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Ruby Romance

In May this year my parents celebrated 40 years of marriage which is an incredible 14600 days of matrimony. From that wonderful union they have 2 children and 2 grandchildren and they still love each other as much as they did on their wedding day. My brother and I clubbed together and bought them a garden companion seat with a celebratory plaque.

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Sitting on their celebratory bench

What an achievement 40 years is in this day and age where people are all too quick to file for divorce. Marriage isn’t easy and has to be worked at but my parents are testament to it being possible for love to last a lifetime.

How different the world was in 1976 when they married. Technology which we now take for granted was in its absolute infancy. Can you imagine a time when you couldn’t just google the answer to any question that popped into your head and you had to wait in at home if you were expecting someone to call you? 1976 saw Ford release the first Fiesta which was to become in 2014 the UK’s bestselling car, Concorde did its first commercial flight, England won Eurovision and number 1 the week of my parents’ marriage was ‘Silly Love Songs’ by Wings.

Traditionally the 40th wedding anniversary is referred to as the Ruby anniversary. This association is because the ruby is believed to have an eternal inner flame which glows brighter each year just like the passion and love in a marriage.

My parents decided this landmark was worthy of a big celebration so my Mum and I set about planning an event akin to a small wedding reception. Dinner was held at a golf club for family and friends with a DJ after. We decided on a theme of travel which may seem ironic to those of you who know my Dad well as he hates holidays. However I thought the travel theme was appropriate in more of a metaphorical way because of the journey they have made together through 40 years of marriage.

An old suitcase was used for the table plan and we hung a luggage tag for each table’s guests inside. Each table was named after somewhere my parents had visited together – thank goodness we didn’t have more than 5 tables or we would have been stuck on locations with their limited holidays! The table name was stuck on a cut out of a suitcase and a photo of them in the place put on the back. Place name cards featured a suitcase logo. The centre piece of each table was a single red rose – a symbol used to denote total devotion to one person.

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I made up favours for the tables which were love hearts in a ruby coloured organza bag and I made a cake for them with a photo of them cutting their wedding cake on the top.

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For the event I wore a dress from Coast, similar to the style of my bridesmaid’s dress at my wedding and reddish/pink in colour to tie in with the ruby theme. I accessorized with some silver diamanté sandals which I got in John Lewis when I was a bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding (see I do wear some shoes more than once!) I also had this gorgeous fan shaped metal clutch with a 1920’s art deco feel to it. I got this from Vintage Styler.  I added a red butterfly clip in my hair.

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At the entrance Mum decorated a small table with old photos from the day, decorations from the wedding cake, along with her garter, which was her something blue, blue being seen as a colour representative of constancy and loyalty; and other trinkets hooked over her arm on the day including a horse shoe and a rolling pin. The rolling pin would have been seen as something useful to give a wife so she could make meals for her husband (often a wooden spoon traditionally rather than a rolling pin) and a horseshoe for good luck going back to the 10th century when horseshoes were used to mark the door of Christians thus protecting them from the devil. Many wedding customs are the same today although the gifts hooked over a brides arm are not so common nowadays – I know I didn’t receive any at my wedding.

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My Dad gave a wonderful speech which detailed how they met as a blind date and how he had always loved her and the speech ended with him presenting her with a ruby ring. I also gave a short speech which included a poem which my uncle composed music to and sang at the wedding but unfortunately he was unable to make the party for a second performance of it. The poem is called ‘The Life that I Have’ and was originally written by Leo Marks in 1943 for his girlfriend who had recently been killed in a plane crash. It was used as Poem code during the Second World War. It was common for secret messages to be passed using a poem as code but was proving unreliable as the enemy could find the original source of the poem – Marks got around this by using his own creations. The poem was famously used in the film ‘Carve her Name with Pride’.

A fantastic evening was had by all and it was beautiful to see Mum and Dad dance once again to their first song from their wedding ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing.’

The month of May also saw my husband and I celebrate our second wedding anniversary. Cotton is the symbol given to the second anniversary symbolic of the couple becoming closer and their lives becoming more intertwined. It is also said to represent the couple learning to be flexible and adapt to each other’s needs as cotton is both strong and soft. I bought him a shirt – which he wore to Mum and Dad’s do and some cotton trousers. He bought me a cotton vintage quilt I had fallen in love with from the shop Kiss Kiss Heart in Rochester. We celebrated with a trip to Port Lympne Safari park (one of our early dates) and a curry in a new Indian restaurant in Rainham.

