My Sunshiny Life

I like shoes a LOT!  Not quite to the extent of Imelda, but I do have a sizeable shoe collection.  My favourite shoes are a relatively new addition to my wardrobe.  They’re House of Harlow Peeptoe Heels – snakeskin with a hint of gold. 

Unfortunately they didn’t rock the look I wanted the first time I wore them, as I didn’t take blister plasters out, and ended up with bright blue plasters on the back of my heels.  I looked like I was turning into a smurf, one little patch of skin at a time .

Then I found out about a new website called Upper Street and I was literally drooling as I browsed through.  A site where you can DESIGN your own shoes, yes, your very own creation!  Choose heel, sole, style, materials, colours – the works! 

What a bloody fantastic concept and one I will be embracing whole heartedly.  I haven’t ordered any yet, as I want to sit down and think my creation through, taking into account what I have/want/need in my wardrobe.  You can get yours here


{November 13, 2009}   Breaking all the Rules!

I’ve imposed some restrictions on my life this month, endeavouring to better myself.  I’m not doing so well at sticking to them unfortunately!  I’m up to £24 on the swear box so far – that is 48 cusses that I’ve had since Sunday afternoon.  That is me really trying not to swear too.  There might be two cleft palette operations benefitting from my swear box fund at this rate. 

Another challenge I set myself in NOvember was that I was going to abstain from shopping and I actually stuck  to it for 11 days.  Well, it’s easy setting the rules, not so easy following through.  Temptation has been a constant companion since the challenge began.  Like when I see the ASOS delivery man and get a little surge of anticipation, only to realise the parcel can’t possibly be for me as I haven’t ordered anything! 

Then I got an email from my favourite shop back in NZ.  Dirty old Max, come on down.  I looked at the email and was about to delete it, but the little shopping devil in my head whispered to me to just have a little look.   Max had put themselves to the trouble of emailing me and they were on sale, so looking seemed like the polite thing to do.

Well, you wouldn’t have to be a psychic to realise that I didn’t just look, but when I show you what I bought, and for how much, I think you’ll agree that there was no other course of action I could have taken.  Even with the pound being low right now, it still does well against the NZ dollar, especially on SALE items!  My saving angel and my shopping devil had a bit of a tussle, but the saving angel agreed in the end.  Even getting them shipped over (thanks Natalie), my whole shopping expedition only cost me £110.  The full ticket value was £316, so I saved a whopping £200!

When you check out my selection below I think you’ll agree that I was justified in my purchases! (yes, that really is a winter coat, that one item alone would normally cost around £100!). 





Battling the shopping demons

I’m five days in to my NO shopping for NOvember mission and I’m finding it tough to be quite honest.  The nature of my job in agency land means I get bombarded with marketing messages from fashion brands all day long.  I’ve managed to keep a professional distance however, not imagining how the cuter garments would look on me.  Mail catalogues that I’ve received have gone straight into recycling and I’ve stayed away from the shops. 

But challenges have a way of creeping up when you least expect them.  I’ve just found out I have a major meeting on Monday with a client, who is big in fashion (like huge).  I have nothing to wear.  What is a girl to do?  Beg, borrow and steal I’ve decided.  I’ll wardrobe shop at Mrs J’s house on Friday, she’ll be busy in the kitchen and I’ll be busy helping myself to her wardrobe.

I received a research article today, which explores how our reduced consumer spending is affecting the economy as a whole.  I reflected on my reduced consumerism and felt bad, but then I thought about where I will be spending money this month, which is quite a few places as it turns out.  I’ll be utilising the services of a massage therapist, hairdresser, drycleaner, beauty therapist and I’ll dine in restaurants and visit the cinema and theatre.  Of course I’ll be doing my grocery shopping as well (shopping highlight of the week) and buying lunch from local businesses.  So maybe I was just looking for an excuse to go shopping.  Bring on the willpower!

Here is an excerpt from the article.

Consumers Brown Bagging, Drinking Tap Water, Saving Money

 A new Harris Poll finds that more than half of all adults are saving money by purchasing more generic brands, while over 40 % are brown bagging more often and cutting back on visits to hairdressers and barbers. Over 30% have switched to tap water and cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions. Smaller percentages, but many millions of people, have also cut down on dry cleaning, cut back or cancelled cable television service, cancelled a newspaper subscription, stopped buying their morning coffee, changed or cancelled their cell phone service, increased their use of carpooling or mass transit and cancelled their telephone landline service.

