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Dizzy Heights

When I turned 30 two years ago I felt like I had reached a peak with nothing but a large descent into old age ahead of me.  I thought that birthdays would simply become more and more depressing. How wrong you can be! Since turning 30 my life has only got more interesting and fulfilling. Yes 30 brings with it fine lines and grey hairs as well as a difficulty in shifting those extra pounds from over indulgence but at the same time a new sense of acceptance of who you are and how you look means there is a lot less anxiety. Suddenly what other people will think becomes less of a restraint and we begin to please ourselves more.  What clothes size we fit into or that spot on our face becomes less of an obsession and we make way for simply enjoying ourselves and grabbing every opportunity that comes our way.  Having tick boxes is a great motivator but as an article I was reading the other day said, these should all be things we want to do and not things we think we should do at our age. A survey by the Huffington Post concluded we are most happy at the age of 33. With all this in mind I am looking forward to flying through the next 8 years by the seat of my pants and having many new experiences to write about before as the saying goes ‘life begins at 40!’

By way of celebration of my birthday this year I decided that to arrange a big event would be too much like hard work, so instead I had a number of mini parties; the first of which was the preceding weekend.

A friend and I attended Cocktails in the City which took place in Bedford Square Gardens in central London. This event comprises of 25 London cocktail bars coming together with pop up stalls, along with street food sellers and entertainers to create a festival with a difference.

Those of you of a similar age to me will fondly recall Sex and the City – my love of this series deepened my already growing love of cocktails. The exact definition of a cocktail as well as the origin of the word is unclear however the first recorded use of cocktail to describe an alcoholic beverage was in 1806. Over the year’s popularity of cocktails had waned until the mid 2000’s when mixology suddenly came to the fore of fashion again and more and more complex cocktails were made. You can’t help but feel glamourous with a martini glass in your hand.

Our £15 entrance ticket included a guide to the event and one free drink. I headed straight for The Craft Cocktail Company from Bethnal Green for a cointreaupolitan, being that like my nemesis Carrie Bradshaw, my cocktail of choice is generally a cosmopolitan. I was not disappointed with this twist on the classic drink – however it tasted less like alcohol and more like fruit juice which ensured it didn’t last long!

There were presentations throughout the day and we chose to sit in on one entitled The Motorcycle Diaries. The Motorcycle Diaries was a 2004 film where two friends travel around South America on their bikes so this session focused on alcohol that is local to South America. I dragged my friend to a front row seat – determined to be front of the queue for any possible tastings. I was invited up to the stage to make a Pisco sour. Pisco is a brandy made in Chilie and Peru and on its own it is horrible, what I imagine paint stripper to taste like. I was instructed to put a small measure of Pisco into the cup – naturally my small measure is probably most people’s definition of large and the guy found this quite funny. I then added lemon and lime juice. The final ingredient which I was rather sceptical of was egg white which apparently makes it a smooth drink. It was then time to shake the cocktail and the people leading the session claimed that your face when shaking a cocktail is your sex face! I then poured the mixture into a previously chilled glass and topped with bitters. It was such a laugh doing this and I got to keep the cocktail afterwards which was actually quite delicious. Various other drinks were made by people and then we all left with a complimentary margarita shot.

Cocktail making

By now we were well away and decided that food might be a sensible option. This would be my only criticism of the event as for hot food only pulled pork was left by 3pm which my friend sampled and I had cold chicken with tomato salad.

I found my favourite bar – Trailer Happiness, Portobello Road, otherwise known as the Bacardi bar! When not drinking cocktails, wine or bubbly; Bacardi has always been my spirit of choice. We were given a small balloon to hand to our favourite bar so mine went to them before I even tried my drink. My Bacardi cocktail had a fabulous garnish on it with a banana leaf and a flower.

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One of the bars, Barrio had set up a table and paints for you to paint a wall tile that will be used in one of their branches. It was really relaxing to put some head phones on and just let the creativity flow.

