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Girls and the city

Fashion icon, Audrey Hepburn once said: “Paris is always a good idea”.  I couldn’t agree more, Paris, like New York is a city I never tire of as there are always new things to discover.

map of paris

Paris is chic personified, the city and fashion go together like strawberries and cream.  It is the home of Chanel and Dior as well as the birth place of Karl Lagerfeld, John-Paul Gaultier, not to mention some fabulous accessory brands, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Cartier.  The allure of  French fashion for me began as a teenager when I discovered Kookai, a label founded in Paris in 1983.  Unfortunately Kookai no longer exists in England so you can imagine my joy on my recent visit to Paris on seeing the store.  Naturally I had to go in and purchase.

In September I spent a very enjoyable long weekend in Paris with two of my closest friends from school.  We started the trip as we meant to go on with prosecco on the Eurostar while reminiscing about French lessons at school and visits to La Serronerie, the house near Normandy that the school owned.  I always adored the French language, despite it not coming naturally to me and so studied it right through to A Level.  I actually surprised myself on this trip at how much came back to me.  When travelling it’s important to be comfortable so I wore a black pleated midi skirt from Asos with a t-shirt embroidered with the Paris skyline from Topshop.

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I first visited Paris aged about 13 with my Mum (see picture below) when her best friend lived on the outskirts and it was love at first sight.  I have returned many times since then, as well as introducing others to its wonderful charm.

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Anyone who reads my blog will know that Sex and the City is an obsession for me and therefore first on my list for this trip was to explore the sights of those 2004 epic finale episodes, guided by the website Set in Paris.  It made perfect sense that Carrie Bradshaw should visit the French capital as fictionally, she is one of the biggest fashionistas and as she puts it so eloquently, is “a person looking for love”.   My outfit for this occasion was carefully planned, a black cord pinafore dress over a mustard long-sleeved top, both from New Look, set off with a beautiful Victoria Beckham for Target silk scarf and Carrie Bradshaw herself would have been proud of the amount of ground I covered in my patent Oasis heels.

In these finale episodes, we first see Carrie in Paris as she arrives at Hotel Plaza Athenee and the hotel is even grander in the flesh than it looked on the screen.  The weather was wet, just as it was for most of Carrie’s trip but the hotel is simply striking in any weather with its beautiful balconies, adorned with red flowers and the Eiffel Tower just a stones throw away.

The hotel is on the most fashionable street in Paris, Avenue Montaigne which is home to all the haute culture brands.  Indeed the Dior store where Carrie slips over is on this street.

When Carrie finds herself alone in Paris again, vowing to “do French things and be very parisien” she visits Cador patisserie, where she shares cake with a large dog.  Cador is unfortunately no longer and instead there is Cojean – an organic cafe.

Kong, the restaurant where Carrie meets Aleksandr Petrovsky’s ex-wife and gets an insight into what he is really like is still there although we didn’t go inside.

There is no better people to explore a city like Paris with than your girlfriends and that is what Carrie is missing in Paris.  This hits home for her when she spies four girls having lunch in l’Avenue.

The last time we see Carrie and Aleksandr happy is when they are strolling through place du dauphine after Carrie has bumped into her French fan base.

When Aleksandr feels nervous about the opening of his light exhibition, Carrie ditches her dinner with her fans to attend the museum with him.

Carrie goes to Paris with a new man for a new life but returns with an ‘old’ man to her old life which is quite ironic but of course gave many fans the ending they craved of Carrie and Big finally getting it together for good.  We see Carrie hear the long awaiting declaration from Big on pont des arts “Carrie you’re the one”.

So that was my Sex and the City tour of Paris but of course we did plenty of the sights too.  We stayed in Montmartre which is one of my favourite parts of Paris.  Known as the art district, it has a somewhat more relaxed atmosphere than other areas of Paris.  The main square (place du tertre) has a carnival atmosphere with artists painting and sketching and selling their work.

Overlooking the main square, on the highest point of the city, is the beautiful white stone basilica of Sacre-Coeur.  This gives visitors a great view over the whole of Paris.  The building is awe-inspiring whether seen by night or day.  If the steps up are too much of a challenge, there is a small funicular that takes you to the top for a small fee.  The inside is just as beautiful with its stunning painted ceilings and carvings.

