Monday, 4 May 2015

What's in a name?

As the days slide past and our wedding day inches ever closer, more and more of our spare time is occupied by emailing suppliers, making decisions about flowers and invitations, hunting for ideas on Pinterest and generally feeling a little bit overwhelmed. If I'm completely honest, with so much to do my mind hasn't drifted much beyond the big day, let alone what it will be like to step out into the world as a married couple.

Recently someone at work asked me if I was looking forward to becoming 'Mrs Hamilton'. I felt a bit stumped, and realised that it hadn't really occurred to me.

The fact is, the initial euphoria of getting engaged last year soon gave way to a notebook full of scribbled wedding tasks, while something as important as my surname fell by the wayside. I suppose I assumed that I would take Frank's surname, because after all, that's what women 'do'. Yet when I was asked about being Mrs Hamilton, the rebel in my baulked, and I felt sad and cross that someone would simply assume I would change my name (even if to be fair that was the path in which I was heading).

The more I thought about it, the more complicated and emotional it became. I realised that far from being an afterthought, this was a decision that for me needed a lot of consideration and a lot of soul-searching.

Here's my predicament. My name is Sally Mavin. Most Sallys I know are either over 60 or refer lovingly to someone's pet dog. I never really minded. I like my first name. But for my whole childhood I hated my surname. I hated how everyone mispronounced it (rhyming it with 'starving' or 'gavin' instead of 'craving' as it should be. I hated correcting people (I still do). I hated joining the downward line of the 'm' with the loop of the 'a'. I hated the scratchy 'v' and would always insert an extra 'i' in the speedy race towards the finish line. I hated being the only Mavin family I knew of. I never really knew my father's family. I never knew about my heritage.

But now I'm the last Mavin. My sister has kept her married name. I have no brothers or paternal uncles or cousins. My dad is dying. This surname that I'be resented for 30 years is all I have. I'm the last one.

I did a lot of research, looking for some intelligent pearls of wisdom that hovered somewhere in the middle ground between the overtly feminist and the dutifully subservient. Some arguments bordered on the ridiculous: taking his name would prove I take our marriage seriously or (god forbid) would mean I could order monogrammed towels (I wish I was joking, but I'm not). Others pleaded on behalf of unborn children who might face 'confusion and ridicule' over potentially different surnames. Others went into long arguments about being relegated to the 'wife of' someone instead of a person in their own right. But if I thought for one second that Frank applauded such a misogynistic take on marriage then it's safe to say I wouldn't be marrying him.

Perhaps it's about how much you're willing to sacrifice and compromise. Being married, living under the same roof, sharing your hopes, dreams and aspirations, supporting one another. It takes compromise. Cooking dinner every evening because your wife is working long days that week is a compromise. Putting more money into the savings pot every month because you're on a higher salary is a compromise. Doing the cleaning while your other half enjoys a catch-up with old friends is a compromise. But giving up your name? Your identity? The person you've been for the past two or three decades? I'm not sold on that.

Giving up a surname means different things to different people. Some people can't wait to cast off their name like dead skin and embark on something new. I'm not making a judgement on whether it's right or wrong. It's a completely personal decision. But for me it's not easy, and I struggle to understand why some women do change their names without it being a careful, active decision.

I'm still undecided, but for now at least I'm happy as I am. In my darkest moments I imagine myself having to endure the pain of saying goodbye to my dad, knowing that there will never be anyone to carry on his legacy. The decision of whether that name continues or not lies with me. And it feels like a huge responsibility.


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Friday, 24 April 2015

Wedding hair trials and tribulations

Time as ever marches relentlessly onwards. I was flicking through my diary this week and felt flabbergasted when I realised that our wedding is in just four months. Despite feeling completely disorganised, we've been slowly and steadily ticking items of our gargantuan to-do list. All the big ticket items are spoken for: the venue, food, photographer, dress and bridesmaid dresses (although paying for them all is another matter!) and my mind is slowly starting to turn towards the smaller details: favours, shoes, cake, jewellery and of course hair (or in my case, coarse hair...).

I always assumed a few tousled waves would do nicely for a bride, but after exploring the vast corners of the interweb, I've realised that there is way more to it than that, and I thought I'd share some of my favourites. I can imagine the first would look fab with some bright red lippie and 50s style shorter wedding dress. The 60s beehive is simple but beautiful and the fossil hair! Oh if only. The reality is that most of these would look a bit ridiculous on me (I'm yet to learn that a 'make me look like that' approach always breeds disappointment).

Given that I have fairly troublesome hair, I decided to begin getting it all in order quite early on. I knew I'd want at least part of it up on the day and fancied an ombre colour so the different shades would look pretty pinned up. I went to a new (to me) hairdresser who came highly recommended and I eagerly anticipated my new cut and colour. True my terrible luck, it was a disaster. I asked for deep brown roots and reddy chestnut ends and came out with a brassy bleached bottom half with a stripe around my head rather than a subtle blend. The hairdresser had thinned out my layers but had been so ruthless she'd hacked out huge chunks of my hair. I was left with limp, dry ends that snapped off in my hands and bushy chunks of short layers in between. It felt (and looked) awful.

