17 December 2011

Bad Blogger

My most humble apologies for my poor blog commitment.  I have been working full-time as a Christmas temp at Boots, getting paid to undertake a full body workout shifting (festive spirit inducing) Christmas stock about the place.  It's great fun but it leaves me completely exhausted each day; so it's all I can do to stop myself from going to bed at eight-thirty every night, let alone keep up with my blog!  I promise to try harder.  To make up for it, I'd like to introduce you to photographer Amy Scheepers and her beautiful BEAUTIFUL pictures.  This diptych's my latest favourite, but you can check out all of her work here.

From the 'I Know a Place' shoot

3 November 2011

New Zealand: Hanmer Springs

The next stop on our trip was back in the middle of nowhere.  However, the idyllic scenery of the spa town of Hanmer Springs completely made up for the fact that there was nothing to do.  For the two days we were there we wandered around the forests, climbed hills and generally soaked up the tranquility of it all.

2 November 2011

New Zealand: Dunedin

We finally escaped the clutches of Invercargill and were overjoyed to discover that our next stop was back in civilisation.  Dunedin is the second largest city on the South Island of New Zealand and during its construction builders were instructed to emulate the characteristics of Edinburgh, which was a nice welcome for us Scottish fans.  Edinburgh’s street names could be spotted as you wandered through the city and there was even a statue of Robert Burns in the main octagon.  We found some really beautiful architecture during our stay, the railway station being a definite stand-out example.

31 October 2011

Smileys All Round

I’m not one for taking things too seriously.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say I actively search for the silliness in most areas of my life.  Especially fashion.  Clothes are such an important expression of your personality and I perish the thought that people could assume I am anything but a little bit ridiculous.  I encourage you all to have a bit of fun with your clothes, show everyone your festive spirit.  It’s nearly Christmas after all!

Now for those of you to whom silliness does not come naturally (you poor things) an easy way to embrace your inner child is with a fun statement tee.  I love this one that The Smiley Company have created for Bershka:

It’s a steal at £12.99, is 100% cotton and its fitted balloon shape means it’s perfect teamed with leggings for a super comfy outfit.  And there’s plenty more where that came from; there is a whole Smiley range at Bershka including t-shirts and hoodies.

To learn more about the happy shiny people of The Smiley Company check out their website.

28 October 2011

23 October 2011

New Zealand: Invercargill

Maybe it was the fact that it rained the whole time we were there.  Maybe it was the ice cold wind that clawed at our faces.  Maybe it was the fact we'd just come from Queenstown and its immense beauty.  Or maybe it was just that Invercargill is the dullest place EVER.  Culture seems to have evaded this town; even the art gallery's exhibits were just plain bad.  Luckily we only had to spend two nights in the place so we could see Scotland beat Georgia, but even filling that short span was difficult.  As time trudged and shuffled its way towards kick-off, Scottish fans could be spotted exchanging weary glances as they wandered the streets aimlessly.  Fortunately for me (perhaps not the father) my cute radar was well and truly on and we managed to find these little critters (Kiwi lingo: oh yes):

Possibly the only things that prevented me from finally losing it completely.

18 October 2011

Tula Girl

Tula have been creating highly affordable and highly beautiful handbags since 1975 and for Autumn/Winter 2011 have launched a statement leopard print range.  The bags come in a variety of sizes but I especially love these little beauties:
Clockwise from above: £59, £89, £39

Sexy as the more evening styles of the leopard print range are, my personal favourite bag is this gorgeous across the body design from the Originals collection.  This flapover design  is an example of British craftsmanship at its absolute finest. The shape takes its inspiration from the 70s.  What was a fashion statement of carefree elegance has now become a staple piece, available in berry tones of mulberry red and deep purple for AW11. 
Check out the stockist website at www.tula.co.uk

9 October 2011

New Zealand: First Stop Queenstown

There’s nothing like flying dangerously close to mountains as you descend into your first destination to really get you excited about a trip.  And that’s exactly what you get when you arrive in Queenstown.  I had heard that New Zealand was pretty stunning (and I’ve obviously seen Lord of the Rings) so I was expecting to see some beautiful scenery throughout our stay there.  What I didn’t expect was the view from our hotel room.

Imagine waking up to that.

Of course, when the place is as pretty as Queenstown, you don’t really want to spend much time indoors.  So we mostly wandered about the place, visiting gardens, climbing hills with a day off to watch Scotland beat Romania. 

I also did a very special thing: I got a tattoo.  A mother and baby dolphin swimming together.  My mum loved dolphins and the tattoo reminds me that she’s always with me.  It’s been 5 years since she died and I wanted to do something significant, especially as on this trip we were going to see her favourite creatures up close.