Having done the cultural bit, the shops in this area are well worth exploring, particularly the macaron stores.  A quirky find is the shop Belle du Jour which specialises in traditional, vintage perfume bottles.

On a couple of evenings we enjoyed dinner at L’ete en Pente Douce where delicious food can be enjoyed on the pavement terrace soaking up the Montmartre ambiance.  On the walk back to the hotel, we were tempted into a small creperie for a sweet treat on more than one occasion!

On one of the days while there, the rain became torrential and so we opted to duck out of the showers in some of the wonderful shops along the Champs-Elysees.  We walked the full length of the street to where it meets the Arc de Triomphe.  My friend had a fantastic make-over by the Urban Decay stand in Sephora and we queued for macarons in Laduree.  Laduree is a beautiful and regal store where you can eat in or simply buy some of the luxury sweet treats which the brand has been making since 1862.

I had never seen the famous painting, the Mona Lisa and so we paid to go in Louvre museum simply to see it.  The Louvre is the most visited art museum in the world and the glass pyramid in the main courtyard of the museum is a work of art in itself.  The Mona Lisa however was somewhat of a disappointment.  It is much much smaller than one imagines and you have to fight your way through throngs of people in order to get a look at it behind glass.

On this day I wore a checked pleat mini skirt from Oasis with a Boohoo slogan t-shirt and a long grey cardigan from Oasis.  I finished the outfit with my red patent bow pumps which I bought in Milan.

my outfit

No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower.  We visited at night when it is spectacularly lit and went right to the top, which while blustery and cold was worth it for the views and the champagne at the champagne bar.  When we came down, I indulged the child in me and had a ride on the traditional Victorian carousel.  It was a magical evening.

Our final day came round all too soon and we decided to begin with a boat trip along the Seine.  On this day I wore a Breton t-shirt dress from New Look, clinched in at the waist with a red belt, also from New Look which nicely tied in the red mac from Marks and Spencer.  We visited Notre Dame with its impressive stained glass windows and finished up with lunch at a cafe on the left bank which is linked to the Shakespeare and Company book store.  The book store sells English language books and is part shop and part library.  Many writers write here amongst the books, in exchange for helping in the shop.  It really is an Aladdin’s cave and a bohemian heaven, somewhere I would love to sit and write myself.  It totally inspired me and I’d love to come back.

Paris should be on every fashionistas bucket list and is a perfect break for friends or couples.  I will certainly be returning to one of the greatest fashion capitals of the world.  As Honore de Balzac, a French novelist and playwright said “Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant”.

 

 

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!

A Transient Period

So 12th Jan arrived and passed and the diet had yet to begin with biscuits, nuts and chocolates still hanging around from Christmas. Even now come March, my willpower is currently at an all-time low; in the words of Homer Simpson ‘oooh doughnuts!’ Stepping on to the scales, I nearly gave myself a coronary. I’m not going to share how much I was but suffice to say, it’s the heaviest I have ever been and losing a stone would only really be scratching at the surface!

Most women will tell you that January sparks the need for a diet and I overheard plenty of conversations about it on the train home from work. There is a tendency to look for a quick fix celebrity diet and I have become victim to this before with the 5:2 diet. This year’s fads appear to include the Paleo diet – where the only foods consumed are those that are believed to have been available to the caveman in the prehistoric era and the Vegan before 6 diet which is what its name suggests. We all would love to find that magic bullet but the reality is losing weight is hard and if you want to keep it off, it’s going to mean a lifestyle change – a diet is forever. All whilst we continue to stuff our faces with fatty, sugary foods and sit on our backsides – we are snookered! (Talking of Snooker, the things you do for love. I sat through over 8 hours of live snooker with my husband at The Masters, held at Alexandra Palace which I treated him to for Christmas).