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Next we visited The Rivoli Bar at the Ritz and indulged in champagne.

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Next stop, we visited Loves Company, a Tia Maria stand which had a pop up beach and we relaxed in a deck chair whilst enjoying a salted caramel cocktail.

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Beach fun

To finish up we both had a repeat of the drink we chose on arrival.  It was a beautiful sunny day and a great way to relax on a Sunday afternoon after a busy week at work. For the event I wore a green dress from Torza boutique with leggings and my trusty oasis flip flops.

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The Saturday before my birthday, my husband and I went to our favourite restaurant in Rainham, Eight which I have mentioned on here before. For this I wore a grey polka dot dress which I got from Pink Flamingo in Rochester; it is a little daring for me so I wore a white basic vest top underneath. Grey can be a depressing colour so to lift the outfit I wore my red LK Bennett wedges.

Eight outfit

On the Sunday we had a nice family tea at Mums. Mum made me a coffee and walnut cake which is my favourite and she decorated it with an Audrey Hepburn icing plaque as we enjoyed the exhibition the other week so much; see I Believe in Pink blog.

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On my actual birthday – I took the day off work as usual (I never went to school on it so why should I have to work it?) and Mum and I went to Rochester. Rochester is my new go to place. I adore looking around the unusual and vintage shops. We ate lunch at an Italian restaurant and then rather than ordering pudding went to Fleur de The – a beautiful shabby chic café/shop and enjoyed coffee and scones. I couldn’t resist purchasing 2 miniature cups and saucers with a butterfly motif on them from there.

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The Saturday after my birthday I went with my friend to Greenwich. Our birthdays are only a fortnight apart so as a joint celebration we decided to climb The O2. The O2 is a large tent like construction which was built as The Millennium Dome to celebrate the start of the third millennium and reopened as The O2 in 2005. It was constructed with Greenwich’s role in time and date in mind. It has a diameter of 365m (equal to number of days in the year). It has 12 yellow support towers (representing either 12 calendar months or 12 hours on standard clock face). The dome is 52m high at its central point (representative of the 52 weeks in a year). The climb is a 190 metres tensile fabric walkway over the top of the Dome with a central platform at the top with 360 degree views of London. It was quite a challenge as going up the walkway is 28 degrees steep and coming down 30 degrees. The fabric is also quite springy like a trampoline. The views at the top make it well worth undertaking though – you can see Canary Wharf, The Gherkin and the Olympic Park amongst other sites.

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Afterwards we ventured into central Greenwich on a Thames Clipper which I had never been on before. These are high speed catamarans and I don’t think I have ever travelled on water so fast; they have a maximum speed of 28 Knots.  Once there we got lunch at a pub in the market area and soaked up the cosmopolitan atmosphere. We then discovered a wealth of unusual, quirky shops and visited her friend’s new vintage store, Joli Vintage Living. Look out for a future blog all about this fab store.

There will be one more chance to celebrate at the end of August as for my gift; my husband bought me day tickets to the V Festival so look out for an upcoming blog on that too.

Enjoy the summer!

Heel Today, Gone Tomorrow!

The countdown to the wedding has truly begun – only just under 2 weeks to go! I won’t bore you with the hours, minutes and seconds from my countdown timer!

The 12th April was my hen party. A hen party is a party given in honour of the bride-to-be and therefore is not hosted by the bride herself although she may assist in the organisation. The hen party stems from the stag party and its modern form began in 1960s and is related to gender equality. Before it meant a pre wedding party; hen party was used to describe any all female gathering and is mentioned as far back as 1897.

I cannot thank my best friend and maid of honour, Catriona, enough for the effort she put into the event which really was one of the best days of my life. I enjoyed getting ready and chose to wear my thyme Allure dress from Coast which I wore as maid of honour at Catriona’s wedding. I matched it with some silver sandals and some big silver hoops.