3 October 2011

My much belated travel diary: Hong Kong

Last month I began a trip (technically) around the world with the father.  He had kindly agreed to bring me along with him to support Scotland in the Rugby World Cup, and who was I to argue?  Our journey began with a quick stop in Hong Kong; a city of contrasts.  The traditional juxtaposed with the ultra modern.  Tiny dilapidated apartments squashed between shiny skyscrapers.  Parks filled with tropical birds, sculptures and mazes, which you stumble upon as you make your way through the city centre.

We generally just attempted to immerse ourselves in everything possible, eating delicious food (avoiding the tasty eye sockets) and drinking jasmine tea in tiny restaurants surrounded by locals or joining the hoards of tourists on the cable car to the top of the peak.  Most of our time was spent trying to replace the copious amounts of water we lost sweating in the crazy humidity, but we didn’t let that stop us exploring.  We just ensured we detoured through a few air-conditioned buildings en route!

Unfortunately we only stayed two nights, and our time was cut even shorter by accidentally sleeping for 12 hours one night (damn you jetlag!) so we didn’t get to explore the city to the fullest extent.  However, we crammed enough into our stay to ensure that it was an unforgettable experience.

3 September 2011

Reinforcing My Mad Cat Lady Destiny

Last month I had the absolute pleasure of attending my friend Ellie's wedding to Dom.  The weather was beautiful for all of the outdoor parts, and atrocious while we were safely in the marquee gorging on Welsh lamb.  Here are a few snaps which I think capture the loveliness of it:

The next day my friends and I explored the quaint town of Chepstow, where we were staying:

23 August 2011

Marmaris: like England, but sunny

You expect to have a full English every day when you decide to stay in the country for your holiday, but not when you travel 2000 miles from home…surely?  That’s exactly what you get in Marmaris; a veritable home from home for us Brits.  It has everything you could possibly want, providing that you only want things that you could have back in Blighty.  The streets are littered with British pubs, fish and chip shops, flat screen TVs showing live football, what more could you wish for?  In my case, anything vaguely Turkish would have been nice.  Sadly, Turkish delight was about all I could find.

It really saddened me that Marmaris was clearly designed with British tourists in mind.  And the worst kind of British tourists at that.  Everywhere we went, even during the day, we were offered free cocktails or shots to convince us to eat at restaurants.  The favourite offer was a fishbowl full of cocktail, which was accompanied by several giant straws that allowed your group to guzzle simultaneously.  

Having never been on a girls’ holiday before and usually going to a foreign country to explore and experience new and different cultures, I found it very difficult to adapt to this kind of trip.  I still find it a bit of a confusing concept to travel a different place, to do the same thing you can do at home, but I went along with it.  My personal low point of the holiday was our one and only (thank goodness) visit to Bar Street (oh yes, that’s its actual name).  This is home to some of the tackiest clubs I have ever seen, packed with leering Turkish men and highly intoxicated holidaymakers grinding to awful dance music.

If I’ve not already put you off, I have to mention the HASSLE that is an integral part of a holiday in Marmaris.  We managed to make all of the staff at our hotel completely despise us, merely by not eating at the restaurant.  We repeatedly explained that we had been offered better deals elsewhere and weren’t really interested in their planned entertainment, yet at every opportunity they would thrust their flyers into our hands and reiterate their offers over and over until we said ‘maybe’ so they would leave us in peace.  Then of course when we didn’t show for dinner they called us liars and gave us a lecture on how untrustworthy English people were.  Needless to say we never ate there.  They then called us whores and on our last night told us to never come back to Turkey.

It wasn’t just in restaurants that we received such treatment; we visited the local bazaar for what we hoped would be some spirited haggling, but ended up with the shop keepers shouting abuse at us when we refused to pay their inflated prices.  One owner even admitted intentionally charging English people more than he did other nationalities.  Part of me can’t blame the residents of Marmaris for having such an attitude, as I’m sure they receive abuse from a lot of English visitors.  One night we witnessed a gang of drunken English men throwing stones and aggressively shouting at a group of taxi drivers and I felt ashamed that they were representing my country.  Another night a severely under-dressed young woman climbed onto a bar to shout at everyone for being too boring, we left soon after.

I would like to end on a positive note, as I did actually really enjoy my holiday!  There were many people that we encountered in Marmaris that were more than lovely to us.  I admired the seemingly endless energy of some of the people who worked ridiculously long hours in the bars and restaurants, and always had a smile on their face and a compliment or funny joke.  The scenery was also beautiful, with stunning mountains surrounding the bay.  

