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Practically perfect in every way

The release of Mary Poppins Returns, a sequel to the original sixties made film, coincided with shops releasing some fabulous merchandise.  A new generation has been introduced to the magical nanny and Disney has shown it can move with the times.  A little less magical than the original, the film is still escapism at its best.

Given my love for afternoon teas, I couldn’t resist a visit to The Shard who are offering a Mary Poppins themed afternoon tea.  My husband was reluctantly going to accompany me, until he broke his toe, so Mum kindly stepped in and my husband treated me to a Mary Poppins Pandora charm as an apology; so all’s well that ends well!

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I wanted to wear something that had an air of sophistication and a nod to a previous era, words which could also describe the film.  I decided a boucle jacket would fit the bill perfectly and saw a gorgeous one from Sister Jane but, unfortunately they are a sizest company and don’t go up to fat bloater size – so that was out!  Luckily I found just the one in Marks and Spencer.  I paired this with skinny jeans from Oasis and a plain white t-shirt.  I accessorised with red Sarah Jessica Parker heels, a red ‘Mulberry’ clutch and a geometric silver necklace from V&A museum.  The real piece, that set off the outfit, was a handmade large oval brooch depicting Mary Poppins’ tape measure and the slogan ‘practically perfect in every way.’  I purchased this online at Etsy, from a store called Shrinking Violet Jewellery, which I highly recommend.  The product was excellently made and delivery was fast.

 

After clearing security, the lift took us up 32 floors to the restaurant area of The Shard and we made our way to Aqua Shard – the restaurant offering the tea.  The corridors along the way have some wonderful illustrations depicting the map and sights of London.  As we were early we had a drink in the bar and took in some of the stunning views across London.  I noticed that some of the tables for tea had a window view and hoped we would get one, but was doubtful.  However I was pleasantly surprised when we were ushered over to one.

 

Many people would probably think the cost for this tea (almost £75 including tip) was over the top, even by London standards, but the theme was done fantastically and we couldn’t have asked for a better view or a more pleasant afternoon.  Goodness knows what it feels like to go up as high as the viewing platform as even on this floor, I was looking down on the roof of my old office and the trains looked like toys!

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A mirror was handed to us that had the menu printed on it and all the crockery on the table was Mary Poppins illustrated.  Our glass of champagne (which was so smooth, you could tell it was a luxury one) was delivered to us and we had the choice of adding a flavour to it, which were in medicine like bottles on the table.

 

The tea stand itself was even themed with Mary Poppins umbrella on the top and her boots as the feet.  A tray of sandwiches was brought over while the stand was full of delicious sweet treats, including one that resembled Mary Poppins hat and a very novel tin containing a syrup desert.

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At this point, I was concerned that the key component of an afternoon tea was missing – the scones.  I need not have worried though as a rather handsome waiter arrived at our table and pulled a paper bag with them in, from a Mary Poppins carpet bag.  It was the icing on the cake.

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To finish off the fabulous tea, the final course was candy floss!  Talk about take you back to childhood!

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After all that we were both stuffed and had spent a wonderful afternoon having mother/daughter time and catching up.  By the time we left, darkness had enveloped the sights of London and we could observe all the pretty lights.

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If you wanted to take some of the magic home with you, there was an opportunity to purchase a Mary Poppins book and themed tea leaves on your way out.

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I highly recommend this tea for all Mary Poppins fans.  Escape reality for a few hours and be spoilt in a beautiful restaurant with an even more beautiful view – practically perfect in every way!

VIP for the day

One of the A-list events in the calendar for me now is Stylist Live.  It is an annual three day event that brings to life everything sassy, affluent female commuters, in London and other major UK cities love about the free, weekly magazine – Stylist.

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Stylist being distributed at Southwark tube station

On my way to Olympia for the event in November, I was admiring a ladies skirt on the tube and then realised I might look a bit odd starring at her so struck up a conversation.  Turns out she was off to Stylist Live too and the fabulous skirt she was wearing had been designed and made by her.  Check out more of her great designs by following her on Instagram @luxefromclare

I always like to make an effort for these sort of events to at least try and look like a stylish, sophisticated woman so I wore black leggings from Oasis with a Kookai blouse and New Look biker jacket, paired with my suede stilettos with tassels on from New Look and Oasis cross-body bag.

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This year my best fashionista friend and I opted for the VIP tickets and I am so glad we did.  While last year was good, this year was on another level.

