Top Tips from a former Shoe Fitter

I moved to London in 1997 to go to University. It was my dream to move to the big smoke, and I was so happy to be leaving Devon. But no one explained how expensive a city to live in London really was. It became apparent pretty early on that my grant (yes that’s how long ago this was) was not going to cut it and I knew I had to look for a part time job. I applied for various positions, did a week in catering (HATED it) then found a position as a shoe fitter in an independent children’s shoe retailer in Fulham.

Shop front

I wish I had a better photo of this beautiful shop. Gillingham’s of Fulham.

We stocked many different brands of shoes and I was trained to fit by Start-rite. The shop I worked for was in the second generation of the same family and was run by some very knowledgeable and committed people. I came to know the different makes of shoes, the anatomy of the shoe (toepuff anyone?), how they were made and the history of the shoe industry! I was there for three years, first part time and then, when I left university, full time. Ben even got a job with them too. Yes, for a time, children’s shoes became our lives!


Shoe fitting was our life!

So when I hear people talking about shoe fitting, I can’t help but interject. And as the season for thinking about new school shoes fast approaches you may be interested in my top tips for children’s shoe fitting and the dreaded back to school:

Be prepared.

Never just ‘pop in’ unprepared to have your children’s feet fitted. If you pop in with your kids feet filthy, covered in sand and without socks it’s going to make it both difficult to fit and gross.

There is a reason good shoes cost money.

Yes, leather shoes are expensive. That’s because of the materials and technology that go into making them. We’re talking real leather, with stiffeners and toe puffs and things to support your children’s feet as they grow. They’re also built to last. By skilled craftsmen and women. Cheap shoes, I’m sorry to tell you, are not.

Fitters are trained. You are not.

You think you can fit shoes yourself? That’s fantastic. Don’t bother going into the shop then. Seriously. Asking Clark’s to measure your child’s feet and then taking them to Matalan to buy shoes is like having your eyes tested at Specsavers and then buying off the shelf reading glasses from the chemist. The fitter takes all sorts of things into account when finding the right shoes for your child. The size is just one tiny aspect of it. Also, how one place measure’s and another brand fits is an entirely different thing. Just saying.

Choice can be overwhelming

Asking your (often too young to give a toss) child which pair they like in a shop filled with hundreds of styles is a recipe for disaster. It’s overwhelming and if they are able to chose a pair, and it is appropriate for what you’re looking for, it might not fit, or even come in their size. It’s much better to have a shop find pairs that are appropriate and fit. Then you and your child can decide if they like them.

Trust your fitter

All reputable shoe shops have trained their staff. It’s not in their interest for them to sell you shoes that do not fit. So trust them and listen to their recommendations. Any good fitter will take you through their thinking for the pairs they’ve suggested if you ask them to. You don’t have to buy what a shop has to offer, but have the grace to listen to their opinion. It is after all what you’re there for!

But most of all

Back to School sucks.

It does, for everyone involved. The shops ramp up for their absolute busiest time of the year and fitters will work non stop, with very little break, every day for weeks. But parents are also stressed, because, like every other local parent, they’ve waited until the very last minute to get their children’s new school shoes. I understand why parents do it. They don’t want to buy shoes too early and then have their children’s feet grow. I get it. But if you are going to wait, you can’t whinge that the shop is heaving and “a nightmare”, when the reason it’s heaving and a nightmare is because everyone has had the same idea as you. Be aware that everyone is in the same boat.

Be patient, be nice to one another and be especially nice to your over worked fitter.

Happy Shoe Shopping!


Mrssavageangel Slimming World – Week 8

“No beating about the bush this week. If you read this week’s other post you’ll know my head’s been well and truly out of the game this week. However, regardless of the cupcakes and the odd bowl of granola (I’m sorry Ben I can’t make you any more. I just can’t have the bloody stuff in the house without eating it ?) meals have been either syn free or on plan and therefore this week’s result was appreciated (even if it’s not what I hoped for when we last spoke)

A maintain. I can live with that. For now. That means I’m still at 12.5lb lost.

