Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Flattering and comfortable alternative to jeans...

Jeans... We've all got 'em. We all love 'em. They don't always love us back quite the way they should. Sometimes they expose too much of a love-handle, sometimes they just grab in all the wrong places, and sometimes by the end of the day it's just a bit exhausting wearing them. If you are under 35 you won't get this at all but I bet the girls over 35 know what I mean by jeans being HARD WORK.

If you have any curves at all the result is often the dreaded muffin-top which even long sweaters can struggle to hide.

So it's a delight to come across an alternative which crosses the age divide, looks good, is comfortable to wear and is cheap as chips.

The cargo pant or utility trouser has come to the rescue of those who want something on-trend but not too young. Most of the styles are skinny this season, it's true, but look hard enough and you'll find more generous pairs and if not, do as I did and buy the size up.

These are my favourites and I have them in slate grey, £29.99 from Uniqlo.

Next month I'm buying them in a lighter more summery colour - they are that good.

Alternatively look out for these babies from ASOS at £35...

Or trading up a tad you could opt for these at French Connection for a cool £77.

Back at the cheaper end of the high-street and less skinny than many, I found these from River Island again at a competitive £29.99.

More interesting than a pair of chinos, more comfortable than jeans, I am wedded to my cargos this summer.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Exotic travel and getting the best discounts

Before I had children I was in the lucky position of editing a leading bridal magazine. Although I had to get excited about weddings and wedding etiquette, oh and of course frocks, I also was in the enviable position of being asked on a regular basis to review honeymoons.

Yes, you read correctly, HONEYMOONS!

Not your b&b somewhere windswept and wet but proper, pucker, 5 star city hotels and deserted island beaches. Sometimes I went with a group of other journalists, often with my other half who thought he'd died and gone to heaven. Working for the local council at the time which he did, he didn't often get offered a night in a luxury hotel with the wine cellar open for testing and the manager at our beck and call.

The picture here is from Wanderlust - who specialise in once-in-a-lifetime trips to whet your appetite.

Another world and another life-time... but it was the '80's.

Now we have to compromise both on price (budget is all) and on the type of holiday we can all enjoy. This often means we end up in an 'all-inclusive' miles from anywhere where we are abandoned for other teenagers, the bar and the all-night club. Which is fair enough, and I know I am lucky on two accounts. One that I can afford a holiday at all, and two that the teenagers still want to come on holiday with us. But I do hanker after something a bit more bespoke and grown-up.

This has made me a bit of a 'travel-porn' junkie. I look at travel websites like other women look at shoe websites and men look at, well whatever it is that men look at... I lust after rooms with Egyptian cotton sheets and terraces overlooking a white sand beach. I crave fluffy bathrobes and champagne on arrival. But there is hope and it comes in the form of a travel club which offers some pretty amazing discounts. Voyage Prive is a club that is invitation only and every month will email details of some amazing offers to  hotels, resorts and holidays that are almost too good to resist. So for 3 star prices you can get 5 star treatment and locations. At the moment they have apartments in Lisbon for 65% off,

Marrakech hotels at a saving of 70% and an amazing Seychelles holiday for 42% off (not including flights unfortunately but you can't have everything). Here it is...

I still haven't managed to actually book anything but my month is definitely brightened by the thought of what I could book if I could get the money together and the timing right...

So before you book your Summer holiday check out how to get invited (you can always leave me a comment and I'll recommend you with pleasure), sign-up to Voyage Prive and you won't be disappointed...

Update: since writing this post we got inspired and booked a couple of nights at Sandbanks Hotel, Dorset for an incredible half price! Can't wait to go....

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Sunshine in a bottle...

Because I'm of mixed parentage (mother from Tottenham, father from Belgrade) my heritage dictates that in terms of skin colour I look so much better with a tan. Being brought up and bringing up my own family in the UK means that for a good 85% of the year I have a sallow, bordering on yellow, skin-tone and envy my friends their English rose complexions and pretty freckles. Had I been brought up in the Med say, or anywhere with a decent whack of sunshine throughout the year, I'd be the colour I am meant to be.