On arrival we were filtered into a special queue and within the VIP lounge, there was plenty of space to relax and a separate cloakroom from the other ticket holders which saved the long queue at the end of the day.  Your ticket included a free go on the vending machine of dreams which despatched a pack of Candy Kittens gourmet sweets and if you were lucky some great prizes ranging from Warehouse vouchers to a holiday.

Included in the VIP ticket are unlimited snacks, lunch and soft drinks.  We had the macaroni cheese which was to die for and a Bol salad so we felt a bit more healthy!  A glass of prosecco and a gin are extra freebies alongside the complimentary Gordons premium pink gin all ticket holders receive, and most importantly a we received a goody bag worth £150.

The goody bag more than paid for the VIP entrance cost and included some full size products as well as a number of sample sizes.  My favourites include a travel tangle Teezer, NARS lipstick, Jack Wills socks and some clear telephone cord hairbands.

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As if all of this wasn’t enough, a treatment in the beauty rooms was also included with our ticket.  There was a choice with a choice of either Shiseido, bareMinerals, NARS, Laura Mercier or Buxom.  My friend chose the Shiseido which was a cleanse and moisturise session that she enjoyed and I treated myself to a NARS Fashion Week Supermodel Eye.  I have to say, it was quite a transformation but despite them writing down all the products they used and where to put them, I doubt I would be able to flawlessly recreate it.  Afterwards you had access to a dressing up box and a short catwalk so they could create a GIF and email it to you.

More than 250 boutique pop-ups were at the event, providing a range of free beauty treatments, hair styling and shopping opportunities.  I was a little disappointed at the length of the queues for some of the hair styling but the range goods for sale was fantastic, encompassing well known brands such as Spectrum, BaByliss, Fresh and Pixi with emerging newer brands such as Yull shoes and Mean Mail.  My favourite pop-up was Kikki K, the Swedish design stationery brand which a friend at work got me into a few years back.  Its founder, Kristina Karlsson was at Stylist, signing copies of her new book, ‘Your Dream Life Starts Here’.  I was star struck getting to meet her and I hope by reading her book, I am inspired to get on the road to living my dream life.

Talking of inspiration, there were plenty of inspirational talks throughout the weekend and one I found particularly useful was from the Physiologist DR Nerina Ramlakhan who gave practical advice on how we can all get a better nights sleep.

The catwalk show is always one of the best parts of the day for me and being VIPs, we got reserved front row seating to watch the best of the autumn/winter 2018 trends.  Leopard print has made a big come back along with trends of bold, earth tones and cowgirl.  I particularly like the fact that all the clothes are high street and you are given a sheet detailing each look, so it is easier to go and shop for the looks you like the best.

By the end of the day, my friend and I were both shattered but it had been such an enjoyable day.  We will definitely be returning next year and I urge all you fashionistas to read Stylist magazine and look out for tickets going on sale for 2019 Stylist Live event.  To watch a short highlights video of this year’s event (very excited as it’s the first video I have made and edited) check out my Instagram @blahnikgirl

Tale as old as time…

How many times have you looked in the mirror and thought, if only I were slimmer, younger, prettier?  We all do it, more so as we are living in a society where the likes of Instagram have made everything about appearance, not to mention the fact that cosmetic manufacturers, diet guru’s and cosmetic surgeons make a living off the back of our insecurities.  It is not until you get into your thirties though, that you begin to accept yourself and realise “Beauty is found within.”  This may sound strange coming from someone who adores clothes, shoes and make up but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you dress someone up, their character and heart is what makes them beautiful, or not, as the case may be.  Disney has encapsulated this thinking in Beauty and the Beast, whether you are talking of the 1991 Disney animation or the 2017 live action picture, staring Emma Watson with a fabulous enhanced soundtrack.

I always love a good Disney movie and the recent remakes have made me nostalgic for those times when I believed fairy tales came true.  I therefore couldn’t contain my excitement when I heard that The Kensington Hotel was hosting a Beauty and the Beast themed afternoon tea.  My excitement was short-lived however when I discovered that every date had been fully booked.  Luckily for me though, they released further dates due to the popularity, so after almost a year’s wait, I finally got to go.

Upon arrival, we were ushered to our table, past a rose in the bell jar and each table had been dressed with a red rose and biscuits decorated with marzipan to look like Belle’s dress.  Champagne was brought to us, along with tea and coffee.

