Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Top 5: Things to do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam street with bicycles and canalMornin light on an Amsterdam canal

I already shared what I wore in Amsterdam and now it's time to share what I actually got up to. First of all, why Amsterdam? Well, last year I took my first trip abroad ever, visiting Dubai for my 30th birthday. That adventure certainly gave me the taste for exploring new places, even if my bank account took a while to catch up. I made 'taking more trips' one of my 2018 resolutions so decided I wanted to spend my 31st birthday somewhere new. After the excesses of Christmas and New Year it needed to be affordable, plus my holiday partner in crime Ashley would be joining me from Northern Ireland so it needed to be somewhere we could both get to relatively easily. And so, with a little bit of flight research, we decided upon Amsterdam - somewhere that's been on my list for a while.

We spent three nights in the city, staying in the Jordaan area at the Mr Jordaan Hotel. It was a lovely area to stay in, quieter than the city centre but with plenty of picturesque canals and tall buildings. We spent most of our trip in this western canal area, venturing into the centre and to the south every now and then. We still managed to pack a lot into our trip, so here's some of my highlights...

1.) Weird, wonderful and moving museums.
The Amsterdam Tulip Museum is a surprising intresting place to visit when in Amsetrdam
There's a whole load of great looking museums in Amsterdam and I certainly did my best to fit in as many as possible. One that surprised me was the Tulip Museum. It sounds a bit lame but I had a blast checking out this small but packed space. Who knew there was so much to say about a flower! I found it really interesting learning about Tulip mania in Amsterdam and loved all the bright blooms and colourful photos.

Colourful pop art Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at Amsterdam's Moco Museum
Even more fun was had at Moco Museum. Located in a beautiful building, it featured two separate exhibitions: Banksy and Roy Lichtenstein. The latter was definitely my favourite. I loved all the bright colours and seeing the different styles and approaches he used over his lifetime. I especially enjoyed the room made out to look like a Pop Art version of Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles paintings.

The Anne Frank House was another surprise for me, but in a different way. I hadn't been too interested in visiting this (I haven't read her diaries and thought it would just be too depressing), but it was just down the road from the hotel so we decided to give it a go. I found the experience really moving and some of the artefacts the have on display left me feeling really emotional.

2.) Shop beautiful design
Restore is one of the best places to shop in Amsterdam for modern independent design
I love finding new independent designers and beautifully curated stores and Amsterdam certainly had it's fair share. Restored was full of clean design and beautiful objects. Store Without a Home was packed with fun homeware. Verse featured sustainable design from lots of different designers, as well as some simple but striking jewellery. Young Designers United had a great selection of local designers and some beautiful footwear (I especially loved Studio Catta's fun jumpers) and then there was Universe on a T-shirt, filled with fun embroidered and printed clothing for women, men and little ones alonside a great selection of patches and pins - I may have treated myself to an item or two.

Etical fair trade design at See Me in Amsterdam a brand that helps women who have survived violence
Last, but definitely not least, I came across See Me. Unlike the other stores, I hadn't searched it out but I was very glad I stumbled across it. The idea behind it is to employ women who have survived violence and provide them with jewellery making skills. Using recycled silver they create beautiful heart themed designs in an effort to replace violence with love. Money made from selling the pieces then goes back into the programme. It's great to find brands that work differently and do their bit to make a change.

3.) Good eating. 
Our first night was spent enjoying some local dishes in Moeders. We both opted for stamppot, mine was vegetarian while Ashley went for the full meat version. This was stodgy, comfort food that definitely helped keep out the cold. The surroundings were shabby in the best way, with the walls covered in photos of people's mothers and the tables filled with mismatched tableware, all brought by diners on the restaurants opening night.

Coffee, juice and breakfast at Pluk in Amsterdam
For breakfast the next day we were hoping to get some Dutch style pancakes but Pancakes was full so we decided to pop across the road to Pluk. I was so glad we did. There were loads of great breakfast options (including a unicorn and a galaxy bowl), they had a lovely little shop area filled with pretty things and the staff were super friendly. I opted for the Pluk breakfast (an omelette, croissant with jam, juice and a coffee) while Ashley went for the unicorn bowl (it looked so very pretty). The next day we did make it to Pancakes. While the space was a bit crammed and very touristy, the pancakes were delicious. I tried to recreate mine for pancake day but it just wasn't the same.

My favourite dinner spot we went to was Black and Blue. It had a lovely relaxed atmosphere, attentive staff and a super delicious veggie curry that I can't stop thinking about!

4.) Having a wander.
Colourful pink bicycle on an Amsterdam street
Colourful and bright monster street art in Amsterdam
One thing that surprised me about Amsterdam was just how much it looked like Amsterdam! At least the area we were staying did - on the bus back to the airport we passed more places that just looked like any city but the Jordaan really did look like a postcard. I loved just walking around looking at all the buildings, checking out the houseboats on the canals and spotting colourful bicycles. I also found some fun graffiti, though I'm sure if I'd done more research I would have been able to find even more interesting street art.

