Monday, 24 April 2017

Something Old, Something New - A Week In Charity Shopping

Charity shops are always rubbish during the school holidays I said to my friend Lyndsey Boomerang when we bumped into each other in the British Heart Foundation last week with not a purchase between us. 

Minutes later I was forced to eat my words when I spotted a sleeve with a groovy print peeking out from a sale rail. When I pulled the out the hanger I discovered the coat of my dreams, a fake fur trimmed 1960s maxi coat in pristine condition with an added bonus, a huge, snuggly hood. I couldn't hand over my £5 note over fast enough.

I haven't started the great winter to summer wardrobe reshuffle yet which is just as well as, like last year, the weather's taken a turn for the worst with a viciously cold wind and snow forecast for later. This coat couldn't have arrived at a better time. The cats have taken to our bed and Jacob the tortoise is refusing the budge from behind the curtain in the lounge. Animals know best.

I've never set foot in a branch of Zara but I often like their stuff  when I see it in chazzas. I couldn't resist snapping up this bright coral maxi skirt with the £25 label still attached. I didn't think an elasticated waist would be very flattering but at £2 I took a gamble and I'm glad I did. Unlike many of my vintage maxi skirts the waist stays put and I'm not twizzling it round every time I try to take a step.

Clockwise from top left: 1980s red leather jacket; Pair of velvet bow ties; West German-made midi dress; 1980s hibiscus print sun dress; vintage Norfolk jacket; 1970s crushed velvet jacket; 1970s Windsmoor "Designer" linen dress; 1970s leather trench coat; Silk slip dress; Moleskin waistcoat; 1970s day dress; 1970s wool waistcoat; Bambi House psychedelic wraparound maxi skirt, 1980s mohair & wool cropped jacket;Ridiculous crochet poodle to add to my collection
What with last Monday's Bank Holiday and some grown-up paperwork and appointments to deal with we've only managed to go shopping twice in the last week but I think my theory of school holidays making for rubbish charity shop finds got blown out of the water. 

Clockwise from top left: 1960s German clip-on earrings (now mine!); 1980s tapestry waistcoat;  Vintage snakeskin shoes (made in the Canary Islands); Crazy German-made golfing trousers; Contemporary kimono-type top; Vintage Peter Bettley bridal hat; Alligator print backpack; 1990s Monsoon embroidered gingham shift dress; Laura Ashley British wool dress (originally retailed at £125); Vintage suede shoes; 1960s veiled hat; 1960s bridal hat; 1960s John Collier tonic suit; Liberty of London cashmere blazer

Vintage maxi coat worn with Zara maxi skirt, me-made ruffled blouse (seen HERE), Stuart Weizmann suede boots (£2, charity shop, details HERE)

Snow, sleet or whatever the weather gods chuck at us we're off to Walsall's new town centre cinema to catch tomorrow's matinee performance (it's half price before midday!) The place has been open for almost a year but we haven't been as the films on offer are largely of the populist, big budget super hero, shoot 'em up, kids' nonsense or rom-com variety but tomorrow, for one day only, they're screening Lion which a lady I met in a charity shop (where else?) recommended- I hope it doesn't make me blub.

See you soon!  

Linking to Patti and the gang for Visible Monday.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

How The Waist Was Won - Reclaiming My Figure After 50

Eighteen months ago I started to notice that my clothes were getting tighter. Maxi skirts that had previously fastened with ease I now found myself struggling to zip up whilst form-fitting dresses strained at the seams and showed bulges I'd never noticed before. With sadness I relegated the offending garments to the Kinky Melon rails, where customers would occasionally pull them out and exclaim how modern day women just didn't have waists that small. I nodded in agreement, not daring to admit that those clothes had fitted me not so long ago.