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My gorgeous quilt

Two years has flown by and I’m sure the next 38 will too. I hope we can be as happy at 40 years as my Mum and Dad obviously are.

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Fly me to the Moon

The Moonwalk is a marathon (full moon) or half marathon (half moon) which is walked at night, through central London where walkers wear their decorated bras to raise money and awareness for breast cancer.  This was on my bucket list as something to do before I was 30 and is the second item I can now tick off after India.

The night of the walk arrived on 11th May and as I travelled to the start location of Battersea power station for 9pm, the heavens opened and with that a feeling of dread crept over me for what I had let myself in for – the thought of walking in the rain in the middle of the night didn’t fill me with joy.  I dived for cover in the large pink tent they had erected for the event (moon city).  A band was playing as people tucked in to their carbohydrate full meals of pasta or rice in preparation for the walk.  Balloons and bracelets were being sold and people were having temporary tattoos applied.  There was a general buzz of excitement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis year’s theme was outer space so many people had dressed as aliens and astronauts with a notable team of young girls in green onesies with 3 eyes on their bras.  I designed my bra with just the pink theme in mind and adorned it with cocktails and shoes as an expression of myself.  I would love to say I sewed it all myself but it is my Mum I have to thank for the impressive finished result – I was simply the design consultant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A minutes silence was held in the tent to remember in particular 3 ladies who signed up back in November but have since unfortunately lost their lives to breast cancer.  It resonated with me just how important this cause is and we were also spoken to by a lady using the new scalp cooling caps which are being funded by the charity and reduce the likelihood of hair loss during chemotherapy.  Around 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK and just under 12,000 die from it.  It can affect anyone male or female although it is far less common amongst males.

The warm up began and I thought that would be the best time to use the facilities one final time; negotiating a portaloo in a tutu with a helium balloon whilst hovering and avoiding touching anything was interesting to say the least!  I was in the final start so there was an awful lot of waiting around with only the warm up (6 times over) to entertain you.  I wondered at the rate we were going if I would in fact complete it by the time I was 30!  I randomly bumped into a girl from work who was doing the full moon so walked most of the way with her and a cancer nurse from Oxfordshire.

At 0027 the rain had passed over and we were finally off with the first mile passing fairly swiftly.  By the time the imposing chimney’s of the iconic power station was seen for the third time – I did start to wonder if we were in fact walking in circles!  The volunteers were great with their smiles and words of encouragement along the way and it was nice when people we passed congratulated us and cars blew their horns as we went past.  It was an enlightening experience to walk down the Kings Road glancing in the expensive shops where each rail holds only a couple of items and listening to the birds tweeting – something you would never normally hear in central London.  Mile 7 to 8 was one of the longest it seemed, mainly due to it being uphill.  At Hyde Park Corner and mile 10 I did briefly wonder if I would complete it being that we slowed to a stop due to congestion and I started to feel quite light headed.  I soon had a new lease of life though and visibly sped up for the last mile and a bit.  As I crossed the finish line at 0511 and had my medal placed around my neck, I felt an immense sense of pride at what I had achieved.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI managed to raise £678 for breast cancer care and my company will match that amount and donate it to Action for Children.  I want to thank everyone who has supported me especially my colleagues at work and my Mum and boyfriend who gave up a nights sleep to come up to London and cheer me on.  I also carried out a cake and shortbread sale at work to raise money which was most successful.

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Will I do it all again next year and perhaps even the full moon?  My immediate response afterwards was no but now I am considering it – a bit like childbirth the bad memories fade away and it looks like a good idea again!  Anyone want to join me?!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!  So another new year dawned, surrounded by the usual celebrations despite it being 2013 – unlucky for some; I wonder if wedding venues have felt the pinch with superstitious brides?!  For more on why 13 is seen as unlucky see my previous blog ‘Friggatriskaidekaphobia’

https://blahnikgirl.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/friggatriskaidekaphobia-fear-of-friday-13th/

Apologies for the long gap between this and my last post but December was a difficult month for me with my eye condition flaring up again for nearly 2 weeks.  I have however still managed to fit in quite a lot, along with shopping for the party season and had an enjoyable Christmas despite everything.  Here are my favourite purchases.

