When East meets Westfield.

After counting down the days for two years, Westfield Stratford City finally opened it’s doors to public yesterday. Needless to say, I was fucking ecstatic. I ventured down after work arriving at around 5:30pm (yes, high speed is FAST). It was chaotic, as I anticipated, with people shuffling through the crowds, some deciding to randomly stop and loiter before shuffling some more. There were an assortment of people, but mainly young locals who had decided to stop by after school for a gander, not really intending on buying anything (hence the loiters). I presume the real hardcore shoppers were there at early doors.

The shops themselves were eerily quiet; the sales assistants were folding clothes with a bored expression on their face as if it was just another day. Obviously with the exception of Primark, which was manic. Strangely the clothes were not sprawled across the floor, as you would find in pretty much every other Primark in the country; a big well done to the sales assistants, that must have been hard to maintain for the full 12 hours they were open.

A not so big well done to the sales assistants in Forever 21, particularly one (I did not catch her name, let’s call her Jane) who was very rude to me. Approaching the fitting rooms with my five items, the assistant led me and another customer to our rooms. Whilst I was following, Jane grabbed me by the arm and stopped me in my tracks. She asked me rather flatly whether I had a ticket, so I informed her the other sales assistant had told me to follow. Disbelievingly, she said ‘but the other customer is with her‘, to which I responded ‘and so am I‘. The other sales assistant turned around and pointed to my cubicle and Jane strutted off without an apology. What a way to start your first day.

Another amusing experience in Forever 21 happened whilst I was browsing. A lady asked me, ‘which top do you prefer?‘. One was bright orange and sparkly, the other was black and equally as sparkly. I responded with the black top, which obviously was an insufficient answer as she pursued in asking another three times. Her reason for this persistence being, ‘you can always trust a Chinese opinion‘. Now I do not wave the racist flag very often and this was a very light-hearted comment, however I found it odd given the circumstance. Imagine if I said the same to her, ‘you can always trust the opinion of a black lady‘. That would be outrageous!

Shaking my head and brushing the awkward conversation aside, I attempted to contact a friend I was meant to be meeting. I quickly discovered that there was not one place in the centre where I could receive a signal on my phone. After attempting to call various people, I went to seek help from the concierge desk. The manager was incredibly helpful and offered me her phone to contact my friend. I could not get through as she was also in the centre and was clearly having the same issues. After attempting to call numerous times to no avail, I shuffled along to Carphone Warehouse to see if they had knowledge of any network problems. The nice, very East London, sales assistant was aware of the issue and informed me that it had been ’13 hours man’ since she last got a text.

At that point I decided to give up on my shopping venture and head back home. Sadly I did not meet the friend in the end, but all in all, my experience was positively interesting. The centre boasts of everything a shopper might want; you have the mainstream stores for a bit of stability and a selection of independent ones to throw in the mix. It is shiny and spacious, the shops are strategically categorised together and you feel at ease. Amazingly Westfield is only a 20 minute train ride for me, so I will definitely be heading back there very soon. Bluewater was once my love, but alas, I have found better…

I survived the Next sale.

I crazily awoke at 4:30AM today, rushed to put my clothes on and hurried out the door in time for the 5AM Next sale. There was a minor hiccup where I spent a good three minutes trying to take the hand brake off, failed, and went back inside the house to shake DH awake to resolve the issue. He wearily stepped outside in his boxers to take the hand brake off with ease, illustrating how weak I really am.

I spent a grand total of £187.50 on two suit blazers, four suit trousers, two shirts and a packet of 6 socks for DH, as well as two shorts and a t-shirt for DS. A bargain to say the least! I was a little disappointed by the kids range, I had intended to buy a lot more for DS but there were a lack of 18-24 months and 2-3 years items. I have not purchased anything for myself as personally I am not a big fan of Next for women, unless it is office wear. The Next sale is a selfless venture of mine for my boys. Though it is a shame I have to return the suits and shirts; I stupidly misheard DH’s shirt size when I asked him yesterday and have bought completely the wrong sizes. D’oh.

Over the years I obsessively await the Next sale in hope of bagging a bargain. As said in my previous post, I am tremendously bitter to spend more than I feel an item is worth, especially when I know the price will be halved in a couple of months. I like to think I have perfected my Next sale strategy, as that is exactly what it is, a sort of military plan in action. It is impossible to arrive at the doors intending to play it by ear; you either end up with five plastic bags full of clothes you do not need, sitting on a sofa in Homewear and draping all your unwanted items over the armrest, or you have had a wasted journey and come home empty-handed.

To avoid all the unnecessary stress of a Next sale, I have compiled a list of ‘Must-Do’s’ to keep you prepared:

1. Make a list of priority items and ensure you have the necessary sizes written down for each member of your family.

2. Do consider clothing for the long-term, not only clothes you need right now. During sale season, I often buy DS’ clothes well in advance to avoid ridiculously overpriced items. It is not worth buying children’s clothing at extortionate RRP prices when they are only worn for a few months.

