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Last week I talked about how my ongoing beauty maintenance (tinting and shaping my ultra-blonde lashes and brows every four to six weeks) is a constant drain on my wallet. I’ve already given my beloved (but rather pricey) beauty therapist the flick after calculating that I was shelling out £720 over a 12 month period. So I visited the London College of Beauty Therapy for a much cheaper series of treatments that would cost a total of £180 over a year - a massive saving of £540!
But now I’m starting to wonder … can I go cheaper? And the answer, of course, is a resoundingly yes! I’ve been researching some DIY treatments, and found a home eyelash and brow dye kit from Boots. The best part? It costs the grand total of £7.10, and there’s apparently enough product to last for 12 months. Potentially a saving of another £172.90.
So I put the kit to the test tonight to see if it (a) was relatively straight-forward and easy to apply and (b) stands up to professional salon standards. The verdict? Not half bad. Granted, it was another beauty “chore” and involved a bit of time on my part, but it was really nothing compared to the time taken to actually get to and from salons in London.
Applying the tint itself was really easy, but I had to enlist the help of my husband to really get the job done right. So I would recommend calling a friend if you want to try it at home. And the results were quite good. Admittedly, the dye itself isn’t as dark as my usual therapist, but I might try topping it up again tomorrow. Considering I’m saving a grand total of £712.90 per annum, I’m not really complaining! Next up? My brows.
Total spent: £7.10/annum
Cost of eyelash and brow tinting over 12 months: £720
Total saved: £712.90/annum
Posted in Beauty
There’s no two ways around it: I love craft. I could wax lyrical about cute crafty stuff that’s being made RIGHT NOW all over the world, but at the end of the day I always wish I could make more of my own stuff. And the only thing that’s really stopping me is knowledge and experience.
I’ve been a big fan of Sublime Stitching’s cool embroidery kits for a couple of years. In fact, I even own a mod ‘60s kit with graphics of scooters, targets and cute dolly birds. But the sad fact is that I don’t really know any embroidery stitches, and I’ve never used an embroidery hoop in my life. In the meantime, plans for making my own gifts (embroidered tea towels, pillowcases, T-shirts and baby all-in-ones), have been put on hold, whilst I continually resort to panicked present purchases at the last minute.
But that’s all about to change, because I’ve just enrolled in an embroidery workshop at The Make Lounge in North London. I’ve been meaning to check out The Make Lounge for a while now, so I’m pretty excited now I’m all signed up. I love the fact that all sorts of crafty groups have been sprouting up all over the world, where people get together to learn new (forgotten) skills and bond over slipped stitches and French knots. The Make Lounge offers a myriad of exciting craft classes, from making your own sexy knickers to creating your own festive fascinator. Click here to see their full line-up of workshops.
I’m hoping that I’ll finally get the confidence (and inspiration) to make some really beautiful, personal gifts for family and friends over the coming year. And maybe save some money while I’m at it!
The Make Lounge
49-51 Barnsbury Street
London N1 1TP
Tel. 020 7609 0275
All images courtesy of The Make Lounge.
Like a lot of people living in London, I don’t have a garden. In fact, I haven’t owned a garden ever since I left home 15 years ago. Ergo, completely useless green fingers. But I do have a couple of windowsills and a balcony that’s officially not mine but I may be able to use it to grow stuff on anyway.
I’ve accumulated some very cheap gardening tools (Sainsbury’s have a great range), and I’ve picked up a packet of compost that’s meant to be ideal for growing seeds and seedlings. My goal is to do this on a shoestring budget, so no fancy containers for me.
Instead, I go down the nursery school method of using tin cans as containers – and after a bit of research I’ve discovered that parsley is probably the easiest herb to grow from seed. It’s ridiculously easy - and makes a great gardening project if you’ve got kids, too.
To make your own herb pot garden, you’ll need:
• Empty aluminum cans
• Screwdriver and hammer
• Small pebbles
• Herb seeds or seedlings
You can also decorate your cans with acrylic paint, but I quite like the urban minimalist look of plain aluminium. Although, I’m quite tempted to make little cosies from old sweaters for my tins cans.