With my tail between my legs, I've spent the past two months slowly trying to put some health back into my hair, using all manner of potions to try and nourish my parched locks. Interestingly, some of the purse-friendly options have been the most effective. A good scoop of coconut oil seems to do wonders (although it takes about five washes to get it out). John Frieda recently sent me some of their new Frizz Ease Forever Smooth Shampoo and Conditioner along with their Dream Curls Enhancing Oil to try. Much like their other products I've been suitably impressed, and slowly but surely my hair is inching back to health. But I have a long way to go (and a very good colourist to find). Any Manchester recommendations would be hugely appreciated!


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Monday, 20 April 2015

When four becomes five

This weekend our family of four became five when we rehomed a beautiful 14-month-old jack russell who we've named Stanley.

This little furry face has brightened my day. ���� Three big long walks, lots of romps, cuddles and waggy tails - more exercise in a day than he's ever had.�������� That's not to say i

Frank and I have been talking about getting a dog for over a year, but like many people confined to a teeny London flat, it wouldn't have been fair or right to do it while living in the south. I've always felt that a house without a pet is an empty shell. My childhood was spent in the country by the sea with dogs, cats, horses, chickens and guinea pigs. My two cats, Socks and Splodge, give us endless companionship, but we've always wanted a little furry companion to go on muddy walks with. Frank lived with a dog before we met and loved taking her out every day. After a lot of thought and a long chat we decided that now felt like the right time, so we decided to take the plunge.

We knew rehoming a dog with our two cats would be a challenge, and we wanted to make sure we didn't go for any old dog. We knew we couldn't have a puppy or a traumatised rescue dog because we couldn't give it the extended period of recuperation/training needed. We needed a dog that had lived with cats, was house trained, crate trained and good with people and children.

Stanley had a loving home in a good sized house in Liverpool, with two adults, three children, two other dogs and a cat. He was loved, had lots of cuddles, company and affection, but rarely went on walks because his owner has health problems and struggled to leave the house. There was very little green space nearby, and he wasn't getting the exercise or stimulation he needed. So she made the very brave, very difficult decision to rehome him.

It's been an eventful few days. Stanley has been on lots of long walks and clearly loved every minute. His nose has been permanently glued to the ground, enjoying all the delicious smells that the countryside has to offer. He is an extraordinarily friendly little dog, who wants nothing more than a cuddle, a good walk and a belly tickle. The cats are understandably scared, and we're doing our best to keep them separate for now so they can get used to his smell. We've been spending lots of time with them to make sure they don't feel replaced or threatened. It seems to be working but it will be a long, slow process.


We're feeling a little sleep deprived as Stanley has spent the last three nights howling because he's never been on his own before. It will take time, but once he settles into his routine I'm sure it will get better. Our little family feels very happy and content right now.

I hope you're all having a lovely start to the week and are enjoying as much sunshine as we are oop north! I'm itching to get out along the river a bit later. Not sure I'll feel quite as keen when it's wet and cold though!


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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

What I wore: Clarks and Closet

Having avoided outfit posts for nearly 4 months I've somehow managed to post two in a row (while admittedly disappearing for a little stint between). The brighter, longer days must be having an effect on me. I'm feeling much more inclined to wear heels and pretty short sleeved dresses to work rather than slouchy cardigans and boots (albeit with a thick winter coat at arm's reach for those frosty mornings). The bulbs are flowering in full force where I live, which I think is reason enough to take their lead and spruce myself up a bit.

I'm not sure why I haven't been blogging recently, but I did feel that I needed some space, some time to collect my thoughts and hibernate over the colder months. Seeing my camera gathering dust on the top of the wardrobe and my reader numbers wilting in a slow, steady decline has made me a little sad, but I also felt fatigued, and I always said that when blogging stopped being fun I would reassess. Like lots of bloggers I have a constant internal voice nagging me that instead of savouring the moment I 'should' be hunched over my computer bashing out another post. I approached every activity in my life from a 'marketing' perspective. What photo angles worked, what posts to pop on Twitter and Instagram. Frank would sit patiently while his food went cold so I could take 'one more photo', and I never found I could immerse myself fully in the joy of a moment because I was constantly looking for the next blog post. I needed that time to just be. To read and watch and think and chat without any other agenda other than what was happening right in front of me. But I also love blogging, and I miss it. I love flicking back and reminding myself of all the things I've been up to, the little memories and moments that stack up to create a big life, full of wonder and joy. I'm ready to be part of that again now.

So back to the task at hand (I'm getting rather good at going off on tangents), I wanted to share my two new favourite things: this Chelsea dress from Closet and my new nude court shoes from Clarks. I can't be the only one who occasionally (albeit rarely) has a moment when they find the perfect dress. For a long time mine was the Louche Julita dress from Joy until I recently discovered this Closet Chelsea dress. I think it would suit most body shapes, but I like how it balances out my pear shaped frame, and it's so comfortable considering it looks quite formal.

