Monthly Archives: October 2010

Second-hand find: gold studded Elsa Mahr pencil skirt

Black Elsa Mahr wool skirt, bought in Bayswater charity shop for 6 pounds. I love the pattern that combines round gold studs and embroidery. It’s 80% classiness and 20% rock ‘n’ roll.

I haven’t been able to find out much about the French designer, but judging by the quality of this dress, she’s pretty high-end.

Second-hand find: Animal print jacket

Who can resist a face like this?

I, for one, couldn’t. Although I was a bit taken aback when I located the £ 29.99 price tag on this jacket in the Oxfam shop in St. John’s Wood yesterday. Just because I have a soft spot for animal print doesn’t mean they can charge whatever they want.

But this being the reputable charity Oxfam and all, I decided to cough up the money, and the cute tiger face peeking out between the stripes and dots definitely helped win me over. Plus it’s made in viscose and very lightweight and comfortable. Its thin thermal lining makes it perfect for this tricky autumn-winter transition period.

Second-hand guide to St. John’s Wood

Second-hand find: Missoni top

For that extra bit of colour on a rainy day.

I love the Missonian play of colour. Just like Matthew Williamson, they really know how to intertwine clashing colours so that they come alive and bring out the best in each other.

Cost £8 in the Trinity Hospice Charity shop in Chiswick.

Second-hand guide to Chiswick.

Lennies Snack Bar – A very special place

My most memorable dining experience in London has nothing to do with Michelin stars, fancy wines & waiters…

Lennies Snack Bar in East London (just next to Shoreditch Church)  is like no other Thai restaurant I’ve ever been too. Its life and soul is owner Irene who is the most welcoming host anyone can imagine. Eating at her restaurant is like coming home or visiting your favourite eccentric aunt.

Irene does all the cooking herself and will often sit at her customer’s tables and chat for a while, ask you how you’ve been or tell about her jet lag, her long life in London or the next party she’s planning to attend, dressed like Dolly Parton.

There is a varied menu to choose from, but we normally let Irene decide for us. We just tell her what kind of food we’re interested in and she’ll conjure up a wonderful mix of Thai curries, noodle dishes, fish etc. A lot of the vegetables come from her own allotment.

This is a BYO place, meaning you have to bring your own drinks. You don’t even pay extra for that and you rarely end up paying more than £ 10 per person for the food.

I really can’t recommend this place enough, I just love everything about it: from the kitschy cosy interior with red checkered table cloths, string lights and paintings of naked women to the fresh and well-prepared food. Hell, I even love the dodgy toilets.

But mainly I love this place because of Irene and her knack for creating the warmest and most welcoming atmosphere in East London.

Lennies Snack Bar, 6 Calvert Avenue,  London E2 7JP.
Tel: 020 7739 3628 ‎ (it’s a good idea to book ahead)

Second-hand find: Love belts (plus a few words on &@^$#! charity shop make-overs)

You can never get too much ♥♥♥

So I quickly (meaning fast-as-lightning-quick as husband was parked outside) snapped up these two leather belts  in my favourite St. John’s Wood charity shop last week. They’re perfect for spreading some autumnal lovin’ and made by Stephen Collins, known for supplying good quality, mid-range belts to departments stores like House of Fraser.

The St. John’s Hospice shop had been closed for refurbishment but I almost dreaded the reunion. Ever since the utterly charismatic retail guru Mary Porta’s frenzied and well-documented make-over attack on a handful of British charity shops many other shop managers have jumped on the make-over wagon in the hope of increasing their profits.

While I’m all for making your shop more appetising, welcoming, better smelling and all that jazz it comes at a high price. Literally. After the face-lift most shops choose to focus on a smaller and more selective, hand-picked range of clothes, often high-end brands only. They’ll educate their staff on how to recognise the good names and tell them to price them accordingly.

The result is a visually pleasing shop with loads of space between the hangers and 1/3 of the stock they used to have. Prices will be doubled. Out the window goes the chance of digging out amazing finds from heaps  and piles and the accompanying treasure hunt thrill.

This shop has also been seriously decluttered and now has fewer items on display. But luckily they have chosen to keep the prices at the same level as before. Like these belts, which cost 3 pounds each. So I’ll definitely be back, despite the face-lift.