These reduced spending patterns reflect a big increase in savings, and economists have been telling us for years that we need to increase savings, notes the report. They also show that most people are taking prudent actions to protect themselves in bad economic times.

On the other hand all of these savings mean less money going to the people who produce and sell these products and services, and fewer jobs. Economists tell us that increased consumer spending is badly needed to generate economic growth.

Spending/Saving Over Past Six Months ( % of Respondents who “Have done or considered doing any of the following over the past six months in order to save money?”)
  June 2009 October 2009
  % Have Done % Have Considered % Have Done % Have Considered
Purchasing more generic brands 62% 14% 64% 13%
Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it 47 8 47 8
Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often % 36 9 43 8
Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottle of water 33 11 36 12
Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions 29 7 34 6
Cut down on dry cleaning 20 4 22 4
Cancelled or cut back cable television service 19 5 21 24
Cancelled a newspaper subscription 17 23 21 9
Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning 15 9 20 5
Changed or cancelled cell phone service 14 8 15 16
Begun carpooling or using mass transit 13 17 14 9
Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone 11 21 12 23
Source: Harris Interactive, October 2009

{November 2, 2009}   Love life, not stuff

This is my mantra for NO-vember, when Little Miss Sunshine is abstaining from any sort of consumerism.  No shopping for this little retail princess.  Aside from supermarket shopping, I am not supporting the retail economy in the UK.  ASOS’s like for like retail figures will slump, Boots will go bankrupt and SpaceNK will never be the same.

Defeating the purpose of my virtuous crusade just a wee bit, I made sure I did loads of shopping last month, getting my ASOS fix in before the credit cards were put on ice.  I also made a slight error in judgement today, when I downloaded an iPhone app – but that’s hardly stuff now is it?  It’s not going to take up any space in my tightly packed wardrobe or my overflowing drawers.

I watched this video called ‘The Story of Stuff’ some time back and it made me think about the life cycle of stuff, about all those things I’ve bought and not used, about the cheap little things you buy – just because you can.  I don’t agree with everything in the video, but it does make you pause and think.  There are repercussions for all of our consumer habits, some of them are positive, like keeping the economy flowing and people in jobs.  Some of them are not so positive however, as our creaking planet can attest to.

So I’ll keep you updated as to my one woman crusade to save the planet this month.  Who knows, some frugal habits might just extend past this little experiment, god knows my credit cards and bank balance would benefit greatly… but then there are all of those people who depend on me shopping to keep the economy ticking over.  What a shopping dilemma I face, but not until next month so I’ll mull it over until then, feeling all virtuous and frugal.

Shopping Girl

{July 29, 2009}   NO-vember

I love shopping.  I shop a LOT.  I’m like a little magpie who can’t live without the latest shiny thing – or this morning on my way to work how I couldn’t live without a new pair of shoes and a scarf.  NAUGHTY! (they are gorgeous though).  When you move you realise how much crap you’ve accumulated, not that I’ve moved recently but the memory is still fresh from last year – lugging all my stuff up four flights of stairs.  I vowed and declared then that I’d minimise, economise and not buy so much STUFF.  You just forget though don’t you.  If you’ve got good storage in your house it’s easy to forget.  

So I’ve decided that I’m going to go one whole month without buying anything.  That means no trips into Accessorise,  SpaceNK, or Dotty P’s.  No trips into Boots, just to walk around and see if I need anything… how do those trips always end up with me leaving laden with shopping?  So all shops will be out of bounds.  The only thing I’ll be able to buy is food.  I hope I don’t turn into a blimp by the end of the month!  I quite enjoy food shopping and if this is going to be my only shopping activity I think the shopping trolley is going to get quite full.

So the next thing is, when to perform such a challenge.  Well, August is out because I need to buy some bits and bobs for Missy G’s hens do.  Plus I’m going to the Big Chill and might pick up a few things for there…  September I’m going to Missy G’s wedding and because I’ll be in Italy – well it would be a shame to miss out if I see an item I just can’t live without!  October – the weather will be getting very cold by then (not that it’s balmy at the moment!) and new winter jackets will be flooding the stores, I don’t want to miss out on a good one!  That leaves NO-vember.  See what I did there.  I liked the way that fit in to my new frugal regime, NO shopping for LMS in NO-vember.  NO spanking the credit card and NO “I just might pop in to have a look” visits into any of my favourite stores.

