Thursday, February 28, 2013

RBS Reports £5.2BN Loss

RBS, the bank 81% owned by the taxpayer, has reported its fifth year of losses. This year the loss comes in at £5.2BN (the previous year the loss stood at £0.8BN).

Despite the loss, RBS has paid out £679M in bonuses.

RBS has taken a £5BN charge for loan impairments, which are write-offs to cover loans that are unlikely to be repaid. However, with the bank preparing itself for privatisation the size of the provisions and general atmosphere of "clearing the decks" should not come as too much of a surprise. RBS, by getting the bad news out of the way now, will be able to trumpet its achievements and progress when it is ready to return to the private sector.

Heading to Haven Blog Conference 2013

I'm thrilled to be heading to Atlanta this August to speak on a panel with some of my best girlfriends at Haven.  I had planned to go last year, but had a scheduling conflict.

As you know, I have a special place in my heart for home bloggers and home blog readers.  Are you going?  Please let me know- I want to meet you! :)

We did a Houston meet up awhile back and it was so fun . . .

And I went to Blissdom and got to meet some friends whose blogs I'd been reading for years. 

Connecting online is cool, but nothing beats interacting in person.  :)  

In the meantime, you can follow me here (click the picture to follow)

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Barclays Fines Staff For LIBOR Fraud

Barclays will impose £450M of financial penalties on its staff for rigging LIBOR.

Sky News reports that Barclays will disclose details in its forthcoming annual report. The "fines" will be levied against the "variable pay", ie bonuses and deferred share awards of the staff.

However, it should be noted that Barclays will still award £1.8BN in bonuses to its staff.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

DIY Faux Capiz Shell Pendant

Thank you SO much for your thoughts about when to transition out of the crib.  I do consider each comment and appreciate that you take the time to write.  As a "newer mom" I'm thankful for the wise words of the women who have more experience on their side.  I must admit, I'm leaning toward the car bed because I just love to see the JOY it would give my son each day.  But, no firm decisions have been made, so we'll see . . .

Today, I'm thrilled to share an amazing DIY creation by my friend, Jennifer of The Chronicles of Home.  Look what she made- by hand!!  This gorgeous faux capiz shell pendant, inspired by the one from West Elm.

Doesn't it look sweet in her daughter's room?

For the full tutorial and to see what she made those "shells" out of, head on over to her BLOG

I've gotten to know Jennifer over the last few months as she is a contributing food writer on my health and fitness blog, Honey We're Healthy.  She not only rocks the DIY home decor projects, but is an awesome cook and photographer.  If you visit her blog, please tell her I said hi:) 

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The £50M Rail Fare

Thanks to the West Coast rails shambles, akin to a Whitehall farce, the hapless taxpayers will be saddled with with a bill of at least £50M.

The £5BN contract, which was originally awarded to FirstGroup, had to be scrapped following complaints by Virgin Trains about the process; Virgin have been allowed to continue operating the service until November 2014.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have published a report today that castigates the whole shoddy process. Margaret Hodge, chairman, in fact warned that the final cost “will be very much larger” after taking into account investment delays and the knock-on effect on other rail franchise operators.

She is quoted by the Telegraph:
The franchising process was littered with basic errors. Senior management did not have proper oversight of the project. Cuts in staffing and in consultancy budgets contributed to a lack of key skills.”
PAC accused the Transport Department of having a “blinkered and rushed approach meant the competition was not run properly”.

The question is, will the Transport Department learn from these mistakes and do better next time?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Time for a Big Boy Bed?

Since our son is turning 3 soon, I've been wondering if it's time to get him out of the crib and into a big boy bed.  He's quite content in his crib and has only crawled out once though.  Looking at this picture below makes me pretty sure it's time.

I don't know why he likes to pile his crib so high with stuff.  I often find that green stool in there in the morning (it's what he uses to crawl in and he'll somehow get it inside during the night).

I'm also itching to change up his room since it still looks like his baby nursery.  See what I mean . . .

I want to add more color, drapes, and remove the top from his changing table since we don't need that any more.  I do plan to keep his Alphabet art from Z Gallerie since it's pretty kid friendly and I like the colors.

And I recently received a print I ordered from Penny Paper Co (you may know it from Aubrey & Lindsay's Blog).  I might paint the frame, but for now it's just in a white Ikea frame. 

I started browsing for beds online and saw that Pottery Barn Kids and Land of Nod had some great-looking beds . . .

But then I found all kinds of toddler beds for way less online and I starting PINNING them onto my Nursery/Kid Room board.  Amazon has some cute toddler beds too.  

Of course James got on my lap while I was looking at my computer and I asked which beds HE liked the best because I want to hear his opinion.  Uh-oh, of course he liked the CAR beds! Ug!  But I'm thinking, if I was a 2/almost 3 year old boy, maybe I'd like a car bed too.  