Although I was still within the ideal weight range for my height (I'm just over 5 foot 3") I felt bloated and lumpy and had started to dislike many of the outfit photos Jon took for my blog. Several bloggers I follow had written of their changing body shape and of piling on the pounds once they'd hit middle age. At first I read on and accepted this as an inevitability until, with a big birthday approaching and far too many wardrobe crises where I felt horrible in everything I tried on, I decided enough was enough. I wasn't going to be a flabby fifty year old.  

They say that to successfully lose weight you have to eat less and move more but the moving bit wasn't the problem. Ever since Jon bought me my Wii Fit 9 years ago I've exercised for thirty minutes a day at least five days a week, more if I'm not doing a fair. When I had my left hip replaced in 2006 I was told that my other hip would need replacing in five years time. Eleven years on, I've successfully managed to dodge the knife (although I underwent a vile intravenous steroid injection back in 2014). The X-rays show that my hip is in a pretty poor state but I walk fairly well, sleep soundly and deal with the pain from occasional flare-up. The orthopaedic surgeon says that it's all down to my positive mental attitude but I say it's taking regular exercise. I never use a twinge of pain as an excuse for not exercising, that's just giving in.

I'm an active person. I don't drive and living a mile from the town centre suits me just fine. If I break my last sewing machine needle, run out of hair dye or realise that I need a crucial ingredient for dinner I simply pull on my boots, grab my purse and walk into Walsall and I'm back home in forty minutes (unless I get distracted by a charity shop or bump into someone I know).  Although I don't class working at fairs as exercise, carrying huge bags loaded with clothes up and down stairs and spending a minimum of 8 hours on my feet more than makes up for not using the Wii Fit on a working weekend.

Nipping into to town via The Hill of Doom last Summer.

No, the problem wasn't exercise, it was food. Whilst I hate ice cream and cream, I'm not a fan of chocolate, biscuits or cake and I only drink fizzy drinks as a mixer in rum, on reflexion, my 48 year vegetarian lifestyle wasn't as healthy as it could have been. Over the last couple of years I'd slipped into bad habits, demolishing huge portions, not always opting for the healthiest option and eating between meals (something I'd never used to do.) It was time to reign in the bad habits, make some subtle changes and to use being 50 as a springboard for a healthy middle age.

The first thing to go was the enormous bowl of Lidl fruit and fibre I usually ate for breakfast (despite it's size I was always starving by 11am). This was substituted for a quarter of a tub of low fat natural yogurt whizzed up in the mixer with whatever berries* were going cheap on the market and a banana**. This is spooned over oranges, apples and grapes (or whatever other fruit is available that week) and I'll sprinkle Poundland's linseed and seed mix over the top. My new breakfast takes longer to eat and I enjoy every mouthful of its differing textures and tastes. Despite it being lighter I'm no longer hungry when it gets to mid-morning.

*Blueberries and raspberries are £1 for two punnets at the moment so I've stocked up, washed them, frozen them in zip locked bags and use them straight from the freezer. **I buy reduced to clear bananas when they're starting to turn freckly. I peel them, slice them thinly, lay them on a baking sheet lined with grease-proof paper, cover them in clingfilm and stick them in the freezer for two hours. When they're frozen  I transfer them into a zip lock bag and chuck a handful in my yogurt.

The endless teas and coffees I'd make and usually end up chucking half down the sink were replaced with a single mug of tea (made with skimmed milk) with my breakfast and either tap water or organic Pukka Tea for the rest of the day. I always used to drink Pukka but when I became self-employed I ditched it in a bid to save money. Yes, at £2.49 a box it's not cheap (but it's sometimes on offer in Holland and Barrett) but it's hydrating, tastes good and has made a surprising difference to my circulation as my feet aren't continuously cold any more. I'm not that bothered by coffee, I sometimes have a mug (white, instant & fair trade) after breakfast but I'm not fussed if I don't and I wouldn't dream of buying an expensive cardboard cup of it when I'm out.