My one month abstinence may even go some way towards saving the planet.  All this consumerism is destroying our delicate earth, so I’m going to think about what I buy more carefully in future.  Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to show a little restraint after NO-vember, for the sake of the planet AND the health of my credit cards!


{July 26, 2009}   Benefit Betrayal

Maybe Baby

Maybe Baby








I have just written an email to Benefit to tell them how unhappy I am.  Worse than unhappy, I feel let down, disappointed and betrayed.  Why?  Well they’ve stopped making my favourite perfume EVER, Maybe Baby.  How dare you Benefit!  Really, what were you thinking!  So yesterday I stocked up and bought five bottles.  That will last me for a little over a year.  Tomorrow I’m going to a department store and am going to stock up on more bottles, as well as have a little smell of the Gwen Stefani perfume L.A.M.B.  I’ve been on forums with other devastated Maybe Baby fans and they said that L.A.M.B smells similar.  I don’t know how I feel about wearing a scent called L.A.M.B.  Being from NZ that is just like an open invitation to get the p*ss taken out of you!

Apparently Benefit have some new perfumes that are going to be better – or so the lady behind the counter said.  I don’t believe her.  Anyway, even if they are (which they won’t be) how do I know they won’t whip them off the shelves once I’m attached to them.  I can’t trust you anymore Benefit, if I didn’t like your make up so much we’d be all over.  But in the perfume stakes you better believe we’re through, unless you bring back Maybe Baby!

Maybe Baby

Maybe Baby

{May 10, 2009}   Champers and Dresses

I went bridesmaid dress shopping at the Westfield Mall in White City with Missy G yesterday.  I hadn’t been to the mall before and wanted to check it out.  I liked what I saw, I especially liked the village where all the high end shops are located.  I LOVED Searcy’s champagne bar, which is situated right in the middle of the luxury shops, and I shopped happily, with thoughts of a crisp dry sparkling reward waiting for me at the end of it. 

I hadn’t been looking forward to trying on dresses, actually I’d been dreading it.  Not because I don’t want a nice dress for the wedding – but my master plan to drop a few dress sizes hasn’t really panned out so far.  At the outset of our shopping expedition I made a declaration that made Missy G’s heart drop – ‘I’m buying a size 10, no matter what size fits now and I’ll make sure I fit it for the wedding’!  Ha, if that doesn’t conjure up a miracle weight loss then I don’t know what will.

We found some lovely dresses, but you can’t make such a momentous decision in one shopping trip and I can’t go into any detail about the dresses or we’ll ruin the surprise.  So we left chiffon, silk, beadwork and ribbon behind and moved to the champagne bar (my weight loss miracle can start on Monday). 

searcys champagne bar

I chose the taster option where you’re given four different pommery champagnes to try.  Missy G went for her favourite (and now mine because I copied her) champagne Pol Roger.  It’s heaven in a glass.  Mine came out on a tray, with four small champagne glasses (they give you nibbles too, big thumbs up) and Missy G’s Pol Roger was served in a glamorous, gorgeous, thin champagne flute.  I liked the pommery champagne but Pol Roger wins the taste test.

ladies who drink

So we’ll be going shopping again, but I won’t be dreading the next time.  The dresses looked lovely on us and there is a perfect (size 10) dress out there with my name on it.  I’ve made a rule (this very second) that each shopping trip must be followed by champagne, which makes me look forward to the next expedition even more!

{April 11, 2009}   Another one bites the dust

I went walking around Notting Hill this morning, I haven’t had a proper look around the shops in that area for ages.  I was pleasantly surprised to see an Oliver Bonas boutique and thought they must have just opened, nope, they’ve been open five months.  That must be how long it’s been since I’ve visited – how time flies! 

As I walked to the next shop I wasn’t so pleasantly surprised.  Coco Ribbon has gone.  Gone under, kaput, vanished, had a big closing down sale and left the building.  Coco Ribbon is a boutique, oops, WAS a boutique that sold lovely girly things, pretty boudoir styley things.  All that is left of someone’s dream is a pile of boxes and a few for sale signs hung up.  Even the website has closed down and all they have is this sign. 

