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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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Love is Louboutin

May was our third wedding anniversary and to celebrate we decided to go away for a week. Having spent the last few years visiting various far flung places, we thought it was time we explored the treasures the UK has to offer and as such headed to Scotland.

We could have driven or flown but we opted to travel by the Caledonian Sleeper train, which booked in advance was very reasonably priced and hired a car once there. Now the sleeper train is not luxury but an experience none the less and it certainly is nice to fall asleep in London and wake up in the Scottish Highlands.

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We were greeted at Fort William by horrendous rain – the main problem with staying in the UK. As we were unable to book into our accommodation before 4pm, we sought refuge at the Inverlochy Castle hotel and indulged in afternoon tea.

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Highland scenery is stunning and by our bed and breakfast there was a beautiful wide expanse of lake which was ironic given that they ran out of water by the Thursday!

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A walk through Nevis Gorge to Steel Falls is well worth it, if not for the faint hearted – it’s a four and a half mile round trip. The ground is rocky and rough with sheer drops but you are rewarded with a beautiful photo opportunity. Just make sure you wear appropriate footwear – my Italian leather ballerina pumps didn’t cut it!

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Glencoe also provides beautiful views and has been used for films such as James Bond – Skyfall and Harry Potter – it’s where Hagrid’s hut was built.

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T-Shirt Oasis, cropped jeans Oasis and ballet pumps from Milan

A great way to see some of the flatter scenery the highlands have to offer is by horseback. I have always enjoyed horse riding and really enjoyed my trek in Tain – not least as I managed to tick off my bucket list, riding on the beach.

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Sweatshirt Joy, Jeans Oasis and rain jacket New Look

On our actual anniversary we boarded the Jacobite steam train for a journey from Fort William to Mallaig, crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct – made infamous by the Harry Potter films. We celebrated with champagne and exchanged gifts. The three year wedding anniversary is leather and as such, we couldn’t have let it pass without him adding to my shoe collection. I was ecstatic to open my very own pair of classic Pigalle Louboutins in black patent! You can read more about Louboutin in my previous blog First Steps.  I bought him a leather wallet with his initials embossed on it from Aspinal of London.  Leather is traditionally used to protect and shelter due to its durability, so as your relationship matures, a gift of this represents those qualities.

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Glenfinnan viaduct

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Butter-brew cocktail

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Harry Potter Charm

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If castles are your thing, Scotland has some fabulous examples. We visited Urquhart castle, overlooking Loch Ness, for a great example of castle ruins which date from the 13th to the 16th century and Dunrobin which is a true fairytale style castle. Interestingly Dunrobin castle was used as a boarding school for seven years – imagine going to a school that looked like that!

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Urquhart castle

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Dunrobin castle

If you are looking for an adrenalin rush, I can highly recommend the Seaxplorer fast boat trip out on Loch Leven. We got to see seals and sea birds as well as our captain doing some elaborate fast turns like they do in lifeboats to add to the thrill.

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We couldn’t visit Scotland without going to Balmoral of course. Having always been a royalist it was fabulous to see the Queen’s holiday hideaway. Balmoral castle itself is beautiful although we saw very little of the inside. The Landrover safari trip revealed how vast the grounds are, with stunning views and we got to see some majestic deer.

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Balmoral

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T-Shirt Zara and leather jacket New Look

 

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Being us it was a mad rush to get from Balmoral back to Fort William to catch the sleeper train home but we made it and got a lovely view of Ben Nevis on the journey too.

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Ben Nevis

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KIP (Krissy is Phil’s) elephant snuggling on the Caledonian sleeper

The UK really has some great sights that shouldn’t be overlooked.  We had a great anniversary and look forward to many more years happily married.  I love my husband because he knows me inside out and loves me anyway.

A hundred and counting

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This post marks a momentous occasion in my blogging history – it’s my ‘centiblog’ or hundredth post! Have I really managed to pull together circa 100,000 words on my little life over the last six plus years?!

Blogging has a longer history than many people might be aware of, with the first blog being attributed to a student, Justin Hall in 1994. It wasn’t referred to as a blog then though and it was another three years, before the term ‘weblog’ was coined and further two years, before it became shortened to ‘blog’. Since then it has evolved significantly, gaining peak popularity around 2004.   In February 2011 there were over 156 million public blogs in existence.  You could say then, that I was somewhat of a late comer, launching my blog in April 2011.

Having always had a passion for writing, as well as keeping a diary since childhood, it was a friend who suggested I write a blog, around the time I moved in with my now husband. Being I was also an avid follower of Sex and the City, I obviously had desires to live like its lead character, Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker who wrote a newspaper column about her life in order to earn a living.