I grew up at a time when you leapt outside at the hint of any sunshine whatsoever and plastered yourself all over with Sun Oil. No spf, no nothing - apart from the ability to baste slowly like an oven roast chicken. This was a BAD THING and I have brought my own children up to use proper sun-care even when lying in the park with their mates with a dull cloud overhead.

Now I take much better care with my skin in general when on holiday and with my face by only using moisturisers with added spf protection when I can. But I do need that healthy glow as well, so am glad that the fake tan industry has stepped up to the mark and produced some products that make you look good without that ghastly fake-tan orange glow. Up until recently every D list celebrity was to be seen sporting a toxic and shocking fake-tan but now there is no excuse as some of the products on the shelves are really good at giving a natural glow that is both easy to apply and easy to wash off.

My fave's at the moment are these two little wonders which make sure my summer legs look good in an instant and the rest of my body has a more permanent all-over-glow that doesn't include me being Tangoed anytime soon.
1. Jambes de Gazelle from Guerlain's Terracotta range.

I have to keep a close eye on this as the teenagers have discovered how good it is and keep stealing it. And believe me it really is good. I've not been born with 'Gazelle Legs' (apart from maybe the hair) but this is a really realistic tint that you put on after a shower and before moisturising and let dry. It dries really quickly, doesn't come off on your clothes and you can build up the intensity of the tan. It also washes off so if you do make a mistake and get a streak it's easily rectified. It contains sweet orange oil which makes it smell nice and has a bit of a toning effect which helps if your legs feel a bit heavy and want some refreshing. Guerlain Terracotta is a fab range of sunshine products with make-up and bronzers to match. This is a fantastic addition to the range and everyone who wants to bare their legs this year needs to grab a bottle.

2. he-shi Quick and Easy Dark Foaming Mousse.

You need a mitt to apply this evenly but unlike a lot of others it doesn't smell bad, goes on really smoothly and develops into a really natural looking tan with not a hint of orange in site. You will need a bit of practice if you've never faked your own tan before especially around the elbows and back of the heel - a dead giveaway if it goes too tanned as these parts don't really tan very well naturally and can look a bit wrinkly. The effect lasts for a week and you can go over it to get a deeper tan - though I would advise letting it develop over-night and seeing if you want more.

With these two on the bathroom shelf you'll be set for a bronzed summer - I write this looking out onto a typical Bank Holiday weekend day with a gale blowing and the threat of rain. So we need these products to remind us of sunnier climes and that we don't need to live in a pale old world.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

It's Saturday - so I'm off to Zumba

Bleurgh....... I am no natural gym bunny and have always believed that a holiday ski-ing is a wasted holiday. My natural stance is a slight lean to the left as I prop up the bar, French Martini in hand. So, Zumba on a Saturday morning when I should be lounging in scented sheets reading the newspaper and sipping a latte is a surprise to those who know me well, and a huge surprise to myself. The fact is over the past few months I've become quite addicted.

Zumba is a mix of Latin salsa dance and high-impact workout but the most important thing is it's fun and you don't feel like you're exercising. Well, that's not strictly true as you do feel like you're exercising as you get all sweaty and you lose calories like gambler loses money at the National, but because you're smiling through most of the class it just doesn't qualify, to my mind, as exercise. Zumba is far more of a cult to be honest, and some of our classes here in North London have become so popular that you have to get there early just to get in.

Here is my Zumba teacher in action...

It came from Columbia and spread like wild-fire through North America and is now sweeping Europe and the UK - Zumba is here to stay!