Coco Ribbon

Coco Ribbon

I loved Coco Ribbon and wanted a business just like it.  Coco Ribbon is what inspired me to build my little website Le Boudoir.   I abandoned the project some time ago.  It takes a whole lot of money and time to get a business like that off the ground, and I ran out of both.  With the recession creeping in like a dark financial cloud I’m glad I made the choice to close the door on Le Boudoir.  Making money out of something you love doing is fabulous, and I LOVED setting up my site. 

Le Boudoir

Le Boudoir

But would I have made a lot of money out of it?  I doubt it.  I don’t even think I would have made a living out of it.  Life unfolds perfectly though and I’m now working in a job I love, for a digital agency specialising in ecommerce.  I wouldn’t be in this role if I didn’t have the experience of Le Boudoir and now I can work with other companies (who actually have money!) helping to grow their online businesses.

A shopkeeper close by to Coco Ribbon said to me ‘what hope is there for us if Coco Ribbon have gone under’.  Well, I hope there is some hope out there and that the smaller retailers can weather the current financial shitstorm.  With that in mind I went off to the Farmers Market to spend some money and support the hard working folks who travel in with their fresh produce every Saturday.

Whilst breaking in my fit flops today (a pack of blister plasters later, ouch!)  with a walk to Hyde Park I noticed loads of empty shops, so I decided to conduct a little survey on my way home.  I went into Whiteleys, but that was pre survey so I just noticed Oasis was gone and the expensive shirt shop down the bottom was history too. 

My official survey started outside Whiteleys and ended half a mile down the road at Westbourne Grove church.  In that small stretch of road I noticed 14 empty shops and restaurants.  A mind boggling amount for such a small distance. 

Westbourne Grove

Westbourne Grove

Here are the casualties:

  • Standard Indian Restaurant – maybe this one is just being refurbished, lets hope they do something about the name too!  Hope they don’t call it ‘Pretty Average Indian Restaurant’
  • Creme de la Creme Bakery and Patisserie – complete with mouldy food left in the display cabinet.  This raises the questions, did they just go on holiday and leave the food or has the business gone under and the owners scarpered?
  • Boulangerie, Patisserie, Tea House
  • Abiba Finest European Food – I think this restaurant has changed hands a few times now
  • Natural Cafe – this cafe never stood a chance, too big, bad decor and right opposite Planet Organic who did it much better.  If you’re going to offer something similar to whatever already exists you have to do it ten times better!
  • Urban Therapy – under renovation so I’m not sure if it’s changing ownership or not
  • Scooter World – it was nice to have this shop with scooters parked haphazardly out in front of the store, it added urban personality to the street.  I liked to walk past and imagine myself scootering around London, although I never would because I’d be too chicken on the roads without a steel cage protector!
  • Cocoon – lovely furniture store with big amazing pieces of furniture, pricey but cool
  • Blue Poppy Couture – this shop never seemed open so it’s not surprising it didn’t last!  Appointment only?  Pretentious!
  • Tea Palace – relocating to a central London address, which raises the question about the rent in this area… are the landlords getting greedy and pushing the businesses out?
  • Marc Cain
  • MCN Antiques
  • Carre Copenhagen – lovely jewellery shop with birdcages in the windows

I don’t think this list is the end of the casualties and it will be interesting to conduct this little survey again in 6 months time.  I wonder how the other businesses in the street will cope, as people continue to be more discerning as to where they part with their hard earned cash.

When you think about the plans and aspirations that these fledgling businesses had, it’s really sad to think of their demise.  Hopes, dreams and life savings all gone.  As these stores and restaurants bite the dust it’s my biggest wish that they’re replaced by quality INDEPENDANT retailers.  We don’t need another ‘could be anywhere in the UK’ high street with the same old boring chain stores. 

To keep the independants in business we need to support those that get it right, so I’m going to continue to frequent my local pizzeria, news agent (the clean one, not the one that has the scent of BO and dubious old cooking odors), florist and deli (not the one down the end of my road, that’s a rip).  Power to the consumer and good luck to the retailers who deserve to stay!

et cetera