. She’s developing the pregnancy waddle, so her anti-baby shower couldn’t have come at a better time!
    Back in May, I threw a baby shower for Jenna, another close friend of mine. At the time Katie had recently discovered she was pregnant. It was at this party that she told me she didn’t want a shower. No fuss, just fun. 
    With that in mind, Katie, her cousins and Jenna arrived last Friday evening ready for a night of corny DVDs and nibbles. It’s so good to be able to invite friends round whenever I want. I guess that’s a real perk of owning my own home, sure it can be hard to budget for the entirety of the bills but nights like Friday sure make it worth it. 

    Katie has been my best friend for over 14 years, we bonded in a year 9 Textiles Technology class; the only class we shared. Ever since then, we have shared every bit of mischief together. So, now Katie’s expecting her first child, I couldn’t let this momentous occasion pass without some kind of get together.

    You’d think planning for an evening in of no fuss, just fun would be easy. But planning for visitors that you don’t really know is no easy feat. By 4.30pm on Friday, I was enjoying my third visit to Tesco that week, deliberating over Fanta or Sprite, Haribo or Candy King. Looking like a prime candidate for Supermarket Sweep, I clumsily steered my trolley of panic buys to the till and headed homeward bound.

    Thankfully, both Jenna and Katie arrived with freshly baked, scrumptious cupcakes. Armed with Pringles, Doritos, Pinballs, Haribo Starmix, Aero Bubbles, Dr Pepper Zero, Fanta and other goodies, we settled in my living room for a night of chatter and corny films. 

    The thing about making a gesture for someone, no matter how big or small, is the pleasure that it brings. Weeks at work are always stressful, no matter what job you do. So, Strictly Ballroom, chocolate cupcakes and a pint of Guinness was  the perfect escapism for me.

    My weekend has followed suit. Despite the amount of school work I’ve had to do, I’ve also spent quality time with the boy. We haven’t been anywhere or done anything of note, but it’s been just what the doctor ordered. A weekend of films and good food, perfect.

    What are your views on baby showers?
    Would you choose to have one?
    How’s your weekend been?
    As always, much love, 
    Donna x 
  • Inlifestyle

    My First Month as a Home Owner :: Goodbye September

    Thank God it’s October! September has been one long, hard slog, but its end can only mean one thing…pay day! As my first month as a responsible home owner passes, I’ve had a real taste of what it’s like to manage a mortgage and bills full time. Terrifying. That’s what it’s like.
    It seems cutting down on buying pretty dresses isn’t cutting the financial mustard, nor is changing the products I buy. So, I’ve been looking at other ways to save my cash and reduce my bills. It may be an age old adage, but turning the lights off when you leave a room, turning the TV off standby and using central heating sporadically (when I can no longer take the cold) just may be making a difference. I’m learning as I go. Here are some other tips and tricks I’m finding helpful.  

    1. Avoid bank charges and late fees. Get organised. 

    It really does pay to be organised. Last month, so many bills came out of my accounts that it was difficult to keep up with. Inevitably, there’s always those days you go overdrawn and always those times it takes you some time to realize it. When you consider monthly outgoings: mortgage, council tax, gas, electricity, water, insurance, phone, internet you can start to see how this happened. Oops. Not this month, no no.  This month I will be writing each bill’s payment date and amount right on my calendar, right under my nose. 

    2. Invest in quality appliances

    It’s true what they say. Buy cheap, buy twice. I’ve moaned about it before and I’ll moan about it again, never buy cheap appliances. Shall I wax lyrical about my cooker that takes an hour to preheat or my dishwasher that refuses to wash? Really, I should have done my research to find the best dishwasher and cooker. 

    3. Buy a washing line or maiden

    Tumble dryers are expensive! Never mind cutting down on its use, the best way of saving money is not using it all. With the exception of towels and bed linen, allowing most things to dry naturally will save you money. It’ll also help you avoid that horrifying moment you realize you’ve shrunk your favourite dress or t shirt. Been there, done that. 