I guess if I want to get bikini body ready by my holiday in May and then maintain it, I’m going to have to start swapping the chocolate for fruit, the alcohol for water and upping my exercise routine. Now with exercise the key is to find something that you enjoy and for me that is walking. I should have extra motivation to do it, as my husband and I need to get in training for the 26.2 mile Moon Walk in May to raise money for breast cancer research.   Time seems to constantly be an issue but of course that is just a lame excuse really. I feel even guiltier when I log on to Facebook and see my sister in law’s latest plotted walk. Hopefully raising money will push me into it, so if your new year’s resolution was to think of others then here is your opportunity to fulfil that – follow the link to our fundraising page.

https://moonwalklondon2015.everydayhero.com/uk/paper-chase

I feel the start of the year has conspired against my efforts to adopt healthy eating (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!) as I have been fortunate enough to have a busy social life involving food and alcohol (the dreaded empty calories).

For my sister-in-law’s birthday, we visited Eight in Rainham. This is a lovely boutique restaurant which can accommodate less than 25 diners on the ground floor but does also have an upstairs which is used on special ocassions or can be hired out. There is black sparkly wallpaper adorning one wall, a deep pink wall with a mirror shaped as a number eight and beautiful chandeliers cascade soft lighting over the tables. The food is delicious and I couldn’t resist the camembert wedges to start and pan fried salmon for main. The puddings are a bit of a let-down so I guess it marginally helps the diet.

http://www.eightrestaurant.net/

My friend organised a cheese and wine evening round at hers and whilst enjoying the fine wine and range of cheeses, we amused ourselves with poker. I feel so grown up now we all have mortgages and opt for nights in rather than big nights out! I felt like dressing up a little for this so wore my red full midi tulle skirt purchased in the Asos sale with a black polo neck top from Oasis and some red suede heels I purchased in New Look. I accessorized with a long pearl necklace and clipped a red flower from Glitz4you, onto them.

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I then got invited to dinner at another friends to see her new home she has just purchased which is a stunning Victorian semi in Tunbridge Wells. For that I wore a denim dress from New Look which was quite Alexa Chung in style with my black suede Kookai Boots and Swarovski crystal tights. Denim is very fashionable again this season with it even being appropriate to exhibit the long standing fashion no no of double denim. Alexa Chung has designed a capsule collection this year with sophisticated denim brand, AG Jeans and the famous Levi 501’s have also had a bit of a makeover, making them more fitted than previous designs.

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Valentine’s Day came round – our first as a married couple. Now going out on the day is notoriously a let-down with restaurants cramming you in and ripping you off with a ‘special’ menu. We opted for something completely different this year and went for afternoon tea at our local garden centre, Dobbies. It was very civilised and great value at only £15 with a glass of Prosecco each.

valentines afternoon

I’m finding it hard to believe that we are already nearing the end of March and this is my first blog of the year, hence it is somewhat longer than usual – time is flying by.

March 25th saw Sarah Jessica Parker turn 50 – so by way of celebration for my fashion icon, I give you my top 10 favourite outfits she wore as Carrie in Sex and the City, along with the one Sarah Jessica Parker wore to London Premier of Sex and the City 2 where I got to meet her. Carrie taught us to be confident in our fashion choices so that you can pull off anything – the candy girl outfit and pyjama/fur coat combo, illustrate this perfectly.

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Carrie jury service

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candy stripper

flower dress

newsprint dress

pyjAMAS

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magazine clutch

At Sex and the City 2 premier in Leicester Square

At Sex and the City 2 premier in Leicester Square

One Friday night in March, I went for a friends belated birthday drinks in Camden at a bar called Fifty Five. For this I opted to wear my new jeans – in the cut of the season – flared; a nod to the 70’s fashion. I teamed it with a grey boxy t-shirt and butterfly snood all from New Look, completing the look, drawing on the purple in the snood, with some purple suede wedges that a bought a few seasons back in the Oasis sale. The one rule to remember with flares is to wear wedges, platforms or block heels as stilettos just don’t compliment them. The more observant amongst you will also notice I chose one of my 70’s vintage magazine clutches (mentioned in my previous blog and seen in one of my favourite Carrie outfit pictures) to really set off the vintage look.