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I would define my blog as a ‘lifestyle’ blog with a focus on fashion and shoes. What’s a ‘lifestyle’ blog I hear you say? Some people see it as a catch-all subject that means the blog lacks a focus, whilst I see it more as a description of what life is like for a person of a certain age in a certain location; a little like a diary. I think blogs will be used in the future to inform history, in much the same way as diaries, such as that of Anne Frank, have informed our knowledge today, of years gone by. If nothing else it may be something my future children will enjoy reading.

Other than writing, I have long been a dedicated follower of fashion with a particular devotion to shoes and therefore love to entwine my outfits of the day with experiences abroad or in London, from afternoon tea to exhibitions. Of course my blog may have a change of direction if and when my husband and I cease to be D.I.N.Ks (double income, no kids) which is the beauty of a lifestyle blog – it evolves as your life does.

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So what makes a successful blog? I don’t have a secret formula – being I am still waiting for mine to take off but what I can do is share some of the tips I have learnt along the way.

My number one rule has to be draft, re-draft and draft again! If you can get someone else to read it before you publish even better, as often you become blind to your own errors.

I write more as a hobby – fitting in time as and when, but if you truly want your blog to become a commercial enterprise you need to post at regular intervals so it is probably worth setting aside time each day to write. What day and time you choose to post your blog can have an effect on subscribers so I would advise trial and error using analytic tools to see what works. I found I get greatest readership if I post on a Sunday evening, so I try to stick to this time now.

Inspiration often comes unannounced so it is handy to carry a notebook with you that you can jot ideas down in as they come to you. You may find it helpful to create a space in which to write that you feel enhances the creative juices and somewhere you can remain uninterrupted. I have a beautiful desk area under the stairs which I am continually kitting out with my latest stationery purchases. I particularly love Kikki K products. I do also enjoy writing in my summer-house when weather permits.

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Social media is a fantastic tool for any blogger. I had always used Facebook and so share a link to each new post there, but I have found that Twitter is even better for getting you noticed. Twitter has the added bonus of you being able to link posts to companies, whom you have featured.

Brand is important for your blog but often difficult to achieve, especially if you are blogging through a platform such as WordPress or Blogspot. It seems unless you can master CCS coding, something that continues to be beyond my capabilities, you are stuck using the templates available in terms of background for your blog. I did however create a logo for myself which is at least a start at branding.

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This brings me neatly on to hosting platforms, which is how I do my blog and therefore what I have the greatest knowledge of.   WordPress also allow you to add tags which work in a similar way to hashtags on twitter and make it easier for people to find you on the site. The best way to increase followers is to interact with other bloggers on the platform. Read as many blogs as possible and not only follow them but comment on them too. If someone comments on your blog, don’t let the conversation dry up – interact with that person.

I hope you have found some useful tips and you are inspired to follow my blog. I look forward to entertaining you with my next 100 blogs!

Diana: Two Decades on

All little girls love princesses and Diana certainly was the fairytale princess.  The Royal family has always been admired the world over and is quintessentially British but Diana challenged their old-fashioned ways and appealed to a whole new generation.

I was 14 when my Mum woke me one Sunday morning to tell me Diana had died, aged just 36.  The whole world went into shock and there was a huge outpour of public grief.

I went to see the sea of flowers at Kensington Palace, signed a local condolence book, queued at Woolworths for Elton John’s Candle in the Wind tribute single and was glued to the TV for the funeral.  Along with most of the nation, I mourned the people’s princess. She was someone who was so compassionate and gave so much to so many.

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Flowers at the gates of Kensington Palace September 1997

It’s hard to believe that it’s 20 years ago today that Diana was tragically killed in a car crash in Paris.  The world has moved on so, that Diana would scarcely recognise it – social media for one thing, but still today people remember the wonderful Diana.  She is one of the few people who can still sell a paper 20 years after her death.

Diana loved fashion and an exhibition which opened in February at Kensington Palace, shows her transition from shy teenager to style icon.  In April, my Mum and I went to visit Diana: Her Fashion Story.

Many of Diana’s dresses were auctioned in June 1997 to raise money for her charities, so this exhibition has relied on the kindness of collectors to lend the dresses for it.  One of those dresses is the Catherine Walker dress she wore to the Christie’s dress auction.

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Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces Press Office

25 dresses are on display and show how the girl who owned very few of her own clothes evolved into the most photographed woman in the world, championing British designers and making clothes work for her.  She once asked Jasper Conran: ‘What message will I be giving out if I wear this?’  This is something we can all relate to.   Fashion is fun but we also use fashion to portray a certain image of ourselves.

The exhibition looks at her early fashion choices which drew on the romantic style of the 1980’s through to her power dressing in the 90’s.

Her first official portrait in 1981 saw her wearing a pretty pussy bow frilly blouse designed by the Emanuel’s, who went on to design her wedding dress.

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Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces Press Office

Her honeymoon tweed suit that she wore in Balmoral was on display.

