Tuesday, 25 October 2016

#THROWBACK: A day in fashionable London town...

Hello lovelies,

My plan is to post as regularly as I can over the coming weeks, so I'm starting with a bit of a throwback post today.  Yes, I'm travelling back to August...before my summer holiday to Cannes (I'll feature the outfits and fashion from this soon) and after my very special bridesmaid OOTD, which you can read about here.

As you know by now, I regularly visit London and plan to do so even more now that one of my loveliest friends Jen is living there.  So just before my summer holiday, I flew solo to London to catch up with her for a day of shopping, fizz and gossip.  It ended up being a trip with fashion at the centre; without even trying to be!

We started off in Victoria's Secret (Pink knickers an essential purchase!!) then ended up in Fenwick on Bond Street, with a visit to the Bond Street Kitchen for a brunch of scrambled egg on toast and bottomless Prosecco.  Now I must add here that it was about 1230pm-and that bottomless for me is usually two glasses; its definite value for money if you go all out but as I'm a lightweight it would've probably worked out cheaper if I'd just bought a glass of fizz! Nevertheless it was a wonderful treat from Jen and one which I wasn't expecting-plus it was the perfect setting to offload some gossip!

Once refuelled and ready to go, we headed towards Regent Street, taking in lots of shops along the way.  I had a holiday almost upon me, so I used the day to actively encourage Jen to spoil herself; she got herself a few treats-including some divine red Christian Louboutin nail polish from Selfridges.  It's always fun to spend time in Selfridges on Oxford Street; the time seemed to run away as we took in all of the amazing shoes, clothes and handbags we were lusting after.

We were heading slowly towards Burberry on Regent's Street, the flagship, the mothership, my favourite place on Earth!  You may remember I had breakfast there with Natalie at Christmas (here) and thought it would be the perfect place to take Jen for a mid-afternoon cake date.  Jen had never been to this Burberry before; and she absolutely loved it.  It's my favourite London landmark-I love to share it!!

The history of the trench coat-the famous Burberry staple-was being celebrated with a mini exhibition in-store.

Thomas's is an amazing place to eat; I hope to one day visit for afternoon tea!  This time, a cake and a coffee was top of the list-Millionaire's Cheesecake for me and a classic Cherry Bakewell for Jen, served with some delicious coffee to wash it down-yum!

A quick stop off at Waterstone's, and time spent at the biggest selection of fashion books I've ever had the pleasure of coming face to face with (I opted for Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn in case you were wondering!), we strolled along to Burlington Arcade.  Most of the shops were closed by this point but I was really excited to see all of the Vogue 100 covers still hanging pride of place.  A perfect camera moment!

 I also loved the Camellia's in the window of Chanel!

Apart from a quick bite before I boarded the train, our last stop of the day was a walk along Bond Street again, to visit Alexander McQueen and to window shop.  From a visual merchandise point of view, the windows on Bond Street are by far some of the best in London-particularly if you love high-end fashion like me!

I really loved seeing fashion on all floors at Valentino!

Sadly, it was time for me to leave-but it was such a fun day with so much friendship and fashion crammed in for good measure! Until my next London visit...


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

American Afternoon Tea @ Karbon Grill, Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland...

Hello lovelies,

This week I was kindly invited to Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland to try out their in house restaurant's American Afternoon Tea.  The Hilton Garden Inn is only six months old and is situated right next to the Stadium of Light, Sunderland, just over Wearmouth Bridge.  Having never visited the Hilton Garden Inn before (or noticed it really-it's quite impressive-I must've be too engulfed in match day jitters to use my eyes!!!) or Karbon Grill, the in house restaurant, I was excited to see what it had to offer.  Plus I'm always looking for new food places to try out with my Mister.

Coming in through the hotel's reception, I was really impressed with its interior design.  It's sleek and modern, yet really welcoming and the staff were super friendly and helpful.  And Krissi and I both loved the lights!

We were shown to the bar area by the hotel staff, where we grabbed a drink and waited patiently for the other North East blogging ladies to arrive.

Once everyone was there, we were welcomed to the hotel by a member of staff and introduced to our Afternoon Tea.  We were all given some strawberry and banana milkshake to sample (it was like a smoothie and was delicious!) and offered some coffee or tea.  The staff had kindly set up a table with some tea stands on it, to show us how the afternoon tea would look if we had ordered it in the restaurant.  This was a great idea-a perfect opportunity for some great photographs before we tucked into our food.