And really, you can only get away with having a car bed when you're a kid.  Seriously, can you imagine if you went to a guy's house and he had a car bed??!!  ick. 

So, when is the time to get the baby out of the crib?  And did you go from crib to toddler bed or straight to twin/full/queen??  Would you do the car/cartoon bed? I asked y'all on my Facebook page and have been reading through all of your comments- thank you!

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BBA Blames The Weather For Savings/Lending Imbalance

The British Bankers' Association (BBA) reports that personal deposits rose by 6.2% over the year to January. However, net mortgage borrowing from the banks grew by a mere 0.2% in the year to January.

The reason for such an imbalance (despite pressure from the government for the banks to lend more)?

The BBA blame the weather!
BBA statistics director, David Dooks said:
January’s severe weather impacted adversely on what was already a subdued picture of borrowing demand from households and businesses. While general economic growth stalls, low consumer and business confidence generates a natural tendency to restrain borrowing appetite, repay borrowing where possible and to build up cash and savings as a buffer.”
Weasel words!

The reality is that banks are doing all they can to shore up their balance sheets, lest another self inflicted financial storm rocks their boat.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Houston readers . . .

Hope y'all are having an awesome weekend!  I'm off to a trunk show today but I wanted to pop in to share some good news with my local blog readers . . . If you are in the Houston area and interested in becoming a Stella & Dot stylist, join me next Sunday March 3 at 1:00 p.m. for a local meet S&D event.  

Email me at: (subject: Stella & Dot) for more info!  I look forward to getting together in person! :) 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Eurozone To Remain In Recession

Despite, at the end of last, year claiming (albeit improbably) that the Eurozone would return to growth this year the European Commission  has finally been forced to face reality and has announced that in the return to growth will not occur until next year.

No surprises there then!

The European Commission has stated in its report, optimistically/foolishly entitled "Winter forecast 2013 - The EU economy: gradually overcoming headwinds", that the Eurozone will contract by 0.3% this year, but will grow by 1.4% next year.

Amusingly it predicts growth for 2014 within the European Union as whole as being 1.6%, ie 0.2% better than within the Eurozone!

That estimate is of course subject to revision!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

$230 GIVEAWAY (Method + Orla Kiely)

Happy Friday y'all!  I've got a super fun giveaway for you today from the wonderful team of Method + fashion designer Orla Kiely.  Five people will win a stylish Orla Kiely handbag filled with the entire limited edition Spring collection of cleaning products, a $230 value!

Have you seen (smelled?!) that cute collection of limited edition hand wash, dish soap, and all-purpose cleaners at Target lately?  They've got gel and foaming hand washes available in White Nectarine, Cloudburst, and Honeysuckle fragrances and gel hand wash, dish soap and all-purpose cleaning spray are available in Tomato Vine, an herbaceous and crisp scent.  I try to buy as many planet/people friendly products as possible these days, so it's good news that Method products are non-toxic and naturally-derived.

To enter, simply "LIKE" Method’s Facebook page to access the giveaway tab, then enter your information. The sweepstakes is open from Feb. 19 through March 5th. Mobile readers can enter HEREMethod will randomly choose 5 grand prize winners. Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, 18 years and older.

p.s. You can also check out my latest PINTEREST board (Spring fashion inspired by the Method + Orla Kiely pairing) . . . so ready for warmer weather and lots of sunshine!!

Have a great weekend!

*Big thanks to Method for sponsoring this post!

LIBOR Still Rigged?

It seems that LIBOR is still rigged.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Greece On Strike and Ready To Explode

Despite the fact that the media's attention had temporarily moved away from Greece over the past few weeks, the fundamental problems blighting the Greek economy (and by definition the Eurozone) have not gone away.

Today Greece is at a standstill as there is a general strike, called in protest against the ongoing austerity forced upon the people by the Eurozone and the criminal irresponsibility of earlier Greek administrations.

Reuters reports that 60,000 Greeks took to the streets of Athens today beating drums and chanting "Robbers, robbers!", they marched to parliament in the biggest anti-austerity protest so far this year.

Much of Greece has been brought to a standstill.

President Karolos Papoulias is quoted by Greek Reporter:

We are faced with a societal explosion if any more pressure is put on society.”
The tipping point will be when the government finally runs out of money, and is unable to pay the workers. That point is approaching fast, as local media reports that 2.5 million tax payers will be sent notices next month demanding overdue payments which indicates that tax revenues are falling far short of collection targets.


I got a sweet, but puzzling text message from my mom last night. . .

Goes to show we will always be our momma's babies:) 

*my mom's baby*

*my baby*

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Unemployment Down?