The amount and variety of food at this tea was fantastic and they had gone to great lengths to theme as much of it as possible.  The tea began with warm savouries which included bite size venison pie, beef ragu and saffron arancini and cheese souffle, served on a plate garnished with rose petals.  We then moved onto sandwiches, which the staff were happy to replenish.  Instead of scones, there were sweet brioche baguettes to fit in with the scene in the movie, where Belle goes to purchase baguettes from Marie.

The sweet tier of the cake stand, always my favourite, was where the theme really came to life and included, white chocolate mousse served in chip, vanilla and gold jelly complete with rose petal, and cream to garnish it, served in Mrs Potts, a snowball macaron and a chocolate clock tart.

What made the whole tea all the more Instagram worthy were the Cogsworth and Lumiere props they brought to the table.  The only thing that let them down here was the fact that they didn’t have enough of the props to go round and therefore they took them to use for another table before the end of the tea.

I chose my outfit for the day to fit in with the enchanted rose element of the movie and wore a black midi dress with rose print from Miss Selfridge and completed the outfit with pink suede shoes from Oasis and a pink cross body bag.  I accessorised with a beauty and the beast necklace from the Disney Store by Danielle Nicole.  My hair was loosely based on a Belle hairstyle, that I found instructions for on YouTube.  My perfume was a Beauty and the Beast one from Marks and Spencer.

Beauty boxes and subscriptions to them are currently very popular with Glossybox and Birchbox being two of the most famous.  While I love the idea of getting a box full of beauty surprises each month, I am not keen on being tied into a subscription and also there will inevitably be products you don’t use.  However last year when the new film was released, I couldn’t resist this one off, subscription free, Beauty and the Beast themed box from Latest in Beauty.  The box included Burt’s Bees lipstick, Caudalie moisturising sorbet, a gold compact mirror, Gold Lust dry Shampoo, Soigne nail polish, Gatineau exfoliator and L’Occitane rose hand and nail cream.

There is nothing wrong with making an effort with your appearance and enjoying beauty products but always keep in mind that true beauty lies within.  In a world where celebrities are idolised and body image is always a hotly debated topic, shouldn’t every young girl be reminded that beauty isn’t only skin deep?  Let’s hope we all realise that and appreciate what we have ‘before the last petal falls’.

 

 

 

A vintage hen

Rummaging through the vintage chest of drawers, admiring the range of pearls, brooches and head-dress, I felt like a little girl in her dressing up box.  In fact we were transforming ourselves into 1920’s ladies for a themed afternoon tea at Betty Blythe in Brook Green, a short work from Hammersmith tube.

Betty Blythe tea room was the brainchild of Lulu Gwynne.  The name was derived in part from the fact it is situated on Blythe Road and partly an accolade to the twenties silent movie star of the same name.  The venue welcomes walk ins for tea during the week but weekends are strictly bookings only, making it a great unique and private venue for any occasion.

We chose it to celebrate one of my best friend’s hen do, as she is a huge lover of anything vintage.  Once we had transformed ourselves into flappers and the like in the downstairs boudoir, we headed upstairs to be seated for tea.

The waitresses that tended to our every need were also dressed in old-fashioned waitress uniforms and the food was served on a beautiful range of art deco inspired china, with Prosecco we had brought with us, served in traditional champagne flutes.

The food was delicious with classic offerings such a crudities, bread sticks and Waldorf salad as well as the customary sandwiches, finished off with a red velvet cake.

We got everyone to fill in advice cards for the bride to be and as she left the venue, we showered her in confetti.

The venue is stunning, a proper vintage tea room in the middle of modern-day London and a must for any fans of the roaring twenties.  They have been fortunate enough to welcome the likes of Mary Berry through their doors who loved their cakes!  Lulu, the owner has a genuine passion for all things vintage and this shines through in the Great Gatsby inspired venue she has created.  If you leave wanting more, Lulu has also published a book ‘Style me Vintage: Tea Parties’ which gives you the low down on throwing your very own vintage soiree.  As the great Coco Chanel said: “a girl should be two things: classy and fabulous” and you can’t fail to be both after a visit to Betty Blythe’s.

Sailing in luxury

My fast becoming favourite museum, the V&A, is currently running an exhibition entitled Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, until 17 June 2018.

