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Money & Secondhand Shopping (a rant about Kirstie’s Homemade Home) November 3, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Crafting, Rants, Thrifting.
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People know that I am no stranger to a spot of secondhand shopping. I actively enjoy picking my way through an antique fair, and most of my Saturdays are dedicated to trawling the charity shops in hope of a bargain. I grew up going to car boot sales, and finding a great item of exceptional deal makes me very happy indeed. As such, it was with some anticipation that I settled down in front of the TV last night to watch the new series of Kirstie’s Homemade Home. Last season I pretty much enjoyed it, although Kirstie’s right-wing politics and mind-numbing poshness did get to me a little. Oh, and the fact that despite having amazing azure blue tiles around hern orignal fireplace, and going on and on about original features, she still gutted it and threw them away!

This series, however, I was inflamed. There was this lovely couple in this beautiful house, whom it was easy to tell from the first few minutes weren’t exactly rolling in cash. They were sensible with their money, and rather being applauded for their sensible nature and quest for a good deal, Kirstie proceeded to mock them continually about how tight their purse strings are. Yes Kirstie, because we all know that we are as rich as you are. You know how I can tell that you are rich? Because you pay ridiculous sums of money for absolute crap. Yes, crap.

The thing is, more than anything else, that Kirstie’s unshakeable belief in her own secondhand shopping skills involves watching an entire hour of her buying average quality goods for above the asking prices, and then waxing lyrical about her ensuing brilliance. As someone who knows her stuff, I was watching the lack of haggling and the automatic acceptance of pretty much every item she came across with something that rapidly reached anger. I was incensed! Incensed, inflamed – I’ll be running out of ranty keywords soon!

In essence, my problem with the programme is thus: not everyone has money, and that is nothing to be ashamed of.

Oh, and as for including the snobby woman who will only give deals to those who ask in “the right way” (i.e. not those who offer her a price) – well, I don’t have enough words to express my annoyance. Suffice to say that if you choose to work in an industry like that, it is your responsibility to price you items in a way that ensures you can barter and haggle. It is part of the joy of it, and snobbish idiots who have an attitude about it should really just learn to suck it up and deal.


Sorry guys, I think this programme really annoyed me…


Oh My Oh My – Yet More Pretty August 5, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Fashion.
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Delicate Wool Blend Feminine Coat

Delicate Wool Blend Feminine Coat

Oh my oh my. This is pretty. I saw it on a blog, and I just had to share it with you! The stunning vintage inspired lines, the soft sexy colour, the incredibly beautiful pattern around the edge. I want it. Now. If only it didn’t cost $259.99…

Weekend In The Big Smoke March 29, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Family, Life, Chatter & Politics, What I Wore.
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Whew. What a weekend. I want to share it, yet at the same time I don’t have the faintest clue where to start. It was, you see, a weekend filled with fun, frolics, and frivolity – with a hefty spoonful of decadence thrown in for good measure.

My mother and I headed down to London on Friday. Upon arrival at our cheap budget hotel, the Majestic, we were told that there was a problem. They were very enigmatic, avoiding any questions, and for a while we wondered if they simply hadn’t booked us a room. Our worries were proved to be slightly paranoid, however, as we were soon carted of by taxi to a much swisher hotel, where we were soon settled into a neat tidy room and counting our lucky stars that us scruffy buggers had essentially been upgraded!

The first day was spent perusing the Place In The Sun show at Earls Court, with awkward little me desperately trying to persuade my mother to buy expensive and impractical renovation projects abroad! Needless to say she didn’t cave, but I believe fun was had nonetheless. After that we smartened ourselves up, as we had a posh meal to go to in London. Suffice to say that the meal was wonderful, but I can’t tell you any more as I will be reviewing it for LastMinute.com as soon as I can!

After a luxury meal, and a stroll around late night Kensington, came Saturday. First we headed to Harvey Nichols so that I could drool over the Louboutins that, quite frankly, are beautiful enough to die for. Oh, and for my mum to dream of wearing some of the stunning Alexander McQueen pieces – the more off-the-wall the better! Other than the workmanship, however, most of the very expensive clothes seemed somewhat ridiculous, and the exceptions were few and far between.

Carre Chocolat

(Image from here)

Then came tea and a delicious cake at the Ladurée cafe in Harrods. This was an overdue mothers day present, and had I been allowed to take pictures I would have snapped you one of the frankly sublime cuisine. I’m talking about a tiny square of mouth-watering chocolate cake, and a gorgeous raspberry studded tart – along with a delicately scented and complex tea, and a hot chocolate so thick and decadent it was more dessert than drink!