Baroque dress from Oasis

Baroque dress from Oasis

 

Lace dress from Jane Norman

Lace dress from Jane Norman

Shoes from Oasis

Shoes from Oasis

Early December saw my friend’s baby boy christened.  He wore a beautiful gown that was a family heirloom.  I always think choosing an outfit as a guest at a christening can be difficult.  It sort of requires a dressed down, wedding attire look with an avoidance of black, being that it is a joyous occasion.  This is fine in the summer but being winter and tights being required made it more difficult.  In the end I opted for this navy dress with butterflies and red cardigan and shoes, all from New Look.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAViva Forever, a new musical written by Jennifer Saunders and produced by Judy Craymer with the music of the Spice Girls opened in the West End on 11th December and in spite of poor reviews by critics, I dragged my boyfriend along to see it.  He wasn’t the only man present but they were a definite minority.  Having followed the Spice Girls closely as a young teenager, I found the musical most enjoyable regardless of the weak plot; especially during the last song when the whole audience danced and sang to ‘Stop Right Now’.

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I don’t know about everyone else but it took me quite a while to feel Christmassy this year for some reason, with my cards being written out hastily to meet the last posting date and me hanging on tender hooks hoping my online purchased gifts would arrive in time.  It probably didn’t help that we had few decorations due to the dining room being half finished.  What really got me in the mood though was when I was making my Christmas cake a few days before Christmas; the house was filled with sticky sweet aromas whilst Christmas songs filled our ears and there was the distant sound of a steam engine whistle.  We looked out the front and sure enough a steam train was pulling into the station.  This must have been a common sound in 1898 when our terraced house was built but nowadays I think always produces a kind of romance.

My Christmas Cake I made

My Christmas Cake I made

Christmas Eve was spent at home in my cosy PJs on the sofa.  Fashion articles often neglect nightwear but I think it is just as important being that many of us girls put our PJs on as soon as we get home.  Fabulous magazine did however do a small spread on mixing textures.  I went for checked fleecy bottoms with a white cotton vest and a lovely knitted cardigan from Oasis and then for a touch of glam I added pearls.

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My partner and I decided to do a tree present each on Christmas Eve.  Excitement bubbled and butterflies fluttered in my stomach as I picked up a small, square, neatly wrapped box – could this be the long awaited engagement ring?  Alas no, it was in fact a box of dinner party ice breakers!  My partner was quickly forgiven the following morning though when I ripped the paper off my main present of my much longed for Ugg boots.  I was very spoilt by all with lovely presents but thought a couple of my friends gifts deserved a mention being that they were unusual tree decorations – a felt owl which was very in keeping with the 2012 fashion trend and a bauble from Verona.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver the Christmas period I spent some much needed time with family which was very nice; especially having my brother, his fiancé and my niece join us for Christmas dinner.  I couldn’t resist buying my niece more shoes and these silver ones from Monsoon went down a treat – she wanted them on straight away and wore them to every other event over the period too. My partner and I hosted a New Year’s Eve dinner party with our respective parents which was fun and an opportunity to air the dinner party ice breakers starting with the worst first date each of us had had.  As Big Ben chimed we toasted over champagne and had party poppers whilst mumbling the verses of Auld Lang Syne.  This year I haven’t made any resolutions as such as my bucket list of things to do before 30 sort of covers it (see previous blog).

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https://blahnikgirl.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/when-you-realise-that-you-are-all-grown-up/

Talking of the bucket list, the weight has started to come off albeit slowly with my 5:2 diet.  I think I could probably lose far more however if I ate normally on the other 5 days rather than gorging myself on cakes and biscuits.  Having signed up for the half MoonWalk London which raises money for breast cancer research; I now need to get in to training.  My parents bought me some trainers as despite someone offering to double the money raised if I walk it in 4 inch heels – I think this would be suicide even for me.  My fundraising page is now live.  I understand money is probably tight at this time of year but it would be great if you could even just sponsor a small amount.  My company will match the amount I raise and donate it to their charity Action for Children so you will be helping two charities in one go – great if your new years resolution was to support good causes.  Please pledge via the below link.

http://www.walkthewalkfundraising.org/christina_baines

As a year comes to a close it is a good time to reflect on achievements of the previous year and mine and my partners has to be our garden and drive which was completed with much help from my Dad and Uncle.  Check out the before and after pictures.  Look out for more home improvement in future blogs.