Lunch used to be a big, freshly-baked ciabatta roll, which Jon could never resist the smell of when he walked past the bakery counter in Lidl. This was deep filled with a slab of cheese and salad. Now it's a wholemeal bread sandwich , usually with some salad and low fat coleslaw, and occasionally a slither of vegetarian cheese. I always used to have a bag of crisps on the side, now if I do it's the lower fat, baked alternative (but usually I don't). Lidl's 17p curry flavoured noodles are a spicy lunchtime alternative if we're pushed for time or running late.

One from the archives back in 2012! Our kitchen hasn't changed, we're still using those 1970s saucepans. 

Dinner hasn't really changed, I just eat smaller portions of it. If there's any left over we'll eat it the next day rather than finishing it just for the sake of it. After all, I'm not a bin. We try to eat our main meal before 6pm but when we're doing fairs that's pretty much impossible - that's when the healthy eating goes out of the window and we'll invariably stop off for a bag of chips on the way home (which we share) with vegetarian curry sauce. Not that the occasional lapse is a problem, half a bag of chips isn't going to kill me.

We never have a meal plan, we buy whatever fruit and veg is cheap on our local market (or the corner shop) and either Google ideas for the ingredients we've bought or leaf through our book of fail safe recipes collected over the years. This week we've had root vegetables (beetroot, parsnips, carrots and onions) roasted in olive oil with whole cloves of garlic and fresh rosemary from our garden; Roast onions, red & green peppers and Haloumi over potato wedges; Wholewheat penne (we used to buy white pasta to save a few pennies, not any more) with grated vegetarian Cheddar, broccoli, leeks and cherry tomatoes in a homemade pesto made using wild garlic foraged from our garden (there was loads so we had this two days on the run); Gobi Not Aloo (I used this recipe but substituted the potatoes for parsnips), slow cooker dhal (the recipe makes loads so I batch freeze it) and basmati rice. Tonight we're having broccoli sabzi (recipe HERE) and tomorrow it'll be Jon's homemade spicy vegetarian pizza - we used to have one each, now we share one!

The recipe book

Jon's a fiend for snacking and rarely an evening goes by without him cracking open a bag of crisps, Bombay Mix or nuts. Although I wasn't hungry I had started to get into the habit of having some too, just to be sociable. Now I just say no (and we're still friends.)

Fruit and veg shopping at our local corner shop (back in 2014!)

Drinking isn't a problem - at least I don't think so. We abstain for at least 48 consecutive hours each week. At home we'll drink either white rum and diet cola or vodka with slimline tonic. When we're out it's beer and lager. Pear cider is for Summer festivals. We usually have a drink on a Wednesday night. If we're not working we'll drink on a Friday and a Saturday night but if we're doing a fair we never booze the night before (and we're usually too tired to enjoy alcohol when we get home so we don't bother). No booze at the weekend means an all-dayer in Wetherspoons on a Monday. Of course this doesn't happen when we're in India and we'll drink every day for a month and when the festival season kicks off - in less than six weeks time - it gets messy.

Now all the Kinky Melon stock fits me (and it's not on the rails just because it doesn't) and I'm happy to model it for the website.

Since I started eating more healthily my BMI has gone from 22.26 to 20.56, my waist is back to the size it was in my 30s, I've lost a stone in weight (and maintained it for four months) and a lot of the clothes I'd unwillingly sacrificed to the Kinky Melon rails are now back in my wardrobe and that's all from making a few small changes - no starving or faddy diets or silly meal replacements or those dubious pills and potions people on Facebook are always trying to flog you. Next time somebody tells you that gaining pounds and losing your waist is part and parcel of the ageing process take no notice. It's a big a lie as telling you that you have to dress down, wear muted colours or cut your long hair off just because of a sequence of numbers on your birth certificate.

See you soon!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Paint It Black - Introducing The Kinky Shed

Izzy, our postman, looked on aghast when he handed over our mail on Saturday morning and caught us slapping paint on the Kinky shed. You're painting it black! He exclaimed in horror. Trust us, I replied, It's going to look great when we're finished.

And it does (or least least we think so). A vast improvement on what looked like a dodgy 1970s sauna.