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Last weekend a friend and I travelled to Ladbroke Grove/Notting Hill area for a long overdue girly catch up. For this outing I chose to wear my denim A- line mini skirt (another 70’s inspired look) with my pussy bow blouse with birds on and Ugg Boots as I knew we would be walking around a lot so opted for comfort for a change! My bag was my fast becoming favourite, magazine clutch again.  My friend kindly loaned me her Prada sunglasses which I fell in love with and now have to have a pair! I have been meaning to visit this area of London for a while, immortalised in the Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts romantic comedy of the same name. It was largely run down until the 1980s but has now become quite a fashionable and affluent area with its beautiful coloured Victorian town houses and terraces. Portobello Road is what the area is best known for, which once housed the author George Orwell and is now home to the famous Portobello Road Market. It is filled with antique, shabby chic and vintage style shops, albeit with some well-known chain stores now interwoven. We spent a good while browsing and immersing ourselves in the bohemian atmosphere; as my friend commented very like Camden without the smell of weed! We then enjoyed afternoon tea at the Biscuiteers Boutique on Kensington Park Road. This beautiful shop sells iced biscuits for every occasion and also has an icing café where you can test out your own skills. The tea was beautiful; including an array of London themed iced biscuits and was a real bargain at £24 each which included two glasses of Prosecco.

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The shop is stunningly decorated with what I would describe as blue willow wallpaper and a wall of vintage mirrors which gives a fantastic effect and is a stylish idea I might well steal for decorating any future house; which brings me nicely on to my exciting news of the month.

We finally took the plunge and put our house on the market and amazingly it sold in a matter of days to the first and only person that viewed it. This brings with it mixed emotions for me. After nearly four years of living there, it has become my home as much as my husband’s even though he purchased it long before we met. I love the history of it – it is a Victorian terrace built in 1897 and I really like all we have done to it; especially the reinstalling of a Victorian tiled fireplace in the dining room which was a great find on EBay, The North African inspired décor in the dining room, our Greek inspired patio, our sunny bathroom, our purple boudoir and my wonderful wardrobe.

The thought of a new house to decorate however is very exciting and now we have had our offer accepted on a lovely 1930’s semi, I am far more enthusiastic about the move in general. Suddenly bathrooms and wallpaper are becoming as appealing to window shop for as shoes – well almost! One thing is for sure I finally feel content to remain living in Rainham, especially now it has become somewhat of destination vintage; with a new café called Nutmeg which is very Cath Kidston inspired and does a beautiful cream tea as well as a shop called The Vintage Dove which sells various shabby chic gifts and runs craft classes upstairs.  I am hoping to try their class in Autentico Beginners Furniture Painting as I am planning to upcycle the pine table and chairs given to us by my husband’s parents.

the vintage dove

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I wanted to end with an array of pictures of what was a much loved first home. Fingers crossed sale goes through and we don’t have to start the search again as it is extremely stressful. Until next time ….

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bedroom

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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.

large cocktail

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!

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’.

Viva Forever

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).

baby shoes

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 ……………………………

When you realise that you are all grown up

A few weeks ago I attended the wedding of one of my very close friends.  It was held at St Benedict’s Ealing Abbey which was a fantastic choice of venue; very grand which made it feel like a royal wedding.  My partner and I were unfortunately late due to appalling traffic and it was most embarrassing as people turned around when we entered the church and I tried to tiptoe to a seat as quietly as possible in my gold stilettos; not an easy task I assure you!

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The service was lovely and the bride looked stunning in her white, one shoulder, fish tail dress with jewel encrusted bust and floor length veil.  The tradition of Western brides wearing white was popularised when Queen Victoria wore a white dress in 1840.  During the middle ages when weddings were less about love and more a union of two families, brides wore rich colours, the latest styles and often prized materials such as fur in order that they may display their wealth to the other family.  Poorer brides would wear their Sunday best.

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The bridesmaids wore cream and gold Coast dresses with red satin shoes.  I wore a red dress I ordered online from a site called Persun who customised it to my size.  I accessorised with a toucan clutch from River Island.

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Following pictures on the steps of the abbey, we then travelled to the Richmond Gate Hotel.  A drinks reception met us with something I hadn’t tried before – cranberry with champagne and very nice it was too.  The sun was shining for a change so we could relax in the hotel garden and have some informal photos.  Now already my feet were hurting but luckily my best friend was better prepared than I was and lent me some flip flops so I could rest my feet on and off!