How to make them:
1. Wash and dry aluminum cans, remove paper labels.
2. Turn cans upside down and use a hammer and screwdriver to poke some holes in the bottom of them for drainage.
3. Layer the bottom of cans with loose pebbles, and then fill them up to two-thirds full with compost.
4. Sprinkle some seeds on top of compost, and then cover with another thin layer of compost.
5. Water and place in a sunny window … and wait for them to sprout!
I’m just starting out nice and easy with a bit of parsley, but I’ve got my eye on a couple of good seedling websites that India Knight mentions in The Thrift Book. She orders seedlings (that are best grown in containers and small spaces) from www.sarahraven.com and www.rocketgardens.co.uk - and they’re delivered straight to her door. It sounds ridiculously easy and it’s apparently very good value. In fact, the Instant Patio Container Garden (how I love the sound of that) from www.rocketgardens.co.uk costs £36.99, but it apparently yields as much as £300 in fresh organic produce. Definitely something to think about…
Now this one is easy. Too easy, in fact, as London is one of those brilliant cities which is actually chockers with free stuff to do.
One of the most obvious places to start is London’s world-class museums and galleries, which unlike other cities around the world, offer free admission to many of their permanent collections. You could easily spend days wandering the capital’s great galleries without spending a penny. But there’s a chance you could suffer from a serious case of gallery fatigue. Plus there’s loads more to see and do. Here’s a sample itinerary of a full (free) day in London:
11am Free 80 minute yoga class
The Dermalogica store in Kensington hosts a whole line-up of free health and well-being classes and workshops. Check online to see what’s coming up and book in advance.
1pm Take a packed lunch and picnic in the splendour of Kensington Gardens. People-watch, squirrel-watch and bird-watch for free.
2pm. Take in some culture and visit a free gallery or museum. The V&A Museum is nearby and houses an extensive collection of art and design.
4pm Get ready for a big night out with a free makeover at The Body Shop.
6pm. Go to a free taping of a TV show and spend the night with your favourite celebrities. Some of them even give you free booze! Apply well in advance for free tickets at the BBC or at Applause Store. Just keep in mind that you need to queue up very early for tickets on the night, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get in.
9pm. Time to hit the (free) night clubs! Death Disco in at Notting Hills Arts Club is my pick of the bunch –with guest DJ sets (including the likes of Courtney Love, Tim Burgess, and Mercury Rev) and free live acts as well. (Wednesday nights only)
Here’s a tutorial just in time for London’s Chelsea Flower Show this week: your very own minature garden. I found it in the latest Cath Kidston magazine, and it combines my love for tiny gardens (I have a bit of a thing for terrariums) and all things retro and twee (finally – I can put all my vintage cake decorations to good use!).
The best thing about this tutorial is that it requires basically zero gardening skills (that’s good news for me), and it costs next to nothing to produce. In fact, I already had everything I needed to make this project, and I ended up with a lovely table centrepiece that will last for several weeks. There’s also an added bonus: the chance to enter the competition to win a £100 Cath Kidston gift voucher.
Here’s how my garden worked out:
What you need:
• Twigs, leaves, lawn moss, sand, gravel and pebbles gathered from the garden
• A large bowl, deep plate or foil baking tray
• Gravel and multipurpose compost
• Foil cake case or tin foil for the pond (I didn’t bother with a pond)
• Any small decorative figures, animals and scenery that may inspire you* (I used a tiny pebble country cottage and some vintage cake decorations)
• Water spray bottle
*remember young children can choke on small items.
What to do:
1. Gardening, even in miniature, can be a messy job, so before you start, cover your work surface with paper.
2. Until you’re ready to use them, stand twigs and leaves in a glass of water and leave the moss to soak.
3. Fill the container - use all compost or two-thirds gravel, then top up with compost to just below the rim. (I used all compost for my garden)
4. If you want a pond, sink a foil cake case or shaped tin foil into the compost. Fill with water once you’ve completed your garden. Plant twig trees, position pebble boulders, lay gravel paths and moss ‘grass’. Before using the moss, squeeze it gently to remove excess water.