I got to talking to another Slimming World member last night who had had a very, very tiny gain. She was so disappointed to begin with, so I asked if she knew why she’d gained. She said she absolutely did and then started telling me about the great time she’d had that weekend. Then she leaned forwards and whispered, conspiratorially, that she should feel bad about the good time she’d had, but that she didn’t. It broke my heart. We should never, ever feel bad for having a good time. Even when we might see it on the scales the following week. When you gain and you honestly don’t know why it’s hard, and if you gain doing something you didn’t enjoy then that sucks, but either way it is what it is. But don’t ever feel bad for gaining weight having a brilliant time. That’s called life. It’s called living.

Piece said.

My favourite dinner this week has been another old Savage Family favourite we haven’t had for ages! It’s a low syn version of a BBC Good Food recipe and here it is:

Mexican Chicken Stew

  • Frylight
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 red peppers, deseeded and chopped into largish chunks
  • 3 tbsp chipotle paste (I use the Santa Maria Hot Chipotle Paste for 1/2 syn per tbsp)
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 4 skinless chicken breast
  • 140g quinoa
  • 2 chicken stock cube
  • 1 x 400g can pinto beans, drained
  • small bunch coriander
  1. Spray a deep frying pan with Frylight and fry the onions and peppers for a few mins until softened. Stir in the chipotle paste for a minute, followed by the tomatoes. Add a tomato can full of water and bring to a gentle simmer.
  2. Add the whole chicken breasts and gently simmer, turning the chicken occasionally, for 20 mins, until the chicken is cooked through. Meanwhile…
  3. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil with the stock cubes. Add the quinoa and cook for 15 mins until tender, adding the beans for the final minute. Drain well and stir in the coriander and lime juice, then check for seasoning before covering to keep warm.
  4. Lift the chicken out onto a board and shred each breast using two forks. Stir back into the tomato sauce and season. Serve with the quinoa.

Serves two. As the whole recipe is 1.5 syns, I’d count it as 1 syn per person.

I’ve also used rice in place of the quinoa which works equally well. Or as happened on Tuesday when I couldn’t be bothered to make quinoa or rice when I got in from yoga, I just chucked the pinto beans in the stew and added the lime juice and coriander. It was delicious!


My very low syn version of Mexican Chicken Stew

I’ve also been shopping this weekend. I desperately needed a new bra, so popped into my ever faithful Bravissimo in Guildford. I tried on about 10 different styles, but I still went back to the same one I already have. Funny isn’t it. Even the assistant seemed surprised that none of the other styles suited my shape! So I have gone up a cup size since last summer, but it’s more important to be properly supported in that area than get upset by a number (or in this case a letter!) :0 I also found a BEAUtiful poncho in Joules and was so, so tempted, but I knew the bras were going to take up most of my money so I left it. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it and when I got home I remembered I had almost exactly what it would cost coming to me from my freelancing. So I well and truly treated myself. Its like nothing else I own and I LOVE it! I looks fab with jeans and boots and will be lovely for spring. And the best part is I found this morning is that I can actually fit it under my coat, so I can wear it even on chillier (or wetter) days. Perfect!

The Tessa Poncho from Joules. I just couldn't resist!

The Tessa Poncho from Joules. I just couldn’t resist!

So this coming week, myself and another girl at my group have agreed to aim for our 1 Stone award together. She has 1lb, I have 1.5lb to lose. It’s going to take some thought and planning (something I’ve not been so good on this week) but I know what needs to be done.

Happy Mother’s Day for Sunday to all the lovely mamas out there (even those of you in the US, who don’t celebrate until May). You’re all amazing and I hope you have a super day!