5.) Combining my favourite things.
Cat art in beautiful surroundings at Katten Kabinet in Amsterdam
A few of my favourite things are art, design and cats. While I didn't find a place that combined all three, I did find a couple of places that combined at least two of these. We visited Katten Kabinet, a gallery/museum dedicated to art containing cats. There were paintings, sculptures, posters and even a 1960s cartoon featuring a crafty feline. There were also a couple of real kitties, though I only spotted one of them. It was so wonderful, as you can tell by excited face in the photo!

Stedelijk Museum provided another great combination, mixing contemporary art and contemporary design. There were so many rooms to get lost in. I particularly enjoyed Stefan Tcherepnin's The Mad Masters exhibition containing some amazing sculptures and a beautifully sad video piece.

Westerkerk Bell Tower in Amsterdam

There you have it, my top Amsterdam tips! I hope this helps give you some inspiration if you're planning a trip. Already been to Amsterdam? Let me know your favourite things so I can add them to my list for next time.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

What Helen Wore: In Amsterdam

Bright red outfit for a grey Amsterdam day

Cosy and bright outfit for a chilly Amsterdam day
Bright and bold red outfit for a day in Amsterdam

This time last week I was enjoying a few days away in Amsterdam for my birthday. I had a great time with my friend Ashley, wandering around, visiting museums, and eating and drinking all the things! The buildings, streets and canals are so pretty, even on a grey day like in these photos (luckily it brightened up for the rest of our trip). It was rather cold though! I made sure I packed plenty of layers and, as you can see from these photos, decided not to take any off for pictures. That means you don't really get a good look at this sparkly jumper I got in the sale for £5 but I'm sure it will make another blog appearance soon.

Can you tell I like red? I've been wearing more and more of it recently - I think it's safe to say it's my favourite colour. In fact, based on what I had in my suitcase, I could have worn a red scarf and red jumper too! I decided to dial it down a little and go for my bargain jumper and this huge (and super cosy) black scarf. Both happen to be from H&M, along with the trousers AND bag!

I've said it before, but I think I have a bit of a H&M problem. It's just so convenient to shop in ( I pass it pretty much everyday on my way to and from work) and they have a fun selection at reasonable prices. I do think I need to mix up my shopping habits a bit more though. I really need to start ordering online from all the amazing indie brands out there rather than just going for that quick fashion fix, but the lure of an easily accessible changing room is pretty strong. I did discover some fun new brands while in Amsterdam so I must try and remember to check them out. I'll be putting together my top 5 tips from the city soon so hopefully that will help to remind me.

Beret | Tiger
Scarf | H&M
Jacket | Charity shop
Jumper | H&M
Jeans | H&M
Boots | c/o Monki
Bag | H&M
Eye brooch | Rosemary Head
Yeah pin badge | Birthday gift
Earrings | Accessorize
Glasses | c/o Spex Pistols

I'm kind of loving wearing a big ol' block of colour. It certainly makes me easy to spot in a crowd. Sometime that's what's required when you're short like me. I'm not sure I have enough of any other colour in my wardrobe to do a complete outfit so for now I'll stick with red. It's pretty appropriate really, what with Valentine's day is coming up and all.

How do you feel about wearing all one colour? And, more importantly, which colour would you pick?

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

January Round Up

Watching: After all the great reviews and Oscars buzz I went to see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with quite high expectations, perhaps too high because I ended up being rather disappointed. While some of the performances are great, the tone felt a bit off and some of the 'laughs' just made me cringe. It does have some interesting ideas but others aspects missed the mark for me.
I've been getting into a few TV shows though. I really enjoyed Fargo, especially season 2, and I'm only up to episode 4 of The End of the F***ing World but I'm loving it so far.

Doing: One of my New Years resolutions was to try new things, so of course I signed up to an adult jazz dance class! While I hated the first lesson ( I felt like such an uncoordinated failure!), the following classes have been much more enjoyable as the moves are starting to stick in my head. Plus, we're working on a routine set to The Addams Family theme song!

Buying: As mentioned in my last post, I've done a little bit of sale shopping over the past month. Ok, quite a bit. It started with me treating myself to a necklace from Not the Kind. That was right at the start of January and felt more like a belated Xmas present to myself. Then the Monki sale popped up on my Facebook feed so I just had to have a nosey. I only bought a dress and a top, which is quite good considering how many items I added to my cart to start with. That was going to be it for sale buys but a friend of mine alerted me to the fact that some Karen Mabon scarves had been reduced in the Anthropologie sale. Of course, I had to have a look and when I saw they had one with my initial on it still in stock I felt it was only right to make it mine.