3. When planning your priority list, bear in mind the specific items that sell out first (men’s suits, boxers and socks, women’s pyjamas, all of Kidswear).

4. Plan to arrive as soon as possible to be one of the first customers through the doors. Next advertise their opening time as 5AM, but they can open earlier if there are enough people waiting.

5. Sharpen your elbows. At 5AM anything goes, if you are not prepared you will most probably get run over by a violent mother with a pram.

6. Note to mothers and wives – Do not bring your children or husband. This is not a playground, nor is this a family affair. There are often fathers standing in the corner, clutching an array of bags bursting, with their children rubbing their eyes and wondering what they did to deserve this.

7. Bringing a friend, or someone who is not male and is childless, may be handy in splitting the priority list.

8. Do not dilly-dally, that is time wasting. The queue for the tills are usually huge at around 6AM, an hour after the store has opened, as that is generally how long it takes to thoroughly raid the rails of each department. 40 minutes is around the maximum time before the queues start building, so you should consider purchasing the items you have already picked up and neglect any further impulses.

9. Check out the tills in the Mens department first as they are usually empty. The second option is Homewear, but if that fails, just settle. It is just not worth venturing to Ladieswear or Kidswear.

10. Make sure you check your receipt as sometimes the discounts are not applied. This can be easily missed if you are bulk buying.

Happy shopping :)

Strike a Bargain.

I think I become a little obsessive when it comes to getting the best deal. I refuse to pay more than I think an item is worth, considering how the majority of our hard-earned cash is spent feeding these capitalist pigs who make the world go round. It is sickening, yet I buy into it because I am materialistic and I do value inanimate objects. I also need to survive so thank God for EDF, Southern Water and Morrisons.

One to avoid - Although I like bargain hunting, I do not like second hand goods.

When seeking an item I wish to purchase, I almost make it a goal of mine to get the best price for it. For example, our Gaggia Baby coffee machine we recently bought (see previous post) sold at John Lewis for £209.95, offers the standard 2 year guarantee plus an extra year at the cost of £28. As you may know, ‘never knowingly undersold‘ is a policy John Lewis upholds; if you find the item cheaper in another high street store, they will match it. However, after much research I discovered a family business based in Dorset called the Hart of Stur who also sold the same item for £199.95, including £35 worth of Gaggia goods – Gaggia espresso cup and saucer, a milk jug,  a milk thermometer and Gaggia coffee. It was even better as Hart of Stur‘s coffee machine came in black, to match the rest of our kitchen appliances.

Another good find of mine, which you may or may not be interested in, is Sky Rewards. Every Monday they offer £3 adult tickets for any showing of any film at O2 Cineworld in Greenwich; for two adults, obviously adding up to £6, saved us £17 on the original price. I discovered this a few weeks ago and have been waiting patiently to order my tickets a week prior to the showing of Harry Potter in 3D. Being a bit of a Harry Potter geek, I have been eagerly anticipating this since Part 1 a year ago, which did not make it to 3D in time for the release date.

Being such a keen bargain hunter does not always have good outcomes. Last week whilst browsing through the rails at Primark, I found a dress in the sale for a mere £2. At the time, I remember laughing to myself that only in Gravesend would you have 6 and 8 the only sizes remaining in a sale; all the obese freeloaders must have bagged all the rest of the sizes (bearing in mind that Primark goes up to a size 22). As I thought it was such an impressive find, I did not hesitate in buying the dress. A few days later in the queue at Morrisons, I recognised a distinct pattern on the dress of a large woman in front of me. After a few seconds I looked down at myself, stared back at the woman, only to realise that we were wearing the same Primark dress. I was horrified to say the least. I am glad she did not notice me, as I am not sure who would have been more embarrassed.

WARNING: Consider all consequences that may arise as a result of a bargainous purchase.

Caffeine Kick.

I have been an avid coffee drinker ever since my husband (boyfriend at the time) introduced me to this ingenious legal high four years ago when he worked as a barista. I soon became a part-time barista myself whilst studying, learning the tricks of the trade. Little did we know at the time this work experience would stand us in good stead for the coming years.

Our old Russell Hobbs espresso machine no longer available to buy, it was £79.

Back in the day, we first started drinking coffee because we enjoyed it. We would visit various coffee shops, rating them on their service, skill and the end product. There were a number of things I would look out for:

– If the grind in the portafilter was left in the grouphead for longer than 3-5 seconds, causing the coffee to burn. Once in the grouphead, the espresso should be poured almost instantly.

– If the barista has prepared the grind in the portafilter and left it in the grouphead, for the same reason as above.