The party began at Hyatt Regency – The Churchill – a hotel near Hyde Park corner, awarded the Tea Guild of Excellence in 2012. I was furnished with the usual regalia – a baby pink sash with bride to be on it and my Mum bought me a flashing tiara complete with veil.

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We took afternoon tea in the Montagu restaurant, named after Elizabeth Montagu – a writer who lived in Portman Square 1781-1800. We were ushered to our table by some lovely, impeccably dressed waiters and when I sat down and saw the menu – my eyes were drawn to the Sex and the City Par-tea without realising that that was exactly what was planned for me! The savoury treats were themed to New York with a mini hot dog and bagel. There was also a mini burger in honour of one of Carrie’s boyfriends in the series – ‘Jack Burger’.

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Carrie and 'Burger'

Carrie and ‘Burger’

The sweet offerings included a cosmopolitan jelly, a sickly sweet iced cupcake, a mini New York cheesecake and a biscuit shaped as a shoe! We began with a Flirtini (a champagne and pineapple cocktail) which was most refreshing and then could choose a tea, each named after one of the 4 girls. I’m not a lover of tea but went for the one named Carrie of course.

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After a most enjoyable catch up with friends and family alike – a few left and the remainder of us made our way to the tube to Liverpool Street.  We were so packed in, you couldn’t have fallen over if you had tried. We then had quite a trek to the mixology event but it was well worth it when we arrived plus we burnt off some of the afternoon tea calories!

We were welcomed with a ginger cocktail. 3 more friends joined and the hunky teacher showed us how to make 3 different cocktails. He looked like Enrique Iglesias and the more we drunk, the more he looked like him. As he explained the method of making the cocktails he frequently dropped in a double entendre or two and before long we were all in fits of hysterics. He also punished anyone who talked whilst he did, with a shot of his choice. The class finished with each team making a cocktail and I had to choose the one which I liked the most. It was a tough call but in the end I went for the one that was the easiest to drink. He also showed us a party trick with lighting a cocktail and alcohol on the bar and then sprinkling cinnamon to make sparks. All I can say is he must have good insurance to trust drunken women with matches!

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Hunky Teacher

Hunky Teacher

Selecting the winning cocktail

Selecting the winning cocktail

Playing with fire

Playing with fire

By the time we left we were all a bit worse for wear but although drunk I knew I wasn’t that drunk that I couldn’t walk properly – however I was struggling. Finally I realised that my shoe had in fact snapped and the heel was hanging off but it took me a little while to convince the others of that! The shoes were Ravel sandals which may explain why Ravel went into administration! Luckily Catriona had some flats with her so I changed into them.

We finally made it to Loop – a club near Oxford Street with a multi coloured rubix cube style dance floor. The girls treated us all to a mega large cocktail in a huge martini glass.

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They then did a Mr and Mrs Quiz with me where for every wrong answer I had to drink a shot – I got more wrong than I should have done as it was too loud to hear all the questions properly. 2 more friends arrived and we all partied the night away. My fiancé picked me and his two sisters up which I am very grateful to him for as he found himself lost in London!

A truly fabulous day/eve and I am so fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family – thanks guys – you all mean the world to me.

Easter came and went, later than usual this year.  It was a real challenge to not over indulge but the final weigh in showed I won the competition, losing an impressive 1 stone and 8lbs so that helps with the motivation; although the mini eggs are calling.  I arranged an easter egg hunt for the kids which they greatly enjoyed complete with cute signs from Laura Ashley.  Needless to say it wasn’t as big as the largest egg hunt in Guiness Book of World Records which was 501000 eggs searched by 9753 kids in Florida in 2007 which makes for over 50 eggs each – they must have been seriously hyper on all that chocolate!  For more information on egg hunts and Easter bunnies please refer to my post ‘Loaded Spring’.

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My Easter egg hunt

Over Easter weekend, I indulged in another afternoon tea with a friend who couldn’t make the hen. This time it was the Prêt –à-Portea tea at the Berkeley Hotel – perfect for all you fashionista’s out there! This tea started in 2005 at the infamous Berkeley Hotel.  The Berkeley began as a coffee house in the 1700s on the corner of Berkely and Piccadilly, became known as a hotel 1897 and moved to its current location in Knightsbridge in 1972.  In 1920s it became the first London hotel to offer air conditioning.