5. To keep the greenery looking green, give your garden a spritz with water every day. You can stand the container on a windowsill, but keep it out of bright sunlight.
I experimented with the placement of my chalky rock (for my own rocky outcrop) and created little mounds with the compost to create little hills. I planted all the tiny ferns, grass and clover together to create the sense of a tiny forest – and place the little cottage in the middle of it. Then I added my vintage deer decorations for a touch of kitsch fauna and fun.
Total spent: £0
Cost of similar centrepiece from one of London’s top florists (based on quote): £80
Total saved: £80
Watch me in action - video coming soon!
I’m back with groomed brows, dark lashes and baring only a slight resemblance to a Jim Henson muppet (only kidding.) Actually, my brows are probably a wee bit darker than desirable but I totally hold myself responsible as I requested that they leave the tint on for longer than usual. Anyway…
My experience at London College of Beauty Therapy’s salon was actually overwhelmingly – and surprisingly – positive. After checking in at reception, I was taken through to my own private treatment room within the dazzlingly white, chandelier-bedecked professional salon.
As I was having the “trio” of treatments: eyelash tint, eyebrow tint and eyebrow shape, I was allocated three separate therapists. One for each treatment. Just a tiny departure from the usual salon experience. And I had to sign a helluva lot of disclaimer forms. Which isn’t so unusual. And although it did take slightly longer than usual, I was too busy saving money to really care.
At the end of the day I really couldn’t fault the standard and quality of my treatments. In truth, I’ve paid a whole lot more for worse. The students were extremely conscientious and a supervisor checked in at the end of each treatment to ensure I was happy and each procedure was performed correctly. And I was asked to give each student a score. If only every beauty salon in London was as interested in customer feedback and satisfaction…
Total spent: £15
Cost of treatment at usual beauty salon: £60
Total saved: £45
The sheer work (and hard-earnt cash) that goes into maintaining basic grooming is no mean feat. I’m fair-skinned with naturally very blonde hair, which means that my eyelashes and eyebrows frequently pale into featurelessness unless I do something about them. That means regular four-to-six weekly tinting and shaping sessions, which really burns a hole in one’s pocket when you look at total costs over a year.
I adore my regular beauty therapist. She has the hands of an angel and the skill of a master engineer. But she’s not exactly cheap. I try to rationalise that good grooming is a good investment, but this reasoning has become more difficult to justify since the recession hit my bank account.
She charges £20 for an eyelash tint, £15 for an eyebrow tint and £25 for brow shaping (with threading). This is a total of £60, which works out at an eye-watering £720 over a 12 month period. Ouch (and that’s not the threading talking). Time to reconsider my options.
I’ve heard some very good things about London’s line-up of beauty colleges, which open their salon doors to the public so their students can get some professional experience.
I must confess that I don’t love the idea of a student using me as a guinea pig, especially when it comes to my face. I mean, eyebrow tinting in the hands of the inexperienced could very well mean that I walk out the door baring a very close resemblance to Ernie’s mate Bert. And we don’t want that, do we? Not unless I’m looking for a career on Sesame Street.
Still, I seriously can’t afford to keep paying £60 every four weeks, so I make a booking at London’s College of Beauty Therapy. Here, I can get the same treatment (eyelash and brow tint and shape) for a total of £15 – a massive saving of £45 (and £540 over 12 months). I’m assured that the students are experienced and supervised, and their “luxurious” salon looks utterly professional. Check in with me tomorrow to see how I go…
Posted in Beauty
Guess what? I’ve been using a needle and thread! (cue murmurings of shock and horror). And I’ve been using tea as a make-do method for home dyeing. Yes, I have. In fact, I discovered a good strong brew of proper builder’s tea is the key to this season’s predilection for nude and neutral shades!
