Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Newcastle Building Society ‘Customise Your Life’ Challenge

Newcastle Building Society have recently relaunched their 'CustomISA' account, but with a new online calculator which lets you calculate the right bank account and ISA plan for your spending habits. It also allows you to customize your savings to suit your lifestyle and needs. Customizing is a big part of my life as it means I can make some of the clothes I want, to fit me perfectly and for a price I can afford! This is why the Newcastle Building Society CustomISA appeals to me. Even with a limited budget, I'm able to design a savings plan that is perfect for me. Saving is really important to me as one day I'd love to be self-employed and have my own business, and with the Student Budget Planner, I can keep track of what I'm spending so as not to be caught short of money by the end of the month. To find out statistics about students and saving you can click here.

As part of their 'Customize Your Life' campaign, I was set the challenge of customizing two plain tops from H&M. I was lucky enough to be sent some materials, including the tops, to work with and here is what I came up with.

The first top was a basic white t-shirt, which was quite (read as very!) big on me. Originally, I thought of making a drop waist dress with some of the fabric I was sent but didn't feel it would look any good. An emergency trip to Wilko's ended up with me dying both tops with 'emerald green' fabric dye. The colour didn't come out as strongly as I'd hoped because of the thickness of  t-shirt fabric. I used this tutorial to make the top into a tunic-style dress and also made my own bias-binding with some of the fabrics provided. I cut away the sleeves and neck seam, to create a slight v-neck, and attached the binding to hide the raw edges. The hardest bit was stitching the elastic to the shirt, as both were very stretchy and it ended up being a bit of a faff! In the end, I used some of the bias binding I had made, which was left over, to make a casing for the elastic under my bust; to thread the elastic through.

The second top was a basic vest top, which is long enough on me to be a dress. I also died this green and just added some ribbon and buttons to customize it. I pleated some of the ribbon I was provided, and made enough pleated ribbon to cover the neckline and straps. I then stitched two clock buttons, which matched the ribbon quite well, onto the bust area of the top.

There is also a competition to win a dressmaker's hamper for the best customization project shared with @nbscommunity on Twitter or their Facebook using the hashtags  #CustomiseYourLife and #CustomISA. If you enter make sure to tag me as well @hollyoliviablog so I can see your entry. The competition closes at the end of May and the winner will be contacted shortly after by myself. 

Good luck and I am really looking forward to seeing what the entries are like! 

Until next time, 

Holly Olivia x
Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Snackly- Gluten Free Box Review

I first heard about Snackly before they launched but only just got round to ordering my first box. Since starting a gluten-free diet I realized that I can't order Graze boxes anymore- which I was surprised about. Snackly is similar to Graze but gluten, wheat, barley, oat and rye free- meaning they are safe for coeliacs to eat! I haven't undergone a coeliac test yet, but definitely suffer if I have had anything with even traces of gluten in, so tend to buy things which are 100% gluten free, rather than products which 'may contain traces of gluten'. 

Each box is £7.95, including postage, and are sent out once a month although I think they're planning on making more regular subscription offers including weekly and fortnightly. 

The first item was a polenta, cranberry and almond slice by a company called 'Honeybuns', who are based in Dorset. It tasted a lot like shortbread, and had quite a crumbly texture much like most gluten free bakes. I was expecting the almonds to be flaked or ground but they were in larger chunks, which reminded me of the peanut cookies my Nan makes! The almonds gave the slice some more texture and added a bit of crunch. I thought the cranberries tasted quite like jam, but that might have just been me. Overall, I really liked this slice and thought it tasted like a bakewell tart but crunchier. I'd say that it was one of my favourite items from the whole box.

The next snack was Acti- Snack Sweet and Sour Mango. I really love the Urban Fruit dried mango so was  excited to try this and was intrigued by the idea of it being sweet and sour. I often find that dried fruit can be really burnt or crunchy, but this was perfectly cooked so it was still soft. You could also definitely taste the sweet and sour. The more vibrant orange pieces tasted sweeter, and I preferred those pieces, although the 'sour' mango tasted great too. It was something I'd like to try again if I knew where near me stocks it.  