The treats are inspired by current catwalk trends so we enjoyed munching our way through the spring/summer collection 2014 which included Christian Louboutin pigalle spike turquoise shoe biscuit – complete with the signature red sole, a Mui Mui chocolate handbag and a wonderful representation of Dsquared mini strapless  dress with hot pink lampshade hat which was essentially mango bavarois with blueberry compote. Also represented were Karla Colletto’s red swimsuit, Oscar De La Renta pistachio dress and many others. The tea was topped off with pink Laurent Perrier courture champagne. We were given a handbag shaped goodie bag when we left which included 2 of the sweet treats. A wonderful afternoon which made you feel just like an a list star at a catwalk show.

With our goodie bags in the Berkeley

With our goodie bags in the Berkeley

 

Karla Colletto swimsuit

Karla Colletto swimsuit

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Louboutin pigalle spike shoes

 

Model 2nd from right wears Dsquared dress with pink lampshade hat

Model 2nd from right wears Dsquared dress with pink lampshade hat

Designer sweet treats - Dsquared, Colletto and Louboutin

Designer sweet treats – Dsquared, Colletto and Louboutin

The other week, I waved goodbye to my beloved Beetle.  It was sad but for the best as it was just rusting away and I didn’t use it much anymore but it’s gone to a good home and I cheered myself up with these pair of LK Bennett shoes in similar colours to the car with some of the money.

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My beloved beetle

My beloved beetle

Right I am now going to continue adding to my honeymoon wardrobe – happy shopping!

Sparkling Sunset by the Whitby Coast

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis blog is my final entry before I turn the big 30 and begin a new chapter, leaving behind my twenties.  I am happy to announce that my boyfriend and I are now engaged – something I never thought I would get to experience and write about in a blog.

The other weekend my partner and I decided to go for a long weekend in Yorkshire and we happened to have some of the best weather so far this year – must be our weather magic.

We arrived on Friday in York and began by going on a haunted tour of the city.  The guide really made this tour as he took us round to the Minster, Guy Fawkes birth place and the shrine to Margaret Clitherow – the martyr of the Roman Catholic Church.  He involved different people including my other half in acting out being hung drawn and quartered.  I think even the tour guide jumped though as we stood in the historic street ‘The Shambles’ where he explained butchers would hang up their meat and people emptied chamber pots so blood etc would make a river down the street, when someone pulled loudly shut a window above us.

We then met up with my friend and her other half for dinner in the Mumbai Lounge.  Pregnancy is really suiting her.  I predict it will be a baby girl – watch this space!  That night we stayed at The Golden Fleece pub.  This is the oldest Inn in York – mentioned in archives as far back as 1503 and is believed to be haunted.  We stayed in Lady Peckett’s room.  Lady Peckett’s husband owned the Golden Fleece around 1702 and some guests have reported seeing her ghost.  The pub has great charm with its uneven floors – our bed had a block of wood under one leg to make it level.  Whilst we didn’t see the ghost of Lady Peckett the waiter at breakfast, we joked, seemed almost ghost like!

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We met up with my Mum and Dad the following day and visited York Railway museum for the 75th anniversary of Mallard doing the fastest speed of a steam train in the world at 125.88 on July 3rd 1938.  Little did I know that when my other half and my Dad went somewhere for a quiet chat it was for my now fiancé to ask my Dads permission for his daughters hand in marriage.

That evening the two of us travelled on to Whitby and had a most enjoyable fish and chip tea in the famous Magpie Cafe.  The building itself was built in around 1750 when it began a long association with fishing and shipping.  It opened as a cafe in approximately 1939 and is widely considered the best place to get fish and chips in Yorkshire.