 

Our garden early on in the project

Our garden early on in the project

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Yesterday we took my partners niece and nephew to see their first pantomime – Peter Pan at the Churchill Bromley.  The tradition of a pantomime at Christmas dates back at least to early 1800s however the “traditional” pantomime is constantly evolving in order to maintain its popularity.  We greatly enjoyed it although being the penultimate performance signals Christmas well and truly being over for another year.  Guess January blues set in now – let me know how you are combating them.

Until next time ……………………………

First Steps

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast Saturday my friend and I visited a mini paradise; a shoe exhibition at the Design Museum in London.  This exhibition celebrates 20 years of the iconic Christian Louboutin – his designs and his inspiration.  As we entered the foyer of the museum, anticipation and excitement rippled through us.  In preparation we had both worn heels – mine being the new LK Bennett wedges mentioned in my last blog being that sadly I do not own any Louboutin’s yet!  Thanks to an article in Look Magazine I have however treated myself to a pair of Louboutin lookalikes from Zara.

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We walked up the stairs to the exhibition, our appetite being wet by a selection of Louboutin shoes hanging in hula hoops.  The glamour and the indulgence greats you straight away as you enter the exhibition with a plush, red carpet under foot and a magical carousel with cushions displaying shoes, rather than the usual horses.  There is a mini theatre set up with a hologram of a sparkly shoe which transforms into Dita Von Teese performing a burlesque show.  This is in honour of showgirls, who Louboutin claims inspire many of his designs.  Luxuriously covered red chairs are available to sit and watch the show and in front of the stage are many of his shoes with the lights behind set in gold oyster shells.  The gold shoes worn by Carrie in the second Sex and the City movie twinkled like cheap glitter shoes never can. 

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The desire to touch the shoes is overwhelming and it took all my strength to resist.  His designs truly are beautiful.  My friend had joked beforehand that she better escort me to hold me back from breaking the displaying cabinets and running off with the shoes!  I guess they had prepared for that possibility by only putting out one of the pair.  One thing that caught my interest was the attention to detail he places on getting the curvature of the shoe perfect in order to lengthen a woman’s legs and show them in the best possible light.  He sees shoes as being quite sexual and uses transparent materials such as lace in some designs to suggest nudity and make the shoe at one with the body i.e. invisible.  He claims “If there was to be just only one fetish element in a woman’s wardrobe, I think it would have to be her shoes.”   There is a fetish section of the show where the shoes are more like sculptures than something to wear.

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Now whether you are into shoes or not, most people know that Louboutin uses a trade mark red sole to identify his shoes and there was a court case with Yves Saint Laurent in 2011 when he tried to use red soles.  A debate ensued over whether a colour could be trade marked however it appears it can what with Tiffany blue and Cadbury’s purple but it is the colour being used in a specific context rather than the colour itself.  What is interesting however is that some years before this in 2002 Louboutin actually did a design collaboration with YSL for the final YSL couture show.

Louboutin’s journey to become the icon he is today is somewhat fascinating.  He was born in France in 1963, the only son to French parents with Cameroonian heritage.  He had three sisters (bet you wish your brother designed shoes!)  He was expelled from school on numerous occasions and ran away from home aged 12.  He worked backstage at Folies Bergères as his first job and was captivated by costume and set design at the cabaret.  Louboutin believes his love affair with shoes began with a visit to Musée national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie where he saw a sign from Africa forbidding women wearing high heels through fear they may damage the wooden floors.  He wanted to develop shoes to give power to women.  He sketched many shoes in his early teens.  He spent time in India and Egypt; the influence of which can be seen in some of his shoe designs. 

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He went on to be Roger Vivier’s apprentice and then freelanced designing shoes for many couture houses including Chanel.  He abandoned shoes to become a landscape gardener for a brief period.  This change of direction is reflected in the exhibition where some shoes are displayed on stone plinths inside a topiary archway.  His first boutique opened in Paris in 1992.  It is claimed that he made stilettos popular once again.

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There is a section of the exhibition dedicated to his shoes that have not been massed produced but rather made in their hundreds or on occasion just one pair.  I was left spellbound by his unique imagination.  There were shoes with heels containing real flower petals, shoes made of fish skin or sardine tins and even some designed to look like a Rolls Royce.

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We came out of the museum to a warm, sunny day by the River Thames.  Its days like this that I truly appreciate how awe inspiring London can be.

