Monday, 30 April 2012

Conran Vintage French Postcards

C'est Magnifique!



I love these postcards - they remind me so much of holidays in France when my children were little although they were produced long, long before that! France and the French way of living has long been a source of inspiration to Terence Conran.  On one of his frequent visits to the country, Terence uncovered a book of beautifully hand coloured humorous illustrations of Parisian shop fronts, dating from the 1920’s. Eight plates from the book have been selected by Terence to be reproduced in a limited number as postcards. They come packaged as a set of 16, printed on high quality card and priced at £12.95. Please call: 0844 848 4000 to order.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

KENZO and Vans colourful collaboration

For all fans, Kenzo and Vans have got together to produce what can only be described as a fusion of LA cool with Parisian chic - you certainly won't go unnoticed either if you wear these!

Vibrant, signature colours from Kenzo, standard Vans shape - and exclusive to Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge from around mid-May. Available for men and women for £80. Kenzo creators Humberto Leo and Carol Lim say 'since our childhoods in suburban LA we've been fans of Vans. Vans are one of the iconic American brands and we liked the idea of infusing this bit of American style into the house of KENZO.' I love it....

Friday, 27 April 2012

Get into London Theatre ticket offer

I love the theatre but it is a once every so often treat purely because it really is too expensive! So I'm always on the look out for cheap ticket deals and this one is well worth checking out. Get into London Theatre, the popular theatrical ticket promotion is back and from 21st June until 9th September 2012 you can book a wide range of musicals, plays, dance and entertainment with tickets priced at £10, £20, £30 and £40 with no additional booking or postage fees.

Tickets from £10 include the Olivier Award nominated shows One Man, Two Guvnors and the stage adaptation of the children’s book, The Tiger Who Came To Tea.
There are more than 40 shows available and there really is something for everyone, all the big musicals and plays - from English National Ballet's Swan Lake to the RSC's Julius Caesar and Disney's The Lion King. Maybe now I'll finally get to see The Woman In Black!

Visit the Get into London Theatre website  or call the 24hr ticket hotline on 0844 412 2703 for further information. Tickets must be booked by 31 May and there are no booking or postage fees. The website also has a whole host of travel advice and restaurant & hotel offers.

Get Into London Theatre summer 2012 is just one of many initiatives the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) has put together to help audiences make the most of the Olympic summer. Visit Official London Theatre’s Theatre 2012 section for helpful tips on travel, a list of all the shows running over the Olympic period and the Don’t Miss The Real Show theatrical trailer.

SOLT (Society of London Theatres) has worked with Transport for London to produce an Olympic-period-specific ‘theatre travel guide’ enabling visitors to plan and make the most of their trips to the theatre during the games.  A PDF of the guide can be downloaded from Official London Theatre's dedicated 2012 section

30 Dolphins stranded on Brazilian beach

My friend sent me this video and it really is quite incredibly touching and the sort of thing you dream about seeing. Over 30 dolphins come up to the beach, unfortunately they were stranded, but ever single one was saved. If it's raining where you are, it may just give you a taste of sunshine....

Apologies for the large size but it was worth publishing anyway....

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Priceless Wonderground at The South Bank

The Tiger Lillies

The huge festival that is London this summer 2012 is starting to kick off in earnest, and yesterday I received a programme of events under the umbrella of Priceless London Wonderground.

Those clever impressario's behind the udderbelly present a brand new festival of 'marvels and curiosities' featuring the best in cabaret, circus, sideshow and music. Wonderground runs from May until September and I, for one, will be visiting at least one of the performances.

Here are some of the acts you can take in during the summer...

Meow Meow - this international singing sensation is the perfect post-modern showgirl and has had critically acclaimed shows in the West End.

The Royal Family of Strange People - a collection (if that is the right word to use here) of 'human oddities', more performance than freak-show with sword swallower The Space Cowboy, who holds eleven Guinness World Records and his most recent record saw him swallow eighteen swords in one go... plus others of course!

I didn't manage to get a ticket to Frisky & Mannish at the Edinburgh Fringe so I'm really tempted by them here where they are putting on Extra-Curricular Activities - their show is all about joy and laughter, oh and Pop Music. Should be fun!

