Damsel In Distress(ed jeans)

Well, yesterday's relaunch went pretty nicely; even if I do say so myself. I was worried that after my 3 month hiatus I'd have lost my blogging mojo entirely but looking at the number of page hits I received yesterday it would appear not. Whether this is down to the new look, the new interior twist or just general re-launch hype one thing is for sure, I'm happy to be back!

But just before I am pigeon-holed as an interiors blogger I want to make it clear - I am still very much into my fashion! So while this page may be somewhere you can read about my new bathroom make-over it will also be the place I tell you about some excellent new additions to my wardrobe.

And what better time to start than now? new boyfriend jeans.

When this trend first made itself known to me it was via the pages of Look Magazine et al and honestly, it struck The Fear into me. I'm quite a small framed gal (as you'll remember from this blog post) so the idea of emphasising my lower half in over-sized trousers didn't seem like something I'd want to invest much time in.

Then a pair landed (almost literally) in my lap at work and, as the brand agent, it's important I'm the one championing new styles. So after a couple of days debating whether my wearing them would enhance or actually damage sales I decided to take the plunge. And honesty? I've barely looked back!

I won't lie, they're a tricky style to wear, I think, but I seem to have discovered a few ways to make them more easily accessible to all.

Firstly, always, and I mean always, wear heels with them. Yes, I may dash from my car to my office in running trainers but if I'm not driving I'm in sky-scrapers. These jeans need height!

Secondly, get the top right. A plain colour is best to emphasise the fact you're aware the trend is on your legs (nobody thinks that girl wearing every trend all at once looks cool) so I generally opt for a boxy black tshirt/top hybrid. I've also used white shirts tucked in to enhance my waist which has worked pretty well, proportion wise.  Although, today I also have a boxy black jumper as per the 'This Week's Inspiration' image in the side bar on the right of my page.

Thirdly, have fun! After all, it's only a pair of trousers, and if you want to try this look out go for it. We're not solving world peace here.

Here's a few beauties I found online:

1: Rag & Bone - £122
2: NSF - £322
3: H&M - £29.99

I'll leave you with a couple more shots of my attire today. I love these red heels and they seem to look their best with jeans so I'm always happy when I have an excuse to exercise them, the beauties.

And that's my garms today, hope you like them!


How A Stapler Became My Friend.

So... It's been quite a while since I've been on here. My life has been somewhat hectic these past few months and my poor blog felt like the straw that was breaking the camel's back so I decided it had to take a back seat until I could create more of a work/life balance for myself.

Honestly, I've still not really worked that part out yet but what happened a few months ago helped. OH and I moved in together! We're just renting right now which is great but frustrating since we're in my dream home and all I want to do is tear walls down, change layouts and generally put my stamp on it. But, alas, these ain't my bricks and mortar to manipulate so I've had to find another outlet. And boy, have I?

This is the story about how this guy...

...became my new best friend.

I've wanted to start upholstery for some time now and looked into several courses; but at a few hundred £'s each they seemed a little unreasonable so I decided there had to be a better way. And there is - Youtube. After watching a couple of videos I decided that it couldn't be that hard and promptly found myself weighing up upholstery guns in my local B&Q.

I opted for a mid-range model for just over £20 - same one here - bought the accompanying staples for around £5(the back of the packaging on the gun explains these to you) and hot-footed it to my local fabric shop.

OH accompanied me since my first project was one of our dining chairs. We bought mis-matching chairs some time ago from various flea markets, vintage shops, old warehouse sales, etc. and they've been sitting with cushions and throws on them ever since because my fear of a guest being bitten on the behind by a creepy crawly lurking in the age old fabric on them has haunted me. Well, no longer!

Now, please don't be expecting some sort of technical explanation here as I am very much a 'job's a good'un' kind of DIY-er at the moment so this is a guide for those people who, like me, take a more relaxed approach to upcycling (buzzword alert!) and actually view it as something to enjoy rather than endure to the nth degree of accuracy.

This is how the offending article originally looked. I'm sorry for the useless quality of photo - the lighting in our new place isn't too amazing at night and flash wasn't working out well for me either.

First I unscrewed the 'cushion' area from the chair frame.

It wasn't the easiest of jobs as the chair is very old so it took some elbow grease and patience with a large screwdriver but the plus side of things like this is that you know the quality is so much better than anything you could pick up for £10 at IKEA, Home Sense, or any of the other budget interior stores these days.

Next I laid the gross cushion/seat on top of the fabric I'd chosen and roughly cut its shape out of the fabric, leaving enough (probably a bit more than enough) to staple to the underneath.

Once cut out I pinned it all in place and got my staple on. It only took about 5 minutes to staple it all but be sure to keep a constant eye on the tightness of the fabric so that it is kept taut and you don't discover any saggy bits when you've finished.

