13 July 2015

The Headed Mannequin

So I know people haven't exactly been waiting with baited breath or anything but given that my blog is becoming more lifestyle focused I thought I may as well start showing my mug around these parts occasionally. Making the name The Headless Mannequin a bit of a misnomer - but I'll still be throwing in plenty of headless pics too so it should be alright :)

I've never really addressed my wish to remain anoynmous on the blog before. When I started out I was mainly posting outfit posts - meaning a whole lot of pictures of me - and I knew I'd drive myself mad criticising every shot with my face in it and thinking my grin was too goofy, my nose not straight enough or whatever - and ultimately take the fun out of the whole thing. So it just seemed easier to focus on the clothes. And while I still plan on featuring what I've worn the blog has definitely taken a more lifestyle focus so it seems like I'm omitting an important ingredient by keeping a certain distance.

So here's a quick snap of me in all my 5-month pregnant glory (hence the gaping coat) on one of my last strolls around Edinburgh in late January. There I go - already criticising the very first photo I upload of myself! I probably won't be popping up in every second picture going forward and photobombing the hell out of this blog but I do hope to be a little more present - and a little less critical.

Phew - glad we got that out of the way! After 4 years of blogging and keeping such a profile it's been kinda nerve wrecking stepping out from the shadows.

7 July 2015

Happy Four Years (of Erratic) Blogging To Me

This blog turned four years of age this week. That's four whole years of me uploading snippets of my outfits, daily life and other odds and ends of interests on an admittedly erratic basis. My life has undergone some major changes during this time - I've gotten married, changed career, done a masters, lived in 5 different cities in total and had a baby. Crikey! And I've captured all of these events to some extent on this blog - with each blog post pressing the pause button and encouraging me to look at things from a slightly different angle.

So as per tradition I wanted to reflect on the highlights of the year gone by - not all of which have made it onto the blog as it's been a pretty busy year.


Personal Highlights

   
 
There's no competition for the number one highlight of the past 12 months - or even the last 32 years - having my baby boy Hugh was the most amazing experience ever. To be honest I was a ball of nerves as well as excitement during the pregnancy - I sometimes viewed other mothers as saint-like creatures whose perfection and devotion I worried I'd fail to match. I was constantly measuring myself against this invisible yardstick and was terrified I'd come up short. But now that I'm one of those mothers I realise that most of them were probably just as nervous as me and were winging it in the beginning. You have to fake it till you make it! So there are bad days where I don't make it out of my pjs and Hugh bawls the house down for half of the day but I try and remind myself that they're just par for the course. But there are so many lovely moments when he smiles up at me and that one smile alone is enough to make it a good day.


  

The other major change this year was moving home to Ireland after 5 years living in the UK. Most of this time was spent in Scotland which I really liked but I did get unbearably homesick a lot. I missed my friends and family and the ease and familiarity of being around people and places you know so well. And I really missed Dublin. There's a real buzz and friendliness to this city and even though parts of it are a little crumpled and rough around the edges it's still pretty handsome. I was 6 months pregnant when we moved home so I was too stressed to fully appreciate the move but now that things have settled and Hugh is here I find myself overcome with waves of happiness every so often that I'm no longer having to commute between two lives.


Outfit Highlights

  
It's been a very quiet year outfit wise. I didn't really ever get a handle on pregnancy style - largely because just as my bump started showing I finished work and we were moving so I couldn't really justify buying new clothes. And now just as I'm able to fit into my old clothes and consider buying new ones all I want to wear is comfy things that I won't be too upset about Hugh potentially puking on - ah the glamour of motherhood!


Foreign Highlights


 
 

 

 

   

 

 

 


Last year was like one long babymoon as I went on quite a few holidays. I had just been made full time at work and knowing we wanted to start a family soon we indulged a little. In order from above were trips to Budapest, Romania, Iceland and Prague. Aside from Iceland they were all very wallet-friendly destinations and all very different too - Budapest had such beautiful architecture and an amazing nightlife, Romania had gorgeous countryside and more Dracula kitsch than you could shake a stick at, Iceland was like a jaw-dropping geography field trip and Prague was like stepping into a pastel-coloured fairytale. I'm hoping to still do short posts on some of these destinations as I kept notes on favourite spots and sights so hopefully I'll get around to them.