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

After shopping til we dropped (I bought such a pretty Fever dress!) we headed back into town for the biggest treat of the weekend – going to the theatre! We were seeing the beautifully camp and hilarious Priscilla Queen of the Desert – and what a phenomenal show it was too. I had seen the film, and the musical was different – but just as enjoyable. We laughed raucously at the terrible innuendo, and even bopped along wildly to the great music choices. And I can safely say that it is the first time I have seen a man in a thong right in front of me!

For the meal I wore:

What I wore

Black Jumpsuit: ASOS.com
Blues heels: Faith

Saturday Shopping February 21, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Life, Chatter & Politics.
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Yesterday was lovely. Really lovely.

Having slept in until about half 11, I slowly got up, and then left with Cie to head into town. We were meeting the girls, Roisin, Carys and Kate, for a trip around the shops. The plan was to peruse some charity shops and find some lovely shoes for a do Cie has next week – and boy did we succeed with our intentions! Cie got a pair of expensive but beautiful Dune heels which were exactly the right level of “fierce” that we had been looking for, whilst most of us also found something in the charity shops. I bought a gorgeous straw hat for a mighty £2 (which I proceeded to wear all day), as well as a long flowery dress and an oversized jumper from NewLook with my left over Christmas money. I plan to wear this with a chunky belt and Friday’s boots!

Then we headed to The White Horse for a drink before heading home. This pub is an eclectic combination of furniture styles and light fittings, and as long as they don’t turn up the volume on the music too much then it is one of my favourite places to hang out in. Which, it turned out, is exactly what we did – we chatted and were joined by everyone’s respective other halves – all of which resulted in us heading home burger in hand at past 10pm! Quite unexpectedly late!

It is so nice to have a bunch of people in Leamington with whom I can head to the pub and relax and gossip with, along with having incredibly intelligent conversation (yeah, I know, hard to believe I could have any sort of intelligent conversation!). I really appreciate all of my gals! (and all the guys too, of course)

The White Horse, Leamington Spa


Crafting In London February 14, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Crafting, Inspiration, Life, Chatter & Politics.
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This saturday, my 3 year anniversary with Ben, was spent on a crafty trip dow to London with Cie, Kate and Alysa, my girls from Sew Make Believe. The trip was an inspiration cum shopping day, and we followed a strict itinerary to make sure we went around all the place we wanted to. Stops on the trip included Cath Kidson, which was a little overpowering but full of great ideas and wonderful staff, The Button Queen, Make Lounge and more. I really enjoyed it, and treated myself to three cute little Jemima Puddleduck button – I am definitely the last of the big spenders. I also got a present for someone – but I can’t give that away on here!

We had lunch at Paul Rothe and Son in London Marylebone. This is worth mention because it was a little gem of a find, and is a good idea for anyone who is looking for an affordable yet quality café in the Marylebone area. This is half delicatessen, half english teashop and half American diner. Yup, it was made of three halves! They were friendly and well-priced inside (about £3 for a sandwich, which definitely isn’t steep by London standards), and they made me the perfect bacon sarnie. A bacon sarnie is a work of art, and this one hit the nail on the head – crispy juicy bacon, a decent slathering of butter, and really tasty fluffy white bread. Wonderful!

Our shopping was followed by my anniversary present – a wonderful afternoon tea for two at Harrods! Having ogled the expensive kittens in the pet area, and wandered around looking at the peculiar costumes that they have for pampered pooches, we retreated to the Georgian Restaurant for our hour of indulgence! Cute sandwiches were followed by delicious featherweight scones, and then a round of teeny little cakes – all whilst a pianist plinked and plonked in the background. It was lovely!

I wasn’t organised enough to take any pictures of the goodies, but you will have to talk my word for it that it was lovely!

Ben also got me these roses for Valentines day – which was very naughty as I thought we weren’t doing anything, what with out anniversary being yesterday!

Semi-Daily eBay | Fabulous eBay Shop Triftwares January 28, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Fashion, Semi-Daily eBay, Vintage.
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I love this shop. I want to buy everything. It is all cheaply priced, yet every piece is unusual and unique. They really do have a collection of vintage that anyone would be envious of, and I simply had to share them with you! They are American, so delivery is more, but I have to confess that I think they are worth it, completely and utterly. Without further ado, here are some of my favourite choices:

(click the images to get taken to the listing)

Puff Sleeved 1980s Vintage Dress

Lace and Taffeta 1980s Vintage Dress

Sequinned Star Patterned 1980s Vintage Dress

Vintage 1980s Grey Fox Cloak

Vintage 1980s Grey Fox Cloak

Op Art Vintage 1960's Dress

Buyers Remorse December 15, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice, Depression, Fashion.
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There is nothing worse than buying something that you have always wanted, or have accidently fallen madly in love with, and then realising that it completely and utterly doesn’t live up to expectations. Sure you can sell it on again if it doesn’t fit – but the magic of the moment of ripping it out of the packaging is completely dead and gone.