The corners were a bit difficult but some tricks learnt when wrapping presents over the years helped me - a basic corner fold and a staple sorted them quite well.

Then I remembered I had to re-screw the cushion area back onto the chair frame - hence the hacked out corner sections. They were just to allow me to get a clear run at the original holes; next time I'd take this into acount and maybe just snip small holes in the fabric itself to keep the finish looking a bit smoother. That said, nobody will probably look at the underside of this chair for some time now so I'm not too fussed about its appearance as long as the top looks good...

Which it did!

We chose a really silly elephant print fabric that I think was more angled towards childrens rooms but we want our chairs to look traditional with a twist and both fell in love with this print as soon as we saw it. OH actually found it so I do need to give him the credit for this one. I totally adore it.

And here's the finished article. We decided not to treat the wood at all because we actually quite like the worn quality of it contrasted with a fresh fabric cushion and I hope you agree that it looks quite good.

For my fist upholstery project with just some loose Youtube based training I have to say, I'm very pleased with my efforts!


Weaving Magic.

Well, I've not done this in a while. Through no other reason than I simply forget to document my outfits more often than I remember. I usually end up pyjama'd, in bed, and thinking, "Not so sure it will photograph as well now it's in a heap on the floor."

But today I remembered in time so I'm sharing my garms with you. Let me know what you think.

I'm extremely lucky that my job means I have access to styles up to 6 months before they hit the shops and while this sounds like a total dream I have learnt that the key is to exercise a degree of restraint and actually only focus on styles that suit my body type and will fill a gap in my wardrobe. And I think this dress and jacket do just that.

Both from VILA (the beautiful brand I work for), the dress is set to land next January and the jacket in February; which makes them sort of perfect to wear now while we're enjoying a bit of warmth. I have wanted a denim dress for as long as I can remember and this style actually comes with a skinny black belt to waist it if that's your taste. I'm more a loose and comfy gal when it comes to office clothing so I like to leave it un-belted and flowing. The jacket is an incredible tapestry-esque creation with a solid black back to stop the wearer looking like a carpet all over. It's light enough to wear now but will comfortably fit a knit underneath in those colder months so I'll get my wear out of it!

I know that they're quite irritatingly far away from retail-readiness but what is available now are my shoes. From high street legends Zara and in the sale. Unfortunately they've now sold out but very similar styles available here and here. I love those leopard ones.

My necklace is Topshop but a few months old now - similar here.
The ring is &Other Stories and is still available here and in the sale. Excellent, I've been wanting the gold version...

So that's me today. I'm off now to see my friend for pizza, wine and girl chat. Have a great evening, all!


The Emperor's New Dior.

Favourites. Everybody has them. Be it your choice of beverage at your local coffe shop, or the shade of lipstick that you can't seem to break away from. Favourites are an incumbent part of most people's fibre and can provide structure and enjoyment to everyday life without us ever realising.

Some people even have the utter privilege of being able to have a favourite designer (I wish - does Zara count?!) and one such person is Jennifer Lawrence. She's spent months in the headlines cultivating and basking in her 'darling' status and, by all accounts, is a very nice girl so this is nothing personal; but I feel her favouritism towards Dior is going too far.

The first clue was the glasses. The final straw was those, and I struggle to call them this as I'm not entirely sure they are, but here goes, trousers. And that lace top(?) with sports bra gleaming through...jeez.

A sort of trouser/skirt hybrid can't be high on the wish list most girls have and nor should it be. If one of the most sought after girls in the world can't pull it off then who can?! I know, I know, she's at Paris Couture Fashion Week so off the wall designs are to be expected. But just to put it into context the below is also Dior and also at Couture Week and I would happily argue about 70 shades more attractive.

Ah Olivia, you can do no wrong.
I have to admire her loyalty though. House of Dior have been good to her providing her with beauties like these in the past:

And, sure, the latter was so enormous she fell over accepting an Oscar in it but what's a little trip between celeb/designer friends?!

Surely it was a case of levelling up the scales. So much beauty needs to be contrasted by some ugly sometimes, no?

The Thin Edge Of The Wedge.

What can I say? It's been a while, I know.

But far from tiredness and work being the culprits it's been something altogether more alarming. A frightening mix of writers block and lack of inspiration has left me wordless; my digits completely void of creativity, unable to communicate anything that had even the faintest chance of stirring some sort of literary stimulation in you lovely people.

So instead of firing out some sludge to keep my 'unique click rate' up I decided to take the infinitely more frustrating route of silence until something moved me. And today it presented itself. (I can feel you sighing with relief(!))

A notorious tabloid newspaper did its usual trick of trying to turn a non-article into something the nation can become suitably, and inexplicably, enraged about. Today's target - fashion illustration.