    4. Shop the offers

    I have no shame in admitting most cleaning products I buy are from discount shops, such as Home Bargains. I’m a sucker for certain brands and quite often find I can only get these from the supermarket. It goes without saying, if it’s on offer buy as many as you can reasonably afford to last you until the next offer. A couple of months ago, I bought 6 litres of fabric softener for £6. Overkill? Maybe at the time but it’s still going. Another month I can save a few pounds. 
    I’m still finding it a challenge to balance the monthly bills, let alone find spare cash to buy all the furniture and decor I have in mind. Who knows, if I carry on with my frugal ways, I may, just may, be able to afford a coffee table before Christmas.
    How do you save money? 
    What are your top tips?
    As always, much love,
    Donna x
  • Inlifestyle

    A Home to Call My Own :: Kitchen Wishlist

    When you take on a new home, be it rented or mortgaged, dreams become wishes and wishes eventually become reality. In August, after so many months of waiting, I became the sole owner of a house I’d bought with my ex-boyfriend. On the completion date, the house became a home. My home. 
    Since then, the kitchen has quickly zoomed to the top of my to do list. You might have seen my previous musings, Street Art Interiors :: Instagram Pictures in the Kitchen. You see, my kitchen is a blank canvas: white gloss units, wooden tops and white tiles with grey grout. The odd cupboard door is coloured magenta, it’s quite striking against the pale grey walls. 

    Obviously, kitchens don’t come cheap and once the basics were purchased, the budget said no to the pretty extras. So now, the kitchen is all mine and I’m starting to make wishes about how I want it to look. You see, it just needs a little personality injecting into it. 
    // 1. Electrolux Washer Dryer // 2. Orla Kiely Multi Stem Herb Pot // 3. Kenwood kMix Toaster // 4.  Gig Poster // 5. Electrolux Induction Hob // 6. Orla Kiely DAB radio // 7. Instagram Pictures // 8. Brissi Paisley Olive Jug  //
    At the time of buying the kitchen, I paid for a mid-range kitchen but made the huge mistake of scrimping on the oven and hob. For £299, I bagged an induction hob and a single oven. It was false economy, false economy that I’m reminded of every time I try to cook anything in a rush, it’s like playing food poisoning Russian roulette.. Next time, I’m buying one from a brand I recognize.
    As I mentioned, the kitchen is a neutral canvas waiting for bright colours to match my personality. Months ago, whilst in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, I saw lots of gig posters for sale in an art gallery. They were bands like Tilly and the Wall, The Decemberists, She and Him…you name it! They were perfect to show my music loving side and cost buttons. Speaking of music, who can resist a retro looking DAB radio? Especially an Orla Kiely radio!
    As with any break up, you gain or lose custody of anything purchased jointly. I lost the tumble dryer, which isn’t ideal with winter quickly approaching. My lonely washing machine is housed in the utility room. It’s a tight squeeze but I love the space I now have. When I save enough pennies, I’m going to buy a washer/dryer and use the extra space to store my boots.
    It’s going to take time until I get it exactly how I want it, but the fun is in the journey right? At least I hope so! It’s certainly been fun so far.
    Do you have a dream kitchen? Or, are you making wishlists as we speak?

    As always, much love,

    Donna x

  • Inlifestyle

    Guest Post :: Karen from Tiny Bird Heart talks Ebay

    You’re all aware of my eBay mini series, aren’t you? Imaginatively named ‘How to eBay‘, I aim to share my eBay secrets with you! If you missed it, just click here to find out more. Whilst I’m strolling Viennese streets and indulging in speciality coffee, fear not! For I have one vintage loving,  eBay seller extraordinaire on hand to share her top tips for buying and selling on everybody’s favourite marketplace.

    Hi everyone, I’m Karen and I blog over at Tiny Bird Heart, and the lovely Donna has let me loose with a guest post! I am a vintage buyer and seller and love nothing more than scouring car boot sales, charity shops and the internet for wonderfully whimsical things for me, my home or etsy shop, Twentythreetwo Whimsy. 

