One day, two beautiful weddings

The sun was shining on a fabulous June day and there was a sweet smell of lavender in the air as the guests waited in The Gardens, Yalding for the wedding to begin.  The Gardens opened in 2016 as an exclusive wedding venue.  The 12.5 acre site is divided into 16 distinct areas, representing garden design through the ages.  There are also extensive orchards, in keeping with Kent’s long history as the garden of England.  Five bridesmaids in cornflower blue and a beautiful flower girl sprinkling rose petals along the grass aisle, signified the arrival of the bride.  She looked radiant in a classic style, satin dress with pretty lace bodice, on the arm of her proud father, who escorted her to the round pagoda where her beaming fiance awaited her.

The service was lovely with one particularly entertaining poem by Taylor Mali “How falling in love is like owning a dog”.  Once pronounced man and wife, the happy couple were showered in confetti from pretty die cut cones and then they led the way to the barn, where Pimms and bucks fizz were on offer.  While the adults caught up with each other and photos were taken, the children were amused by various traditional lawn games, including croquet.

Soon it was time to be seated in the two interlinked tipis which are connected to the barn, for the wedding breakfast.  The sides of the tipis were rolled up, bringing the outside in and the flower/garden theme continued with the tables each named after a flower with said flower as a centre piece.  Favours were seeds of the flower your table was named after which I thought was a wonderfully unique idea.

The cake was also in keeping with the theme and made by the bride and groom themselves.  It was four tiers, topped with fondant roses and was sat on a section of tree trunk.

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Rather than just the usual guest book, they had also provided a camera and printer so that guests could put a picture of themselves in with their message.

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We had to make an early exit, after the speeches sadly, as unbelievably we had been invited to two weddings on the same day!  This does have a fashion bonus however as had they both been on separate days, I would have had to buy two outfits and therefore I could justify spending a little more on a dress and was able to treat myself to this amazing Ted Baker number that I had my eye on, totally guilt free!  I accessorised with silver sandals from Dune and a silver clutch.

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The second wedding was that of one of my best friends so I was gutted to have missed the main part of the day but pleased to be able to come and celebrate with them in the evening.

We arrived at the venue, a golf club in Shoreham, Kent, to see a number of classic cars in the carpark.  The bride’s own white cortina had been used as the bride’s transport, while her brother’s rover had been used as the Groom’s car and one of her Dad’s army trucks for the bridesmaids.

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The theme of her wedding was festivals.  Each of the tables had been named after classic albums, with the record itself serving as the table identifier.  The individual name cards were designed as festival tickets.  Favours were cleverly fitting with the theme and the couple’s married name – a travel coffee/tea cup.

The bride looked even more stunning than I could have imagined in a vintage style lace dress with low back and cute buttons, leading to the beautiful train.  She had accessorised with a long gold and pearl necklace down the back – very Chanel.  The bridesmaids wore long grey, embellished dresses that were 1920s inspired.  The flowers in hers and the bridesmaid’s hair were fake but looked amazingly realistic.

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We arrived in time for the cutting of the cake.  The cake was all marzipan with a lego bride and groom.

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The first dance then followed; a classic Dire Straits number, Romeo and Juliet.  It was beautiful to see them dancing and having fun together as man and wife.

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They had a fab dress up box and polaroid camera, so guests could all do pictures and stick them in the guest book, similar to the idea at the earlier wedding.

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Two beautiful couples and two beautiful weddings, I wish them both, all the happiness in the world.  I will leave you with a quote by Mignon McLaughlin that I think sums up marriage perfectly: “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person”.

 

 

 

Nineties Throwback

The nineties were just yesterday weren’t they?  I can hardly believe it was 20 years ago!  Now I feel old!  Like my parents romanticise about the sixties, I tend to do the same with the nineties, having done most of my growing up in that decade.  Admittedly some of the trends are better off left there – heeled jelly shoes, Bon Bleu tracksuits, tamagotchi anyone?  But most of us will sit down and chill in front of an old episode of Friends.

Some of the things born in the nineties remain important to me today, one of which is Sex and the City.  In June this year, it was 20 years since we were first introduced to Carrie Bradshaw and Mr Big in the pilot episode.  While there is some debate about its relevance today, no one can deny that it was the first programme to show the importance of female friendships and women as sexually liberated.  I just love it for the fashion, Patricia Field was a genius!  If it hadn’t have been for Sex and the City, would I have ever been introduced to the beauty of Manolo Blahnik’s?  My husband probably would have preferred that, or certainly his wallet would have done!