I've since bought it in two more patterns, my current favourite being this tribal print (although I also have my eye on the blue floral one too). Is there a limit to the number of versions of the same dress one person can own?

Closet and Clarks
Closet Tribal Print Chelsea Dress - reduced to £14 | Clarks Arista Abe shoes - £40*

I think nude court shoes are quite underrated. They're so versatile, so I was really pleased when I found this patent pair in Clarks. Working in a marketing comms role means that I spend a lot of time dashing between meetings in different buildings, so I was looking for a work shoe that would look smart without breaking my feet. Clarks were always the go-to brand when I was a child. As far as my mother was concerned, no self-respecting parent would buy their child school shoes from any other shop. I probably sound a little old fashioned but it means a lot to me when shop staff get the experience right, and the sales assistant in Clarks was just perfect - sitting me down and happily flitting in and out of the store room as I ummed and ahhed between sizes and widths. Eventually I found the wide width shoe more comfortable and I've since been wearing them constantly.

Closet and Clarks


Closet and Clarks

I also snapped a picture of the new Orla Kiely range at Clarks, although I think I'd struggle to choose!

Just been drooling over the new @orlakiely collection in @clarksshoes... #shoes #shoeshopping #orlakiely #newshoes

I hope you all had a lovely Easter break. I spent the weekend with my sister, and spent a stereotypical bank holiday Monday mowing the lawn. I love the smell of freshly cut grass. Now I just need it to get a teensy bit warmer so we can whip out the barbecue!


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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

3 ways to wear... a pearl necklace

Recently I've been trying to pay a bit more attention to my morning routine, and my work outfits in particular. Starting work at 8am means I tend to crawl out of bed at 6am, yawn under a scorching hot shower and tug on the first thing my fist grips as it reaches inside my wardrobe. I don't make time for breakfast and can barely muster the energy to dab on some moisturiser, let alone a fully fledged plethora of oils, serums and gels. Let's just say I'm not a natural morning person.

When it's cold outside I find it all too tempting to wear something cosy with plenty of room to slouch around in, so it's been nice to make more of an effort around the office (like here and here), which helps me feel more confident and motivated.

One thing I still haven't quite mastered during my bleary morning routine is putting the contents of my overflowing jewellery box to good use. I have stacks of chunky statement necklaces (like this and this) that I absolutely adore, but styling them takes a little more thought than simply slinging them on and sloping out the front door.

On my Pinterest travels I regularly stumble across swoon-worthy blogger outfits in which coils of perfectly proportioned sparkles and beads have been effortlessly teamed with nautical stripe tees. Yet whenever I try something similar it looks garish or clashy, and after three or four necklace changes I give up and go without.

In my mind what's become abundantly clear (because I obviously need any excuse to do more shopping) is that I'm sorely lacking in simple, classic necklaces that I can pop on regardless of the outfit and will pretty much go with everything. And as I started scouring various online shops to fill this gaping wardrobe hole, I decided that a great place to start would be with a classic string of pearls.

There's something special about a freshwater pearl. I like the idea that an ugly (yet tasty) mollusk can create something so pretty and pure. As soon as this beautiful freshwater pearl necklace from Eternal Collection plopped through my letter box it reminded me of my grandmother's dressing table, of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's and sitting in French cafes sipping crisp cold wine and guzzling oysters like Ernest Hemingway in A Moveable Feast. It reminded me of pretty brides and seaside trips and The Walrus and the Carpenter from Alice in Wonderland. Unlike many of the bold statement necklaces that go in and out of fashion, a string of pearls will happily last a lifetime and more.

How to wear a pearl necklace

Despite not having posted an outfit photo in months (can you tell I feel like a goofball in these pics?) I wanted to experiment with the versatility of pearls and try them with a few outfits. Please excuse the lazy lack of ironing (which seems painfully obvious as I post these pics!)

How to wear a pearl necklace
Colorblock shift dress - ASOS (£19 reduced from £55) | blazer (old - blogged here) | chelsea boots (old) | vintage belt

How to wear a pearl necklace
Tartan shirt (old) | structured pleated skirt - River Island (£10 reduced from £25) | Digby Red Leather Chelsea Boots - New Look (sold out - black version available

How to wear a pearl necklace

Mustard yellow trousers - ASOS (sold out - similar here) | shoes - New Look (old) | top - Dorothy Perkins (sold out - ivory version available here)

I've been wearing this last pair of trousers at every possible opportunity lately, they're so comfy and I adore the colour (channelling my inner daffodil, obvs). They almost make me want to stop dieting as I don't want them to get too big, but then as it usually goes with ASOS, they've started to bobble a little bit and will inevitably end up relegated to the boot fair pile (cries). 

I hope you're all having a lovely week and keeping your fingers crossed for more spring flowers and sunshine this weekend!


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