    I’ve been an eBay user since 2005 (oh my, that’s more than 8.5 years!) and I’m a little bit too excited that I’m away to hit the 500 feedback mark!

    Buying on Ebay

    I remember that the first thing that I ever bought was a fake Louis Vuitton scarf, and this initial transaction had already taught me some valuable lessons, which I apply to all eBay purchases, but especially vintage ones:
    Look carefully at the images
    The pictures usually draw us in and make us want to know more. They not only show us what the item is, but can also give us clues about the condition, colour, size, etc. Look carefully for any flaws (including loose threads, tears, stains, discolouration and missing pieces). Check that the images cover all angles that you’d like to see.
    Read the description
    Do the details match what you want the item to be? Does it tell you what you need to know? What does it NOT say? Has the seller mentioned specifically any flaws you’ve seen in the pictures?
    This John Bull vintage printing set was a purchase from eBay where I had no knowledge of the item and what the set should include, but because the seller had written a really full description I was confident that it was what I was looking for.
    Also beware phrases like “vintage style” and “retro”, these phrases are applied to newer items. There’s no way to get away from them, people still post these items using the vintage categories (which really annoys me!). Remember that vintage generally means that the item is 20+ years old.
    Ask questions
    If your questions aren’t answered through the images and description, just ASK! Better that you take the time to make an informed decision than open your parcel only to be disappointed. I often write to the seller to check the condition or to ask more about the history of an item.  Sometimes the seller doesn’t have the answer (and sometimes they don’t reply!) but at least you can amend your best price accordingly.
    Do your own research
    Try searching for similar items online e.g. on eBay or Etsy for an idea of price and some further information and images. Sometimes comparing two or three examples can highlight differences.
    I bought a Rainbow Brite Sprite once and by comparing it to another one, I noticed that it was missing the star shaped antennae that it should have on its head.  I bought it anyway for the grand sum of £1.04, but I’m glad I checked as I would have gone much higher otherwise.
    Check the seller’s feedback
    I very rarely buy items from anyone with less than 98% feedback, and less than maybe 25-50 ratings. Everyone makes mistakes and you can’t please everyone, so I make allowances for that, but I also want to make sure that the person I’m buying from is trustworthy, sells items as described, packages items well and dispatches them on time.
    You have to do a sort of risk assessment and weigh up whether to trust the seller based on the mix of information provided for you (and sometimes the wild punt can end in disaster or really pay off!).

    Selling on eBay

    The above tips are also helpful for sellers. If you plan on selling vintage items on eBay make sure you put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and try to pre-empt what they would like to know.  Make sure your listing includes clear images from multiple angles, highlighting any detail or flaw, and describe EVERYTHING! Also:
    Describe, Describe, Describe!
    The more information you provide, the less chance there is of the buyer looking elsewhere for details and finding an alternative that is better/cheaper/more suitable! Try to find out as much as you can about the history of your item and put it in the description, along with any interesting stories you already know.
    Also make sure that the information you are providing is as accurate as possible and includes the correct age (state the decade if you don’t know the year), brand, version, size, etc.
    Price Your Items Reasonably
    I often see vintage items for sale at prices which seem really excessive or low.  Whilst researching your piece also try to get an idea of the item’s worth from other sites and alter it to suit the condition. As with all types of sales, you don’t want to out-price your customer or undercut yourself.
    Package items carefully
    Once the item has sold, you want it to get to the buyer in the same condition that you described to save any disputes. Make sure you package items in enough bubble wrap and tissue paper to save breakages, and check the parcel is sealed and watertight to minimise dirt and damp.
    Send As Stated
    Post the item using the service you stated (hopefully you’ve priced it correctly!) and within the time frame. Remember to “under-promise and over-deliver”, don’t state that you’ll send it same day/next day unless you can guarantee it. It’s better to offer dispatch within 2 days of cleared payment and to surprise the buyer with an early delivery. People respond well to it and it leads to good feedback.
    So there we are, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my guest post! This is by no means an exhaustive list, I’m sure there are plenty of hints and tips that you guys could teach me and it’d be great if you could share them in the comments below!