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Pop bands come and go and the early nineties saw me following Boyzone, followed by Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys and soloists such as Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears – who can forget Baby One More Time?  I actually found a video of my friends and I, when we attended CDUK (a Saturday morning chart show with Ant and Dec) in 1999 and saw Christina perform Genie in a Bottle – god did we all look young?

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Anyway, my other great love of the nineties are the Welsh band, Stereophonics, formed in Cwmaman in 1992.  Their first album Word Gets Around was released in 1997 and since then they have gone from strength to strength.  One of my closest friends introduced them to me around the release of their second album, Performance and Cocktails in 1999 and the two of us regularly danced at parties to ‘The Bartender and the Thief’, despite disapproval from most of our other friends.  Ironically I have probably ended up a bigger fan than her, having seen them live over 10 times now and met them twice.  On my bucket list was to see them on their home turf and in June, I finally fulfilled this wish.

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My husband and I travelled to Cardiff to see them at Cardiff City Stadium.  Their set opened with C’est la vie and closed, with Dakota which has somewhat become a regular closing song.  They were absolutely fantastic and never disappoint.  I love the fact that they play a range of songs from across all 10 of their studio albums.  I was stood dancing for most of the gig.  Sadly I’m not sure my husband had quite such a good time, given he doesn’t really share my passion for their music.

While in Cardiff, we thought we should make a weekend of it and do a bit of sightseeing.  We visited Cardiff Castle and it just so happened that the visit coincided with the Queen’s official birthday celebrations so we got to see the Royal Gun Salute.

Returning to Paddington station, I was reminded of one of my childhood loves, Paddington Bear.  My Dad used to read me the stories and add his own bits in which was always fantastic.

It’s great to reminise and Stereophonics have certainly survived the test of time.  It’s a shame that my face hasn’t faired so well over the years!  The nineties were great but I wouldn’t want to go back to a time of no broadband!  One day I would like to visit Stereophonics home village and I hope they are still going strong in another twenty years.

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.

‘In fair Verona, where we lay our scene’

The city of Paris has always been synonymous with romantic short breaks but next time you want a couples get away, why not consider Verona?

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T-shirt Oasis and shorts (just seen) also Oasis

 

To the North of Italy, Verona sits on the Adige River somewhere between Milan and Venice.  Those who paid attention in English literature, will know that Verona is the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  It is no doubt on the back of this play that Verona became a tourist magnet, further aided by the successful 2010 film Letters to Juliet, staring Amanda Seyfried.  Both certainly played a part in my selection of a city to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary.

The flight was a swift two hours from Gatwick and a bus takes you from the airport to the city’s central station for a bargain €6 per person.  We stayed four nights at Hotel Giulietta e Romeo, which of course I picked out based on the name, but as luck would have it, it did turn out to be a wise choice. Rooms at the hotel were clean and staff friendly and the breakfast was a good continental offering.  Located a mere stones throw from the Arena, it couldn’t have been better located.  Watch out for gladiators wanting their picture with you outside the arena and don’t bother paying to go in as the best views are from the outside being that the inside is now a modern concert venue.

The main attraction of the city is Juliet’s house and balcony.  As you walk into the courtyard entrance, the walls are covered with names and messages, to the point that you can’t distinguish one from the next.  The focus of the courtyard is a brass statue of Juliet.  Legend has it that rubbing her right breast will bring you luck in love.  The queue to go up on the balcony was far less than I thought but that could have been in part as it was a weekday and perhaps also the admission charge to the house puts some visitors off.  We added to the numerous padlocks bearing initials in the courtyard.  Visitors can write to Juliet either by the traditional method of pen and paper or by email.  Just like in the film, Juliet’s secretaries do actually reply.  If you are still hungry for more monuments to the great play, head to the tomb of Juliet.  I warn you though, there really is little to see aside from a quote from the play and an empty stone tomb.

Verona has much more to offer than this fictional history, but before exploring that, we soaked up the Italian lifestyle and sunshine, stopping for an Aperol Spritz and some pizza in one of the many cafes that border Piazza Erbe.  This is a great square to relax and watch the Italian hustle and bustle.  A market takes up much of the centre square and a wonderful array of colours and smells tease your senses, from beautifully decorated opera masks to fresh fruit and pizzas.  For a bird’s eye view, head up the torre dei lamberti.  To get to the tower you will pass under an arch from which a whale rib has been suspended since the early 1700s.  No one knows how it got there and the myth is that it will fall on the first truthful person who walks beneath it.  It might not have fallen on me, but as I walked through the arch, my wedge shoes caused me to stumble and fall spectacularly!  Style over function once again!