– If the espresso shot has been pre-poured and left standing. After 30 seconds, the espresso shot is dead and should not be served.

– If I have ordered soya (which I often do as I am lactose intolerant to milk), it should be heated to 60 degrees Centigrade otherwise it burns. Soya heats up much quicker than ordinary milk, which is often missed by untrained baristas.

My usual preference is a black Americano, which is not hard to make at all. You can usually judge how good/bad a coffee shop is just from examining their black coffees; if you are capable of ruining a drink which only consists of an espresso shot and water, you really should find another profession.

We still enjoy the luxury of drinking coffee from a shop, however our coffee intake has increased since baby DS arrived. We obviously cannot visit a coffee shop numerous times in a day, the expense of that would be ridiculous. We have had a Russell Hobbs espresso machine for approximately two years now, but it has recently died on us. It was good whilst it lasted, producing a fast and efficient way of drinking coffee without the grind you would find at the end of a cafetiere. It had a 10 bar pump, meaning the pressure was not great enough to make more than one milk based drink. Costing £79 placed it in the lower price band of coffee machines; they usually range from £70ish to well over £1000. Though it is worth mentioning that the machines priced £500-£1000+ are bulky, awkward to clean and could probably perform just as well as one a little cheaper.

Gaggia Baby Black R1855/60 £199.95

It is now time to invest in a solid machine, which hopefully will last a bit longer. We have opted for the Gaggia Baby, an upgrade from our previous machine. After much research, reading reviews on various websites, making price comparisons and visiting Bluewater to see the products in three dimension, I think we have found the one.  It is sturdy, has a 1300W output to ensure the water is heated quickly, 15 bar pressure and it comes with a professional portafilter. Gaggia produced the first espresso machine and supply companies such as Caffè Nero. The machines are meant to be reliable and are renowned for its durability.

I hope this investment pays off. We have bought a Brita water filter to prevent lime scale and ensure our machine runs as smoothly as possible. I cannot wait until it arrives, because life is more fun with a kick.

Busy Bee.

I apologise for my lack of posts in the past week; since becoming a worker, my free time has dramatically reduced. Student Recruitment Assistant by day, super mum by night.

Having spent seventeen years of my life in education, my first week in full-time work was a shock to the system. My choices of ammunition to kick off the day are fizzy shoelaces and bitter coffee; black, two shots, no sugars, straight to the point. A flask in the morning and a not-so-secret stash of sweets in my drawer, what more do I need?

After a long monotonous day of filing on Thursday, I was pleasantly surprised to find DH holding a bunch of roses outside my building. Then he whisked me away for a quick drink and a game of pool like old times, leaving DS to happily play at home with his auntie and cousins. This spontaneous gesture has got to be the most romantic, unprompted thing he has ever done. Whoever said romance dies when you are married obviously married the wrong man.

The weekend was very welcomed, despite DS crying in the early hours of Saturday morning. He is teething, so it was to be expected. Away from work, I was able to embrace my mummy role once more and reacquainted myself with the ironing. I am ashamed to say, I have hung creased clothes and have not engaged in any form of ironing, unless it is the odd shirt or dress for a formal occasion, since we moved into our previous flat in July 2009. I remember it very well, because I had wanted all items of clothing to be ironed before they were placed neatly in our new wardrobes. I spent six hours solidly ironing with only toilet breaks. Crazy pregnant women, eh.

Reverting back to my mummy role was not my only endeavor for the weekend; on Saturday we made a trip to Bluewater, indulged ourselves in a light lunch at Nandos and lots of shopping to celebrate successfully completing my first working week. We have had numerous causes for celebration and I think we are milking it now, but who cares when there is good chicken.

I am now refueled from the weekend and am raring to go! Hopefully the updates will be more frequent this week, but no promises. If you subscribe on the top left, you instantly receive email updates when I publish a new post.

I am a material girl.

Bluewater Shopping Centre – where dreams are made of. Yesterday we spent hours in awe of all we could buy, every store became a tease. It therefore prompted me to compile a list of things I feel I need in the near future:

  1. 16GB Wifi and 3G ipad
  2. An iphone
  3. All the furniture in Lom Bok (Though I’d settle with the Maharani range in John Lewis)
  4. The entire new collection in Zara (for myself and DS)

I don’t think I am entirely to blame for this acquisitive nature of mine. I am purely a product of this capitalist society we live in, where we desire money and work hard to better ourselves. Despite this, I like to think that my greed does not always correlate with my expenditures and I live within my means.

But does the extent of my desire for material goods breach the criterion set by society? It is hard to determine in our modern day the line which separates the overindulgent from the norm. Whilst some would classify my wants and needs as excessive, it would not seem dissimilar to another individual’s desires.

Let’s be honest, I am not alone when I say I want an ipad. They are, after all, the ultimate definition of cool.