    Thanks Karen, you’ve definitely provided me with some food for thought! Don’t forget you can keep up with all of Karen’s buying and selling by following her on Twitter @tinybirdheart
  • Inlifestyle

    Street Art Interiors :: Musings on Instagram Pictures in the Kitchen


    Some of you may look upon these pictures and call it graffiti. I’ll be honest, a year ago I would have too. Now, I look at it as free art, just on a different canvas… an urban canvas. You see, a year ago, I wasn’t with the boy. John is a lover of street art and his passion is infectious. With each new art find, there comes a photograph, a keepsake. In no time at all, the work will be tagged (damaged by graffiti), reworked or, in some cases, demolished. 
    So above, you see my treasures. These are the recent snapshots that I’ve taken with my phone using Instagram. I’m attracted to the bright colours of D7606‘s celebrity phone boxes, the monochromatic paste ups by C3, the childhood memories attached to Ghost Patrol and Richt‘s turtles…the list is endless. During my previous trips to Berlin this year, I’ve snapped many more Instagram shots by artists who have a very different style. The neon colours of Billy and Alex, Little Lucy by El Bocho and JR’s ‘Wrinkles of the City’ are amongst a few of my favourites. 

    Using Instagram pictures to create a photo wall is not a new concept; the internet is homes a wealth of ‘how to’ posts and beautifully styled photographs of finished projects as a constant source of inspiration. For me, my Instagram photographs are a visual diary of what I’ve seen, how I felt and what I wanted to remember. So, it seems logical to want to display them.

    Image source: A Beautiful Mess
    Photographer: Janae Hardy

    Image source:  The Handmade Home

    However, I’m intending to use my Instagram pictures in the kitchen. My kitchen is a galley kitchen, long and thin with white gloss units, wooden work tops and grey walls…a blank canvas. If we discount the idea of creating fridge magnets using a company like StickyGram, I’m left with the conundrum of how to protect printed photographs in a warm and steamy environment. Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but I adore the idea of creating horizontal rows of wire washing lines with bright pegs to clip the photographs on. The practical solution would be to house the photographs in a frame, behind a glass case. Protected, but boring! I’m considering creating a pyramid shape of pictures, or a floor to ceiling vertical strip of  photographs. It’s important that it looks effective and well executed, I’ve lived as a student once and pinned photographs in the kitchen (the traditional way, to a cork board). If I have to resort to a frame of photographs, then let it be edged in chevron as a compromise!

    You’ll notice I’ve posted very few photographs of my home. However, in the upcoming month, I do plan to give you the grand tour. Room by room. Who knows, if my Instagram project goes well…the kitchen could be first!

    Do you display your Instagram photographs? How do you display them? What would be your chosen website to buy from?

    As always, much love,
    Donna x

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  • Inlifestyle, Liverpool

    Shopping in Liverpool :: She was a Day Tripper!

    It’s not often I get the pleasure of Susanne’s company. You see, Susanne lives in North Wales now, a world away from the days of being the girl next door. So, when she suggested a shopping trip to Liverpool, obviously I said yes. Susanne has impeccable style, a wardrobe to be envious of and is a constant source of outfit inspiration. You might already know her face, she blogs over at Predict the Day

    On Friday, we shopped, lunched and chatted. Predictably I missed the train, which meant I was forced  to endure a stressful drive into the city centre. Meeting at Lime Street Station, we had barely been in Liverpool ten minutes, when a flamboyant gent, accompanied by a camera crew and crowds, rapidly approached us. Imagine rabbits in a headlight blushing bright red and you may come close to picturing our reaction. Whilst being filmed, the conversation went something like this:

    Him: “Ladies, hi, would you like to star in a channel 5 reality show?”
    Us: “No.”
    Him: “Are you interested in beauty? Would you like a free spray tan?”
    Us: “NO!”

    Judging by his reaction, it appears refusing a spray tan in Liverpool is akin to refusing to wash. Turns out, we’d had an incredibly lucky escape. Google Celebrity Super Spa, go on, go see. 