As you can see from the video it's easy to do and the music is great. All shapes, sizes and ages take part - I've seen teenagers and ladies well into retirement turn up - they are a real inspiration and set the barrier quite high. I've purposefully given you video of a real class because I want to show how un-intimidating it is. If you want a pre-summer holiday work-out it's ideal and in my experience it's very friendly and totally non-competitive (which is why I like it) - I save my competitive streak for more important things in life...

Search the internet for your local classes - they are springing up like mushrooms nationwide. Invest in a good pair of supportive and bouncy trainers and you'll be dancing and slimmer in no time.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Jack Will's for Grown-Ups...

White Stuff is becoming a bit ubiquitous amongst my friends. And myself. I have heard it referred to as 'Jack Will's for anyone over 40' but can't honestly see there's anything wrong with that. Jack Will's is now to be found in almost every new shopping centre to be opened in the last few years and is the 'look du jour' of many a uni student not studying the more creative arts. If you get my drift.

I dragged the other half into the large branch in St Albans the other weekend and it was a real mix of people. Mostly wearing White Stuff, and browsing to buy White Stuff. So it's a label that gets you hooked. Think Boden from a few years ago before we all felt like we'd spontaneously combust if YET ANOTHER catalogue came through the door. Boden is very successful. Johnnie Boden is very successful and very rich. So I shouldn't knock a winning formula but it is also very, very boring.

White Stuff is just a bit a more interesting taking the best of relaxed surfing style and translating it for a wide range of ages. And that is why I, and most of my friends, like it. It's the only reason to visit Muswell Hill frankly (unless you live there and have to go) and suits most body shapes. Prints are bright and breezy even in the depths of winter and it's also well made - this aint disposable fashion for the disposable generation. Oh no - we like our clothing like our men, robust at the seams and hard wearing.

So this maxi-dress is on my wish-list for next month's shopping list.

But why am I so in love with White Stuff at the moment? Because they have solved my summer footwear crisis. Summer feet all look like these....

...mentally high numbers for £59.99 at River Island

Gorgeous they may be to my teenage daughters but I am too old to be teetering. My ankles will turn trotting around Soho and there'd be a whiff of mutton in the air...

So these are my saviour this summer...
Yummy suede cork soft-as-hell for £65.

I shall be wearing these with a smile on my face and a skip in my step. http://www.whitestuff.co/

Everything in the garden is... BIG

I don't know if it's an age thing but I'm really into gardens. I'm sick with annoyance that I had to turn down a ticket for the last day at Chelsea tomorrow and still haven't been to The Eden Project which must be nicely developed. A few years back, after leaving the home interest magazine I was editing, I was inspired by Kim Wilde (yes she of Kids in America fame) and did a garden design course at Capel Manor. So apparently I am qualified to design gardens and should be exhibiting at Chelsea by now, not just wandering round. But that's how life seems to have panned out.

So these days I just direct the other half in where to put things without getting my hands dirty but benefiting from cooking the veg from our small veg garden.  I still keep my eye on interesting stories that may even get me out to visit some inspirational gardens and get my lungs filled with fresh air. So I was interested to read that the gardeners at the Eden Project in Cornwall are 'waiting with baited breath' to see if a giant rainforest plant becomes the biggest flower ever to be grown indoors.

This giant freak of nature is known as a Titan Arum and has taken nine years to get to it's 8 feet 2 inches and will only flower for two to three days before dying. This is an example of where I just don't get Mother Nature, who is normally far more efficient.

This is what it looks like...

Massive by anyone's standards so the flower should be pretty impressive too. Due to burst into bloom sometime during half term (so May 30 - June 5)  if you are holidaying in Cornwall I really would check it out along with other amazing plants taking centre-stage in their Freaky Nature exhibition. Take the kids, take yourselves - and if you get a chance to photograph the bloom in full glory please send it to me and I'll post it.

An added extra is a feature on Poo! and the glories of it - there's no accounting for taste but most kids will love this, and it's the ideal way to sell a visit to them.

Check here for further information on The Eden Project


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