It happened to me today. I ordered the most lovely looking pair of brown suede Irregular choice winter boots, with a cute fleecy top, strap up foldover and sensible low heel that I could actually wear when the temperature plummets. They arrived, I dragged off the cute pink tissue papers, forced my feet into them, et voila! Clown feet! I am not exaggerating people – this was a serious case of the wide and longs for my little Tootsies.

Irregular Choice Winter Boots

Irregular Choice Winter Boots

I was going to put an uplifting list at around about this point of the blog. Something that explained that these situations can be avoided, that spending some quality time with the internet and researching each and every purchase can mean you will never have to experience the deep dark sorrows of buyers remorse. Then, however, I realised that it was all bollocks. Completely made up. That sometimes, you can spend four years preparing for a purchase, putting together neat and efficient pros and cons lists using your recent excel training, quizzing your friends and comparing colour swatches with your room to make sure it doesn’t clash. You can do all of this, and what you ordered can arrive – and it can be completely utterly wrong.

Sometimes it is on their end, they have simply missold it or listed it wrong. Other time, unfortunately enough, you have been a right lummox and bought something you should never have bought, no matter how clever you tried to be about it.

So here is the real point of this blog – to make you realise that you are not alone. That mistakes happen, things sometimes just won’t fit, that this is a just a dark dark day and the future will get brighter, and other such uplifting merry bullshit. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and recover – so those shoes didn’t fit? Sell them, send them back, buy another pair. Buy 10 other pairs, in the hope that the factory will produce one that comes up small at just the right place. Do something and fix it – or cry, eat ice cream, and deny it ever happened. Either one is fine with me, and a great way to deal with the challenge that is buyers remorse!

Handmade, Vintage and Preloved: My problems with Etsy November 15, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice, Crafting, Inspiration, Life, Chatter & Politics, Rants, Vintage.
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You have probably gathered just how much I love vintage fashion. The quirky, the wierd, the classic and the wonderful – I am happier in my preloved belongings than in brand new items. It would make sense, therefore, for me to love Etsy. After all, unlike eBay (my usual haunt), you don’t have to compete and bid against other buyers, and the prices are fixed and obvious. Along the same lines, vintage clothes tend to be cheaper on Etsy than they are on online stores, and even often cheaper than they are on eBay.

Etsy Logo

Etsy Logo

With all these advantages, however, come a number of disadvantages that mean I only buy on Etsy if it really is a case of needs must. These little things make the overall buying experience a bit of a disappointment, and really are simple little things. I simply fail to understand why such a big and successful website won’t put in the effort to make their site that bit more user-friendly.

So why do I have problems with Etsy?

Firstly, they will piss a lot of people off by not having multiple currencies. I don’t mind this too much (I can roughly translate dollars to pounds in my head), but for those who don’t have it programmed into their brains this can be a right hassle. People will find that heading to a site such as XE.com in order to find out the cost is often time-consuming, and can persuade people away from buying at all.

Etsy Local Search - No Keywords Anywhere!

Etsy Local Search - No Keywords!

Next the search local tool. This is great if you don’t have something specific in mind. If you are just browsing, this tool allows you to enter a location, and see the first 100 shops that match those parameters. Of course, a brilliant shop may not have updated recently and will only come much further down the list than that initial 100, and there is no facility to extend the search and see the next bunch. Even worse, you can EITHER search by keyword, or by location, never by both. The closest you can get to this is to see who delivers to the UK, but if you are trying to keep postage costs down and only buy local this is quite a major pain in the ass.

Finally, I have an issue with the feedback method for Etsy. Like its more professional competitor, eBay, people are rated on selling accuracy – but unlike eBay, people don’t have to fill this in. That pressure to be a good and trustworthy seller isnt there, and whilst most people are good guys, there will always be scammers out there.  