Bill Pashley 'honeymoon' brown tweed day suit © Historic Royal Palaces, Richard Lea Hair

Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces Press Office

Some of her glamorous evening gowns were on display such as the ‘Travolta’ dress. She wore this midnight blue velvet dress by Victor Edelstein at the White House in 1985 when she danced with John Travolta.  Diana worked a lot with the designer Catherine Walker and in the late 1980’s wore her dress, that became known as the ‘Elvis’ dress, to the British Fashion Awards.

Victor Edelstein, 'Travolta' dress, © Historic Royal Palaces, Newsteam

Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces Press Office

 

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Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces Press Office

Her charity work increased during the 90’s and she wanted her causes to be taken seriously, rather than for her to be just seen as a clothes horse.  As such she amended her style and opted for simple suits.

Catherine Walker, pink suit, © Historic Royal Palaces, Richard Lea Hair

Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces Press Office

The exhibition also included some of the many magazines she graced the front cover of and sketches of some of her wonderful outfits.

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The one dress I was disappointed not to see in the exhibition is what many referred to as the ‘revenge’ dress which she wore to a dinner at the Serpentine Gallery in 1994, the same night Charles admitted to an affair with Camilla.  This is when I think she looked her most stunning.

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Image courtesy of Google

Alongside this exhibition the garden team at Kensington Palace have created the ‘White Garden’ as a tribute to Diana.  Diana often chatted with the gardeners and admired the floral displays in the 15 years she lived at Kensington Palace.

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For this day I wore a pink dress with bunnies on the collar by Victoria Beckham x Target and pink rose pumps from Oasis.

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After the exhibition Mum and I went and joined the Afternoon Tea Bus Tour to continue with the stereotypically British traditions.  Run by Brigit’s Bakery which has a shop in Covent Garden, this tea is served on a restored 1960’s routemaster bus.  Brigit’s Bakery or B Bakery as it is otherwise known as, was founded in 2011 by Brigit Bloch and is fun, girly, quirky and has a French twist.

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As tea is served, the bus takes you around all the big sights of London including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Harrods, Royal Albert Hall, Notting Hill and the London Eye.  The tour comes with a commentary so you learn some great facts about London’s sights too. Did you know for example, 100,000 people come to shop at Harrods everyday or that the Houses of Parliament have been home to the British government for over 900 years?  All these facts can be discovered whilst you enjoy a fantastic tea prepared by French pastry chefs.  There was also a fantastic sight on the bus, in the shape of one of the waiters, lol!

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At the end of the tour they allowed us to keep our branded plastic coffee cups.

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So to return to the main theme of this blog – 20 years on what is Diana’s legacy?  Her two wonderful boys, William and Harry continue with the charity work she started and have grown into men she would have been proud of.

Her fairytale sadly didn’t have a happy ending but girls still dream of being a princess like her.  As Elizabeth Emanuel so eloquently put it: ‘there are loads of movie stars and celebrities but there will be only one Diana.’  Rest in peace the ‘Queen of our Hearts’.

A Boot Sale with a Twist

In April I went to the Classic Car Boot Sale held in London’s Kings Cross.

What springs to mind when I say boot sale? 5am start, a muddy field and people’s junk on sale – this event is as much like that, as glamping is to camping!

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Run by House of Hemingway, people bring their classic cars and sell all manor of fine vintage clothes, shoes, accessories, homeware and vinyl.

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Now as you can imagine this was right up my street, I love classic cars having owned a 1970’s VW Beetle and you all know how I love all things vintage. It was also a bargain event given it was in London, with tickets costing just £5 on the door or £4 if booked in advance.

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To add to the atmosphere there was a DJ on the top deck of a vintage bus playing all the golden oldies and many people came in vintage dress.

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There were bars on vintage buses, some great food stalls also in vintage vehicles and even a mobile cinema.

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Unfortunately for me, vintage clothes tend to be quite small, as women have in general got bigger over the years, so there was little there that would fit me. I did however find a stall selling new items in vintage styles, called Weekend Doll and bought this red t-shirt.

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For the day I wore a black pleated skirt from Asos, plain black vest top from New Look, my trusted biker jacket also from New Look and a scarf from Victoria Beckham for Target. I wore black flat, multi strap shoes from Zara and finished the look an Forever 21 suede look saddle bag, which toned with the orange on the scarf and a Lulu Guinness umbrella – after all this is England, so the event enjoyed sunshine and showers.

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Talking of 5am starts, there was one thing I was willing to do that for and that was earlier this month, one Sunday when Victoria Beckham x Target went on sale! Magazines had been building up to the release for weeks so I stayed up on the Saturday thinking it would go live at midnight Sunday, only to find it didn’t, so then set the alarm for 5am, which would be midnight in the USA and still nothing. After constantly hitting refresh on the webpage, it finally went live at well-gone 9am. I was lucky enough to bag the scarf above and a dress before it sold out though so was quite pleased with myself.

