Saturday, 22 November 2014

Frienvy: the good, the bad and the ugly

I don't just set high standards for myself. My bar is higher than the glinting metal skyscrapers that tickle the clouds outside my kitchen window. I blame Instagram. And Pinterest. Endless feeds depicting wild flowers sprouting from porcelain vases, button nose babies clad in hand-knitted fair isle hats, teetering stacks of syrup-drizzled pancakes and spotless, bright airy bedrooms with upturned crate bedside tables and antique wrought iron bedsteads.

I should clarify that this post is not a whinge-fest or a desire to accumulate 'stuff'. My brimming wardrobe and bulging drawers are testament to my penchant for knick knacks and sentimental hoarding. It's about a lifestyle I suppose; the ability to be that girl who can do everything. To start the day with manicured nails, flawless make-up and a head full of ideas. To spend the day guzzling water, chatting on Twitter and drawing thick black lines through my to-do list. Then to end the day having finished reading a book, had coffee with a friend, baked a cake and written a blog post. Does that even happen?

Sometimes I go a week without tweeting. Or blogging. Sometimes I go a week without hoovering, or replying to a friend's text. Somewhere along the way life got a little complicated. This week alone I've had a cat at the vet's with bladder stones and a possible tumour, an altercation with a neighbour which resulted in me having to involve the police, a tummy lurgy and a long overdue reunion with my dad after 10 years of silence. Needless to say it's been a tough week. Add to that the usual weekly ordeals of flat cleaning, house admin, 'wedmin', hair-washing and of course work. It makes me wonder how others do it.

Perhaps we're all guilty of being a little secretive about our own struggles, sharing instead the best parts of our lives on Instagram and Facebook, which give a skewed impression of the highs and lows. A quick glance at my Facebook feed and I'm greeted with pictures of hazy palm trees, piles of perfectly wrapped Christmas presents, a dangling set of 'first time buyer' house keys, muddy wellies trudging through forests and before and after weightloss selfies. After a particularly wretched week it's understandable to expect the green-eyed monster to raise its ugly head just a little...

It seems to be a rather vulgar thing to admit to being jealous of your friends, but I'm convinced it happens to us all. Just recently I experienced a big dose of 'frienvy' when one of my best friends bought her first home - something that has long been a distant dream for me.

The truth is, jealousy is natural, but how you react to it seems to be key. Put your friend down, show no support and sneer at their achievements and yes, you're a bit of a toad. But channel your 'frienvy' into doing better in your own life and you're all set. When it comes to my friend, I turned her achievement into a kick up the backside. I packed in my job and decided to move to Manchester so my dream of owning a home could be that much closer (but not before giving her a big hug, a card and a pressie of course).

Recently I was sent an infographic that proves I'm not the only one to feel a little jealous of my friends. It made for an interesting read. If anything it's good to know I'm not the only one to feel a little jealous of my friends at times.

Do you ever suffer from frienvy? How do you deal with it?

Provided by Mecca Bingo


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Monday, 17 November 2014

Review: Nava hair straighteners

When it comes to hair straighteners, I speak from experience. Barely a day goes by where I don't have to wield these contraptions and go to war on my locks. And it's not simply a case of swiping a few strands and heading on my way. We're talking heavy duty sessions - my hair piled up on my head like a bird's nest as I slowly and meticulously straighten each miniscule section. To me, the age old adage 'I can't tonight - I'm washing my hair' is a perfectly reasonable excuse.

The robust nature of my hair straightening regime is not about vanity. It's about survival. I hate having poker straight hair but unless I straighten my hair to within an inch of its life, 20 minutes later I'll feel it getting pouffier and pouffier until I'm right back where I started. Yep. This poofy, thick mane of mine is a formidable beast to tame.

I remember life and all its woes before hair straighteners. I kept my hair swept into a tight ponytail, an Alice band flattening the (many) strays. By 15 I gave up and cut it an inch short (shudder). And then that fateful day arrived when I discovered ghds. Sound familiar?

For a long time ghds were my go-to brand, frankly because nothing else compared. As my hair grew longer I graduated onto the wider plates, but in recent years the £130+ price tag has started to put me off, particularly as other brands claim to be just as good.

Not wanting to buy another pair of ghds when I could save myself some mega bucks, I decided to widen my search. And that's when Nava asked me to road test their metallic pink hair straightener. Firmly established in the US, Nava has hit the UK and their pretty pink straighteners retail at a very respectable £79.99 introductory price (£45 cheaper than their ghd equivalents, and they'll eventually be £99.99). So far so good.