The illustration in the firing line? Roberto Cavalli's. Cavalli is the genius behind Beyonce's current Mrs. Carter world tour stage costumes and boy, are those some costumes. I'm not sure a magpie could have chosen more bling even if it had been locked in a sequin factory for a day and been told to go crazy! Suffice to say I love them. Lord knows I'd never wear something so intense but I'm nothing if not an appreciator of fine art - and that's essentially what this is. Roberto Cavalli is an artist and dressing women in the most beautiful way he can is his art. It is completely visually stunning and I've loved his work for a long time so long live RC, I say.

Well, the article I read ('read' is a stretch; I browsed it with barely concealed disgust) today didn't feel the same. They were pillorying the designer for his illustrations of Beyonce in the outfits he'd created for her. The particular image in question was this:

What seemed to be alarming the article writer the most was her proportions. Well, Mr(s), if you're reading this here's the thing. It's a drawing. Albeit with a photoshopped image of Beyonce's face on it, but it's a drawing. And fashion illustration isn't about realistic proportions, it's about enveloping the garment(s) that are being drawn in a fantasy world that invites the viewer in. Am I alone in feeling hugely more distressed by the below image as opposed to the above?

This is the part of the industry that needs tackled, not the illustrations. That are exactly that, illustrations, not adverts, after all.

I'm not really sure what I aimed to acheive with this post but if even one person who read the tabloid piece I'm referring to, and allowed it to warp their understanding of fashion illustration, changes their mind and thinks more logically for a moment then I'll be happy.

After all, who doesn't love a good illustration? And with so many styles out there I can find myself lost in them for hours. Not at all distressed about my calorie intake but more perplexed about how on earth I'm going to learn to draw like that.


Bloomin' Excited

So here we are again, another night before the week ahead has come round and most folk are feeling the benefits of the extra day off work for the Bank Holiday and enjoying the relaxed vibes. Not I...Oh no. For my weekend has been less 'long' and more 'long hours on site.' A building site to be precise. I can almost hear you asking what on earth someone who works in fashion was doing on a building site all weekend but it was for a good cause. Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@2dyefor_) will have noticed a few mentions these past few days regarding a new bar opening at the end of this week. Well I can finally say a bit more about it and give you a few preview shots - you lucky lot!

The reason I have been on site is because of OH. He's a self-employed architect and his company have been hired to design and create a new bar in Manchester and, true to form, he's created an incredible project which will look idyllic but needs all hands on deck to get those finishing touches living up to the mental image he has for it.

The bar is going to be called Bloom and is based right in the heart of Manchester on Hardman Square in Spinningfields and opens on 31st May. (3 days away.) There's a lovely article about it here on the Spinningfields website.


OH and I are both real perfectionists so when he mentioned the live ivy outer walls needed concentrating on there was little else I could do than volunteer my weekend away to help the project along. So that's what I've been doing. All weekend I have been up and down ladders training ivy up the side of the bar so that the finished result is a living green box. And it looks ridiculously cool.

Vine training

Now that we've hit Monday night it's safe to say I am exhausted but there's no better reason for it than to help out a good cause. The actual bar will be owned and run by James Wrigley who already owns Fluid Bars and DockBar so he's a well established guy and will only be going from strength to strength. He's been a friend of mine for years so I was thrilled when he and OH teamed up on this latest piece and what they have created promises to be an urban oasis where you can spend time with friends, listen to good music and enjoy a few drinks and even some hot and cold meze style dishes.

Outdoor concept
The very pride-inducing board on site. OH's company.

What's so great about this bar is that, unlike most summer pop-ups, it has a fully covered indoor area and covered and uncovered outdoor seating areas. I think this is a great concept as we can all agree that Manchester's weather can hardly be counted on but this has all been taken into consideration so OH has created several spaces for anyone to enjoy whatever mood the weatherman happens to be in.

Interior coming along nicely

As mentioned it officially opens 31st May but a huge amount of us will be down there this Saturday (1st) along with some DJs and general first weekend revellers so drop in and say hi if you're in the area. Even if you aren't, make the trip. Trust me - it will be worth it.

In the mean time stay tuned for launch pics and follow the bar on Twitter for the latest updates and preview shots @BloomBarMCR

Taste Of Home.

A couple of weeks ago during one of my countrywide work tootles I was listening to a well known radio station in the car when they posed the question - what one meal could you not live without? About twenty dishes sprang to mind within seconds but the one that just pipped the others to the post was my mum's moussaka.