Scottish Highlights


  

  
 

   
 

Ah Scotland! We had some great times. I got to call all three of your cities my home at different points and you served up so many amazing castles to explore it would have taken a life time. And Edinburgh - my final stop - was such a cool city. Now that we're into the summer months and Edinburgh is in full festival mode I miss it especially - the city pulsates with creative energy at this time of the year. I'm going back to the north of Scotland in a few weeks though for a friend's wedding and really looking forward to revisiting it and seeing it through the eyes of a tourist this time round.

The Best of the Rest



In my downtime (back when I had some!!) I read, baked and crocheted quite a bit this year. I had pretty bad pregnancy insomnia in the later months so these activities were perfect for when I was dead-eyed at 4am/5am and needing something to pass the hours.


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And that's a wrap on year four of blogging. I feel like I've moved further away from style into lifestyle blogging the past while and for that reason my sporadic posting makes for a pretty jumpy narrative. But as always I hope the next year will see me blogging more frequently. And ironically now that I have a baby and far less time I feel like I might actually be a little more organised because of it!

PS: If you care to read previous blog birthday recaps you can find them here, here and here.

2 July 2015

It's a Boy!


 

Eight weeks ago today weighing a whopping 9lbs 1 oz my little boy Hugh entered the world. He was one week overdue and clearly in no great hurry at all as the contractions started on the previous Monday night yet he hung on in there for nearly 3 more days. The last 8 weeks have been a crazy merry-go-round of feeds, nappy changes, frantic googling of all things baby related and sleepless nights. But in between the madness I have to consciously make myself slow down every so often and savour these moments and this beautiful little baby that has swept through my life like a tidal wave because I know they will pass in the blink of an eye - albeit a sleepy one!

The labour was tough but as completely clicheed as it sounds the memory of the pain faded almost completely the second Hugh was handed to me. Though I do recall saying to my husband a few hours into the delivery that this would be an only child as I didn't think I could ever go through such pain again. But what other pain will you ever go through in your life that can end with such joy.

The contractions started on the Monday night and the labour became more of a marathon than a sprint with contractions coming anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes apart for the next 48 hours. They had to be 5 minutes or less apart for a prolonged period before the hospital would admit me. So for two days I pretty much writhed around in pain with gritted teeth while my poor husband held my hand, found mindless films on Netflix for me, ran baths and phoned the hospital repeatedly to implore them to admit me. One of the hardest parts of all this wasn't even the pain but the exhaustion as I couldn't sleep a wink at night.

At midnight on the Wednesday night the contractions suddenly exploded into regularity and a whole new level of itnensity and I was convinced I was going to have the baby at home. But we made it to the hospital though it ended up being another 14 hours before Hugh arrived! Despite wanting to have a natural labour I was so physically exhausted by this point that I had an epidural a few hours after being admitted. The feeling of relief as the pain ebbed away was unreal - and the labour itself was fine and pretty straight forward after that.

I don't think I'll ever forget or quite unravel the emotions that swept over me when the midwife finally laid a bawling, blue tinged Hugh on my chest and I saw him for the first time. It was like I had gone into auto-pilot during the previous few days, just taking one contraction at a time and not able to see beyond to the finishing line. In fact the whole pregnancy was a little like that - just taking one bout of nausea or tummy gymnastics at a time and still a little convinced I was imagining the whole thing as it just seemed so surreal to think there would be a real life little baby at the end of all this.

And 8 weeks later I still find myself doing occasional double takes when I see Hugh. Particularly after he's been asleep for a longer stretch at night or on one of the few occasions I've left him with my husband and gone out for a little while with friends. It's been a very intense learning curve. Starting with me buzzing for a nurse to help me change his nappy that first night in hospital after my husband had been sent home - I remember feeling so out of my depth being left in charge of such a delicate little creature. Yet somehow 8 weeks have whizzed by and I know my husband and I are doing something right when I see this roly poly little baby smiling up at me.

So now that I'm getting a little more sleep at night and making some attempt to get Hugh into a routine I'm hoping to get back into one here on the blog too. So hopefully you'll be seeing more of me around these parts.

3 May 2015

Edinburgh Guide Part 2: Shopping

What Edinburgh lacks in super-sized chain stores it makes up for in small quirky independent shops. It's got loads of cute jewelery stores, homeware shops, vintage and antiques treasure troves and art and stationery stores. So for a big and more general clothes hunt I used to hop on a train to Glasgow but for more unique stores Edinburgh is great. There are so many I loved but only a few I got around to photographing so make sure to check out the extended list at the end of this post.