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) unemployment ahs fallen:
"The unemployment rate was 7.8% of the economically active population, down 0.1 percentage points on July to September 2012 and down 0.6 on a year earlier. There were 2.50 million unemployed people, down 14,000 on July to September 2012 and down 156,000 on a year earlier."
Yet the job market seems to be extremely tight. According to the Guardian, over 1,700 people have applied for eight jobs at a new branch of Costa in Mapperley.

It seems that the apparent fall in those officially unemployed may in fact represent a shift "off balance sheet".

Monday, February 18, 2013

FSA Faces Legal Action

Two weeks ago I berated the toothless and useless FSA for kowtowing to the banks and giving them a "get out of jail card" for the rate swap mis-selling scandal, in the form of a £10M ceiling on the size of swaps for which compensation can be claimed.

The government, fearing that it will be associated with the failure of the FSA, has finally woken up to this mess. Greg Clark, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, has told the FSA that banks must allow businesses that could have been mis-sold an interest rate swaps to cease making premium payments.

The Telegraph reports that Clark privately told the FSA that its finding that more than 90% of interest rate hedging products had likely been mis-sold to SMEs was a “game changer”.

By way of "coincidence" the FSA faces legal action over its compensation scheme.

Law firm Manches is preparing to launch a judicial review against the FSA, which it claims “acted unreasonably in establishing and changing the criteria for businesses to be within the review”.

In particular, Manches will challenge the introduction of the £10M cap. Rich Eldridge, a partner at Manches, said the FSA had used its powers “improperly”:
The cap is illogical. An indicator of mis-selling is a swap for more than the loan. If a business with a loan of £9m is sold a swap of £9m it can be within the review. If the same business is sold a swap of £11m it cannot. The £11m swap is worse as the swap is more than the debt, but the £10m cap allows the bank to escape the review procedure for this swap.” 
The sooner we are rid of the ineffective and useless FSA the better!

Grown Up Coffee Table

Hi friends!  Hope you had a great weekend!  After a major deep cleaning on Saturday, I was hanging out in the living room realizing that I never shared our "grown up" coffee table with you.  Like many of you with small children, we had the easy-to-clean, safe faux leather ottoman as our coffee table for years.

It was from Overstock, fit our living room perfectly, but most importantly, was baby friendly.  I even put ugly rubber bumpers on the leg corners to be extra safe- yeah, first time mom:) 

After a couple of years, I couldn't wait to get rid of it because it was just too bulky and boxy.  I tried to camouflage it by putting a decorative tray on top, but was waiting for the day when I felt it was "safe" to put a round, glass-top coffee table in the space.  

My dreamy coffee table was from Ethan Allen, but was pricy (of course it's on sale now), so I kept looking.  Also, it was 38 inches in diameter and 19 inches high, which I thought might be a little tight.  

I found a similar alternative at West Elm for about half the price (the Foxed Mirror Coffee Table), which I couldn't find online, but they do still have the same side table.  It's oval instead of round, and mirrored instead of glass. 

Also, it might be a tad small for our living room, but I wanted to be sure we had enough room to walk around it.  

The above photos are from awhile ago, and I've since moved the cowhide rug to my home office.  

Most of the time, during the day, the table top is full of my son's cars and trains and it hasn't damaged the table.  

Do you have any "baby furniture" you're ready to be done with when the time is right?  I admit to holding onto our glider- I still rock my son in it at night!  

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Whitbread Tests Positive For Horsemeat

Despite admitting that some of its lasagne and burger products have tested positive for horsemeat, Whitbread shares are currently showing a modest 0.24% rise (as at the time of writing).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies

Happy Valentine's Day friends!  We are ready for my son's class party- just bringing sugar cookies and juice, which is perfect for the cutest bunch of 3-year-olds around.  To make them sweeter, I put the cookies in a plastic baggie with a V-day napkin.  

I'm really happy that James helped make the cookies and he's super excited to share them with his class.  Yes, it makes a mess and our floors are still dirty, but I'll get it all cleaned up this weekend. 

I used this sugar cookie recipe and they are tasty!  My icing on the other hand, not so much.  I didn't use buttercream, but tried to make royal icing.  

 They were supposed to look like this.  Oh well.  I'll practice and hopefully get better over time.   James still thought they were good- no complaints about the icing or the way they looked:)  

But, I decided to make a cookie I knew would be delicious- the Nestle tollhouse chocolate chip recipe with a mix of chocolate chips and Valentine's colored dark M&M's.  Cannot go wrong there.  If you really want to show off the M&M's, it's better to put them on top instead of mixing them in with the batter. 

These are the napkins I found at my grocery store to include with the cellophane bags. 

We'll give each child one of each cookie. 

It's all about . . .  

(from Hobby Lobby)

p.s.  If you're in the mood for jewelry today, Emily A. Clark is hosting a virtual trunk show & $150 Giveaway to Stella & Dot!  