We need a new lunch bag

Although Oscar only goes to his preschool for the morning session, he’s been taking his own snacks since he started in January. It started partly because he wouldn’t eat what they were offering him (he’ll eat all the apples you like, but if you cut them up he totally refuses. Same with all fruit) and partly because they needed something he would definitely eat to motivate him at certain times of the day. As the year’s gone on, he’s got much better at eating their snacks and even drinks cartons of milk (he started refusing milk at home ages ago, but there you go, I guess I don’t offer it him in cartons!), but He still likes to have the choice of his own snacks and its something I’m happy to keep sending in.

However in the last few weeks of last term his lunch bag has started to become a problem. Not because of what it is or how it works, rather that how it looks. Several of the children have the same Pirate Tyrel Katz bag and a couple even have a very similar one with tractors on it. All the lunch bags get put together at the beginning of the day and to start with that was fine. However recently he’s started to get very upset when he sees, what looks like his bag, being taken by another child. In one respect this is great, because he is registering what his bag looks like, on another hand it’s confusing for all involved. He doesn’t understand and his autism means it’s difficult to explain the situation to him.

Oscar's current Tyrell Katz lunch bag. Too popular for it's own good.

Oscar’s current Tyrrell Katz lunch bag. Too popular for it’s own good.

As we’re now on summer break, I’ve decided to have a look around for a new lunch bag for him to take in September. And this time I’m looking for something more distinctive and less likely to be owned by another child in the nursery. Anything I can do to make his life that little bit easier, I’m happy to do. So I’ve been having a look around and I’ve seen some I really like. Trouble is not all are available in the UK 🙁 . But they might be where you are. So I have put together a list of my faves. Not sure which I’m going to go for yet. Which do you think I should get him?

I love this old school lunch box , but with the briefcase look. It can be personalised with his initials. OFS. So glad we didn't go with the first name Findlay ;)

I love this old school lunch box with the briefcase look. It can also be personalised with his initials. OFS. So glad we didn’t go with the first name Findlay 😉

Now this one isn't cheap GBP39.99! But if you needed to mnake your lunch bag completely unique it's an option. You can personalise with pictures and words. Great if you have a visual understander.

Now this one isn’t cheap £39.99! But if you needed to make your lunch bag completely unique it’s an option. You can personalise with pictures and words on both sides. Amazing if your child has a strong visual understanding.

I love this one by American company Dabbawalla, only I can't find this design in the UK. Boohoo!

I love this one by American company Dabbawalla, only I can’t find this design in the UK. Boohoo!

However I have found this one by the same company available in several UK online stores. I love the shape as much as anything and the fact there no plastic lining to rip!

However I have found this one by the same company available in several UK online stores. I love the shape as much as anything and the fact there no plastic lining to rip!

This insulated US style lunch bag is awesome, and although probably more suited to an adult and their packed lunch, I just love it. Can also be personalised with child's own drawings. Apparently!

This insulated US style lunch bag is awesome, and although probably more suited to an adult and their packed lunch, I just love it. Can also be personalised with child’s own drawings. Apparently!

This cheeky cappy is a proper old fashioned tin lunch box, but with the gorgeous retro look of a robot. What a cheeky chappie!

This is a proper old fashioned tin lunch box, but with the gorgeous retro look of a robot. What a cheeky chappie!


How gorgeous is this Australian made diner bag? I can’t really justify the $40 shipping but if you’re in Oz, postage is much cheaper.


If you have a little dino hunter, this lunch bag and bottle combo from Matalan is just GBP8!


I think I know which is my favourite. Any of these appeal to you?


Unbrand my child!

I’ve never been particularly interested in clothing covered in branding. Not for myself and not for the boy. He’s had a couple of GAP hoodies with branding across the front, but other than that I don’t really go in for turning my child into a walking billboard. But what irks me more than branding, are children’s clothes covered in TV or film characters. It’s brand stretching at it’s most cynical.

Your kid likes this TV show? Why not advertise for us by having him walk around plastered in the stuff? Come on, we give you hours of fun for free, you owe us! Well no actually, we don’t. And producers realised long ago that the hours of ‘free’ fun could be paid for by ads. Maybe that’s why character clothing is on the increase. Traditional advertising revenues are falling with the advent of streamed TV and Internet. Whatever. Doesn’t mean I have to be part of it.

