A Very Autumn Outfit, and A PieCake

Today’s the day of my bridal shower. So many of the things that happen for weddings in the States are not a part of it in England, but we are taking the traditions we like and ditching the others. I’m so excited to spend time in Central London, and we’ve incorporated English tradition in having afternoon tea.

I wanted to dress up. The weather is complete crap outside, but my outfit is warm and autumn-ready.

Consignment, E-Mart, Spitalfields Market, and Nordstrom Rack

Consignment, E-Mart, Spitalfields Market, and Nordstrom Rack

I haven’t made a post about clothes in a very long time. This was the last one, I believe. In May. A lot has happened since then. I will marry my sweetheart in 18 days time. I’m a fiancée now. I gained and lost and redistributed my weight. I sleep a lot less these days. Oh yeah, and I’m a Master of Arts.

My job at the bar doesn’t lend itself kindly to being fashionable. I live in my work shirts, cotton tees, and skirts that I don’t care about getting cellar gunk or used ketchup on. I wear the same shoes almost every day, and I’m working on growing my hair out.

A nice silhouette, really

A nice silhouette, really

This is how I wear my hair every single day now. Especially when It’s raining, it’s just the best thing. I can keep it up and let it dry without heat, and once it finally dries ten days later (humidity? what’s that?) I have pretty natural curls. If I ever get to let it down.

I recently (as in about two months ago) got some new cartilage piercings on my left ear. I got them the day after I took the Cicerone’s first level exam, and a week after my MA dissertation was due. They are right near each other, just like those two events. And no, I’m not removing my piercings for my wedding.

I like my outfit a little bit too much.

I like my outfit a little bit too much.

I want to get back into posting daily, about clothes and consignment and travel. There may be a new adventure on the horizon, even beyond the adventure that will be starting a marriage. I’m excited to find new places and my list will just keep growing.

Outfit

  • Turtleneck: Nordstrom Rack, Broomfield, Colorado (2008) 
  • Tights: Nordstrom Rack, Boulder, Colorado (2013) 
  • Skirt: Consignment at Traid in London (2014) 
  • Necklace: Spitalfields Market, London (2013) 
  • Earrings: This Etsy Shop (2012) and various piercings shops around the world including Cold Steel in London 
  • Boots: Consignment at Common Threads, Boulder, Colorado (2011) 

I also made a Pumpkin PieCake today! It’s not a pie, and it’s not a cake. It’s delicious. And it’s pumpkin. Finally. The outside crust is more like a cake, but the inner texture is much more like a pie. I’m thinking of making this again for Thanksgiving.

Recipe at the bottom of the post.

PieCake!

PieCake!

Perfect Slice.

Perfect Slice.

Dat texture

Dat texture

Recipe for Pumpkin PieCake

Ingredients 

  • 1 half a smallish roasted pumpkin (roast on VERY low temperature for about four-five hours) 
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (or flour + baking soda) 
  • 2 eggs
  • Pumpkin pie spice, or at the very least nutmeg 
  • 3 Tablespoons of whole milk 
  • A dash of water (if needed) 
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil 
  1. Preheat the oven to around 200C (~400F). Scoop the pumpkin out of the skin and mash it well with a fork. You want a near-puree texture. Add the milk and continue stirring until the mixture is mostly smooth. 
  2. Add the sugar and spices. Continue stirring. 
  3. Add the eggs and stir in. Add the oil at this time, too (I forgot and it didn’t really matter, but it’s probably better done here).
  4. Add the flour, making sure that the dough does not become bally or chunky. A smooth batter is what you’re going for. 
  5. Grease a circular sandwich tin or baking pan with olive oil. Pour the batter into the pan and distribute it evenly. 
  6. Make certain you have a ‘catch tray’ in the oven below the cake pan, in case my imprecise recipe causes boil-over. Put the PieCake into the oven and bake for around 40 minutes, or until it is fragrant and toasted on top. 

The Last of My Naked Left Hand

The last...

The last…

My left hand is my buddy. I may not write with it, but it’s always been the stronger one. The brute that forces stuck taps off the lines at work. It’s marked with angel’s kisses, the roadmap to left and right I used as a child in my ballet classes. It wears the bracelets that mark me as a traveller.

It has two giant, aching flaps of skin on the tip of the thumb, a casualty of food and cocktails.

And today, it’s not naked anymore.

1920s antique ring, with old mine cut diamonds.

1920s antique ring, with old mine cut diamonds.

I’m engaged. For real and for true. With a ring and all. On last Saturday we walked along the glittering streets of Hatton Garden, the jewellery district of London.

The stores were all too big, too shiny, with too big of a price tag on their rings. I never wanted a brand-new engagement ring. Antiques suit me more. They’re more frugal (usually). They are high quality. They’re more likely to be ethical, and if not, then the reuse of the jewellery passes the buck to someone further up the line.

My ring is Art Deco, with older cuts on the seven small diamonds. It was made in the 1920s or 1930s, which is a time period with which I connect greatly. It’s unique, and it reflects the fact that my fiance made me a ring from a flower for his proposal (which he eventually scrapped, and went for a single aspen leaf instead). We chose the ring together in a family-owned and operated antique shop, and paid less than our individual monthly rent. It’s a symbol of our commitment, but also of the pragmatism that characterises our relationship.