If you like the sound of what you have read, there is another classic car boot sale being held on 9th and 10th September in London Kings Cross. For tickets visit www.classiccarbootsale.co.uk

 

‘Do not think of shoes but of masterpieces’ Diana Vreeland, Editor in Chief US Vogue

If ever there was a city that was made for me it’s Milan, What’s not to like? A fashion capital, in a country where they are connoisseurs of coffee, creators of prosecco and masters of food.

Our trip in March was somewhat a last minute affair and to be completely honest only came about when I heard that Manolo Blahnik was holding an exhibition there. I managed to convince my husband that this was just something I had to go to being that he is my favourite shoe designer of all time.

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Dress by Sugarhill Boutique, Converse shoes and bag from New Look

The exhibition, held in Palazzo Morando, certainly didn’t disappoint. Manolo is an absolute genius. His design drawings are works of art in their own right and the shoes are just stunning. His imagination is infinite and he takes inspiration from people, nature, travel, artists and architecture. Born in 1942 in the Canary Islands to a Spanish mother and Czech father, his journey into shoe design happened by accident. He went to art school in Paris, before moving to London in the late 1960’s. The feet of Greek sculptures had always fascinated him and then in 1971 he met the editor in chief of American Vogue and as she perused his portfolio, she was taken by his shoe drawings and she told him to ‘Stick to extremities and make shoes’. He then learnt his trade through observations of factories in England and Italy and actually received no formal training in shoe making. He did some collaborative work before opening his first store in London in 1973. Since then his career has gone from strength to strength and he has won numerous awards and received a CBE from the Queen.

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I first fell in love with his designs following my obsession with Sex and the City, where the main character, Carrie has an addiction to his footwear. I was married in the same blue satin Manolo’s as Carrie married Big in and they remain one of my most treasured possessions.

Hangisi by Manolo Blahnik

The collection on display takes you on a journey through Manolo’s imagination with over 80 original drawings and 52 shoes. Each shoe is crafted with such attention to detail and he sees them like characters in a story, giving each a proper name. Some of the embellishments are absolutely stunning as are the range of different materials utilised by Manolo.

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Following the visit to the exhibition it was time for a cappuccino and a flick through the trusted Lonely Planet guidebook.

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We then took the opportunity to get some exercise and explore a pretty local park, giardini pubblici, before admiring the fantastically alluring designer shop window displays in the Quadrilatero d’Oro or golden quarter. There was time for a quick espresso stop at a very glam espresso bar, Sant’Ambroeus that has an impressive chandelier and given the time of year some beautifully wrapped Easter Eggs.

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We grabbed a quick bite to eat before joining our tour party at the Castello Sforzesco. This 15th century fortress was the home of the Sforza dynasty that ruled Milan during the Renaissance. Following a long walk around with what felt like an intense history lesson, we finally got to see what we had booked the tour for – Leonardo Da Vinci the Last Supper painting. It is an amazing sight and it is hard to believe it was painted in the 15th century. We refuelled with a delicious Italian icecream before jumping on one of their vintage trams.

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The second day we walked around the awe inspiring Domino, a gothic cathedral of elaborate marble construction with no less than 135 spires.   The nearby shopping arcade, Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II is worth a look whilst you are in the vicinity. More than just a shopping arcade, the neoclassical building is constructed of iron and glass and shaped like a cross. Even if you hate shopping it is well worth popping inside to admire the incredible architecture. It was then time for a refreshing cosmopolitan on the roof terrace of Aperol, overlooking the magnificent cathedral. The bar is an ode to the 1970’s drink with a huge sculpted orange bar. I then had to nip back to the hotel to put on jeans in order to go and look inside the cathedral, which is just a magnificent inside as out.

 

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Blouse Mango, Skirt with braces Dorothy Perkins, Converse shoes, Socks Oasis, Bag New Look

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My cultural brain suitably enriched, my shopping urges were once again calling so we took the opportunity to browse a couple of vintage shops before regrouping with a latte.

That evening we visited the Nottingham Forest cocktail bar. You have to get there prior to opening and queue as it is so small, but it was so worth the wait. The cocktails are just so varied and imaginative.  Some even use liquid nitrogen and come smoking. I of course had to order the Sex and the City. The glass of cosmopolitan was brought to me in a plastic stiletto and there was a surprise flavoured free gift from Samantha – I’ll let you guess what that might have been!

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The final day we booked a classic Fiat 500 tour of the city. A car so iconic to Italy was the only choice for me. The sun shone brightly and our enthusiastic guide and driver showed us all the key sights of the city in just over an hour and a half. It is strange as I ended up owning a Fiat 500 by chance but I now love them almost as much as I love VW Beetles – I only said almost!