The main draw for me to visit this exhibition was the fact that a piece of the Titanic was included, which has not been seen in Europe since the ship was built. I must confess to having somewhat of an obsession with the fated Titanic’s maiden voyage – not least because of the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio which was released in 1998. As an impressionable, young 14-year-old – I idolised Leonardo and wanted to be as elegant as Kate Winslet. I cried bucket loads when I saw the film at the cinema. Anyone who has seen the film, cannot forget the moment that Rose, laying on a part of the ship and floating in the atlantic, has to let go of Jack. This is what sprung to mind when I saw the wooden panel fragment from the first class lounge of Titanic, the largest remaining fragment from the ship, which was found floating in the Atlantic and is on loan from a museum in Nova Scotia, Canada.  It is in fact what the film’s set designers modelled the floating refuge on.

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I was pleasantly surprised that the rest of the exhibition enthralled me just as much.  The exhibition is very much a show of the luxury that could be found on these ships all those years ago.  People were supposed to forget they were even at sea, as the great ships aimed to replicate first class hotels.

With the introduction of passenger flights in the 1960’s, Ocean liner trade declined significantly until it ceased in 1986 except for transatlantic crossings by the Cunard line shipping company. The cruise trade has boomed however.

The lines are blurred between descriptions of cruise ships and liners, and often the terms are used interchangeably. Liners had higher fuel consumption and fewer windows as their use was to transfer passengers from one point to another whereas cruise ships follow circular routes, sometimes with no stops.

Cruises nowadays are of course more of a relaxed affair – no longer are you expected to dress for dinner every night for example.  While this is good as it opens up the demographic, I can’t help but mourn an era where luxury ruled supreme; especially given that I have always had champagne taste and beer money!

The first room of the exhibition concentrates mainly on poster advertising for the liners.  You then move into a room where various interiors from different ships are mocked up – giving you a feel of the attention to detail, when they were designed with elaborate wooden carvings.  The next room was my favourite as it was very much focused on the fashion and the glamour.

Having enjoyed the exhibition, my Mum and I decided to sample a piece of the luxury, offered by London today.  We went for afternoon tea at Number Sixteen – a high-end hotel in South Kensington.  We enjoyed prosecco, sandwiches, scones and some delightful cakes in the orangery of the mid-Victorian white terrace, looking out on the beautiful private garden.

No girls day out would be complete without a visit to the shops, so we hopped onto the tube to Knightsbridge and visited the home of luxury, Harrods and browsed all the many delights I would love to be able to afford.

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Beauty and the bubbles

Early March means only one thing – time for the annual Glamour Beauty Festival, held at Saatchi Gallery, London!  What could be better than spending the day with a girlfriend, getting pampered and drinking fizz?!

 

I like to get glammed up for the festival and the day prior, I had eyelash extensions applied for the first time.  I was really pleased with the result but sadly they didn’t last long.  I did my hair in a sixties style pony tail with the help of an accessory bought from Pretty Kitty Fashion.  I wore a Biba sweatshirt with a black mini skirt from H&M and a red trench coat from M&S.  The classic trench is seeing a revival this season, freshened up with pops of colour and statement details.  I accessorised with a black cross body bag from Oasis and black patent shoes from Faith at Debenhams.  Those of you who are around my age will remember Faith stores, everyone had their shoes from there at one stage and the obligatory orange drawstring carrier bag with Rin,Tin,Tin on it.  I always had heels that were more than twice that permitted by the school rules!

 

This year’s festival was sponsored by Philips.  Unfortunately I felt it wasn’t quite as good as last year due to the amount of people it now attracts.  Most queues for treatments were quite lengthy which meant that with a morning only ticket, what you could do was limited.  I might have to consider an all day ticket next year.

We started with hair.  My friend queued up at the OGX braid bar but was less than impressed with the finished halo or crown braid which she thought made her resemble Friar Tuck!  I enjoyed watching how to do a dutch braid while I waited, which is when it looks as though the plait sits on the top and is achieved by doing a similar method to the french plait, except that when you take a piece of hair you add it under, rather than over.  Other treatments included having your hair straightened with GHDs as straight hair is back in this season or having a temporary colour put in with Schwarzkopf Live colour spray.

Next we moved on to the nail zone where we enjoyed a manicure with Orly.  This is not a brand I had previously heard of but one I now highly recommend.  Nail varnish rarely lasts five minutes on me before it chips but this lasted almost a week!  There are 36 shades to choose from and I went with rose gold.