Clicking: I've booked a trip to Amsterdam for my birthday so a lot of time has been spent online researching where to stay and what to do. I have quite a long list of places I'd like to visit but I think I'm whittling it down now. I'm only there for three nights so it would be impossible to do it all! A trip to Katten Kabinet is high up on my list, as is Electric Lady Land. I've also booked for the Anne Frank house, as well as Moco Museum and Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum. I'm still after any excellent shopping destinations or good places to eat (especially ones with veggie options), know of any?

Watching: I'm a little late to the party but I have just binge watched Feud: Bette and Joan on BBC iplayer. Oh my word! Jessica Lang and Susan Sarandon enough to make a girl swoon with their excellent portrayals of old Hollywood rivals Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in this funny and poignant story surrounding their film What Ever Happened To Baby Jane. The narrative dips into other films, alongside important historical moments in Hollywood. The costumes and sets are sumptuous while directly poking fun at what really went on behind the veneer. Go see it while you still can! I also went to see the new Starwars film at the cinema, because I felt like I should. And to cry a bit at Carrie Fischer. I don't think I've even seen the last one but I must say I enjoyed this one much more than I have previous episodes (except the original ones, which I loved as a child).

Doing: this month was my now annual visit to Maison de Moggy for Ian's birthday. You can read more about what I think about the cat café here. I have also been very preparing to move cities! Yes, I have just become Helen's neighbour, got a shiny new job and moved into my new home with Ian. It's been a whirlwind! I'm so excited about this new chapter and hope it'll mean bigger adventures for the blog now that we'll have more time together. I will still be spending a lot of time in Edinburgh though, so you can expect the Edinburgh blog news to continue.

Buying: as I mentioned in my latest blog post, I've been taking advantage of last chance sales items now that my buying ban has ended. I treated myself to a ring from Oh My Clumsy Heart and these brilliant smoking slippers from Zara (pictured) featuring spiders. They are grand and creepy in equal measures.

Clicking: with my move, I need recommendations for absolutely everything in Dundee! Bars, hairdressers, yoga studios, nail salons and spas... I even need a new dentist! I have the important stuff sorted- like brunch spots- and already have plans to visit the top on TripAdvisor, Castlehill Restaurant. Please send any and all other tips my way!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Styled by Kimberley: January Sales

In my students days, I loved a bargain and I was notorious for making the same mistake Helen has- buying completely random items that didn't go with anything else in my wardrobe. Occasionally these purchases wouldn't even go with me, and I definitely wouldn't have bought them at full price, but as they were so cheap it was worth a punt. Fast forward a decade (ahem) and I've spent the last few years actively avoiding the sales, buying only things I'd wanted anyway and considering each purchase. I feel guilty buying anything.

When I think about it, though, a number of those quick dopamine fixes shaped my style! They gave me the chance to experiment by making a leap. I could be more adventurous throwing a few quid at a "is this too out-there?" purchase. I could bulk out my belt collection or add in a frivolous accessory that would normally be out of my price range. If you buy only staple, or what is necessary, you miss out on individuality. It also increased my clothing usage- I'd be so excited to wear my new things that I'd go deep into my wardrobe to drag out other items I could combine with it. It helped me to use my wardrobe more creatively, try out a new silhouette and test my own boundaries.

In 2018 I'd like to feel less guilty about buying on a whim. I've been pushing the ethical fashion and 30 wears mantra for so long that it's hard to separate my own habits. But I do need to buy things!

This is in part due to the fact none of my clothes fit my small frame, partly because I don't think it is healthy to internalize negative feelings over a silly treat, and partly because I enjoy clothes. When we are talking about throw away fashion, we mean people clogging up wardrobes with useless things, or trying out every going trend that is soon tossed aside.

I've been around long enough to see the cycle of trends circling back round (sob!) and I've already tried them out. I've kept what I like, ignored what I hate, and obsessively ordered multiples of things I love (totally normal, right?). And all of my clothes are worn. I have worn them to the point of repairs and then worn them more. As I've talked about before, all clothes have a limited lifespan, no matter how organic or expensive.

I want to renew!
Kicking off my new goal, I picked up this brilliant jumpsuit in the ASOS sale (along with yet more pink shoes and my NYE dress). I've been thinking about jumpsuits every since wearing that Biba one. This one is not ideal, being backless and slightly awkward in leg length (and poofier in the sleeve than I realised?!) but it gets a perfect score for it's day-to-night versatility. Even if it is far too bloody cold for wearing in the snow. Just like old times, I dug through my wardrobe to pair it with some H&M tassel earrings I've had for years (constantly in my ears right now) and a fun fluffy bag that I don't even know the history of. I think I picked it up in a sale and cut off the cheap-looking strap. Still living that upcycling life!

Let the shopping commence!

Jumpsuit | ASOS
Jacket | Oasis
Necklace | Pippin
Ring | Oh My Clumsy Heart
Earrings | H&M
Blether Brooch | Bonnie Bling