I've never had an American afternoon tea before; I was expecting hotdogs and waffles, but boy was I wrong!  I started my evening of sampling with some gorgeous cheese and pickle bites and Buffalo chicken wings.  The pickle oozed out of the bites, giving a sweet and tangy kick, and the chicken wings were really spicy but delicious all the same.

Next, I sample a mini calzone (I think mine was mozzarella and herbs) followed by a pork and chorizo slider, which was my favourite part of the meal.  Like a mini burger, it was really tasty and melted in my mouth.  I've never seen mini burgers before; a great idea for an alternative afternoon tea.

When I have any afternoon tea, it's always the cake layer I look forward to the most, and this one was no exception.  With the American afternoon tea, we were treated to Mississippi mud pie, key lime pie and pecan tart and all three looked delectable.

I started with the pecan tart-it was so good.  Add nuts to anything and you're always onto a winner with me!  The tart was the perfect consistency and melted in my mouth.  Next, I went for the key lime pie-this is one of my all time favourite desserts-but I have to say I was a little disappointed with this one.  The lime was a little bit too strong for my liking making the pie taste a little like perfume.  However, this is just my personal taste-my Dad makes an amazing key lime pie so I think everything else just fails in comparison!  However, the mud pie more than made up for it and was one of the best I've ever tasted!

I really enjoyed trying out an alternative afternoon tea, and it was lovely to spend the evening with some lovely ladies in a really beautiful setting.  The food was delicious; I'm an afternoon tea traditionalist and I love a cream scone and some good old fashioned homemade cakes and sandwiches, but I love that Karbon grill are offering something different and I think their afternoon tea would be a great option for men who might want a good feed rather than some pretty cakes.  I'm sure my Mister would be really excited at the prospect of burgers and wings for afternoon tea!  Karbon Grill offer a more traditional afternoon tea too; so there's definitely something for everyone.

American Afternoon Tea at the Karbon Grill is £14.50 per person based on a minimum of two people sharing.  Booking is recommended but not essential.  You can find out more about the Karbon Grill and book your afternoon tea here.  If you want to learn more about the Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland, you can do so here.  Thank you to Sorted PR and Karbon Grill for inviting me to review the Afternoon Tea free of charge; all opinions are my own.

PS-make sure you take time to visit the Snowdog outside!


Monday, 17 October 2016

Shelf Life by Mark Clarke, The Bowes Museum...

Hello lovelies!

I'm returning from my current blog hiatus (my workload has been huge!) to tell you about the latest exhibition to take place at The Bowes Museum.  On Friday, I was kindly invited to the preview of 'Shelf Life: The Ornaments are talking to me' and it's one of the most thought provoking collections that I have ever been to (but I'll come to that later).  It's a slight sidestep away from the fashion collections I normally review, but the inclusion of popular culture in the assemblages made it still feel incredibly relevant.

The Bowes Museum at night-still beautiful!

I took my lovely Mama L with me as my guest for the evening.  We were greeted with drinks and took our time to look closely at the paintings whilst we were waiting for the evening to begin.

 Mama L posing with the silver swan

In our introduction to the exhibition, we were told that Mark Clarke had become fascinated with the objects that his mother had collected towards the end of her life whilst she was battling dementia.  She arranged objects on her shelves in terms of hierarchy, giving Clarke an insight into how her mind was working.  It's true to say that we are all hoarders in one form or another (for me it's my ever growing collection of Vogue magazines and fashion books!) and the objects we collect sometimes evoke thoughts of a certain time in life or a certain decade (when I was little I had a troll collection-you can't get more early nineties than trolls!) which is certainly the case with many of the objects in Clarke's installations.

Although inspired by his Mother's dementia, the assemblages aren't a direct representation of his mother's collections-some of the objects were from his mother's home but there are others from charity shops and jumble sales that help to make up the numbers.  The exhibition explores the notion of 'art versus accumulation', deals with the ideas of love and loss and provokes memories of times long forgotten.  Separated into five separate themes, each assemblage explores many ideas from the past to popular culture in a really unusual yet strangely fun way.

Before we delve into the exhibition, I must apologise for the darkness of my photos, but hopefully they should help to give you an idea of Clarke's work and hopefully make you want to visit for yourselves!