Apparently this is the best brownie ever! It's by Cobbs Cakes and had a really nice texture, and wasn't dry at all. It was also perfect brownie consistency with a crunchy top and a gooey centre. The flavour was also really good, brownies can be very rich and sickly, but this was just right. My only complaint is that I'd have wanted a bigger slice of it.

In my box there was also these 'Plantain Crisps', by Chika's Snacks. They were nice to snack on but didn't have much flavour, so I'd have preferred to have received the chilli flavour. They also had an unusual texture. I expected them to be crispy- like crisps but they were quite a soft texture. I think these were my least favourite item in the box.

The penultimate item in my box was this chocolate bar by the company 'Doisy and Dam'. Their website has a lot of nice sounding chocolate but the one in the box is 'coconut and lucuma', the latter of which, I hadn't heard of. I couldn't taste the coconut too much, which was good as it's a very overpowering flavour. At 74% coco, it was quite strong but incredibly tasty. I gave some of it to my sister who now wants to buy more, so it must be good!

The last product are these multiseed crackers made by the company 'The Foods of Athenry', which I actually ate whilst writing this post! They taste a bit like Ryvita crackers, and would probably be nicer with cheese instead of being eaten by themselves. I really like bread/crackers/cereal bars which have seeds in though, so I liked these crispbreads. 

Overall, I was really pleased with the items in my Snackly box, and think that the price is fair for what you get- especially when you compare it to gluten free products in shops. I just wish that the snacks were bigger, as I have a ridiculously fast metabolism. 

You can buy a box here and get 50p off your first box using the code 'HOLLYOLIVIACREATES'

Until next time, 

Holly Olivia x

Friday, 17 April 2015

Dealing with Bullying

Today's post is much different to what I usually write about but, after taking part in the lifestyle blogger Twitter chat last week, I decided that if this post helps one person- it'll be worth sharing.
I was badly bullied in high school, to the point where I nearly had to move schools in order to escape it, and I want to talk about my experiences and how to deal with bullying incidents if they happen to you.

Photos of me from when I was roughly in year seven. Left to right- in Cragside, holiday in France with my dad and sister, with a member of Maximo Park at Split Festival in Sunderland.
I'd had a group of friends from primary school who were all going to the same high school as me and I was really looking forward to it. On my first day, I'd been put in a class with only two people I knew- both of whom had never been particularly kind to me. Some people clearly hated me from the start and I came home from my first day of year seven in tears. I was a late developer and had very wonky teeth, so people made fun of that as well as rolling their eyes or telling me to shut up whenever I spoke/made a contribution in lessons, this is why I'm so quiet and have had problems with anxiety. After this it turned more physical. People threw gluesticks and highlighters off my head in lessons and said I was 'ugly hogface', whilst making Anti-Christ hand gestures at me. This happened most lessons. I told my teacher but she did nothing except ask them if it was true- obviously they said no. It was then me who got in trouble for 'lying'.
I was pushed and shouted at in the corridors and soon most of my friends drifted away from me. There was also this charming boy in my form class who used to open doors near me, slap me in the face and then run away whilst people laughed.
One of the girls who I used to walk to school with used punch and kick me on the way to school and shout at me to 'fight back' and not 'be such a weakling'. This happened for about ten minutes everyday for a couple of years.
Even though all of this was going on around people- no one stood up for me.

Due to constantly having my appearance made fun of, I tried to make myself 'prettier'. I tried using different make-up and styling my hair but ended up so frustrated that I couldn't follow hair tutorials because they always went wrong. I grew so fed up of being made fun of and not being able to alter my 'ugly' appearance that I started 'punishing' myself for being 'unattractive'. I used to scratch at myself with my nails and beat myself with my hairdryer . I cried every morning before school and every night when I got home. I even remember hiding under my bed so I wouldn't have to go to school.
It only got sorted out because my head of year (who we'd told countless times about the bullying and she'd done nothing) went on maternity leave and the replacement head of year let me move forms as well as inflicting consequences to the people who'd bullied me.

This is just a short extract of my experience, but I don't want to dwell on it leave everyone feeling miserable and sorry for me.