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Also on this level there was an option to have a collagen density test.  While this appealed, the queue was too long and I realised I might not get the answer I wanted.  Who wants to know that their skin is ageing faster than they should be?  That was bound to be the result, given they were demonstrating Pure Gold Collagen, a 30 day programme of drinks to plump your skin and improve hydration.  I didn’t fancy a taster of the drink but my friend’s face when she tried it said it all!

All that queuing had caused us to work up a thirst, so we headed to the champagne bar.  This was surprisingly reasonably priced and they would hold on to the bottle to save you carrying it and you could just go back for top ups.

Something a bit different this year was an Alcatel instagram zone where you could perfect your instagram photography skills with various products and props.

I was desperate to have my eyeliner done by Kat von D; either graphic liner or a feline flick but having queued for an hour and being about five from the from the front, I had to abandon it as it was time for our booked talk in the Glamour theatre with Wendy Rowe.  Other more well known speakers were Katie Piper, Trinny Woodall and Pixie Lott, however they were either in the afternoon session or fully booked.

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Wendy Rowe is a renowned make up artist who has worked with the likes of Cara Delevigne.  She has worked with Burberry on their runway shows for over 15 years and is artistic consultant for their cosmetic range.

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The best part of the day in my opinion and what makes the tickets great value for money is the goodie bag, containing products worth over £180.  This year’s bag was a trendy rose gold and some of the best freebies inside included a Fresh rose face mask, Kat von D tattoo liner and of course the Glamour Beauty Book SS18!  Since Glamour went online only this year, twice a year a beauty book is released in print to coincide with the two fashion seasons.  I keep being told in my professional life that digital is the future but I take issue with this.  I still don’t think you can beat the joy of leafing through a glossy mag, particularly when you might not have internet access, on a plane for example.

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The festival is a fantastic way of trialling new products as well as a fab girls day out – I highly recommend it.  See you next year!

The romance of film noir

Looking for a night out with a twist?  Look no further than the Evans & Peel detective agency in Earls Court, London.

My friend, who has fabulous vintage style and can always be relied upon for a good night out, announced that the theme of her birthday celebrations this year would be film noir. Apart from the obvious translation to ‘a black film’, I’m ashamed to say that I knew little else about this, but Google is always on hand to help.

Film noir is a genre, retrospectively assigned by film critics, to Hollywood crime dramas from the early 1940s to the late 1950s.  The Big Sleep, This Gun for Hire, The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity are a few of examples of classic film noir.  The films tended to be quite pessimistic as was the general mood in post war America.  They are usually saturated with cynicism as well as using stark light/dark contrasts and dramatic shadowing, as a visual style.

 

For the occasion, I wore a black pencil dress from Pretty Kitty Fashion with wartime seamed tights and a cream faux fur jacket from New Look.  I set the outfit off with red Sarah Jessica Parker shoes in a classic t-bar style and a black vintage frame, clip top bag which incidentally, was bought for me years back by the birthday girl.  I styled my hair using a Heidi roll tool also from Pretty Kitty Fashion and topped it off with a burgundy pill box hat from Kiss Kiss Heart.

 

On arrival at the venue, you would never guess in a million years that it was a bar.  You are greeted by a simple door with Evans and Peel detective agency written on it and a buzzer.  After pressing said buzzer, you follow the stairs down to a dark office, where you are asked to state your case.  One of our group stated that their wedding ring had been stolen and they believed the culprit to be someone in our group.  The agency agreed to take the case on, at which point, a bookcase opens to reveal the bar.  Menus in brown case file envelopes are given out which list aptly named prohibition radiator moonshine beer amongst a selection of cocktails and it’s there I’m afraid, that the theme sadly ends.

 

Not for us however, as our case had been thought up, based on prior knowledge of the evening’s events that were still to come.  Suddenly a member of our group pointed at my friend’s boyfriend and said “it was you who stole the ring!”  To this, the smartly dressed ‘doctor’ dropped to one knee and proposed to my friend who was dressed as the classic Coco Chanel.  Her expression was priceless, she was completely shocked and clearly not expecting it, but very quickly that turned to pure joy as she accepted.

 

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It was a beautiful moment between them that I feel very privileged to have been a part of.  I am so happy for my friend as she so deserves the happiness she has clearly now found.  I await their wedding in June with anticipation – I know it will be another beautifully styled vintage event.

Congratulations guys – who says film noir is dark and pessimistic – it certainly brought you guys great joy and happiness.

 

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