Read my second-hand guide to St. John’s Wood

Muji – minimalist essentials you didn’t even know you needed

So, the third part of my high-street shopping trilogy (aka the day I went to Oxford street to buy winter boots and browse the stock at H&M) ended with a big shopping bang in Japanese chain Muji. They’re know for stocking well-produced and tasteful minimalist things with a quirky look.

Things you didn’t even know you wanted, like patchwork piglets, red acrylic reindeer and solar system magnets – or what about London in a box? Brilliant and perfect for presents.

What they also do really well is plastic storage units, picture frames, travel kits etc. I bought one of their refillable hand soap dispensers (£ 3.95) and some mint & cucumber soap (£ 3.50).

I also bought a mirror – great for travels and checking your hairdo in the bathroom (£ 7.50). And an acrylic picture frame (£ 6.95).

The frame was what I actually went in for. One of our friends is a talented photographer and he’d snapped a black and white photo of Sam and I on a boat cruise. It’s 15 by 15 cm and I couldn’t find a frame with those dimensions anywhere. So this clear acrylic frame is perfect, easy to assemble plus they  come in many different sizes.

Take a look a Muji’s website (they post orders to delivery locations within mainland Great Britain, the EU and mainland United States and Canada.)

Second-hand find: turquoise cashmere dress

It’s getting so cold. It’s almost time to dig out the winter jackets, not to mention gloves as my hands become red and dry after only a short walk outside.

And all I feel like wearing at the moment is warm wool  – like this cashmere dress (handmade in Nepal) bought in Chiswick last winter for 18 pounds.

Putting this on is like an incredibly soft embrace. The quality is quite amazing as I took a chance and chucked it in the washing machine (wool cycle) and it came out without having shrunk or changed one tiny bit.

Read my second-hand guide to Chiswick

New from H&M: nude, black and lace

When I was on my highstreet hunt for winter boots I also quickly checked out the stock in my favourite H&M at Regent Street. I try to avoid it as much as I can as there’s a bit too much buy-and-throw-away-in-a-few-months tackiness about their clothes.

But H&M is amazing if you’re after cheap wardrobe basics  with a modern and edgy twist – especially if you stick to natural materials like cotton and viscose.

I ended up with this basic cotton sweater/top, I love the slouchy shape and the nude colour. Comes in MANY other colours. £ 7.99

Up second is this long black skirt in 100% soft viscose. It’s soooo comfy, it’s like the tracksuit of skirts. Perfect for lazy weekends at home but also looks pretty classy with a pair of wedge boots. I haven’t washed it yet, so don’t know how well it holds up (cheapo viscose is risky business). £ 12.99.

And here they are, hand in hand:

H&M do some pretty great tights and leggings as well. Bought this pair of lace leggings. They are soft and stretchy and have a nice wide waistband. £ 9.99.

Second-hand find: black suede fringe boots

Earlier today I was traipsing up to Kilburn High Road to have lovely lunch at the ultra-cheap Thai restaurant Spicy Basil, and of course I couldn’t resist quickly popping into the area’s best charity shop, Traid. I headed straight for the shoe section and for the first time in many months I “got lucky” in that department.

Buying shoes in second-hand stores is tricky. First of all they need to be in pristine condition as I’m a lot more picky about used shoes than clothes. You can’t just chuck them into a washing machine, and in general other people’s smelly feet are repulsive. Secondly, I’m a size 38 (5) and that’s a popular size that sells really fast.

But but BUT, as we all know good second-hand finds come to those who wait and keep coming back, and waiting for me today was this pair of unused suede boots. I like the fringes as they’re not overpowering and best of all: they’re flat and comfortable and perfect for London winter walks. The tag  said 15.99 but the nice guy behind the register took a look at them and said: “I think that’s too expensive. You can have them for 13 pounds.”

That’s what I call service. (and no, I don’t have purple legs, I’m wearing tights).

Second-hand find: Pink Louis Féraud shirt

Sometimes you need to brighten up your day with a splash of pink. This Louis Féraud shirt (unfortunately it’s polyester, not silk) cost me around 5 pounds in one of the second-hand shops in Chiswick.