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Full from our meal, my other half suggested a walk along the beach and then as the sun was setting, colouring the sky red, and the sea was rhythmically grazing the shore; he dropped down onto one knee and produced a stunning sapphire and diamond ring.

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Engagement rings go back to the 13th century in the Western World and are worn on the second finger on the left hand as this is believed to be the shortest distance to the heart.  I was so stunned – the first thing I said was are you joking before giving an enthusiastic yes.  It couldn’t have been a more romantic proposal given that our first date had been fish and chips on the beach in Broadstairs.    We celebrated in Wetherspoons of all places with a bottle of champagne which the staff had to dust off!

Champagne was actually discovered by mistake when the cold winters halted the fermentation process only for it to start again in the spring creating a bi product of carbon dioxide which remained trapped in the wine.  It is now generally seen as the drink of choice for celebrations and in a book I am reading that I was kindly bought as an engagement present ‘How to Wear White’ it is said that the UK spends over £5million a week on champagne!  There is some suggestion however that the consumer trend this year is towards people buying Prosecco over champagne to celebrate with.

The following day was spent walking round the town, playing crazy golf (where I got a hole in one) and in arcades as well as going on a boat trip.  I’m sure those cuddly toy machines are rigged!  I couldn’t resist this gem of a satchel – so like the ones of the Cambridge Satchel Company but far cheaper, which I discovered on a market stall.

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 new bag

We had a fish and chip tea down on the beach again whilst the sun set and I dipped my toe into the cool sea.

We then finished our stay with a trip on the North Yorkshire Moors railway and a visit to Goathland where Heartbeat was filmed.  On arrival back at Whitby, we grabbed some freshly baked doughnuts only to be dive bombed by seagulls!

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We returned home to break the good news to both sets of parents.  I still can not quite believe it has happened to me – the little girl who said no one would ever marry her.  I cannot stop admiring my ring and feel like I am on cloud nine.  This wonderful event also ticks another box on my bucket list, so I have achieved 4 out of 10 of the items – got engaged, been to India, done the Moonwalk and started riding lessons again.  The others will be carried over to my new bucket list to do before 40.

We now have around a year to plan our special day and I can’t wait to get started.  Look out for lots of wedding planning themed blogs over the next few months!

Fünfzig Schattierungen von Berlin (50 Shades of Berlin)

Life is full of contrasts and contradictions which is what makes it interesting.  As summer becomes a distant memory – grey has become en vogue.  By that I am not simply referring to the sky but the latest cult trilogy which has overshadowed Twilight – that is ‘50 Shades’.  Everywhere women are discussing it.  I have now finally read the first book, mainly to see what all the fuss has been about.  How can I sum it up?  Christian grey is a man of contradictions which is interesting as grey tends to be used to imply uncertainty or a mixture of good and bad.  Grey often symbolises boredom but paradoxically the book is very colourful despite the use of grey in the title.

On the subject of grey skies, this month saw the 25th anniversary of the hurricane in the UK or the great storm as many refer to it; when Michael Fish became a household name saying ‘there will not be a hurricane’.  Is anyone else finding it impossible to get up in the mornings now that it is dark and often drizzly?  Well the clocks went back this weekend so it should be a bit lighter in the mornings for a few weeks.

Before you all slip in to a grey depression, every cloud has a silver lining and there are some beautiful leaf colours at this time of year making a truly beautiful landscape, almost like a watercolour.

Image Courtesy of Google Images

Fashion has certainly taken somewhat of a lead from nature.  Coloured denim is as big as it was in the summer but we move away from brights and pastels to more muted darks such as these burgundy jeans which I couldn’t resist from New Look.

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Another transient trend has been birds but more specifically this season owls.  This top was a bargain purchase again from New Look.  I teamed it with a grey Oasis boucle mini and a light grey cardigan but it will look equally good with my burgundy jeans and my leather biker with knitted sleeves to give more of an edgy rock look.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANails have also gone back to nature with nude colours.  I love a Rimmel brown called ‘Beige Babe’.  Whilst on the subject of nails – Nails Inc have produced a couture range where you are able to design the bottle and personalise it and the box – what a great idea for Christmas presents and naturally I thought I would treat myself to one first.  Meet my new shade ‘cosmopolitan’.