    First up, Topshop. Specifically, the Topshop sale… a magical combination of nouns, don’t you think? Especially when new lines are added! I bagged two sale buys. Firstly, a cotton shirt which has quickly sold out, Paige Joanna has styled to perfection in this outfit post. I also managed to bag a maxi dress, in petite for £20! I’d like to imagine petite ladies reading this are nodding in appreciation of this finding this little gem, man, petite maxi dresses are hard to come by. 

    Susanne had a ‘hipster wedding’ to attend and needed to find a matching top for *the* most beautiful powder blue midi skirt she’d bought. Oh, good God, it’s pretty. Oh, how my five foot self envies tall people. Mission successful when Susanne found the most perfect top, complete with sparkles. Succumbing to our growling stomachs, we decided to lunch here:

    We found Lucha Libre thanks to an excellent tip off from another blogging friend, Pete. If you like recipes, food reviews and delicious looking food, you’re certain to like his blog. Specialising in Mexican street food, Lucha Libre was inviting from the moment we stepped through the door, not just for its decor. Liverpudlians always have a smile on their face. Our waitress was no exception. 

    First of all, bonus points for offering Mexican soft drinks. Uber bonus points for offering them in the flavour of mango! Absolutely delicious, what a welcome treat for this driver. The menu was no different, it took us almost fifteen minutes to choose what to eat, although part of this was down to us having the mother of all catch ups. 

    Stuffed with steak burritos and fizzy pop, we headed to Primark. I’ve been hearing (and seeing) a lot of good things about their Autumn/Winter collection and our visit wasn’t disappointing. Susanne whipped up an oversized jacket for £28, I won’t show you as I’m certain she will be covering it in her outfit posts.  But, trust me, it was a steal! 
    So, I’ve been looking for a new bag recently. I’m becoming distinctly aware of my obsession with satchels, notably the Cambridge Satchel Company. I can’t afford to buy another leather bag and want to try and venture away from the same company, so when I spied a bright red bag in Primark (that didn’t look too much like plastic) I grabbed it. I’ll be telling you how we got on in the week. 
    Primark impressed us with their Autumn/Winter clothing line, however their home department may need to take heed. Gnome candles and psychotic looking pets anyone?
    Apart from spending time with Susanne, a definite highlight of the day was seeing all the new styles that are coming in for the Autumn/Winter season. I’m so inspired right now! Leather, tartan, 60s print, brights and monochrome. It’s really spurred me on to delve deep into my wardrobe and see just what I have and most importantly, what I don’t need. My eBay series ‘How to sell on eBay’ will be starting soon, fancy joining me as I clear out my closet?
    Even though we only visited a handful of place, Liverpool never lets me down. Spent up and shattered, we finally said our goodbyes at 7 o’clock and headed home. Let’s not leave it so long next time, hey Susanne?
    As always, much love,
    Donna x (All shopped out!)
  • Inlifestyle

    Red Hot World Buffet Tastemaker Programme :: I’m In!

    Yesterday, I received an email that made myself and the boyfriend smile. It was from the people at Red Hot World Buffet and Bar to say that I’d been selected as a Red Hot Tastemaker. Naturally, the concept of dining out for free in Manchester made us more than a little happy. 

    Thanks to a heads up from Michelle of Satchels and Pearls,  I applied for the programme, although I didn’t hold out much hope of being selected. You  see, I discovered the programme rather late, a mere two hours before the deadline. Whilst out holiday shopping, my phone did its merry tinkle and there it was, that lovely email.
    Being a Red Hot Tastemaker means I will be able to sample what a world of culinary treats, all prepared fresh on site; Japanese teppenyaki, bespoke oriental meals and lots, lots more to get your tastebuds tingling! We’ve chosen to visit the Manchester restaurant on Deansgate, although I could have visited Liverpool’s. 
    As if that wasn’t sweet enough, National Cupcake Week in September is something to really look forward to. Tempted? For now, as part of their summer offers, kids under 16 eat for half price. You can book this offer here.