Nava hair straighteners review

The straighteners arrived in a smart, sturdy box. The straighteners themselves have a 1.5m cord, solid ceramic plates and a temperature control dial, which I absolutely loved as I don't have this on my ghds and I like that I can use a cooler temperature on my fringe. The straighteners heated up quickly, although I'd love it if they would beep or flash to let you know when they're ready (I had to guess). They are lightweight and really easy to work with, and have a 360 degree swivel cord so I don't get tangled up in a big sweaty mess trying to tame my unruly tresses. They come with a fantastic lifetime guarantee.

I consider my hair to be a good testing ground for hair straighteners. It's thick, coarse and frizzy. Here's a little photo of my hair freshly washed and blasted with a hairdryer.

Nava hair straighteners review

And here's my hair having used the Nava straighteners and given it a little wave. They glide through my hair really easily, and I don't find myself going over the same section time and time again like I have with other brands. This took about five minutes to do and the wave didn't drop (although I did use a spritz of hairspray to set it).

Nava hair straighteners review

Overall I'm delighted with the Nava straighteners, which are just as good as my more expensive ghds. They gave me a lovely natural wave that was sleek and smooth. If you're looking for a great pair of straighteners that are really good value, I'd wholeheartedly suggest giving Nava a go. What's more, Nava are very kindly offering Queenie and the Dew readers a whopping £30 off a pair of these straighteners using the code qd_supersaver. Yup, that's £49.99 for a fab new pair of pretty pink hair straighteners. Great idea for a Christmas pressie (or a gift for yourself of course!) You can find them in the Nava online shop.

I hope you can make good use of the code and enjoy your new sleek locks!


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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

In case of emergency

My relationship with money has changed a lot over the past 10 years. My sister has always been effortlessly careful with her dough, whereas I've never been much of a saver, and have been known to dip into my credit card on more than one occasion. I'm a fritterer, and while I don't have any debts to speak of, I don't have much of a savings buffer either.

^ image from weheartit

Since Frank and I got engaged we've been trying to squirrel away money wherever we can. You could say we're so committed to doing right by our finances that we're upending ourselves completely to move 200 miles north of London, because this city has become unsustainable for us to set down roots in. In December I finish my job and will have three solid weeks (over Christmas) when I will be officially unemployed. I've been tempted to stick my fingers in my ears and ignore the fact that I will inevitably be dipping into the wedding fund to buy food. The move is a long-term investment in our future, but that doesn't pay the electricity bill when you're not earning any money now does it?

Over the years I've been guilty of dipping into my savings or getting out my credit card for those 'emergency situations' we all love to justify. Ten or even five years ago this could have been an 'emergency massage' after a tough day at work, an 'emergency takeaway' when I'd forgotten to do the grocery shopping or even an 'emergency weekend away' to save an ailing relationship. Now though I'm trying to be much more careful with my money, and that 'emergency bottle of perfume to help me feel better after being poorly' is simply not something I'm willing to hand over my credit card for.

That said, this week I did have a true emergency (a £283 emergency in fact) - in the shape of this....


...a poorly cat who needed to go to the vet for some tests. Unforeseen costs are always going to spring up, whether it's a broken boiler, a slipped roof tile or a poorly animal, but my idea of what constitutes an emergency (and therefore justifies putting it on the plastic) is different to what it used to be.

Now that I have a savings plan in place and I can slowly watch the pounds build up, I also need to think about these three weeks of Christmas unemployment and think about how I might tackle that without it constituting an emergency. So, I've thought up four little goals that I'm going to try and achieve over the next month or so. They might not cover the whole deficit, but they'll hopefully stop me having to use a garden chair as a sofa!

01. I will keep a piggybank (or in my case 'elephant bank') next to the front door, and every time I walk in the house I will pop any £1 and £2 coins from my purse straight in.
02. I will declutter my house and sell unwanted items on eBay
03. I will create a budget and stick to it
04. I will transfer any freelance money I earn straight into my savings account

Do you have any saving tips? What do you class as an emergency that justifies the credit card?


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Sunday, 9 November 2014

For the love of bathrooms

Moving house is stressful. But moving house when you’re 200 miles away is proving to be a pain in the proverbial bum. You’d assume that a young(ish) professional couple with good references and a decent deposit would have no problem snapping up a habitable rental property. It seems I’d forgotten the tendencies of estate agents to embellish, overcharge and generally treat you as if you’re subhuman.

Having spent the last couple of weeks scouring listings and getting ever more despondent about our chances, I’ve also been trying to keep my spirits up by pinning home ideas on Pinterest.