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Jeans Oasis, Converse shoes, T-shirt Kiss Kiss Heart and bag Biba

We then ventured down to Navigli, the canal district where I had a delicious pizza and even got my husband to sample one as they offer a cheese free pizza. Of course there was an ulterior motive for me visiting this area. Mentioned in the guidebook was a shoe shop called Mauro Leone – for fashionistas on a budget. I bought a gorgeous pair of red patent leather ballet pumps and I can honestly say they are the most comfortable shoes I have ever bought.

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At the airport on the way home, I bought another souvenir of my trip – a Pandora charm shaped as a stiletto.

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It was a truly amazing trip and I remain ever grateful to my long-suffering husband for agreeing to go just for a shoe exhibition. I absolutely loved Milan and suggest it is a right of passage for any fashionista.

 

Glamour Beauty Festival

My friend and I attended the second annual Glamour Beauty Festival at the beginning of March, which was held at Saatchi Gallery London.

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I have been a dedicated subscriber to Glamour magazine for many years and when I saw this advertised I just knew this was a perfect girls day out. In case I needed further persuasion, this years festival was being sponsored by Fiat 500 and there would be an opportunity for a mock up Glamour cover shoot with the new Fiat 500 Riva. That’s it I was sold!

I got my very own Fiat 500 last October, from my old boss who had owned it from new and I have now become quite a fan of the cute iconic car which celebrates its diamond anniversary of production this year.

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For the festival I wore a grey t-shirt dress with cute black tie up ribbon at the back from New Look, a denim floral jacket also from New Look and some black suede slouch boots from House of Fraser. I accessorised my hair with a Orelia cute star clip from Asos and the piece de la resistance of the outfit was a monogrammed clutch from Oasis.

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First stop on arrival was of course the Fiat 500 pool party. They had a classic Fiat 500 on display and of course the new Fiat Riva. The make up artists covered us in sparkle in keeping with the fact it was the diamond jubilee year and we then got to pose in the Riva whilst a photographer snapped away. The photo was then inserted onto a Glamour mock cover and emailed to us.

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Next stop had to be to collect our goodie bags. I have to say this goody bag was something else with an estimated value of over £100, making the £45 ticket to the festival more than worth it!  I have since used many of the products and particularly recommend the Garnier Micellar water, Garnier moisture bomb UV mist, Estee Edit pink peony overnight water pack and the Nars blush in Orgasm.

 

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There were so many stands and so little time to try everything, given many of the stands had queues but we managed to fit in quite a bit.

The Garnier Ultimate Blends stand was excellent and I had some honey restore hand cream tested on me.  I have incredibly dry hands and couldn’t believe the difference this cream instantly made.  My friend persuaded the lady to give me a free tube too which was fantastic.

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Next we visited the Eylure stand to have false eyelashes applied.  I had opulent ones applied.

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My favourite one was the last stand we went to which was Fresh.  The brand was founded in 1991 by Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg who opened a store in Boston curating upscale natural beauty products from around the world.  In 1993 they launched the iconic oval soap and the brand has grown since then with them celebrating their 25th anniversary last year.  I must confess that I hadn’t heard of them before but anything that uses natural ingredients always  gets my endorsement.  There are 2 stores in London and Harrods also stocks their products.

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The mask bar allowed you to test out some of their face masks  although I had them tested on the back of my hand rather than ruin the makeup I had already had done.  I also tested the sugar lip polish which was amazing – my lips had never felt so smooth afterwards.  Fresh first used sugar in a body exfoliant in 1998 and it ignited an industry wide trend of using sugar in beauty products.  The festival goodie bag included a Fresh soy facial cleanser and we also got some free samples of the masks from the stand along with a tinted lip treatment.

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I was totally sold on these products and went on to order online after the festival the rose deep hydration face cream and the sugar lip polish.  When they were delivered the products were presented in a lovely box tied with a ribbon and the box was lined with pretty vintage print tissue.  You also received some free sample sachets and a small jar of vitamin nectar vibrancy boosting facemask.

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Tickets to the festival are sold as morning or afternoon sessions.  We purchased just the morning but some people had purchased both and that would be my only criticism of the day that those who had paid for both sessions had to leave the gallery for an hour at lunch time.

We finished our visit with prosecco from the bar there.  It was a wonderful girly day of pampering that I highly recommend to any beauty product fan.

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Walking in their Shoes

As an avid shoe lover, I have long admired the great designs of Manolo Blahnik, Louboutin, Jimmy Choo and Sophia Webster, to name but a few.  For one day only, thanks to a wonderfully thoughtful Christmas gift from my husband, I got to experience what it’s like to be that designer, on the amazing ‘become a shoe design icon’ course, run by ‘I Can Make Shoes’.