Theme 1: Dinnertime

I loved 'Dinnertime'.  I am a massive dog lover and Christmas lover-so in this case the ornaments really were speaking out to me!  Clarke explores the idea here that pets are our closest companions and that for someone with dementia, knowing that your companion has to be fed can help to mark key points during the day which may otherwise go unnoticed.  My boyfriend lost his Nana to dementia a few years ago, and her cats were her closest companions-helping to provide comfort and companionship in her final days.  I loved the randomness of the animals wearing masks here-and the fact that there was a random space hopper amongst all of the animals (my dog Jay-Jay once had one of these as a toy!).

Theme 2: Once Upon A Time

Based on the musical 'Into the Woods', 'Once Upon A Time' represents the idea of life as a fairytale, leaving behind a feeling of disillusionment, reality and responsibility once the dream is over.  The objects featured are described as 'silent witnesses'-the things in our home that see everything be it happy or sad.  I found this assemblage to be the saddest; we strive to make the best of everything in our lives, yet I suppose tragedy and some sadness is always inescapable.  My Mam also felt sad after seeing this.  She talked about her collection of Lilliput Lane cottages that have been with her throughout her adult life which will be unloved when she's no longer here.  She also said if they could talk they could tell some tales but it's probably best that they can't!!

Theme 3: Showtime

This assemblage played around with the idea that the elderly and infirm were once young and that in today's society this is sometimes forgotten.  I love the inclusion of masks and hats, jewellery and sparkles to represent a life once lived.  I have met some wonderful elderly people who have had fascinating lives and always have a story to tell and I love that this is celebrated here.  My Mam turned seventy last year and I know for a fact that her life was once much wilder than mine has ever been and probably ever will be!  The objects collected from a life once lived help to tell their story-hoarding in the best possible way!

Theme 4: A Time to Kill

The theme here explores the idea that it is sometimes hard to make sense of a person's life through their accumulated objects and that for a dementia sufferer, when faces begin to blur and memories fade, comfort can often be sought from the familiar faces of celebrities and the popular culture that surrounds us every day.  For me the saying 'one man's trash is another man's treasure' applies to this assemblage; what may just look like junk in a shed could mean the world to it's owner.

Theme 5: Primetime

This was my favourite assemblage of the Mark Clarke collection.  Here, Clarke has recreated celebrities from popular culture using inexpensive household objects.  These are the people that become the friends of those who are housebound and only have their TV to keep them company; the celebrities of today become their best friends.  I hate the idea of anyone being lonely, it is one of my greatest fears in life; but I love that it is explored here in a fun and positive way.  I couldn't really work out which celebrity was which-Mam and I think we found Will.I.Am and Sia-but as for the others...Victoria and David Beckham??? I think I'll have to get a copy of the exhibition catalogue to find out!

 Centre and right: Will.I.Am and Sia (we think; earphones and concealed face were our clues!)

Although I had a lot of fun exploring Mark Clarke's 'Shelf Life', I do think it is one of the most thought provoking and deeply emotional pieces that I have ever reviewed.  Presented in a light-hearted way, I have thought about it a lot since I viewed it and to put this post together.  To summarise, because I consider my life only half-lived at the age of thirty, I thought the collection was fun and that it dealt with a serious and heart-wrenching mental condition in a really upbeat way.  But to me, although dementia is one of my greatest fears, it appears a worse condition for those around the sufferer who have lost the mind of one of their nearest and dearest, than the person actually suffering from the condition.  The objects in the room delve into the mind of the sufferer and the comfort that such objects must give them in a world where everything becomes unfamiliar, so there is definitely an element of positivity to be taken from that.  However, for my Mam who is coming into the golden years of her life, she found the collection interesting yet incredibly emotional to look at; I guess it made her face the reality of a life that one day she'll have to leave behind.  If anything, Mark Clarke has created a lasting memory of his mother for all, which is a truly wonderful tribute to her.  As for my own mother, the main comfort that I can give her is the knowledge that she is truly loved and that certainly in my memory, she will never ever be forgotten, regardless of whatever happens to the objects she leaves behind.

'Shelf Life: The Ornaments are talking to me' runs until 12th February 2017 and is covered by general admission into the museum.  You can find out more about admission fees here.  Thank you to the staff at The Bowes Museum for inviting me along to this event-we had a wonderful evening. 'Shelf Life' is an incredible, thought provoking experience and I'd recommend it to all.

Thanks for reading,