The thing is, there is still a recession on. We should be encouraging people to buy vintage, and experience the quality and brilliance of a real quality item. Similarly, people are becoming more and more creative, and for the first time in years a real handmade force is out there, crafting and sewing away. eBay doesn’t care about these creatives, concentrating more on the big corporate brands – and Etsy is fatally flawed. There are few outlets for such wonderful talent, and I just wish the website would get off its lazy bottom and sort it out!! 

All that said, Etsy is home to the most wonderful and beautiful items. Definitely give it a visit, I am not trying to persuade you away from it! I just think that if they fixed these flaws, their website would be better than ever before, and so many more people would use it!

Semi-Daily eBay | Crown Vintage Cage Boots August 16, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Fashion, Semi-Daily eBay, Vintage.
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Daily eBay posts have been springing up around the interwebs for quite a while now. Without fail, and given my dangerous obsessions with eBay, these are some of my favourite articles. I simply am addicted to all the deals and, more importantly, the beautiful items that talented eBayers can discover!

So I am taking some fashion action. I am going to join in the fun with an eBay post of my own. The thing is, my blog isn’t dedicated purely to one thing – it is a matter of fitting in bits and pieces of my life alongside. And with that gratuitous excuse out of the way, I proudly introduce my semi-daily eBay post!

crown vintage cage boots

So, unrealistically, I have chosen a rather expensive item for my first choice! Mainly because I have a faint obsession with cage boots at the moment – and these Crown Vintage beauties are a truly stunning example! At $164 this is pricey, but they are a stunning example of what real high-fashion cage boots are all about!

The Phenomena of “The Sale” August 1, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Fashion, Life, Chatter & Politics.
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As I rushed around town today, rifling through sales and hunting out bargains, I got to thinking about the amazing phenomena that is “The Sale”. As a bit of a bargain whore, most of my clothes are bought reduced and on discount, and I have fallen witness to some terrible behaviour and fascinating actions. From girls fighting girls, to on the floor scrabbling – even through to theft and debauchery, I have witnessed all the nasty behaviour that dominates the seasonal sales. The most common ailments induced by this bargainous world? Read on to find out!

shoping exhaustion

(Image from here)

1. Delusion

How many times have you caught yourself in a sale, surveying the swathes of fabrics and textures? How many times have you queued for the changing room, waiting with armfuls of beautiful dresses and trousers and skirts? And how many times have the vast majority of these items been the wrong size? Every time I do a thorough sale shop I end up attempting to squeeze myself into tiny scraps of material or, equally, huge tents that drown my frame. Also, judging by the fellow shoppers in the changing rooms, I am definitely not the only one who deludes themselves when the bargains are calling out to be got!

2. Aggression

Most passionate shoppers need to take a chill pill when presented with rack upon rack of shiny new clothes, all marked down by massive percentages. For most people, a little excited jumping up and down on the spot should fix this problem – but for some, not so! I have seen girls fighting over the last dress for sale at £5 down from £100. I have seen people scrabbling on the floor, grabbing at items from under the feet of the opposition. I have even, believe it or not, seen someone steel a blouse from where it was hangingoff the bag of a girl queuing for the changing room! Agression,it seems, is far to run-of-the-mill at a sale!

3. Illogicalilty

Perhaps not the most surprising or revolutionary observation on my little list, illogicality is often somewhat of a sport for us girls. Apologies if you are one of the exceptions, but most girls I know are experts at completely illogical (but often thoroughly enjoyable) acts! The effect, predictably, is doubled in the presence of mark-downs. I am willing to bet that the majority of sale-savvy shoppers have found themselves justifying otherwise completely unlikely purchases. “What do you mean it is yellow, too big, and clashing with my hair? It has been reduced by £50!!”. Taste, essentially, seems to lose all meaning in the presence of such undeniable “bargains”!

4. Ferality

Are you liking my ability to turn any word into something-ality? That aside, the fourth and final trait I have observed in over-enthusiastic sale shoppers in the ability to turn totally (and utterly) feral. Not unrelated to aggression levels, this quality does see a certain lack of self-respect and loss of dignityin all who partake in it. We all do it a little bit – rummage uncouthly through the piles, claw through the shelves, drag your way through the rails. You will ignore items that slide unceremoniously off their hangers, you will stuff things back on the shelf upside down and inside out. You may even try on the items over the top of your damp coat and stuff it back on top o the pile. Unfortunately, this method means you will probably be the one who does actually find the bargains. It is a hard world!

Recognise any of these traits? I’m sure you have exhibited some of them yourselves, witnessed others, and even wished you had the utter balls to really go all-out. Essentially (and most would agree with me), women are not the most attractive race when the sales rear their ugly but utterly desirable heads! Good luck!