It was a wet Sunday when I made my way by train over to trendy East London – Bethnal Green and found The Pill Box where the courses are run; but nothing was going to dampen my enthusiasm.

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The arty Pill Box

It was a nice small class of 3 which made for a great learning environment.  Our teacher Kiren was inspiring when she shared how she too had attended this course a few years back and now not only teaches but also is designing and making her own collection of shoes.

The class began with an introduction to the anatomy of a shoe.  Before being able to design a shoe, it is important to understand all the components that make one up as this can have an influence on the art of the possible.

It can be quite daunting to be faced with a blank sheet of paper and just a template of a foot to design around, but we were given various books to get the creative juices flowing.  I’m sure it will come as no surprise to most of you that my favourite of these was ‘Manolo’s New Shoes’.

Manolo book

Manolo uses watercolours, pencils and china ink to create his drawings which are works of art in their own right.  Some are sketches and design concepts whereas others are created after the shoe has been made as a kind of portrait of the shoe.  I would love to own one of his original drawings and came so close when I signed up for the launch of his wedding collection event where each attendee would receive a drawing but alas I was too late and the event was already full.

No one can fail to be inspired by his work and further books showed me the kinds of sources of inspiration designers use.  I was particularly taken by the use of travel to inspire and from that began to look through photos of my own travels on my phone. My creativity was sparked by a photo I had taken at Parc Guell in Barcelona.

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The tower turned upside down was the basis for the heel on my peep toe sandal which would be blue and white woven leather, with a blue ribbon to fasten it around the ankle.  I also designed a second shoe based around some of my favourite things; it was a black court shoe with pink ribbons that laced up the ankle.  On the front was a butterfly and the heel was designed like a champagne flute.  I could have happily continued designing all day but the next step was making a template which would be used to cut out the leather.

A last in the shoe size required is used to create this template.  A last is like a mould made of wood or hard plastic which has a shape similar to a human foot.  There are different lasts depending on the type of shoe being made i.e. flat shoe, heeled shoe, boot etc.

There are various ways of making the template which can then be used to cut the leather.  The technique we were shown involved using masking tape.  The strips of tape are applied in a certain order until the entire last is covered.

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The next step is then to transfer the 2D design onto the last thus making it 3D and ensuring that each section is suitable comfort wise in relation to the foot.  We all made a template for a simple court shoe as that forms the base of many high heels so is then a transferable skill.

Once the shoe is marked out, including the side seam as courts are rarely made in one piece; a craft knife is then used to cut round the lines.  Excess tape is then removed leaving just the template design which can then also be carefully peeled off the last.

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The template is then laid flat on a plain sheet of paper and stuck down.  In order to make it flat, some little snips are required around the vamp (piece that covers the toes or the front part of the shoe) and the side seam.  It is important to then write the last reference and the size on your template for future reference.

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A line is then drawn around the masking tape to allow a 2.5cm lasting allowance which is the leather that will fold under the last and be joined to the inner-sole board and a 0.5cm folding allowance for the seam on the topline of the shoe as well as at the side seam where the two sides are joined.

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This was as far as we went on this course but the next step in the shoe making process would be to cut out the template around the pencil lines, lay it on the leather and then cut the leather.

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This has definitely made me want to go on to learn more and I would love to make my Parc Guell sandals – depicted on the left in my drawings above.

I highly recommend this course to any shoe fanatic!  Many shoes are now mass-produced but the best ones are still hand-made and when you see the amount of work that goes into the process, it is no surprise that hand-made shoes command top dollar!

 

 

 

 

A Hollywood Wedding

February saw one of my very good friends, Alanna get married.  Her and her husband couldn’t be more well suited.  Since we were in school she had always had a fascination with India and dreamed of visiting which she went on to do.  Her husband’s roots are in Goa and he proposed to her at the Taj Mahal.  Due to the Portuguese influence, many Goan people are Catholic so even the couples religious beliefs are aligned.  They are both lovers of travelling and both selfless, giving people, a true Hollywood couple.

Despite being a cold February day, the sun was shining for them when we arrived at the church in Earlsfield.  For the day I chose to wear a floral dress from Chi Chi London.  I paired this with some silver sandals which I have had for many years from Faith and a silver clutch from Asos.  For my hair I took inspiration from a newspaper who had done a spread on Hygge hair.  Hygge was big at the end of 2016 and its popularity continues.  Hygge is a Danish word and essentially means cosy.

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The groom wore a white suit with a pale blue cravat and waited smiling at the altar without any of the usual signs of nervousness.  When the bride entered on the arm of her father, she looked stunning, a true princess.  The dress had a corset top embellished with delicate jewels and then there was a magnificent full taffeta skirt, finished off with a full length veil.  Following her down the aisle were her two triplet sisters in stunning Karen Morgan dresses, accessorised with red shoes and a red flower in their hair.