While house-hunting is proving tricky, it’s also helped me to whittle down the deal-breakers, like a nice garden, room for a dining table and a spare bedroom. And top of my check list has to be a good bathroom.

Whenever I look around a rental property my heart tends to sink a little when I come to the bathroom, which always seems to be an afterthought: dingy, poky little rooms with an unreasonable amount of white porcelain crammed into a tiny space. Grouting that's black and mouldy, leaky mixer tap showers, mildew-spattered shower curtains and yellow-stained lino.

For me, the bathroom is one of the most important rooms in a house. It's where I can unwind in a hot bubble bath after a long day, and where I pull myself together in the morning as I rub various lotions and potions into my tired skin. It's where I stand under the shower head willing myself to wake up, and where I mentally brainstorm blog posts as I brush my teeth. My bathroom is the one place I can be alone. No cats chirruping at me for their tea. No interruptions or questions or phone calls. I can slop a bright green mask on my face and no one will say a thing. I can sink into a deep bath with a good book and get lost amid the pages.

My Pinterest album is full of reclaimed roll top baths, enormous ceiling shower heads from My-Bathrooms, brightly tiled floors from Walls and Floors and quirky hand basins, all of which will have to wait for that fateful day when I finally own my own house. Before that happens though, I'm still racking up the inspiration, and my wishlist is stocked up with beachy driftwood mirrors, quirky shower curtains and even a bicycle sink. Maybe one day...


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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

20 things to do before you leave London

On Saturday I zoomed up to Birkenhead on the train, having braved a 5.30am start so we could make the most of our time up north visiting Frank’s family. It’s hard to imagine that in just six weeks’ time the North West will be my home. On Friday there was a bit of joy jumping and squealing when we discovered that Frank had been offered a job (hooray!), which has somewhat alleviated the financial pressures of relocating. Now we just have to find a house and some way to drag ourselves and our possessions up there. Gulp.

6am on a Saturday morning is a strange time to be riding the tube, and even more so the morning after Halloween. Travellers and weekend workers at the beginning of their day crossed paths with partygoers returning home from the night before. My tube carriage was filled with a colourful array of stragglers dressed as witches, zombies and vampires, looking a little worse for wear and definitely ready for a hot shower and a long sleep.

The bedlam of moving and a busy work schedule means autumn and Halloween largely passed me by this year. Normally I’d walk home from the supermarket, staggering under the weight of pumpkins ready for carving, before spending the next week living off pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup and pumpkin risotto. I’d enjoy weekends sipping warm spiced apple juice, kicking through dead leaves and collecting conkers. Now it’s November and the trees are nearly bare. I know there’s always next year but it makes me feel a little sad that I didn’t soak it up when I had the chance.

Despite the lack of autumnal festivities, I still found time to wear my new dress from Logon style, which was the perfect Halloween substitute considering I had no plans to expose my inner witch this year. I love how the pattern reminds me of spider webs, and it’s the perfect weight and length for a chilly autumn day.

Logon style

Logon style

Outfit details
Dress: Logon Style* - reduced from £125 to £45
Shoes: New Look (old)
Bag: charity shop
Necklace: French Connection (old)

I’ve been enjoying lots of impromptu catch-ups over the past couple of weeks, and my diary has been steadily filling up with lunch dates, coffee meet-ups and evening escapades. There are so many people I want to spend time with over the next six weeks, be it my girlfriends, sister, colleagues, other friends or even some PR contacts that I’ve built up friendships with over the past few years. So with that in mind I decided it was high time I write a little bucket list of the things I’d like to do before I leave London.

  1. Wander through the Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park
  2. See the crown jewels at the Tower of London
  3. Climb Monument
  4. Visit the Old Operating Theatre
  5. Finish the Thames Path walk
  6. Buy flowers from Columbia Road market
  7. Eat lunch at Borough Market
  8. Go to a service at Southwark Cathedral
  9. Visit the Imperial War Museum
  10. Listen to jazz at St Martin in the Fields
  11. See Richard Wilson’s installation 20:50 at the Saatchi Gallery (the oil room)
  12. Get a curry on Brick Lane
  13. Visit the Museum of London
  14. Visit the Punk IPA shop
  15. Walk on Wimbledon Common
  16. Eat sausages at Mother Mash
  17. Buy a Christmas decoration from Liberty
  18. Watch some fireworks
  19. Have a drink on a boat on the Thames
  20. Visit Somerset House
I'll keep you posted on how I get on!


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