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Not wishing to end the decadence of the morning we rounded off the trip at All Bar One by the Thames for lunch and I ordered salmon fishcakes along with a Martini Royale.  This is Prossecco mixed with Martini Bianco and I highly recommend it as a very refreshing, citrus summer tipple.

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Last Sunday was my baby niece’s first birthday party.  I really don’t know where that year has gone.  I couldn’t resist buying her these striking red shoes amongst other gifts.

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 My boyfriend couldn’t quite fathom the fuss I made over making sure the correct size and style was ordered and uttered the unmentionable line ‘they are only shoes.’  Clearly he doesn’t realise the importance of putting her in the right shoes from a young age.  Shoes finish off an outfit. 

Talking of outfits, for the birthday party I selected a pale pink dress fromRiverIsland; the top half of which is covered in lace, gold sparkle heels and accessorised with a light pink rose flower garland which fascinated the babies.

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As this is quite an innocent, girly look I decided to compliment it with light makeup.  I used Benefit ‘That Gal’ face primer to start; my staple as it ensures my Max Factor foundation goes on smoothly and evenly.  I then brushed over Max Factor powder to prevent shininess and a light dusting of No 7  sultry glow bronzer.  I used Rimmel mascara and a pinky French Connection lip-gloss completed the look.

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 I continued the royal theme of June and made princess cupcakes for the party.

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So that’s it from me for this time.  The exhibition remains open until 9th July and I highly recommend it; one of the best £10 I have ever spent.  Why not go this weekend?  For further information follow the link below.  In the meantime I would love to hear about your favourite Louboutin designs.

 http://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/2012/christian-louboutin

United Kingdom Unites

Last week saw a sea of union jacks and red, white and blue all over the country as people celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee including the London Eye being lit in the colours.  A diamond jubilee generally denotes 75 years; however it was moved to 60 years in the case of a monarchs rein due to the failing health of Queen Victoria – the only other monarch to have celebrated a diamond jubilee in the history of the UK.  I still remember heading up to London for the Golden Jubilee and walking the length of a Union Jack decorated mall with my celebration flag in hand and red, white and blue ribbons in my hair.  How the last 10 years has flown. 

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The Diamond Jubilee celebrations were in a league of their own, perhaps due to the extended Bank holiday weekend.  What an event to raise the countries spirits and boost the economy in the midst of recession and the Euro Zone crisis.  Over the years there has been continuing debate on the Royal family and its part in the country’s constitution.  I for one have always been in favour of the royals as I believe they make us one of a unique set of countries with a constitutional monarchy which makes the a monarch head of state; this brings in a great deal of tourism.  It is an institution which some would argue forms part of our identity.  My Grandma used to collect special magazines and cuttings about the Royals for me when I was little and I still follow them with interest.  Kate and Williams wedding was a great celebration last year with another official bank holiday.  Whatever your thoughts however, no one can deny how a celebration such as the Jubilee unites the country, with people of all nationalities, religions and backgrounds joining in the celebrations.  The official celebrations saw the queen tour around the country, a river parade, a concert outside Buckingham Palace, a service at St Pauls and a golden carriage procession, culminating in a balcony appearance and fly by; all of which I watched on television as to avoid the huge crowds.  There were street parties up and down the country bringing communities together and thousands of others arranged their own parties.  I hosted a Jubilee BBQ and went to town with bunting, balloons, flags and union jack plates and cups not to mention my costume!

 

We also had many things which have become synonymous with Britain such as scones with jam and cream, strawberries and plenty of Pimms! Pimms was first made by the Kentish man James Pimm in 1823 and he served it in his London Oyster Bar in place of the bitter tasting gin.  Some guests moved on to a British cup of tea as the evening drew in.  I made a Jubilee cake and red, white and blue cupcakes. 

 

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Despite the good old British weather letting us down we braved the burgers under the picnic umbrella whilst there was a brief shower; after all it wouldn’t be a British BBQ if it didn’t rain.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as I hope did my guests, many of whom also made an effort to theme their dress; with a special mention going to my sister in law with union jack leggings and my friend who dressed in vintage 1950’s dress being that the Queen came to the throne in 1952.  Even my baby niece had gorgeous navy shoes, with red trousers with white polka dots and a t-shirt depicting a Union Jack tea pot and cups.  