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The service itself was charming with well-chosen hymns and readings including ‘Give me Joy in my Heart’.  Outside the church there was a confetti parade which was lovely given that many churches no longer allow this.

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Me with the bridesmaids

The bride and groom’s transport for the day was the grooms lovingly restored VW beetle. Anyone who knows me well, will be aware of my life long love of these classic cars and seeing his brought back fond memories of my own car which I sold a few years ago due to it rusting away on our drive.

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The groom being fanatical about films could have chosen no better venue for the reception than Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire.  The studios were built in 1935 around a large Grade II listed Victorian house, Heatherden Hall where the reception was held. Pinewood has been the location of many films from Oliver Twist, to Carry On, to Bond to Harry Potter.  It was named Pinewood due to the number of trees in the area and the connotations of wood to Hollywood – the US film epicentre.

The wedding breakfast was held in a grand room, complete with a tall, ornate Victorian ceiling.  The tables were named after lines from films, such as ‘You remind me of the babe’ from Labyrinth which we sat on and ‘You don’t have to kiss me’ from Rocky which was the top table.  I’ve listed the other names and I’ll leave it for you to work out which films they come from, let me know in the comments when you do!

‘What? Fuzzy Wuzzy was a woman?’

‘You are and always shall be my friend’

‘Hey you guys!’

‘Wax on, Wax off’

‘Luminous beings are we..’

‘What we do in this life echoes in eternity’

‘It’s not the years.  It’s the mileage’

‘Get to Da Choppa!’

‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift’

‘Pop the trunk!’

All the stationery encapsulated the couples love of travel, designed like an airmail envelope with a background of a world map with hearts marking places they had travelled to together and love themed postmarks including one showing date and location of the engagement.

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During the delicious meal of leek and potato soup, lemon and garlic roasted supreme of chicken and fruit crumble, the background music was all film anthems including tracks from Star Wars and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The speeches continued the theme of the movies with the best man speech being set out in episodes.  The grooms speech almost brought me to tears as it was clear that he is totally devoted to her.

The cake was beautifully made by the Groom’s sister-in-law.  It picked up the pastel blue in the grooms cravat in the icing flowers on it and was topped off with two doves symbolising everlasting enduring love being that doves mate for life.

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The cutting of the cake is a significant part of a couples special day not least because it is the first task that the couple undertake together.  For the cutting, the couple used a sword. They then fed each other some cake which represents them nourishing the relationship for the rest of their lives and providing for each other.

The cake cutting was followed by the first dance to Phil Collins’ ‘A Groovy kind of Love’.

The evening entertainment then got well underway and we all enjoyed lots of dancing and karaoke from some of the groom’s family.

It was a truly wonderful day, well deserving of an Oscar and I wish the two of them a very long and happy marriage.  They are the proof that there is someone out there for everyone, who is their perfect match.  Congratulations guys and enjoy the Italian honeymoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flying through the months

Can you believe we are already in March? I can’t believe how fast the last few months have gone, it doesn’t seem five minutes ago that we had Christmas to look forward to and now we are faced with lots of cold weather and a long wait until Summer.

Christmas countdown traditionally begins on 1st December with an advent calendar. Advent calendars were first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th Century. Advent calendars have moved on a lot in recent years, with children no longer content with opening a door to reveal a Christmas picture or poem. At the very least they expect a chocolate now and some calendars give toys such as the Lego calendar. Being a big kid, I have never tired of an advent calendar and thankfully I am clearly not alone as there is now a large market in adult advent calendars offering candles or beauty products. This Christmas I decided to try a beauty advent calendar. These range quite a bit in price with the Liberty one costing £250! After some research I settled on the reasonably priced House of Fraser one at £25 as this also had all 24 doors, rather than the 12 some calendars offer – presumably to represent the 12 days of Christmas. It was quite exciting to see what beauty product you would get each day and by far my favourites were a glitter eyeliner, a blusher and one of the lipsticks, all of which I have been using regularly.

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What really got me in the festive mood was the Dickensian Christmas celebrations in Rochester on 3rd December. For this I wore skinny jeans from Oasis with a white pussy bow blouse from Oasis and my trusty New Look faux leather biker jacket. I accessorised with the gorgeous blue velvet flats and handbag which are also from New Look and my subtle take on the velvet trend for Autumn/Winter 2016.

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Rochester as I have mentioned many times before in my blog is one of my favourite places. It was also a favourite spot for Charles Dickens and the cobbled streets and old style lampposts make you feel you have truly been transported back in time as you watch the costume parade. We took the opportunity to watch a street performance of Miss Havisham’s story before warming up in the pub over lunch.

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Santa’s reindeer even popped down!

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There was a photo opportunity with Fagin.