After hitting the various haberdashery and cheap jewellery shops of London’s Soho I spent no more than £5 on a couple of bits and bobs to create my own bang-on-trend instant wardrobe updater.
So here’s a free tutorial of my (totally humble) take on this season’s key fringe trend. Wear the necklace with a plain vest or dress for instant fringing (and straight from the catwalk) style.
You will need:
• 1 plain link necklace (I got mine for £1.25 from one of the budget jewellery shops on Berwick Street in London.) For a tougher look, you could get a length of chain from the hardware store and tie it with a ribbon at the back of your neck.
• Fringing of your choice (The minimum length I could purchase was one metre, which was enough for optional layers – or extra necklaces for thrifty gifts!) If you’re in London, I recommend visiting Kleins haberdashery at 5 Noel Street, W1 (Tel. 020 7437 6162).
• Needle and thread in a colour that matches your fringing.
• Optional: tea bag and white vinegar for dyeing.
How to make it:
1. The fringing I found at Kleins was actually a stark white with tiny gold beads. A little too Texan cowgirl for my liking. I couldn’t find the on-trend nude/neutral shade I was after, so I decided to experiment with some home tea dyeing.
2. To dye the white fringe an antique-y nude colour, soak it in a (cooled) cup (or bowl) of strong tea. Take it out every couple of minutes until it’s turned the exact shade you’re after. Five minutes did the job for me. Don’t leave it in for too long unless you want it quite brown! Take it out and set it in a cup of water with white vinegar . I’ve heard that salt is also quite effective for setting the colour. Leave to dry on a piece of kitchen towel.
3. Cut the fringing to the length of your choice – experiment by pinning it to the necklace to see what kind of effect you like best.
4. Thread the needle and carefully hand-sew the fringing to each link of the necklace. At the end of the length, secure it with a double knot. That’s it – you’re done.
Watch me make the necklace on the video below.
Total spent: £4.75 (1 metre of beaded fringing £3.50; Chain necklace £1.25)
Cost of similar-style fringe necklace on Net-a-porter: £215
Total saved: £210.25
Bang on trend, you say? For a fiver or less? And you want me to actually MAKE it myself? (*insert stunned silence whilst I pick myself up from dead faint*). Seriously guys, what are you trying to do to me?
When I think of “wardrobe update” I think of hitting the nearest high street and shelling out the better part of £100. And you know I’m not exactly handy with a needle and thread (I managed to avoid using either in my last fashion-based DIY tutorial!).
So whilst I un-boggle my mind, let’s have a look at one of this season’s hottest trends for a wee bit of inspiration: fringing. The SS09 collections were a veritable fringe festival with designers from Alberta Ferretti to Alexander McQueen sending a flurry of feminine and flapper-esque frocks swinging down the catwalk.
I think I may just be able to do something with this – take a look at these utterly fabulous tiered fringe necklaces by ACB from Net-a-porter:
I like that these necklaces are not only (a) bang on trend, but (b) they’re both completely versatile and can be worn with several basic pieces (vest, t-shirt, dress) from last year’s wardrobe. Only thing is, they’ll set you back a cool £195. But I reckon I could have a stab at making something inspired by these pieces for less than £5. Maybe. I’m going to make a beeline for the nearest haberdashery now.
Check back here tomorrow to see how I go.
Images courtesy of Style.com and Net-a-porter.
Serious coffee fans who flock to London’s alumni of Antipodean cafes usually end up lingering for lunch, especially when they offer up a host of delicious lunch options for less than a fiver. Take Sacred Café on Ganton Street, for instance. The blackboard boasts a line-up of affordable lunches that don’t come pre-packaged in cardboard and plastic, like quiche of the day with garden salad (£4.80) and pate of the day with toast and caramelised red onion chutney, (£4.60).
I was in the mood for something light and healthy, so I ordered the hummus with flat bread, cucumber sticks, olives and red onion chutney for £4.30. It hit the spot and I had change of a fiver. Quite perfect, really.
London W1B 5PW
Tel: 0207 7001628
Posted in Food