Fascinating Aida are among the big name acts - five stars in The Times. There's drag acts, burlesque, circus performers, comics - really is a smorgasbord of entertainment.

Priceless London Wonderground 0844 545 8282

Monday, 23 April 2012

Ted Baker Shiny Shiny Shoes

Ted Baker has cornered the market in shiny bags and accessories so check out these vibrant shoes to match for Spring/Summer 2012!

Svana - Red Peeptoe Heels, £120

Tied- White jelly flip flops £30

Philesia- Red Bow Peeptoe £100

Thuja- Pink Jelly pumps £45

To celebrate the start of summer and a beautiful collection of brightly
coloured footwear, Ted Baker is offering one lucky lady the chance to take
a dream trip to London that is all about the treats. The winner and a friend
will be treated to a night at the luxurious Metropolitan Hotel on London’s
Park Lane where they will dine at the award-winning Thai restaurant nahm
and emerge refreshed from the COMO Shambhala Urban Escape spa. The
winning pair will be able to replenish their summer wardrobe with £250
to spend in any Ted Baker store and when their feet need a break, they can
relax with top-to-toe treatments at Ted’s Beauty Spot on Cheapside in the
City of London. Finally, when they are ready to pound the streets again,
the winner can do so in style in one of five free pairs of Ted’s shoes - from
sparkly evening heels, patent peep toes, watermelon-scented ‘Sweet Feet’
ballet pumps or chic bow flip-flops in juicy shades that look good enough to eat.
 To enter and for full terms and conditions, visit Office now. The closing
date is Monday 7 May and winners can pick any Saturday/Sunday between
19 May-30 September, excluding bank holidays and subject to availability.

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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Californian Pistachios are Wonderful!

Ohhhhhh big bags of these were sent into the office and then I saw them on special offer in Sainsbury's at the weekend and just couldn't say know - around £2.50 at the moment for a decent enough bag. They are wonderful by name and actually pretty wonderful. Pistachio's are those snacks that you can't just have one or two of - and these are even worse! They are larger than average as they have been nurtured under the warm Californian sun then roasted without oil. They some seasoned which is why I love them so much - sweet chilli was definitely my favourite though I must say I could get an addiction to Salt and pepper too. 
Available in a variety of sizes from 150g to a whopping 750g Wonderful® Pistachios are available in salted, salt and pepper, sweet chilli and no salt.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

I waxed my own eyebrows...

...and incredibly, it worked!

I have tried waxing my own legs and underarms to no great effect. I don't know why but I can never get that smooth salon finish and inflicting pain on my self is not really my bag. But like most of the world at the moment apart from those wealthy few, I am trying to cut back on things that aren't complete essentials so I can enjoy some treats too.

So I decided to save the small amount of money on eyebrow waxing. To be honest it's a fag making an appointment and hauling my arse to the salon for such a small beauty tweak, so being able to do this in the time it takes me to do my eye-makeup was definitely an appealing prospect.

This is what I picked up, Parissa Natural Hair Removal System Brow Shaper strips.

Parissa do a wide range of wax strips but these are the one's specially for eyebrows - and for £6.52 for 16 two-sided strips they are much cheaper than even my local threading specialist who only charges a fiver a time.

And it was ridiculously easy to get both a line and a professional finish. It took me five minutes (if that) but I did use more than just one two-sided strip so I think I need to perfect my technique a bit.

Here is the result...

Which I reckon is pretty good - just the one tiny stray hair which I plucked out and it was pretty damn near perfect. I may even revisit the idea of doing my own legs now - although I think a brazilian is well off the agenda - ouch!