Black matches the house (and the cats!) and, as we live in a conservation area, shouldn't piss the neighbours off too much.

Jon came up with an use for the pallets some skanky fly tipper dumped over our fence last year (don't get me started on the filthy bastards) by up-cycling one of them into window boxes. A couple of coats of masonry paint, some brackets from Poundland and a few pots filled with Forget-Me-Nots rescued from between the cracks in the pavers and for £2* the shed's gone from being a basic outbuilding to a home worthy of housing the Kinky stock.

*We also spent £40 on 10 litres on masonry paint, using just over a third of it on the Kinky shed.

So what's inside?

Vintage galore. 

Seven rails crammed with menswear and womenswear, hats, bags, footwear, suitcases & vanity cases stuffed with scarves, ties, cowboy boots and costume jewellery.

We keep four sets of rails in the van so when we trade at fairs it's a simple matter of selecting the stock, bagging it up and hanging it on the rails when we get there. When we return home we hang the remaining stock back on the rails, examine each piece for damage incurred from being tried on (bust zips, make-up stains) and for missing price labels and size cubes. 

Is this all our stock? Not quite! There's still a rail of menswear over the road at the old family home, a six foot rail of coats in our dining room, an ottoman stuffed with vintage lingerie, a growing mending pile in the spare bedroom and 8 sacks of festival gear in the cupboard of doom under the stairs in the hall. Minimalists take note, vintage trading ain't the career for you, your stock will take over everything.

Black really shows off the greenery in a garden. I love how verdant the bamboo looks against the shed.

Of course our freshly painted shed doesn't half show off how scruffy the rest of the garden is. I ended up spending the entire holiday weekend pruning, weeding, shifting slabs, planting, re-potting and re-organising. I had no problem with 18 hours of manual labour but three whole days imprisoned in practical clothing, that's not good for the soul. This morning we needed to pop to the market to stock up on fruit and veg and I was beyond excited. Finally I could to discard the crazy 1980s leggings, vintage bobble hat and Jon's old jumper and wear something decent.

WEARING: Vintage Alexander Clare Crimplene psychedelic halterneck maxi (eBay, last seen HERE) with mustard lace-up body (Modern, retail sale buy), Leopard print ankle boots (Taken in part exchange for a Kinky Melon festival purchase)
Our bespoke shed was designed, built and installed by GE Collis, a business owned & run by the same local family since 1957. They're ace. (And no, we didn't get paid or asked to advertise. Great service deserves to be shared.)

See you soon.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Orange Crush

Hello, Stephen Squirrel!

You can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Monday's pastels and midis have been safely returned to the Kinky Shed (minus those which have already been snapped up via our website) and I'm back in my normal style. Of course normal, in Vix's world, means wearing a 1960s psychedelic housecoat as a dress with a curtain tie back as a necklace.

Our mates Babouskha were having a massive stock reshuffle and correctly thought that this gauzy cotton number by Frederick's Lingerie would be right up my street. The shirred cuffs had lost their stretch but a few minutes with the seam ripper transformed them from saggy into fabby. Wide sleeves are so much more me.

I've been embracing orange this week. On Sunday I gave this insane 1970s catsuit her maiden outing when we traded at Stockport's Vintage Village. With a 24" waist it fits with no room for expansion so I keep it hanging on the bedroom door, the perfect incentive for not stuffing my face with crisps, pistachio nuts and Bombay Mix whenever the fancy takes me.

WEARING: ME: 1970s handmade catsuit (Bought from Tilly's Vintage at Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair in Bethnal Green); Silver space boots (retail, on sale); Enamel horse necklace (Charity shop)  JON: Vintage Austin Reed waistcoat, Doc Martens & Ted Baker shirt (Charity shopped); Psychedelic socks (Walsall market); Prescription sunnies (charity shop frames, re glazed while we were in India)

It had been a whopping five months since our last Vintage Village and we were thrilled that our lovely regulars hadn't forgotten us. This is Grace Slick's twin, Gilly, resplendent in some groovy floral flares & 1960s vinyl shoulder bag she'd bought from us last year (what a great advert for our wares!) Find her on Instagram HERE.