The Queen herself described the celebrations as a humbling experience.  I certainly felt proud to be British and a warm feeling of being part of something spreads inside you when they play songs such as ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and of course our national anthem ‘God save the Queen.’  Now on the subject of the national anthem; composed by Thomas Augustine Arne and first performed in theatres in 1745; I bet the majority of people only know the first verse being that this is all that is generally sung with the third verse sometimes being included at occasions such as the last night of the Proms. I have included the words below to both the first and the third being that this year will see at least three other opportunities to sing it; Euro 2012 which begun on Friday and saw England’s first game this week against France, which was a draw; the Proms which begin 13th July and of course the long awaited Olympics, starting on 27th July.

God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God Save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen.

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour,
Long may she reign.
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen.

June also has another opportunity for strawberries and Pimms and that of course is Wimbledon which begins on 25th June and is the 126th Championship.  Royalty have been associated with Wimbledon since the Prince of Wales first visited in 1907 with Princess Mary.  The Duke and Duchess of Kent attend each year and present the trophies.  Queen Elizabeth II last attended in 2010. 

On Sunday 10th at a classic car show, the Jubilee theme was continued with many cars adorned with union jacks and ribbons.  As my car is blue and white, it already was half way there and I hung official jubilee bunting in the window.

 

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The Royals are also great style icons.  Who can forget how Hobbs had a mad run on the coat that Catherine wore for a royal visit to Liverpool and her penchant for LK Bennett shoes.  Many brides also want a copy of her Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen wedding dress.  The queen is also a great fashion icon with her matching hats and many handbags.  I bet there are few other women of her age who still dress so well (mind you she does have a little bit of help, lol).  Angela Kelly, the Queen’s senior dresser and personal assistant has designed for the queen since 2002 and with her team they often use some material which was given to the Queen when she was a Princess.  I loved her outfit for Tuesday’s procession, service and balcony appearance.

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Image courtesy of The Mirror

The Jubilee has seen an explosion of British themed fashion.  I couldn’t resist this top from Sainsbury’s TU collection!  Don’t knock Sainsbury’s especially now Gok’s 4th collection for them has been unveiled.  I shall be teaming this vest top with my black skinny jeans and these red wedges which I just couldn’t resist in the LK Bennett sale.  There are also many British themed home products including these fantastic salt and pepper mills from Dunelm Mill which I just had to have.  Souvenirs ranged from the usual biscuit tins, mugs and tea towels to the more unusual such as a solar powered waving queen!

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Also coming up in June is Father’s Day and I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thanks to my Dad for all he has done for me over the years.  The Queen too was very close to her father George VI and was devastated at his unexpected early death in 1952, causing her to take the throne at the tender age of 25.

I would love to hear how you celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee so please do let me know in the comments box.  That’s all from me this time but look out for my next blog where I shall report on the Louboutin exhibition now showing at the Design Museum London until 9th July. 

New Year, New Beginnings?

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Image courtesy of Google Images

The long exciting build up to Christmas ultimately culminates in a few days which fly past at the speed of light and generally fail to meet expectations.  We all put pressure on ourselves to achieve the ideal Christmas and I wonder whether this utopia is actually possible in reality?  I for one have spent more than a couple of Christmas’ ill; then there have been the inevitable family disagreements, not to mention tears over inconsequential incidents.  We all eat and drink too much, have this imagined pressure to enjoy ourselves and added to this explosive mix an extra ordinary amount of time spent in close proximity to all our family.  No wonder January is the busiest time for people filing for divorce!

Christmas eve, I gave myself an impossibly long list of jobs; however I did mostly enjoy these final preparations.  I made paper chains and some paper snowflakes; which took me right back to childhood.  Mum and I used to make these together and then Mum would pin the chains up in the hall with balloons in each corner.  One year she accidently put a drawing pin through a balloon and made us all jump!  I embroidered initials on stockings for my niece and nephew on my partner’s side.  I don’t think sewing is one of my strong points, especially when time is not on my side!  I then decorated my two tiers Christmas cake before finally relaxing with my other half over a well earned bottle of fizz.