Friday, 20 April 2012

A Sure Thing

Any readers of this post knows that I am a bit addicted to Zumba and it is (along with Pilates) one of the only things that keeps me going. Unlike with Pilates however, I really really do sweat - drip in fact!
Which is a good thing and is what is supposed to happen under extreme physical exercise. However I also sweat in other situations - like on the tube the other day when I found myself sitting opposite a huge dog with jaws as big as my head and his tattoo'ed owner. Turns out both were very nice (there, mustn't go making snap judgements about people or dogs) but I did break out in a bit of a lather which I had to live with for the rest of the day. It just so happens that I was wearing the new Sure Maximum Protection deodorant as I had been sent some to try out - and it does really, really work, plus it smells good too!
I also like the ad which features lots of strong women doing active and challenging stuff unlike most ad's aimed at women.
This particular deodorant has a special formula made up of three components, the first for extra strength dryness protection, the second has fragrance which contains odor-protecting microcapsules which desolve when you sweat, and the third is a skin conditioning ingredient to help protect the skin from irritation.
I shall be buying some more when this runs out as I really genuinely found it did the trick (and no I'm not being paid for this, if I didn't like it I wouldn't write about it.
Sure Maximum Protection is RRP £5.09 for 45ml and is available from all leading retailers (prices may vary).

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Win a trip to London during the Olympic Games!

Calling all my fellow bloggers or those wanting to create a video and blog!

You can win a fantastic trip to London during the London 2012 Olympic Games courtesy of Samsung by becoming a Samsung Global Blogger. London is unashamedly going to the THE PLACE TO BE during the summer so even if you don't have Olympic tickets you have got to get here this year (if you're not already of course).

So how do you become a Samsung Global Blogger? Each blogger or wanna-be blogger will have been chosen by a panel of celebrity judges and will be invited to London to seek out the best the city has to offer during the Games and presenting it to the world via their own, specially created video blog.

All you have to do to be considered it to submit a 30 second video in English of you telling Samsung how you would be the perfect blogger at large in London Town. They are looking for....

  • Confidence and energy in front of the camera
  • A passion for the subject matter
  • Imagination and originality
  • A good sense of humour
  • A social butterfly - do you use Twitter? Or talk to the world on your own blog?
  • The ability to tell a story well through video and the written word

For more details of entering this amazing opportunity and on how to submit your video, click The Samsung Global blogger search.
The deadline for audition videos is before midnight GMT on April 22nd so you'd better be quick!

This is a sponsored post.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Nespresso here I come!

I'm just a teensie weensie bit excited. And I know this is a bit sad but if you only knew the love affair that I have with coffee then you would know that the slow and painful death of my beloved Gaggia machine has been a daily sadness for me.

This is what it would look like new today...

Gaggia Espresso Pure
It has served me well with fresh, frothy lattes virtually every morning for the past 5 years. It is a kitchen gadget that I cannot live without unlike the ice-cream maker, the pasta maker and the sandwich maker, this is a prince among kitchen gadgets.

But it has reached the end of it's life. It drips like an old man's nose on a freezing morning. It has bad athsma. It lacks froth (well don't we all in the morning but it's not supposed to). I come home to a brimming splash tray. It's a sad and pitiful sight indeed.

So I decided that as I didn't make up my mind as to what I wanted for my birthday then a new coffee machine was as welcome a present as any. But I hadn't realised the sheer size of the choice I was going to have to make! Did I want a machine that ground the beans before making the coffee? Did I want an industrial strength machine more suitable for an office but that would say that, in coffee terms, I had arrived?

Did I want an external or an internal milk frother? Colour? Bright and bold, or sleek and black?

How much did I have to spend to not miss out?

Even with the glories of the internet I was confused. So I went to John Lewis where I knew I could talk to a middle aged woman just like myself who would UNDERSTAND.

And I did. She swiftly disregarded about two thirds of the machines after I told her what I wanted.
This was her suggestion...

How gorgeous is that? The Nespresso Citiz with Milk by Magimix is beautiful and uses those little capsules which keeps coffee fresh. Now it isn't as cheap as using ground coffee in bags at around 29p a cup but this is one of my few vices and I think I am worth 29p per morning.
And I get to try out a smorgasboard of different types of coffee which come with the machine so I know what to order in bulk. I am so excited I can't wait for it to arrive and please excuse my blogging if it becomes a little 'wired' - it's just a caffeine high!

PS. It's arrived and I can see why it is the coffee of choice for The Fat Duck in Bray and Sketch in Mayfair - good enough for Heston Blumenthal is definitely good enough for me and the coffees provided are absolutely divine!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Paula Radcliffe launches Dishes for Wishes Campaign

Today sees the launch of Fairy Dishes for Best Wishes a campaign fronted by world class athlete and many times marathon winner Paula Radcliffe MBE. The campaign, which you can take part in via their Facebook page, is all about encouraging and supporting our favourite athletes and teams competing in London 2012.