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chalkboard Menu

When I first created the chalk wall in our kitchen (at the end of August!), I envisioned writing out our weekly menu on it, but I admit, this week is the first week I've actually done that.  I got inspired by my gorgeous friend Carmel at Our Fifth House.  She's and her family have recently gone Paleo and she shared a delicious cauliflower hummus recipe on my health blog, Honey We're Healthy last week.

I definitely prefer to plan our meals for the week, but that doesn't always happen.  And recently, while I was doing the Live Fit 12-Week training program, I was eating the same thing over and over.  I still do that a lot (especially for lunches), but lately I've really been in the mood to cook.  

The chalkboard menu is a great visual reminder of what's up for dinner each night.  I used a chalk marker to write out our meals, and the pens do leave some residual ink behind.  I wipe my chalk wall clean with windex and paper towels.

OMG- the fajitas last night were so good!  I used this recipe to marinate the skirt steak overnight- highly recommended!  This salmon recipe was really good too.  Is Friday your "eat out/mama's not cooking" night too?? :) 

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Project Transform - Barclays Faces An Uphill Struggle

Barclays has announced that it will cut 3,700 jobs (1,800 of them in its investment banking division) and £1.7BN of costs, as part of Project Transform which is designed to restore confidence in both its finances and its tattered reputation.

As Barclays fully realises a good brand and reputation takes years to build but days to destroy, the uphill struggle to restore confidence will take many years.

Valentine's Day Manicure

In honor of the upcoming romantic holiday, I had some fun with my manicure opting for an accent color on my ring fingers.  I'm fond of this trend right now, are you??  Too bad my first fingernail is so short compared to the rest!  My 3-year old didn't seem to care.  When I got home from the nail salon and he saw my pink nails, he said they looked, "beautiful."  Melted this mama's heart.  I told him thank you and explained that all  girls like to be told they are beautiful- it's a nice thing to say.  You can't start too early;)

This is a shellac manicure (which I highly recommend because the paint stays fresh for about two weeks!) I don't recall the name of the pale pink color, but the brighter pink is called Pink Flamenco.  

I did my toes in the brighter pink too.  Maybe I can pair those toes with these BCBG sandals?!

Would be a sweet V-day gift!  Do you have anything special on your Valentine's wish list?

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Monday, February 11, 2013

BBC Berates Barclays

Barclays and the BBC have fallen out over claims in a Panorama programme entitled "Inside Barclays: Banking on Bonuses", to be broadcast tonight, that Barclays misled shareholders.

As per the BBC:
"After a series of controversies, bosses at Barclays say they're changing the culture of the bank. But what went wrong? Reporter Richard Bilton investigates the bonus culture that drove one of our biggest banks."
Panorama will accuse Barclays wrongly naming Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour as the source of £3BN of bail-out money received during the banking crisis in 2008. The money helped Barclays stave off a government rescue akin to the ones used to prop up RBS and Lloyds TSB.

Panorama will state that the money came from the Abu Dhabi government, and that this was not properly disclosed in its 2008 accounts.

However, Barclays contest that it re-drafted all financial documentation “overnight” once the change had been identified except for one mention in the accounts, which it blames on a “simple drafting error”.

Barclays are quoted by the Evening Standard:
We have repeatedly demonstrated to Panorama why the allegations which they plan to make in their programme are completely unjustified. 

Barclays is satisfied that the steps taken to disclose the change in ownership of the companies which were investing in the bank in 2008 were entirely appropriate. The change in ownership of the investing companies had no bearing on the transaction or required approvals.”
Professor Alistair Milne, an expert on financial regulation in the City, said banks are expected to release accurate information about major deals.
"Any discrepancy of that kind is serious because it raises questions in the minds of investors. Every bank is well aware the annual report is a critical document and a huge amount of time and attention is put in to trying to get all the details correct."

For good measure, the programme also claims that Barclays helped clients avoid tax on an “industrial” scale.

Kids' Valentine Craft - Personalized Gift Bags

My son's preschool class will be having a Valentine's party and, over the weekend, we completed a quick, inexpensive Valentine craft for the kiddos.  We made personalized gift bags for everyone with muslin bags, an ink stamp, and red marker.  I got these 4x6 bags at Amazon (25 for $5).

I figured there will be plenty of sweets (I'm bringing cookies) at the party, so we filled the bags with goodies instead- bubbles, kazoo, and foam heart sticker.  

We got a little off track while stamping the bags . . . 

But that's part of the fun, right?!  The ink washed right off with soap and water.

I used a red sharpie to write each child's name.  (I put a piece of paper in the bag so the ink wouldn't bleed through while I was writing).  Then stuffed each bag. 

I hope they like them!

Each child is supposed to decorate a shoebox to collect their Valentines in.  I wrapped James' box with red polka dot paper left over from Christmas (from The Container Store).  

To personalize the box, I spray painted mini chip board letter and James stuck them on.  He also added the red heart stickers.  

I think we're ready for the party! 

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