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I find the biggest fashion challenge of autumn/winter is finding the perfect pair of boots rather than the perfect coat as many fashion writers suggest.  I may well follow their suggestion however that the solution is not to try and nail it down to one but have a variety.  My favourite boots have seen better days; they were a cheap faux suede, black knee high pair from Primark.  I treated myself to these biker style boots but foresee myself also getting a pair of Uggs and some dainty high heeled ones too!

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A few weeks back I went to Cheryl’s million lights tour at the O2 which was fantastic and I eagerly await the Girl’s Aloud reunion next year.  I have a very varied taste in music from Led Zeppelin and Stereophonics to current pop – another ambiguity.

Last weekend I surprised my other half for his birthday with a long weekend in Berlin.  Berlin is steeped in history – unfortunately most of it dark with WWII and the Berlin Wall.  They have acknowledged this past however as something to learn from and around it developed a modern, buzzing, cosmopolitan city especially at Potsdamer Platz which was the centre for the Festival of Light which took place whilst we were there.  Art and advertising was projected onto buildings and coloured lights are placed beneath the trees which create a magical feel.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most poignant place we visited for me was Gleis 17 at Grunewald station.  This is a disused platform nowadays but it was once where many Jews boarded trains to concentration camps during the war.  It is now a memorial to them.  Along the platform edge are the number of Jews deported each day and it really is horrifying.  1000 to Auschwitz, 1700 to Theresienstadt…..  Now it is peaceful and serene with only the sound of the wind in the trees to interrupt your thoughts and prayers.

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Other sites we saw were the Topography of Terror which is the sight of the Gestapo and SS headquarters but is now a records centre for the atrocities and takes you through how Hitler got his hold on the German people.  Something I didn’t know however was that concentration camps existed long before the outbreak of the war as early as 1933, where people who opposed the Nazi political party were sent.  We also visited the site of Hitler’s bunker which now has flats built on it – not sure I would want to occupy one of those flats!!

In some ways the wall and its history had more of an impact on me because it was in my lifetime and therefore easier to identify with.  I knew very little of the history before the trip.  The wall was erected in 1961 by the GDR to separate East Berlin and the rest of East Germany from West Berlin as it was believed that the West had not been fully de-Nazified.  Families were separated and in the East there were strict communism rules imposed by the Soviets including censorship of media materials.  The West was being built up and saw great economic growth whilst the East lagged behind.  Many East German people tried to escape to West Germany (estimates suggest 3.5 million) either through border houses, over the wall or by tunnelling and many were killed.  There is a photo memorial to them by the strip in Bernauerstrasse and a further memorial by the Reichstag. On 9th November 1989 the GDR announced the border reopened and in 1990 the physical wall was removed.  There are two long stretches of the wall left, the first at Bernauerstrasse where they have also uncovered the foundations of the border houses and one by the topography of terrors on Niederkirchnerstrasse.  It is unbelievable that this occurred in recent history.  When the wall came down in 1990, many gathered at the Brandenburg gate.  This iconic structure was also lit up as part of the Festival of Light.

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of Berlin’s more modern structures is the Fernsehturm or TV tower, built between 1965 and 1969 and the countries tallest building at 368 metres.  The lift reached the top in 40 seconds, making my ears pop.  At the top we were treated to 360 degree views of Berlin.  I enjoyed a cocktail appropriately named 360º whilst we were up there.

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe weekend we went happened to also be Oktoberfest and at Alexanderplatz there was a traditional German market and plenty of beer on offer.  We warmed ourselves with a Jagermeister shot too.  I’m not normally a beer drinker but I must confess I quite enjoyed a Berliner and the Rothaus brewery beer Tannenzäpfle or Fir Cone (a beer from the Black Forest).