Paula has inspired a whole generation of female runners and is a personal hero of mine so I was thrilled to get to chat briefly with her this morning about how important support is to athletes and other things...

This is a campaign and competition set up to send messages of support for our athletes Paula, who has been your greatest supporter and why?
'Oh there've been so many over the years but I have to say my family first and foremost starting with my Grandma. She taught me the value of hard work and that if you give 100% every day to something you will achieve your goal. My parents followed on with this and continue to support me. My first coach Alex Stanton at Bedford was and still is an amazing support. He has travelled around all over the place with me though not as much in recent years as before.'

How important is family support to you and how has it changed over the years for you?
'It has changed and it hasn't changed really. The support given to me has just expanded to my husband and kids. My five year old joins in and runs alongside the track at certain points with my husband which is great.'

What does 'me' time look like for Paula Radcliffe?
'Any 'me time' is spent with the kids - absolutely, and comes before anything. Once they are in bed and if I have a spare moment I read a book but I love to spend time with my husband and the children and enjoy everything from playing on the beach to painting and taking the bikes out. Pretty normal mum stuff really.'

Do your children want to follow in your footsteps and if so would you encourage them?
Only if it comes from them. Of course I will support my children in anything they want to do and will encourage them to enjoy and take part in sport, but they have to have a very real desire from within to take things to a serious competitive level and if this is what they truly want then I will support them all the way.

Who are your personal heroes?
'My Dad took me down to the London Marathon when I was a kid and I saw Ingrid Christianson from Norway - she was a real inspiration and probably my first inspiration. I also followed the amazing Greta Weitz also from Norway who won the London Marathon twice, New York Marathon nine times and won Olympic silver in 1984.She recently lost a hard battle with cancer which she fought to the end and refused to let it beat her. The same with Jane Tomlinson who was a great person and refused to the beaten, fighting it all the way and raising funds throughout her illness. Amazing women really.'

And because it is never far from my thoughts what are your favourite foods?
Paula laughs at this one ' I tend to eat the same foods when I'm training and when I'm resting to be honest. I have a passion for dark chocolate and eat this every day. I also grab handfuls of almonds and mixed nuts as I love them and can't get enough. I love sushi and fish in general...and every so often I relax with a glass of red wine.'

It was lovely to talk to Paula and to hear that someone who is so very far out of my league in terms of dedication is really quite normal!

Paula is a total star and deserves her MBE, now we can all pass on our best wishes and support to our amazing athletes like Paula and fabulous teams by taking part in the Fairy Dishes for Best Wishes competition. Simply visit the Facebook page, and by using the easy design application, create a dish design with words and pictures of encouragement and support to be entered into the 'Dishes of Best Wishes' competition.

The Fairy Dishes for Best Wishes competition is open for entry from Wednesday 18th April until Sunday 17th June with all eligible designed dishes available to view on the Dishes for Best Wishes gallery here.

The five most voted for dishes will win a printed, framed copy of their design signed by Paula Radcliffe so get online today and make sure our athletes feel the most supported and loved in the world!

Photograph of Paula from - UK's Anti-Doping organisation protecting the rights of UK athletes to compete in drug free sport.

This is a sponsored post.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Institut Esthederm Sculpt System lotion - review

I am looking for a way of keeping my crepe skin at bay. Especially on places like the tops of my thighs, underarms, elbows and knees - areas which are particularly unforgiving. Oh and of course my decolette! I decided to give the Sculpt System Extra-Firming Hydrating Lotion by Institut Esthederm a whirl and have used it for the past 3 weeks.

A little bit about Institut Esthederm...

Developing skincare treatments in Paris for nearly 30 years, their research and design centre is now based in the heart of  Provence where their team of dermatologists and nutritionalists are constantly working to develop formulas based upon their unique idea of Skin Ecology.

What does this mean then?
Their view of skin is that it is an ecosystem that needs treating like any other ecosystem with care and respect. They look at the interaction between our skin and it's surroundings, taking into account seasonal changes and life cycles in order to develop skincare that trains skin to adapt to its environment. They believe your skin reflects your whole bodies 'wellness' and is aimed to harmonise both body and mind.