How YOU can help

  • If you see someone being verbally or physically abused, get someone to step in, or step in yourself to defend them
  • If you are being bullied/abused depending on how serious it is, either call the Police or just ignore them and walk away. These people get joy from retaliation so if you just laugh it off, then they may grow bored. I know ignoring it is extremely difficult, though. Involving the Police won't work for school problems as it isn't seen as serious, but is the right path for situations like domestic abuse. 
  • If you don't feel comfortable telling someone you know, charities such as Mind and Childline have emails and helplines where you can talk to an expert about how you're feeling. 
  • Spread awareness. The more people who know about these issues, the more people who can help to stop bullying for good


If anyone is feeling down about any of the issues I mentioned and wants someone to talk to, you can email me-

Until next time, 

Holly Olivia x
Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Kiss My Art

Even though I post mainly about dressmaking on here, most of the time I prefer to work on art. I find it much more relaxing to spend time drawing or painting than making a garment- especially as my sewing machine can be a bit temperamental. Due to this, I recently bought a custom order brooch from Kate Rowland on Etsy, which says 'Kiss My Art' (It's a clever pun) and it arrived this weekend- so I was excited to style it for a post. 

Outfit details
Top and bag- gifted by Aunt
Skirt- Glamorous
Coat- Miss Selfridge
Brooch- Custom order by Kate Rowland 

The coat was a recent buy, I didn't have a coat for the warmer weather and definitely never thought I'd wear a pink coat. I did have some difficulty finding a coat which fit well and looked good- as most of them were too big. Initially I went to Miss Selfridge to try on one of the other coats, which I saw on the website, but tried this one on in the shop and was surprised at how much I liked it! It's a trench-style coat with a peplum along the hem and wearing it makes me feel slightly like Brigitte Bardot (except much less of a babe).
Last Sunday, me and my mum went to the Baltic gallery to take photos for my A level textiles project and I thought it'd be a fitting place to take photos of my outfit. However, the weather was awful (which made some of the photos look slightly odd as I had to edit the brightness a lot) meaning I had to take photos inside the gallery, rather than outside with the Baltic building in the background. After braving the rain, I went home to work on my entry for the Simplicity Sewing Bloggers Competition, which is coming along quite nicely and will feature in its own post in the coming weeks.

Until next time, 

Holly Olivia x

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

OOTD- The First Dress I Ever Made

As I was looking through the contents of my wardrobe the other day, I stumbled upon a few garments which I have made in the past but not featured on my blog, today I wore the first dress I ever made, which I made aged 14. My Aunt got me the fabric and pattern for my Christmas present that year and, with my mum's help, I made the dress in under a day.
The pattern is Simplicity 'Learn to Sew' number 2241 and is available here. It is a child sized pattern, so not all people will be able to fit into it, but I made the age 14 size and it's still quite roomy.

There isn't any fastening such as a zip, the dress just goes on over your head, meaning it is a looser fit. As I made it about three year ago, I can't remember exactly how clear the instructions were, but I do remember the trickiest part being binding the arm/head holes. 
What I love about this dress is that it goes with everything. I wore it with this H&M striped top (but in white and navy) which, at only £7.99 was a bargain considering how much I have worn it. I also like wearing it over jumpers in winter or with bare arms and sandals in summer. As it's still quite cold, I wore it with some Primark black tights, so I didn't end up chilly. 

It's fairly obvious that the pockets aren't perfectly straight but since it was the first piece of clothing I ever made, I'd say it was quite a good attempt. They are too small to be very functional, except for keeping a shutter release button in between taking outfit photos. 

Me and my sister always get each other a small present for Easter and this year she bought me this necklace with Totoro and Mei on it. I really love Studio Ghibli, especially Totoro (and Wizard Howl <3) The necklace itself is really cute and goes with anything. Incase you're curious as to what I got her it was this chicken egg cup from Wilkinsons.

I also wore my glittery Converse (similar here) which I bought last year in the Schuh sale. Sadly, my blue, bargain Primark boots gave up on me last month, so I can no longer wear them, but luckily I still have these. 
I'm really glad that I decided to continue to learn dressmaking after making my first dress, as I have achieved so much and learnt so many techniques. It really proves that practice makes perfect. 

Hope you had a lovely Easter, if you celebrate it, and a lovely bank holiday if not!

Until next time, 

Holly Olivia x