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Christmas day was spent at my parents which was relaxing and enjoyable.  I was lucky in the respect that Santa brought me all I asked for.  My brother came over with his partner and my baby niece.  It was lovely to see her little face with all the presents.  I am teaching her labels young, letting her hold the small Chanel paper carrier bag which my perfume came in!  Boxing Day was rather less relaxing.  My partner and I had all his family over for the day.  First thing I was making sausage rolls and mince pies and once people began to arrive, I found myself icing a chocolate log with an audience!  Neither of us had anticipated the work involved.  We played the Mr and Mrs game which was great fun although I was rather embarrassed when as game host I had to ask my future in-laws how many times they had had a bath or shower together since they had been married!!  The day went off fairly well with only a few upsets but I was sure glad to have my peaceful house back afterwards.

Before you know it we are at New Years Eve.  My partner and I decided not to go out this year; I resent the fact you have to pay exorbitant rates to get in places and then spend hours queuing at the bar for a drink, I know I’m getting old and boring.  Plus we are back to that pressure to have a fantastic time.  Instead I made a Biryani which we followed with bubbly and party poppers at midnight whilst watching the London fireworks on television.  New Year has a kind of contradiction about it I always feel.  In one way it is an opportunity for a fresh start and optimism but it also can be a bit depressing when you analyse the life goals you have still yet to achieve.  New Year celebrations may well have their route in the Janus, the God of new beginnings, doors and gates.  This God had two faces; one which looked into the past and the other in to the future.

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Image courtesy of Google Images

My boyfriend and I joined in Auld Lang Syne on the television at the stroke of midnight which got me thinking as to how and when this became a tradition of New Year.  The words are part of a Robert Burns poem which was then put with a traditional folk song. The tradition began in Scotland but is now used worldwide especially in English speaking countries and has been for more than a century.  The song is generally thought to be suggesting that we remember old friendships which is something important to me; I always send a text to all my friends whether I see them regularly or not at New Year.  This custom of mine ultimately led to my partner contacting me again after some years apart back at the start of 2009!

Now January is upon us.  I always find it quite a depressing month and it appears I am not the only one being that Blue Monday (the most depressing day of the year) falls in January.  The scientists have even come up with a formula for it.  The contributing variables are apparently the weather, debt, time since Christmas, lack of motivation and the failed New Years resolutions.  That takes me on to these impossible targets we set ourselves year after year.  It is thought this idea may have religious origins with the ancient Babylonians being the first to make them.  It centres round looking for self improvement each year.  The majority of resolutions fail but success is improved by sharing them with friends.  According to an article in the Daily Mail, 9th January is the day most people give up on their resolutions.  In hope of improving my success; I shall now share mine.

  1. Get a job (thankfully this can be ticked off already which gives me some motivation for the others)
  2. Lose weight (this is probably the  one with the lowest likely success rate)
  3. Improve my appearance for work (an excuse for shopping, not that I need one)
  4. Stop mentioning marriage and proposals to my other half
  5. Stop worrying so much (hang on I am already worrying about breaking number 2, 4 and 5!)

My cure for this dismal month is simple; fill the calendar with things to look forward to!  I already have two weddings to go to which gives me justification for two new outfits.  I can’t wait to book a holiday so am enjoying researching places to go.  In the meantime a bit of retail therapy should brighten my spirits; after all my shoe queen crown is slipping; so far in 2012 all I have purchased is one pair of shoes and they are for work so don’t really count.  Perhaps resolution 6 should be to buy at least one pair of beautiful shoes each month; I’m sure I can keep that one.  This pair from LK Bennett may even have to be my reward to myself for my new job!

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Happy new year to all my readers and best of luck with your resolutions!

3 More Sleeps to go!!!!!!!!!

So it’s almost the big day.  The Christmas cake and pudding has been made for some weeks which threw my senses into the Christmas spirit even if no other part of my body followed.  The kitchen was filled with nutmeg, cinnamon and fruit smells whilst I sipped a snowball, the first of many! Lol!  It seems as though the whole country was late in feeling Christmassy this year and then December arrived and suddenly Christmas songs blared out in shops and on the radio along with Heart beginning their sleeps ‘til Santa countdown.  This was a refreshing change to the usual pattern of it beginning in August.  Even Rufus my rabbit is now in the Christmas spirit!