  
Miss Katie Cupcake - 52 Cockburn Street

This is probably my favourite store in Edinburgh. It's teeny tiny - like a walk-in wardrobe - and absolutely jam packed with cute jewelery (think miniature tea cup and sugar pot earrings), frames and  accessories, art prints and all kinds of other pretty things. It's worth visiting just to admire how beautifully everything is laid out alone. It's like a magpie's nest full of beautiful shiny things.

 
  
 

  
Armstrongs - 81-83 Grassmarket (branches at 64-66 Clerk Street and 14 Teviot Place)

Armstrongs is the largest and probably best known of Edinburgh's vintage clothes shops. Their main store is in the heart of the Grassmarket but they have two other stores dotted arond the outskirts of the city centre which unfortunately I never visited but I heard have better stock as they get less traffic. Armstrongs in the Grassmarket is pretty cool though and definitely worth checking out. The prices run the gauntlet from very good value to a little on the crazier side but generally for the more elaborate vintage pieces. If you're looking for everyday vintage wear though they have a good range. And there's as much to distract above eyelevel as on the rails themselves - the high ceilings are home to lots of swooping figures, frill-tastic dresses and beautiful parasols.

 
 
  
Context Interiors - 40 Victoria Street

This is a really lovely interiors shop with some unusual finds. They have quirky cards and prints, old maps, mobiles, off beat furniture, phrenology heads and more. It's particularly good for finding gifts for guys and it's been my first port of call for pressies for my husband over the last few years.
  


  
The Red Door Gallery - 42 Victoria Street

The bread and butter of this shop is their beautiful art prints but they also have lots of gorgeous jewellery, cards and cute knick knacks. It's also in the Grassmarket and next to Context Interiors so on most Edinburgh visitors' routes. They have lots of Edinburgh prints too if you're looking for a more unique souvenir of the city.


 
  
Godiva Boutique - 9 West Port

Another huge favourite and regular haunt when I lived in Edinburgh, Godiva is divided into new clothes at the front of the store, including local designers and other independent labels, and handpicked vintage beauties in the back. There are also some cute jewellery and other accessories thrown in for good measure. It's at the end of the Grassmarket - just 5 minutes past Armstrongs.



Other Gems...


Studio One - 10 Stafford Street

This basement shop has beautiful and original homeware and gifts plus lots of beautiful retro-inspired toys.


Anthropologie - 39-41 George Street

Not exactly an independent shop I know! But it's one of my favourite chains and Edinburgh lays claim to one of the few branches in the UK so I'm just giving you the heads up. I love all their homeware even if my bank balance doesn't. Over two years ago when I took the train to Edinburgh for the interview for my job I stumbled across this store for the first time. I was so broke at the time but felt the interview had gone well so I celebrated by buying a mug - madness I know - and so an obsession was born.


Unicorn Antiques - 65 Dundas Street

This is my favourite antiques store in Edinburgh. It's maybe a ten-minute walk from Princes Street (the main shopping thoroughfare) and tucked away in a two-storey basement. The upper floor is crammed with smaller antique goodies but beware of any sudden movements or swinging handbags as everything is jammed in and teetering on the edges of shelves. The bottom floor has larger antique pieces and furniture and is definitely worth a look. There's so much to see here but with a bit of patience you'll inevitably spot loads of gems.


Hannah Zakari - 43 Candlemaker Row

Back in the Grassmarket on the other side of the city, Hannah Zakari is a slightly more spacious shop if the likes of Unicorn Antiques has left you feeling a little clausterphobic. This independent store features jewellery, cards and prints by local designers.


Herman Brown - 151 West Port

Another good spot for vintage clothes - and just a little further on again from Armstrongs and Godiva. It's well organised and the quality of the clothes is good. Admittedly I never came away with anything myself but it's definitely worth a browse.


The Frayed Hem - 45 Cockburn Street

And the last but not least of my Edinburgh vintage picks. Another nicely presented store with varied but good quality stock and some cute accessories too. My pet peeve with vintage stores is when the rails are so crammed you can barely pry the clothes apart - which thankfully isn't the case here. My husband also liked their range of men's tweed jackets! And they have a good selection of handbags, scarves and other accessories too.


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These are just a few of the mainly independent stores I loved to visit and that I miss a lot now that I'm living back in Ireland again. If anyone has any more to add to the list please do - I'm hoping to pop back for a visit in August and am looking forward to revisiting my old haunts.

I still have some sightseeing recommendations to round up by Edinburgh guide so stay tuned in the next week or so - pending the arrival of my by now tardy baby (I'm 3 days overdue but have a feeling this baby isn't in any great hurry!).