Such a glamorous lady, just before the proposal.

Such a glamorous lady, just before the proposal.

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Silhouettes

Immediately after, with my leaf!

Immediately after, with my leaf!

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It’s on!

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With the light.

Now, my left hand will never be naked again. I’ve been wearing the ring since yesterday at sunset, when Russ got home. I can’t stop looking at it, twirling it in the sunlight to watch is shine. I love the design even more now. It feels just right on my hand. So happy for this new, if short, period of our lives together. So happy to be a fiancee.

Fingerwaves and Moving London Lights

They finally came out right!

They finally came out right!

Yesterday we went into the city for some pre-Christmas cheer. A real Christmas market and some shopping for present components were the theme of the day, and I wanted to feel fancy. My hair is growing out to a flapper’s length. I’ve had long clips for about two months whilst trying unsuccessfully to finger wave it. Add to it some darkened makeup and a drop-waist dress, and it’s 1927!

The full look.

The full look.

Of course, it required a black and white filter for the photos. I haven’t done a fashion post in forever (disliking my weight at the moment and not really having much in the way of money/time/dedication/charged camera have made it difficult to say the least). But here I’m wearing:

  • Orange wool sweater: Second hand, from Rags Consignments in Boulder, CO
  • Black shirtdress (it’s both): Second hand, from Common Threads in Boulder, CO
  • Fluffy hippy petticoat: Target (in 2005!)
  • Leggings from H&M
  • Orange Booties: Clarks in London, England

I’ve been trying to get back to Consignment-Only style, and it’s a whole lot easier here in London than anywhere I’ve ever lived! There are charity shops on almost every corner! If only I had disposable income….

We went down to my least favourite underground station, Tottenham Court Road (it looks like something out of the Apocalypse down there) and from there to Chipotle! Yes, one of the few things for which I get homesick while living abroad is here in London, authentic and exactly like at the shop just down the street from my parents’ house. I can officially make this home now. IMG_1372 IMG_1374

We stopped at a bead shop for supplies in Covent Garden, and then walked down through Trafalgar Square toward Embankment. It was a beautiful night in the square, with tons of people! I had been meaning to take some long exposure shots of downtown London for ages, and it worked out amazingly. IMG_1381 IMG_1386 IMG_1391

It gets dark at about 16:00 these days, so even though it looks like the dead of night out there were far more people than the slow shutters managed to capture. Russ got some good times in being a ghost in the frames! IMG_1392

There was a large memorial to Nelson Mandela outside the South African Embassy. People had been crowding outside for hours and were singing hymns. They’d tacked a South African flag to the embassy doors. IMG_1408

Finally we made it down to the Christmas Market on Southbank and it was really fun! We ate roasted chestnuts so hot they burned my fingertips and pushed through the crowds, stealing looks at pretty jewellery and soaps shaped like jello shots. It was a bit too crowded, but at least that kept us warm! IMG_1412

It was a beautiful and mild night on the Thames. In the distance, we heard a fireworks display (or perhaps a fireworks depot exploding, although it hasn’t been in the news or anything). St. Paul’s loomed huge over the river and glowed in the lights so bright, birds were singing in their confusion of night and day. IMG_1420

A beautiful start to the Christmas season!

On A Saturday In Camden: Piercings, Crowds, and Consignment

The Saturday Rush, Camden Town

The Saturday Rush, Camden Town

First week of the new Master’s Programme finished. It was a whirlwind of powerpoint presentations, introductions to a great number of people whose names I am still struggling to get straight, and departmental cocktail hours that were far too short if I’m honest. I don’t yet feel that I”m adjusted back into student life in its relative freedom. I feel slightly anxious about the lack of an eight-hour set structure…but I somehow suspect to get used to it quickly. I should in theory have had a lot more time to write here, but I’ve found myself in the midst of creative paralysis for several weeks now.

A week ago I officially became a student again with my enrolment in UCL, and received my new student ID. It feels really good to have the words “student” and “graduate” attached to my name!

With celebratory pint!

With celebratory pint!

New beginning. New page. New life. New home. Time to mark it.

At many key points in my life, a piercing was needed. I plan to write tomorrow about being a pierced person, similar to Already Pretty’s post about being tattooed, but my desire to put metal through my skin began early. At eight, I obsessed over the earrings a friend of mine got for her birthday and dreaming of the day I could have my own. Little did I know that it would be eight weeks (and ETERNITY for an eight year old) before I could wear my coveted dangly hoops. Weeks after the beginning of my undergraduate degree, I went with a group of new friends to get my nose pierced. After those same friends abandoned me and became the bane of my existence, I walked to my piercing shop between classes and got the first of several cartilage piercings. Each one marks a specific point in my life and remains as a bodily reminder of that moment, carried forward to the future.

Today, a new one courtesy of Cold Steel in Camden.

The shop. Awesome outside.

The shop. Awesome outside.