I would just like to make it clear that this is a totally personal preference. I don’t judge anyone for the clothes they choose to put their kids in. The fact you’ve got them up and dressed is a win from me! I just dislike character based clothes on my own child. And that’s fine. I’m happy to just avoid it. But that’s getting harder and harder to do. Even previously classic bastion of good quality children’s clothes, Marks and Spencer, have covered their recent children’s collections with TV and Movie collaborations.

I was looking for a plain, thin, summer hoodie for Oscar last weekend. The boy has one lovely one from Next, but I was looking for some variety. I was shocked at how little I could find that wasn’t covered in either branding or characters. And it saddened me. I mean I know the high street in Guildford isn’t the very pinnacle of choice when it comes to shopping, but it’s big enough, surely, not to have to devote any and all children’s clothing retail space to the big character names?

In the end do you know where I found a lovely, simple and well cut summer hoodie without any branding or character tie ins? Primark. I defied my own number one shopping rule and went in Primark, on a Saturday afternoon. And I found exactly what I was looking for. It almost pained me to realise my favourite brands had let me down and here was Primarni doing me a solid. I even ended up buying him the cutest pair of denim shorts and some socks too. Well, in for a penny in for a pound. Well 12 as it happens and I left pleased with my purchases. Happy ending.

Or rather, it’s really not. The hoodie has washed really badly. First wash and the fabric is incredibly bobbled. I’m gutted, but not really that shocked. It’s the reason I’ve avoided the chain in the past. You get what you pay for. And had I been looking for cheap I’m not sure I’d be as bothered. But I wasn’t, I was looking for plain, unbranded, uncovered in characters. That’s all. Is this what it comes down to?

High street chains please take note. Not all parents want to dress their children in ads for the latest blockbuster. At least while they still have a say in their children’s clothing. Who knows? If Oscar ever starts giving a hoot what he wears, I may just be eating my words!



Life with Baby Kicks

Slimming World Update – Week 86/87

Hi chaps

Yes its me and yes I’ve been silent of late and yes there’s been a really good reason for that (or not a reason at all depending on how you look at it!) Last weeks post didn’t happen, because to be fair to me, last weeks weigh in didn’t happen. We had some news, which I’m not going to go in to again (you can read about it here if you’re interested) that basically threw my head out of the window. I think we survived on takeout and oven chips last week, but I don’t really care that much.

Anywho, I told myself I was going to knock all that on the head come the weekend but that didn’t happen. In fact if anything it got worse. I wasn’t just eating food I would never normally (hello bread my old friend, how have you been?) I’ve been gorging on anything and everything. Even things I’m not enjoying, things I don’t really like or really want. If I was to use the Swan metaphor I was remaining calm on top and stuffing my face madly underneath. I know WHY I did this. Why my behaviour slipped back to emotional state I’ve not experienced in a loooong time. I’m not proud of it. Using food as some kind of gastronomic drug to soothe and self harm all at once. Some people drink themselves into oblivion for the same reasons, but it seems my panacea of choice will always be food.

Ho hum. The fact that I only gained 1.5lb over the past two weeks has astounded me. I’m back to having only lost 6 stone exactly, but I can live with that. What I can’t live with is the way that eating as though the end is nigh is making me feel physically. My mind may be placated, but my body’s in uproar! Basically I feel like shit. My skin’s terrible and I feel so lethargic. The body’s no fool, it knows what’s going on! So, as much as counting syns and being back with my head fully in the game might be asking a lot at the moment, I will be reverting to more ‘normal’ eating this week, if only to get some energy back. And right now, I need all the energy I can get!

Plus I’ve just ordered the coolest t-shirt in a size 14-16 and I’d really like to be able to wear it!

Hell yeah!

Hell yeah!



Sim's Life