You may know the fabulous Lynn and her dapper husband, The Wandering Welder, already. She blogs HERE. If there was an award for Stockport's best dressed couple they'd win hands down. 

For normal people with paid employment it's the Easter holidays. For us it's a frustratingly odd weekend with no fairs to pack for or trade at but, hopefully, the perfect opportunity to get the Kinky Shed painted. Keep your fingers crossed that today's rain doesn't make another appearance until at least next Tuesday!

Vintage 1960s housecoat worn with 1960s fringed suede waistcoat (Walsall's legendary Second To None vintage emporium); Vintage tooled leather bag (car boot sale); Curtain tie & Stuart Weizmann suede boots (both charity shopped); Black felt Fedora (current retail, 70% off sale)
Have a fantastic weekend of god and chocolate or whatever it is you do over Easter (in my atheist, non-chocolate eating case that'll be booze, gritty subtitled European thrillers and half of a home made pizza).

See you soon!

Linking to Patti & The Gang for Visible Monday.

Monday, 10 April 2017

If Wes Anderson Did Vintage

I swear that as long as there's breath in my body I'll never stop getting excited by vintage clothes.

The great-niece of the lady to whom this incredible collection once belonged contacted me recently to ask if I'd be interested in finding these pieces new homes. Nothing makes me happier than uniting vintage-lovin' women with fine vintage clothes and so I accepted the mission. We met in Stockport yesterday and exchanged money for vintage suitcases filled with retro clobber.

Inspired by the fabulous Suzanne who models her own stock so beautifully I thought I'd have a dressing up session before I upload it all to my website later this week but me and pastels? That's way out of my in-your-face, psychedelic coloured comfort zone.

Then I thought of one of my favourite directors, Wes Anderson and the stupendously beautiful pastel-coloured cinematography that elevate his films from truly wonderful to absolutely unforgettable.

Crimplene queen! Here's some 1960s handmade flared trousers in spring green with a coordinating zip-back tunic. 

Worn with gold leather ankle boots (I loved them so much I bought two pairs. Well they were reduced by 60%). Ridiculous oversized enamel horse pendant was £1.20 from a charity shop last Friday, I knew I wouldn't be able to get to the bank without popping in a chazza or two on the way! 

Midi length - that's almost as scary as pastels. I thought that this white 1970s Windsmoor coat might look a bit mother-of-the-bride but I have to admit that I felt amazing in it.

I'm wearing it with sugar pink opaque tights (ingrained with last year's Glastonbury Festival mud by the look of it), a psychedelic scarf from a jumble sale and some 1960s metallic court shoes I blinged up with some vintage Indian haberdashery motifs.

Sugar pink, ivory and pleats, am I on drugs? I'm quite surprised , this outfit doesn't look half bad! A 1970s St Michael ivory coloured midi skirt teamed with a 1960s nylon blouse (again, St Michael) and a 1960s off-white vinyl handbag and crochet gloves. The Urban Outfitters perspex belt was a present from Liz years ago.

A 1960s Crimplene tunic top worn with another pair of Crimplene trousers, I don't wear polka dots very often as they seem a bit of a vintage cliche, worn by lovers of repro.

The silk scarf is by Orla Kiely and came as a free gift with a magazine about 12 years ago.

Probably the first (and last) time you'll ever see me in beige....

1970s St Michael A-Line midi skirt (isn't the waist detail fab?) worn with a 1960s nylon ruffle front blouse (also St Michael), 1960s white gloves, 1970s patent leather slingbacks and matching framed handbag. I've had the leopard print tights for years.

We've got no vintage fairs now until 7th May which gives me the perfect opportunity to get off my arse and get to work on my website...this summer's festival pitches won't pay for themselves.

Linking to Patti and the gang for Visible Monday.

See you soon!