Through a somewhat terrifying entryway lay the shop itself, complete with an appropriately cold, steel couch fashioned to look like something out of your granny’s sitting room. They were so professional. The reviews online were spot on, and on a Saturday afternoon they were jammed with young folk wandering in and asking about piercings they knew nothing about. The staff were pleasantly blunt: “No, we will not fucking pierce you in this shop. You’re not of age!” They asked everyone the same questions and never backed down. “Who are you trying to hide this from, school? No, you should just give up. It’s not worth it.”

Hallway of Terror, courtesy of Cold Steel

Hallway of Terror, courtesy of Cold Steel

Once it was time for me to go upstairs to the piercing room, it was well beyond the time of my appointment. To be expected, given the massive crush of people outside. The room was small but clean, with surgical sterilisation equipment and a nice futon for Russ to sit on. I had worried that it would be hard to explain what I wanted, but my piercer had the exact piercing I wanted, too! A couple of measurements, the ring lined up, and the piercer had me lay down to begin. Left ear up, feet barely on the examination table, facing my boyfriend.

“When you’re ready, take a deep breath in…and breathe out…”

It's called a Daith!

It’s called a Daith piercing!

Cartilage piercings feel like pressure more than pain. This one bled a fair amount, and the process of putting my jewelry in was a bit more painful that with the others. It had to be moved around a fair amount before settling in properly. And just like that, it was done! The new is official.

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the area around Camden Lock, without venturing into the madness of the crowds too much.

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Camden Lock

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So many interesting things to lose my money on!

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Let’s avoid this at all costs. Food is just not that important.

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Octopus wall art

We even discovered Mexican food!

Post-piercing, nothing works like tequila

Post-piercing, nothing works like tequila

"My margharita! Mine!"

“My margharita! Mine!”

After a trip to one of the very best recycled clothing shops I’ve ever had the pleasure to step into (I bought a sweater dress and will be showing it off soon in a style post) we found Belgian Beer in a bar we vowed to visit once more.

Delirium Nocturnum.

Delirium Nocturnum.

I can't think of who this could be describing...

I can’t think of who this could be describing…

I can see Camden becoming a favourite neighbourhood of mine to visit. Dangerously full of consignment shops, brimming with good beer, and mere blocks from my home base for classes! Thank you, Camden!

Coleen’s Thirty Pretty Projects (Courtesy of Already Pretty)

I’m in something of a fashion transition at the moment. I’m planning my fourth move abroad in as many years, but this one will be more permanent. I’m moving to one of the most fashionable cities in the world. I’m now 25 years old, and I feel too mature for some of my old style. I will be epically broke in the coming year (Thank you, master’s degree). On top of it all, I gained a fair amount of weight since this time last year and I find myself suddenly plus-sized on top of being 6’1″.

As a part of this transition, I plan to get rid of almost all my clothing. Anything that cannot fit into a backpack and a small suitcase has to go. Anything that no longer fits has to go. I plan to sell, gift, and donate most of my jewelry and much of my clothing and reboot my style with more investment pieces and adult choices. Hopefully I can make enough to justify to myself the price of a really nice pair of leggings to wear around London, or a nice pair of straight jeans (since I currently have exactly none that fit properly).

As I was beginning this fashion transition, I began to follow one of my favourite style blogs more closely. Already Pretty is a blog with a mission to show that body knowledge gained through explorations of personal style can foster self-love and self-respect (from Already Pretty’s Mission Statement page). Sounds like exactly what I need! I’ve been focusing hard on not snarking at my own body in the mirror at yoga, and trying to find ways to wear the clothes that I already have in new and more plus-friendly ways. But it’s hard. Real hard. I find myself looking at the pictures from when I had a borderline eating disorder with longing. That has got to stop.

Accordingly, I made the first of many investments into my new style. I bought the Thirty Pretty Projects guide from Already Pretty, a PDF that guides me through 30 days of consideration of style and appreciation of my body as it is. Its only $5! Even I can afford that.

I plan to post about my endeavors and to share the pictures that I am supposed to take. Accountability is important to me, and my fashion blogging is one way I keep myself honest. My fashion blogging has absolutely tanked since I’ve gotten bigger as well, because I feel so much less comfortable in my clothing and in sharing my style while I look “big.” To give some perspective, last year at this time I was swimming in a size 29/30 at H&M in Korea. This year, I don’t even truly fit into my size 33 Patagonia jeans.

Today is the first day of the Thirty Pretty Projects. Already, I realized how hard taking and sharing the photos will be. My wonderful boyfriend helped me, but a mini-breakdown over how tight my skirt was showed me just how much I need to spend some time on body acceptance and style.

It’s especially difficult to reboot my style because I don’t want to buy from the soul-crushing textiles market that brings us blood on our jeans and cheap tops. I hope that I will be able to find most things from consignment and thrift stores, but I can’t make promises like I did in past years because of my new shape. The other day I spent about 15 minutes in a consignment store that had 1000% more size zeros than I’ve ever seen in one room. Something has to give occasionally.

Follow me on Twitter and on this blog to keep up with how I’m doing on the project. I hope to bring style back to Reverse Retrograde in a big way, while updating my style for what lies ahead.

Check out the progression of the project here!