Of course the weather was perfect, if a little hot at 46 degrees, and I didn’t once see even a hint of cloud.  At the end of our holiday we went on a day trip to Dalyan, where we saw turtles and had a mud bath, which was a lovely day.  Speaking to a hotel manager in Dalyan, who had previously worked in Marmaris, he told me that Marmaris was nothing like the rest of Turkey.  This was such a relief to hear!  I had a lot of fun during my stay, but a week was enough, and much to the joy of the hotel staff I won’t be returning to Marmaris.

5 August 2011

Spotlight on Mental Health

Even today in our supposed world of tolerance, acceptance and understanding, mental health is a somewhat taboo subject.  Treated as being different from other aspects of medicine, mental illness is still sometimes seen as something to be ashamed of.  As always, the fact that it is misunderstood and a little bit of a mystery creates the illusion that it is something that should be treated with caution and possibly feared.  However, could the recent rise in celebrities stepping forward and publicly acknowledging their mental health issues go some way to overcome this?

Catherine Zeta-Jones recently admitted that she suffers from bipolar disorder, which mental health charities say will help to remove the stigma often attached to mental illness.  Thankfully the media seems to have evolved from the ‘Bonkers Bruno Locked Up’ headline that The Sun ran after Frank Bruno was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 2003.  The press can often sensationalise mental illness, rather than sensitively discussing the issues and raising awareness of them.  The fact that other celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Russell Brand have also opened up to the public about suffering from bipolar has gone some way to normalise mental illness. 

Mental health charities have congratulated Zeta-Jones for her courage in speaking out about her treatment, as they believe it will help the public to see that mental illness can affect anyone and that it is something that can be treated.  They now want to see well known individuals from a wider variety of backgrounds, not just people from the creative industries, coming forward about their mental health issues.  Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, a campaign to end the discrimination surrounding mental health problems, said "The former prime minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik, got re-elected with an even higher majority once he disclosed he'd had to step back for a couple of months because he'd been experiencing depression."  Yet for British politicians, this seems an unlikely occurance: as the law stands at the moment if you're a sitting MP and you get sectioned, you wouldn't be able to remain an MP.  This is just the sort of discrimination that needs to be addressed.

There is still a long way to go before mental illness is no longer perceived as being separate from physical illness.  However, if public figures continue to help raise awareness by sharing their own experiences of life with a mental illness then hopefully the associated stigma will begin to disappear.

As for Zeta-Jones, she seems to be on the road to recovery following her five-day stay in a rehabilitation clinic in April.  She has returned to the movie set, filming new comedy Playing the Field in Louisiana.

4 August 2011

All White?

Arguably this season's biggest trend; white was all over the Spring 2011 runways.  Whether in the form of the LWD (Summer is all about the Little White Dress, dahling) at Karl Lagerfeld and Calvin Klein, or as a flowing shirt dress at Stella McCartney, no show was without at least a splash of whitewash.  Dolce & Gabbana even braved an entirely white collection.  But while white may encapsulate carefree summer days on a runway model, what about the rest of us?  Will we still look pristine and super-cool when we've spilt our morning cappuccino on our new white dress in the rush to get to work?

Dolce & Gabbana SS2011

It all depends on how brave you are.  Or perhaps how accident-prone you are.  I myself cannot wear a white t-shirt for more than 2 hours without getting some form of food or drink on it, so I will be approaching the white trend with caution.  If you magically repel stains (or, you know, can actually maintain cleanliness like a grown-up) then you can easily look the epitome of fresh summer chic with an effortless white outfit.  White doesn't necessarily have to mean innocent either: summer is a great excuse to flash some flesh.  Or you could show off your figure with a waist-cinching belt.  Less is more on the accessories front though; we're keeping it ultra minimal and nude, mmmkay?  The power of white is that it focusses the eye on form and line so you can have fun with silhouette while keeping everything else simple.  Frida Giannini experimented with cutaways and layers on her LWDs at Gucci, while Tommy Hilfiger channelled Grecian goddesses on their maxis so try out a few styles and see which gets you in the summer mood.  Mix up the textures with different layers to complete your white look.

Gucci SS2011
Feeling less brave?  Go for a statement white piece.  How about a white blazer to complete your summer wardrobe as the perfect cover-up?  White reflects heat leaving you feeling super cool in more ways than one.  Or you could embrace two trends at once and try the 70s palazzo pant.  Perfect to keep you cool with flats at the beach or dressed up with wedges to complete the 70s look in the evening.  Failing that: every woman needs a white shirt.  This is your go-to item, which can be styled numerous ways; androgynous and buttoned-up, prim and tucked, loose and knotted: it's up to you.

The key to this trend is that its only constraint is the colour: the rest is entirely your choice.  You can't go wrong, hooray!  Go as far as you feel comfortable with and embrace the cool, calm composure that follows.  Just one last piece of advice: stay away from the spaghetti Bolognese.