Some beautiful bridges take you across the River Adige, the most beautiful being part of the Castelvecchio, a wonderful example of gothic architecture.  A walk over Ponte Pietra and a trip up on the cable car to the Castel San Pietro is worth it, just for the view which was just as well as the castle itself, was closed for renovation when we went.  While we were up there, the weather took a turn for the worst and we took shelter in Re Teodorico, a bar half way down the hillside.  Thank goodness it was there, as when the rain came down, it really came down.  It was like someone had turned a tap on full blast.  There was lightning as well as thunder that shook the window panes.  It even started to rain in the bar!  I was only really worried about my LK Bennett satin espadrilles, so thankfully it did stop after about an hour and we made our way back down to the town, with me tip toeing around puddles.  Also on this side of the river is the Roman theatre and archaeological museum.  The theatre is quite a marvel, set in the hillside and more great views of the city below are on offer.  The archaeological museum on the other hand was not for us – you’ve seen one pot, you’ve seen them all!

Verona is ideally situated for a trip out to the Italian lakes.  We visited Lake Garda and went on a terrifying boat ride across to Sirmione.  Sirmione used to be a peninsula but is now an island.  You are welcomed to the island by a beautiful medieval castle that overlooks the lake.  Here we sampled the best gelato I have ever eaten.  It was so creamy and sweet and the choice of flavours was monumental.  I went for coffee, chocolate and tirimusi.

In order to really understand Italy’s love affair with food, we enrolled on a four-hour cooking class while in the city.  Here we learnt the art of tirimusi and how to make tagliatelle by a very talented chef who has written a fair few cook books – sadly they have yet to be translated.  Following our efforts, we sat and ate the food we had made, washed down with complementary wine.

No visit to any city is complete without visiting a couple of churches and Verona has plenty,  I would highly recommend Duomo Cattedrale, a vision of white marble and Church Santa Anastasia, a thirteenth century church, which while nothing special outside, has a stunning interior.

Before leaving the city, I of course made time to shop, and was happy to discover Mauro Leone – an Italian homemade footwear chain, which I first came across in Milan last year.  Much to my husband’s frustration, I came away with two beautiful pairs of shoes to add to my expanding collection.

 

Italy is a country made for me – sunny, home of beautiful footwear, the origin of the Fiat 500 and the best food in the world, not to mention the home of the aperitif – what’s not to love?  Having done Rome, Milan and now Verona, I am hoping to persuade my husband to come on further explorations of the country despite his insistence at having seen enough.  Some of Italian’s passion did rub off on him in terms of my anniversary gifts.  Flowers and fruit are the traditional gifts for four years of marriage.  He bought me a beautiful flower charm in Pandora, along with a heart engraved with ‘I love Italia’ and a new bracelet.  During our walk around the city he picked me a wild red rose and later at dinner in Bistrot Mamma Mia in the Piazza Bra, he bought me a rose from a seller touting their business around all the local establishments.

The best meal we had by far was on our final night at L’Orologio on Corso Porta Nuova.  The service and the food was second to none, I particularly enjoyed my favourite starter, caprese salad.

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Dress Miss Selfridge

One of the lesser visited cities of Italy, Verona is not one to be missed – add it to your bucket list now!  If it’s romance you are looking for, this city has an abundance of it, given it was the setting for the greatest love story of all time, and no one can deny the passion Italians have for style and of course for food, as our guide said “an Italian knows good food”.

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Top Ted Baker, skirt Oasis and shoes Converse

Pretty in Pink

What do you associate the colour pink with?  Romance, femininity, sweetness?  Pink featured strongly on the catwalk for spring/summer 2018 from pastel shades right through to brights, with Fendi, Versace, Dior, Gucci and Emporio Armani all sporting the romantic hue.

Ted Baker embraced the trend, launching their spring/summer collection ‘Back to the Fuchsia’.  I particularly love their use of Japanese cherry blossom in some of the designs.  Before this season, it was not somewhere I really shopped, but now it is fast becoming one of my favourite brands.  Their combination of pinks, greys and rose golds is to die for.

The colour pink has been described way back to ancient times, often as rose or rosey but pink was first defined as a colour in the 17th century and the name comes from the flower pinks.

If you want to stand out, why not try pairing red and pink like at JW Anderson, previously thought of as a fashion faux pas, this is now bang on trend and looks to be the new black and white.

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I had been sporting the pastel pink shade last season too, with a pink jumper from Oasis, paired with a collar from Asos to emulate the Miss Patina designs.

This sweatshirt from Joy also cheered up a rainy February day.

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Of course, there is no reason to confine the shade to clothing, why not use in your home too?  I recently repainted the chimney breasts in our lounge/diner in Dulux, raspberry diva and love listening to my records on my pink Crosley cruiser from Urban Outfitters.

Please do share with me how you are wearing this season’s must have shade.

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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