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My cousin and I revisited our childhood Christmas’ by losing ourselves for a few hours in Hamleys.  We also enjoyed a visit to the Hyde Park winter wonderland and browsed the German Christmas market before warming ourselves up with a coffee and some roasted chestnuts; another smell which alerts us to the holiday season.  I took my friends little boy to see Santa the other week and as a new twist, it also included a 3D film about the reindeer.  I’m not sure who enjoyed the trip more, me or him?  What did I ask Santa for; well that would be telling!  Cards then began to drop through the letter box on a daily basis.  Christmas is one of the few times of year when the postman delivers something other than bills and junk mail!  Wouldn’t it be nice if we all still wrote letters to each other; I used to love to receive a letter to read over breakfast.  The advent of modern technology has unfortunately diminished the nation’s letter writing skills.  Text messages encourage brevity and the notion of even a good long phone call seems to be less and less popular.  Now don’t get me wrong text messages do serve their purpose and I’m not about to join the English language experts debate on text messaging being responsible for the declining standards of spelling, however in my own experience I have found that they often can cause misunderstandings and fail to convey true emotion.  With this in mind, I had four very enjoyable phone conversations with friends and family today. You would think with all these wide ranging methods of communication people would never lose touch but sadly there are people who you have no contact with from one month to the next, yet the sign of true friendship is that when you do meet up with that person it is like you have never been apart, as I found with an old school friend at my annual festive get together this week.  Anyway getting back to Christmas cards, where did this tradition come from?  I watched Victorian Christmas the other day and found the origins to this and many other traditions; we have a lot to thank the Victorians for.  Henry Cole sent the first Christmas card in 1843 as it would have taken a long time for him to have written letters to all his friends.  Those he had left over he sold.  The popularity of these was helped by the post office introducing a half penny stamp for Christmas cards.  This was made possible by the expanding railways which made transporting post faster and cheaper.

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Another tradition we owe to the Victorians is the Christmas tree.  They became part of the British Christmas after Queen Victoria’s husband put one up at Windsor castle in 1841.  They were of course at that time decorated with candles; an accident waiting to happen if you ask me.  My partner and I put up our tree and dusted off the nativity scene the first week of December in preparation for an early Christmas dinner party I arranged.  Aside from the desire to catch up with some very good friends of mine, my partner and I also attempted to play matchmakers for two of our friends.  Sadly it was apparently too early for me to acquire a sprig of mistletoe!  It was a most enjoyable evening and I enjoyed making the years first mince pies.  Now these pies go back to the 13th century when European crusaders returned home with recipes from the Middle East.  By the Victorian era, meat was no longer used in these sweet treats but suet remained an ingredient as it still does today.

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The Victorian era has long been a fascination for me and with so many Christmas traditions being a result of that period too; when my partner was off work we decided to go and visit the Victoria and Albert museum in London.  I got a bit of a shock having to pay for a train ticket for the first time in eight years!  The museum was rather a let down; we had misunderstood it to be a museum of the Victorian era when in fact it is a museum of art and design, simply named after Victoria and Albert.  Then to add insult to injury, the fashion room is currently closed much to my disappointment.

At the time of writing, I have now been officially unemployed for almost a month and the time has flown; I almost wonder how I ever had time to work and I still haven’t completed half the things I intended to.  It is now starting to hit me however that this is not a holiday and the job search now needs to begin in earnest; the financial situation has not been helped by my continuing shopping addition!  After all the perfect Christmas dress is essential for any girl; or in my case two but they were a bargain in the sale.  The quest for the ideal dress is never easy but just think of poor Kate Middleton who needs no less than five dresses for her first Royal Christmas day.  I did resist the urge for a gorgeous pair of heels I saw in Topshop; thinking about it though that may have been a mistake given that according to a Metro survey, 13% blokes would like their girlfriend to wear nice shoes.  Talking of shopping, the present’s bill hasn’t helped either but I so enjoy giving people a thoughtful gift.  This year I did the majority online which was far easier than battling the shops, except for the fact that one parcel has still yet to turn up.  Some think tanks estimate as much as a 16% rise in online shopping this Christmas.  Perhaps this online explosion of choice and price cutting has led to the demise of Barratts and La Senza; both now in administration which one close friend of mine has felt acutely.

I have done some productive things with my time since leaving work though.  I spent a week volunteering at another local primary school; this time with the children in the last year there.  I greatly enjoyed it; some of the children even got me Christmas presents.  Whilst doing this experience I also had some good news, I have an interview for my teacher training course so fingers crossed I’m on my way to becoming a teacher.

Now with little time left to wait for the special day which cheers up the long winter, I must get on with the rest of my wrapping and make some paper chains.  Merry Christmas readers!