It is divine. And then another thought struck fear into me. I'm moving out soon (now that I am 'with job' again it is time for me to be 'with rent' again) and it's a dish I have absolutely no idea how to make. Now, I am well aware I could simply use a very popular search engine to generate a recipe for me and go from there but what is different about my mum's version is that she doesn't use potatoes in it at all - which is commonplace in most versions. This is simply as she's not into carb-overloading (a la Gwyneth, I s'pose.) and I like it that way. It often means I'll have a side of garlic bread and not feel one iota of guilt.

Anyway - with my next moussaka fix being nowhere on the horizon I thought what better time to learn how to make it than when I have unlimited access to mum's enormous collection of recipes, all with personal notes alongside them so you can be sure to cook it exactly as she does. Fantastic!

So I set to work gathering the ingredients which are (to serve 4-6):

For the meat and sauce:
1 pack of pork mince (500g) (moussaka is traditionally a lamb based dish but really any type of mince will do - I'd even think quorn would work for the veggies out there)
3-4 aubergines (eggplants to those folk across the pond)
2 large onions
1 tin of tomatoes in their sauce
1 parsley plant (the kind you buy in the supermarket pre-grown)
1 tsp ground allspice

1-2 tsp nutmeg
grated cheese (this is to top the dish at the end so use whichever kind you like and as much or as little as you like)
black pepper
olive oil

For the white sauce:
1 pint milk
1 dessert spoon cornflower
1 whole nutmeg, grated

I've been told many a time that this is an arduous dish to prepare but knowing the tasty result meant I wasn't deterred so I cracked on, taking pictures along the way for you guys. So let's get cracking.
The aubergines are probably the most lengthy bit so I started with them. Slice them so each 'disk' is about 6mm thick and layer them in a colander sprinkling a little salt on each layer. The salt helps draw the water out of the aubergines which is what we want. The longer you can leave them to do this the better. I left mine over the sink to drip away while I carried on. (You'd be amazed how much water they retain.)

Next, chop those onions!
They don't need to be particularly fine so this shouldn't take too long.

Then, more chopping - parsley. You'll need the whole plant really (not the stalks) as once it's cooked down the flavour is subtle but is key so don't be afraid that it will over-power the dish, it won't.

Then, in a pan cook the meat. Once it's started to brown add the onions, tomatoes and chopped parsley making sure to include the nutmeg, ground all spice and season it all well with black pepper.

Side note: at this point I added quite a lot of nutmeg but that's a personal taste thing, it doesn't *need* more than a tsp or two but I'm a bit of a fan so the more the merrier in my dishes!
Once the meat has browned and the contents of your pan are beginning to look like the above turn the heat down, pop the lid on and leave it on a low heat while you continue with the rest of the dish. As long as it's not burning the longer you can keep it simmering away the better. It makes the overall flavour even richer so don't rush it.
While you've been doing all that the aubergines should have had a good salting session so, using fresh kitchen paper towels, remove the slices from the colander(s) and pat them dry. Spray baking trays with light oil (or if calories aren't a concern for you just drizzle olive oil into the pans instead) and make single layers of the aubergines on each tray. I needed 3 trays in the end - pesky things!

Once done pop these in the oven on about 180 degrees and leave until golden brown. This can take anywhere from 20 - 40 minutes depending on how cooked you want them.

While these are cooking and the meat sauce is reducing it's white sauce time! White sauce has always been something that has intimidated me. I have visions of Bridget Jones' mum bursting into the room shouting about lumps and trying to seive it. But I needn't have worried, it's really simple.
Basically - heat a pint of milk (keeping a bit back) in a pan and gradually add a dessert spoon of cornflower. The key here is to not stop stirring or that's when the risk of lumps comes into play. Keep stirring with a whisk or similar and add the whole nutmeg (grated) in gradually. Once it thickens to the consistency you like remove it from the heat and set to one side in a Pyrex jug or similar. My mum taught me to leave a bit of the milk to one side in case you need to thin the sauce if it gets too clumpy. Luckily mine didn't so I didn't need the little bit over but it's a great tip.

By now it should be time to remove the aubergines from the oven if they're looking done and start the layering process in the dish you're cooking it all in. You'll need a deep, oven proof dish for the main event.
Starting with the aubergine create layers of them then the sauce and keep going until both are all used up.
Once done pour the white sauce over the top and cover in grated cheese. Pop in the oven at about 180 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until it's the golden brown you like then remove.

The good thing about this dish is that nothing is 'cooking' at this stage as it's all pre-cooked by now so the length of time you have it in the oven now is purely personal. I think around 40 minutes is the sweet spot for a nice crispy edge and gooey centre.
I happened to make this on quite a warm day so I rustled up a quick artichoke and olive salad with balsamic dressing to accompany it but it's a great dish in those colder months too with seasonal vegetables and boiled potatoes.

So there you have it - a pretty simple, delicious dish that I can now take to my new home with me.

Bon appetit!