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We then made our way to the Christmas market and fun fair. The market was a bit of a let-down if I am honest as I had been expecting the Bavarian style wooden huts you see in London when instead the stalls were in marques and a lot of the items for sale were quite tacky. The funfair was good though and forever the kid I had to have a ride on the carousel.

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I have wanted another piercing ever since I had to let my nose piercing close up earlier this year after an infection so I went and got my rook pierced – part of the ear. It was quite painful after so I went and recovered with a latte and a large piece of cake in Fleur de the.

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Number 12 or 13 is the rook

We ventured out into the cold and darkness just in time for the evening costume parade with lanterns. The snow machines were on and we all walked up to the castle where the carol service was held.  It was a magical evening and totally set me up for the festive period.  We warmed up and lubricated our tired voices with mulled wine in a local pub before heading off home.

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The following weekend, my husband and I took our niece and nephew to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. This year marks ten years of Winter Wonderland and each year it seems to get bigger and bigger. It was another cold day and unfortunately turned into quite a wet day too. I had bought a new hat, gloves and scarf set from Oasis and wore a long padded coat from New Look which although less than flattering, is extremely warm – it gives you the feeling of being wrapped up in a duvet!

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We visited the magical ice kingdom which this year had the theme of an Arctic Adventure. This is an awe inspiring sight whether it is your first visit or not, with incredible detail on each of the ice sculptures. There is also a slide made of ice which once again brought the kid out in me and ice thrones which of course kids love due to the connotations with Disney’s Frozen.

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The boys enjoyed the bumper cars whilst my niece and I went on the swings. Later my niece wanted to go on a roller coaster. There was an extremely long queue but the wait was made slightly more entertaining by a kind of fun house along the way. The ride was a disaster as she was so scared and I felt so helpless when she asked me to make it stop. You would have thought that would have put her off rides but she still wanted another go on the swings before we left!

Putting up the  Christmas decorations is always for me traditionally accompanied by listening to Now that’s what I call Christmas and sipping on snowballs.  This year I finally persuaded my husband to put lights outside – something I have always wanted.

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We hosted Christmas day this year for the first time and had my parents and my husband’s parents over. I wore a black lace dress from Oasis and sparkle tights also from Oasis and accessorised my hair with a flower band which I got at London Fashion week and is by Her Curious Nature.

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We had a really nice day. I really enjoyed setting out the Christmas table. Dinner was lovely and I got some wonderful presents – my favourite being a shoe design course! Look out for a blog on that in the next month or so. We played Cranium which was a laugh and watched the Christmas tele and before you knew it, it was all over for another year!

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Boxing day was spent at Mum’s with my brother and his family.  For this day I wore an Oasis jumper with a basic black mini skirt from Asos and purple Uggs that I got in New Zealand a few years back.

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Between Christmas and New Year my husband and I visited Scotney Castle and decided to become National Trust Members.

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New Year was spent with friends. I always find New Year rather depressing as it is another reminder of what you have not achieved and a time to set resolutions that you invariable break way before the end of January! I guess I can at least remember 2016 as the year I finally got promoted to a PA.  We also finally finished decorating our bedroom.  It was so nice to get rid of the grey striped wallpaper that was there when we moved in.

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As with every other new year, I once again set my usual resolution to lose weight and decided to try the milk diet which was the diet of choice for 2017. The full diet suggested you eat nothing and just drink 4 pints of full fat milk a day. That seemed rather extreme so I went for the modified version where you drink a glass of milk before each meal with the aim of then eating less. I did see some positive effect from this, loosing 3lbs in the first week but as per usual it was the same as most fad diets and I had given up within 3 weeks.

January always seems to drag so I was glad when we got to the end. The final weekend in January; Saturday evening was spent at a Fawlty Towers evening which was a great laugh. For this I wore a black pleated skirt from Asos, a gold stripped crop top from Kiss Kiss Heart in Rochester and accessorised with shoes I purchased at London Fashion Week by Alexander White and an Aldo clutch.

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That Sunday we had a trip to London to see the Play that Goes Wrong. The end of January of course marks the start of the new year for the Chinese and this year is the year of the Rooster!

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February saw a return to my early twenties with a night out at a club on Tottenham Court Road for a friend’s birthday.  I must be getting old as I was quite taken aback that they wanted to scan our ID before letting us in and by the fact there are now bouncers on McDonald’s on the Strand!  I am also way too old for the torturous 2 hour journey home on the night bus!  Having said all that though it was a fun night.  I reworked the outfit I wore to  the Fawlty Towers evening this time accessorising with gold Oasis t-bar shoes and a gold clutch.

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So now 2017 is well underway and we have certainly seen some cold weather. Easter is late this year meaning that Summer feels even further away but there are some exciting things coming up so keep looking out for future blogs.