The tables were beautifully decorated with flowers and diamonds – after all diamonds are a girl’s best friend.  Each table also had a box of London quiz questions which I thought was a rather innovative idea.  The favours were boxes shaped like roses with chocolates inside for the girls and a Mario shaped box filled with jelly beans for the boys.  Wedding favours were originally called bonbonnieres and began in Europe where the rich gave them as a sign of their wealth.  The boxes would have been made of gold or porcelain or precious stones and it would contain sugar as this was a rare commodity then.  As sugar became more plentiful, this evolved into almonds and then sugared almonds in the thirteenth century.  The common favour for weddings became 5 white sugared almonds in some pretty coloured netting or a box.  The 5 almonds were to signify fertility, longevity, wealth, health and happiness.  The contrast of a sweet coating and a bitter almond symbolises the bitter sweetness of marriage.  Nowadays many different things are given as favours to show the bride and grooms appreciation and as a souvenir of the day.

 

The wedding breakfast was delicious with smoked salmon to start, chicken for main and a lemon torte for afters.  The best mans speech was great fun as he devised a game of bingo where he held up pictures of the groom growing up and you ticked off the ones you had.  The cake was then cut and the couple had their first dance.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the formal part of the day over, the party got started with a mixture of Irish music and popular beats.  It was a wonderful day of catching up with friends and partying into the night.  My partner and I stayed over at the hotel as it would have been a long journey back and I certainly made paying for breakfast worthwhile, filling up on cocoa pops (I know I should have outgrown them by now, lol), a full English and cinnamon whirl!

Over the last few years I have seen many of my friends get married, buy houses and become parents and I guess as we head at lightning speed to the end of our twenties this is no great surprise.  As I sat down to the wedding breakfast I suddenly felt quite behind everyone, with our table consisting of one couple with a three week old son, one couple recently married in July (see previous blog ‘Cultural Celebrations’) and the other couple who married some years ago and have a gorgeous 8 month old little girl.  Despite the joy of the day and the happiness I felt for the wonderful couple; a little sadness also washed over me – was I being left behind my peers?  A quick Google found many attempts at lists of things to do before you hit 30 (the so called bucket lists) and there was a comedy drama made in 2005 entitled ‘Things to do before you’re 30’.  There are also lists of things to give up by 30 such as not using night buses, not getting tattoos or piercing etc and of course Margaret Thatcher famously said if you are on a bus over 30, you have failed.   The lists vary wildly, however there are some common themes.  Most lists have learning to drive which I can tick off as I eventually passed my test on A Level results day after 5 previous failed attempts – proof perseverance pays off!  There are also things such as moving out of home, getting a proper job and falling in love, all of which I can tick.  I once did a vision/mood board; an idea from the cult book of a few years back ‘The Secret’ and it is interesting to look at what I have achieved off there.  I did indeed start dancing lessons and I live in a Victorian terrace just like I pictured.  Sadly I never did make it to become an air hostess although I did get offered the job as one – I just decided I couldn’t survive on the wages.  Here I have put together my own list of things I still want to do before I hit 30, some big and some small and now I have 10 months to tick off as many as possible.

  1. Get married – this one is now highly unlikely to happen before my milestone birthday but hopefully I might get engaged before it
  2. Bought a high end designer pair of shoes – the closest I have come is LK Bennett at the moment but I am saving hard for a pair on Manolo Blahnik’s
  3. See India – hopefully going in April, fingers crossed
  4. Do basic motorcycle training and get a Vespa/Lambretta – unlikely I feel but hey at least I have the VW Beetle I always wanted and as my Dad once said, I’m a danger on 4 wheels, what would I be like on 2?
  5. Learn to knit – knitting is once again cool with clubs all over the country
  6. Have some horse riding lessons again
  7. Do the Breast Cancer Moonwalk
  8. Finally start that diet
  9. Possibly still fancy butterfly tattoo on my hip but I am a big scaredy cat – once got all the way to the shop and backed out!

Anyway to end on I wish the lovely couple every happiness for the future and thank them for being such great friends.  I also want to congratulate my other friend on attending the wedding and looking fantastic, only 3 weeks after having given birth.

Finally I want to share my latest purchase in keeping with the bird print trend of the summer as I’m not quite ready to let go of those warm days yet.  I will team this with my black skinny jeans and some black flats.

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 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.

butterfly dress

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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