Our skins need to last a lifetime and should therefore be treated on a long-term basis. Cells are designed to regenerate for more than 100 years so with this in mind Institut Esthederm believes that skin aging is not inevitable, and have created products to maintain skin at an optimal level.

But did it work?

Well I must say that my skin is feeling very soft and lovely after a few weeks of using it after a shower. I have concentrated on those areas I felt needed it and it is easily absorbed leaving skin soft but not greasy. It doesn't have much of a scent either, which in this case I like as it doesn't fight with my fragrance. I think this is a soft and gentle product which seems to have left my skin feeling less fragile and more supple - which is what I was looking for. Amazingly though, and this is the good bit, my cellulite seems to have really diminished - no really. Dimpling is far less and I haven't been body brushing or cutting out caffeine - so there you go. It definitely gets an 8/10 from me!
Institut Esthederm Sculpt System hydrating lotion is £26 and can be bought from Space NK.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Sonos - music to my ears

So it may sound like we're a bit gadget mad in our house but really we are just playing catch-up and we do tend to have spurts in buying gadgets when everything seems to come to the end of it's lifecycle all at once. So it's often the case that the vaccum cleaner will die at roughly the same time that the freezer conks out too and a week later it'll be something else... it's known as the law of Sod.

These all have to be replaced as they are, to my mind, household essentials of vital importance. However there are some gadgets that are there for the sheer pleasure of having them, and the Sonos is one such gadget.

We heard our first Sonos on a trip to visit husband's sister and her man in Yorkshire. It was obviously a fairly new toy for him too as he took great delight in playing what we now refer to as 'the Sonos game'.

'Go on, what song would you like to hear?' he asked. The normal response would be 'what have you got?' or somesuch, but this time an Apple Touch was thrust upon us with the request to 'put in any song you would like to hear...'.

Which we did - and miraculously said track immediately started to fill the house with it's melody. And that was it - we were hooked and what followed was two hours of trying to catch the thing out.

Now to some people reading this, they will know exactly what a Sonos is and how it works but for the uninitiated I will explain.

The 'Sonos' box is a speaker and receiver which downloads tunes directly from Napster (for which you pay a monthly subscription) and plays them back. By using a special handheld control or something like an Apple Touch, you can search for tracks or artists and create playlists so you don't constantly have to be fiddling around if you'd rather be doing something else.

We bought one for husband's birthday and (after a few false starts getting Napster to work, why are things never as simple as they are meant to be?) we now have 100,000 tracks at our fingertips. We have just the one box but you can add others throughout the house too. And for those of us which grew up with a Dancette and 6 inch singles the leap into the 21st century is not just the immediacy of all that music but, and this is something us children of the sixties have to understand, you don't actually own the music, but are just fleetingly downloading and playing a track from a site.

You don't own the CD or the vinyl or anything tangible like that. So even though it's a wonderful toy with a great sound, if you love something enough you will still go out and buy it to physically 'own' the piece. What it does do, if you like discovering new music or rediscovering old stuff, is allow you to trial out a far wider range of music than you would normally do without the cost - and that is something you can do, in the privacy of your own home.

Music can be streamed through a variety of music sites like Spotify and itunes too. Prices start at around £300 for the Sonos system. You can add your own stereo and your own speakers too - it really is that versatile.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Grapes, Limehouse review

Meeting up with an old friend we decided to abandon the usual haunts of the West End, Southbank or Covent Garden and decided to broaden our horizons to Limehouse and The Grapes Public House and restaurant.

This narrow little building backs onto the Thames and is owned by Sir Ian McKellen and Evgeny Lebedev (owner of The Evening Standard) and has been a public house for 500 years. If you like to step back into history along with downing a pint while watching the boats go by then this really has be on your visit soon list.
The Bar
Originally known as The Bunch of Grapes the official address is 76 Narrow Street, London E14 8BP.
Charles Dickens knew the area well - he visited his godfather in Limehouse in 1820, but the pub's history stretches further back. It will have been in existance when Queen Elizabeth 1 laid claim to a city that was the centre of world trade - her explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert lived in Limehouse. Sir Walter Raleight set sail on his third voyage to the New World from directly below the pub and in 1661 Samual Pepys' diary records his trip to the lime kilns at the jetty just along from The Grapes.