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Berlin had so much to offer, we could have done with a bit longer there but we crammed in the highlights and on the last day, as a bit of light relief from all the history, we visited Berlin Zoo.  This has the largest collection of animals due to the fact that when the city was divided, there were two zoos and they have now been combined into the one.  I can honestly say it is the best zoo I have ever visited because they have really given thought to the layout with low bars so you can get excellent photos.  Of course the elephants were the highlight for me!

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On the way home, the sky looked beautiful as we approached Schőnefeld airport, with the sun just coming up.  At the airport my partner treated me to some perfume as a thank you – Daisy eau so fresh by Marc Jacobs.

Image Courtesy of Google Images

With X Factor live shows now well under way – the countdown to Christmas has truly begun – only 57 days until Christmas day!  Before that though we have Halloween approaching and make sure you visit the cinema to see the new Bond film – Skyfall, released this week – we went today and I must admit I have never been a great Bond fan but I thoroughly enjoyed it and now want to see all of them and   Adele has smashed the theme tune.  Can’t believe this film marks 50 years of Bond and it’s still as popular today as when the first film was released.

Have any of you got memories of Berlin you would like to share?  What are you doing to cheer yourself up on these grey days?

 Until next time………………………

‘The Greatest Show on Earth’

You would be forgiven for thinking that I was referring to the Olympics but actually I am talking about a far more important celebration – my birthday that just happened to fall on the same day as the opening ceremony.  So nice of the whole country to join in my celebrations! Lol!  I haven’t seen the opening ceremony but by all accounts it did our country proud and Team GB did very well with 29 gold medals, 17 silver and 19 bronze, putting us 3rd in the medal table.  Go Team GB!  I did watch the closing ceremony which was fantastic and I especially enjoyed the Spice Girls which took me back to my early teens when I was mad on them and the girl power they stood for.  I must admit this is the first year I have taken an interest in the Olympics.  I even got my rabbit Rufus into the spirit with a Team GB football!  Tomorrow marks the start of the Paralympics.

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The origins of the Olympics go back to ancient Greece in 8th Century BC.  The first games held in the UK were in 1908 when such sports as Tug of War were included.  We came top of the medal table that year with 56 gold medals!

So another year passes and sadly this will be the last year of my twenties.  I don’t feel a day over 21 though!  Where have those years gone?  Guess I feel a little behind my peers at times given my lack of career path; however numerology does say that those with a birth date of 27 tend to be late bloomers, taking their time to choose a profession.  It also says we are creative so perhaps there is some hope for a writing career still.

Being that my birthday fell on a Friday this year I decided to stretch the festivities over the whole weekend.  On the day we had a family trip to West Wittering beach.  I chose here as despite being some distance away, the place holds good childhood memories.  You can park up virtually on the beach and picnic.  The sand stretches for miles whilst the tide is out and there is a lot of shallow water making it ideal for children.  The car park has been run commercially since the 1920s and in 1952 the local residents bought it to prevent a Butlin’s (or similar) holiday camp being built on it.  Check out their website for further details.

http://www.westwitteringbeach.co.uk/

We had a lovely cooked breakfast on arrival cooked on a camping gaz and a picnic lunch, followed by a mouth watering coffee and walnut birthday cake that my Mum made.  The history of the birthday cake is quite an interesting one.  Since the middle of the 19th century it has been an important part of celebrating birthdays in the West, however there is evidence of the custom going back to Roman times.  Putting candles on the cake is believed to go back to 18th century Germany.  Singing happy birthday became popular in the early 1900s and it was then that the words happy birthday started to appear on cakes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had great fun playing tennis and rounders on the sand.  When I was batting in rounders, I was so excited to have hit the ball I forgot all about running!  I had a bit of a swim and we built sandcastles with my beautiful baby niece who at 13 months is already very cultured; eating olives and feta cheese.  Not sure who enjoyed the sandcastles more – her or me and my partner, lol!  There is nothing more relaxing than the warm sun beating down on you with the soft sand beneath you, water gently lapping and a slight salty taste in your mouth.

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I wore my denim skirt dungarees with a white t-shirt and my bikini underneath.  To finish the look off I wore my healed glitter jelly shoes.  Now these PVC plastic shoes were hugely popular in 1980s but have had a revival a number of times.  People have guessed at their origins with some suggesting that it goes back to just after WW2 when there was a leather shortage in Europe so a French shoe maker developed them.  Many people think they are a big no no or only suitable for children but how else can you wear heels to the beach?!

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We finished the day with a fish and chip supper and a very pleasant bottle of wine and all returned home rather sunburnt with numerous mosquito bites!

Saturday morning my partner gave me his presents to open and brought me breakfast in bed.  That evening I went for a curry where I used to live with many of my friends.  I stuck with my resolve to try different dishes and had Malayan Chicken.  It was a lovely evening and time flew past meaning that we missed the last train and had to sheepishly knock at Mum and Dad’s door.  I wore a butterfly maxi dress from Jane Norman for the occasion.

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Sunday was another meal out, this time with my partner’s family and I was lucky enough to be showered with more gorgeous gifts.

I want to use this platform to thank family, friends and my partner for making it another wonderful birthday and at time of posting I am still dragging out my birthday.  One of my partners presents has yet to arrive and two weeks after my birthday another one of my boyfriends arrived – a gorgeous mosaic bistro set which will set the garden off lovely when it’s all finished.

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I also couldn’t resist these thank you cards from Zazzle, so me don’t you think?

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The other weekend my friend and I met up in London as she was away for my birthday.  We spent a very pleasant few hours wandering round Harvey Nichols and other shops in Knightsbridge looking at all the lovely things we can’t afford.  I especially enjoyed the Louboutin boutique in Harvey Nichols where the assistant informed us that on his crystal encrusted shoes, each crystal is applied separately by hand and so they can take at least a day to make one pair – now I understand the price tag!  Being adventurous and keen to try anything a bit quirky, I couldn’t resist trying out Bubbleology – a concession that sells bubble tea within Harvey Nichols.  The stall looked more like a science lab, with the staff wearing white coats saying bubbleologist on the back.  Bubble tea was invented in Taiwan in the eighties.  Bubble tea is fundamentally green, black, white or red tea and it can then be infused with milk or fruit and drunk hot or cold.  Small bubbles are formed on the top in the process of making the tea as it is shock vigorously, hence the name.  In the bottom are small balls of tapioca.  I quite enjoyed it; it’s certainly worth experiencing!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finished off the day in Harrods for afternoon tea in their Georgian restaurant with a glass of champagne included.  Now as much as I enjoyed catching up with my friend and sampling some delicious sandwiches and scones and a nice glass of champagne, whilst the piano played itself; Harrods itself was some what of a let down for me.  The gold leaf on the plates was faded, the silver tea pots were tarnished and the décor looked tired.  My other complaint at the risk of sounding like Samantha in Sex and the City, was the amount of children there.  Now don’t get me wrong I love children but I’m not sure they should be attending a luxury afternoon tea plus isn’t it a waste of money for their parents?

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To end on, I must share with you one of my presents, a book that must have been written for me, lol!  Mum kindly bought me Manolo Blahnik – The Elves and the Shoe Maker.  This book combines the old fairy tale with the story of the designer and is illustrated with drawings from the designer.  The author also wrote another of my bibles ‘How to Walk in High Heels.’  This has interesting tips on such things as how to change a light bulb.

I also received from a few friends, gorgeous scarves, two with butterflies and one with dragonflies which I will be brightening up my work attire with.

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That’s all for this time.  Do let me know any beaches you recommend or indeed what your feelings on jelly shoes are.  I’m now off to enjoy another of my presents – Champagne with black Raspberry Chambord; kindly bought by a friend to remind me of our trip to London Fashion Week.

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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.