It is The Grapes which obviously inspires Charles Dickens in Our Mutual Friend 'A tavern of dropsical appearance...long settled down into a state of hale infirmity.'

Well things have improved somewhat in the last 200 years or so and this little pub is far from a state of infirmity. We had a drink out on the balcony and incredibly the sun shone, then it was in and up the narrow staircase to a room resembling a Captain's cabin for lunch. You have to book in advance - it was packed but they kept our table while we took in the scenery and our waitress was both efficient and attentive.
The Dining Room
I agree with owner Ian McKellen who states that the pub feels like a local but welcomes visitors, not always the case with tiny little old pubs it has to be said.

The menu was fairly limited but with enough variety to make sure there was something for everyone. I couldn't resist the squid to start - I was expecting battered rings as would be the norm for standard pub food, but was delighted to find it was a whole, small squid which had been charcoal grilled and was beautifully fresh and served with a chilli dipping sauce. In terms of the the main course the rest of my party opted for steaks which looked very good indeed but I didn't regret my butternut squash rissotto which was full of flavour and the perfect portion size.

Desserts were traditionally British and there was a wide selection of ice-creams.

Here is the menu from The Grapes to whet your appetite.

And the bill? with drinks it came to £68 per couple including a tip.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Orange and Almond Cake

This is a fantastically different recipe as it contains no fat, no flour but isn't all saintly as it does have a lot of sugar. Serve with creme fraiche or ice cream..

2 large oranges
200g caster sugar (I use golden)
200g ground almonds
1.5 tsp baking powder
6 medium eggs

For the drizzle
100g caster sugar

1. Peel the rind off the oranges with a peeler and put in a separate saucepan for later. Cover the oranges with water and simmer for two hours until soft.
2. Put all the ingredients into a food processor and mix together then pour into a 20cm lined baking tin.
3. Bake on 200c/180c fan/gas mark 6 for 50 mins - well this is what it says in the recipe but to be honest this isn't enough and I give it around 15 mins longer.
4. Remove from tin and cool on rack.
5. Make drizzle with sugar, orange peel and 300ml water - simmer until liquid becomes thicker then drizzle over the cake.
Serve immediately or the next day - to be honest it's way better the next day!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Brilliantly British Blankets

After being inspired by Mary Portas last series where she looked at the woeful state of British textile manufacturing, I am more aware than I have ever been of the importance of not just Buying British in terms of my fruit and veg but also in other parts of my life too.

I am of the generation that grew up with blankets and sheets. I can remember getting my first duvet - a forgein import if ever there was one, but my parents never got on with them and stuck to blankets for years after the rest of us had converted.

I still have a blanket which my parents had on their bed when I was a child which must make it at least 40 years old. It's a bit the worse for wear and we do keep it in the car for picnics but I must admit this pure wool blanket has lasted far longer than any of the duvets we have bought and which regularly need replacing.

It's no wonder they are not cheap things to buy as they may well outlive you (this one did my parents let's face it!). So I am very tempted indeed to invest in a beautiful blanket by this new British lifestyle brand Scarlet & Argent who are launchingt in John Lewis's Oxford Street store this Saturday (April 7th). They are also available now from John Lewis online.

Scarlet & Argent are known for superb quality. Created in Yorkshire-based Hainsworth which is one of Britain's most prestigious textile mills and luxury fabric supplier to the Queen, its iconic scarlet cloth is worn exclusively by the Queen's Guards and Prince William even wore it on his wedding day.

Each Scarlet & Argent piece is created from only the finest natural materials and every piece is impeccably finished.

Dale & Moor Throws are made to a traditional wool drying process where the cloth is stretched over wooden tenter frames and pinned in place with hooks. Colours include Ocean, Copper and Lime and are priced at £75, again made from Pure New Lambswool.

Chamber Blankets are gorgeously fluffy lambswool blankets and come in natural or grey - they are priced at £255, £325 and £395 - a real investment piece but one you will love for years.

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