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Monday, 14 May 2012

A Beginner's Guide to Internet Shopping

Back in 2003 I bought a bag from a new website I'd read about in Heat magazine.  It was called As Seen On Screen and it specialised in selling the things that you'd seen on TV shows, in films and on celebrities.  You could get a T-shirt that Jennifer Aniston had worn on Friends or a velour tracksuit that Paris Hilton had been spotted wearing.  The bag was a khaki tote, and it was the very first fashion purchase that I'd ever made on the internet.  I'd bought books and videos from Amazon before (yes this was before I even had a dvd player...) and my parents had ordered groceries from Tesco online, but buying your clothes and accessories online was still pretty much unheard of.

Fast forward nine years and As Seen On Screen is now the phenomenally successful ASOS and we all routinely buy everything online all the time.

Internet shopping's amazing - it saves battling through the crowds on Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon, it gives you access to shops all over the world, it let's you shop 24-7 (and most importantly from your desk while you're supposed to be working) and when your purchases arrive they feel like presents...  Since moving to Hong Kong, where everything from Zara to Christian Louboutin is significantly marked-up in comparison to the UK, online shopping has been my saviour (or my downfall depending on how you look at it...).  I've certainly done my fair share of trying and testing various online stores and I think it's only right that I pass on the contents of my little black book of online shopping.  It's Monday - the gloomiest day of the week, put off starting work for an hour or two and use your computer for a much more exciting purpose... happy shopping!

Overview: My go-to website for unusual labels and trusty favourites alike.  This American website stocks a great range of women's mid to high-end clothing, bags, shoes and accessories.  Add in the free, 3-day international shipping and you have the perfect recipe for quick, easy, fuss-free online shopping.
3BM Top Buys: Hanky Panky Low Rise ThongsGinette NY jewelleryKain LABEL basicsanything and everything Mara Hoffman.

Singer 22
Overview: The American ASOS, Singer22 stocks a large range of men's and women's new and up and coming labels.  The site carries clothing, bags, shoes and accessories and features a section showing celebrities who have been spotted wearing labels that the website stocks.
3BM Top Buys: Twelfth St. by Cynthia Vincent Beach ToteCharlie by Matthew Zinc swimwearKeepsake Wide Eyes dressAlexi Vivienne long flared printed skirt.

Overview: This high-end purveyor of designer fashion needs little introduction.  Launched by Natalie Massenet in 2000 when selling designer clothing online was completely unheard of and everyone thought she was crazy but just ten years later she sold the site to Richemont pocketing £50 million.  Net-a-Porter stocks a wide range of designers which can be shopped from the weekly e-zine that the site publishes (the most dangerous app that I have on my iPad..).  The site's styling is great, the glossy black beribboned packaging is beautiful and returns are free and super simple to arrange.  While Net-a-Porter only stocks women's fashion, click over to Mr Porter to shop for the boys.  
3BM Top Buys: Roland Mouret one-shouldered Henleigh gownChristian Louboutin Lipsinka python pumpsIsabel Marant Wonda jacketAlex Monroe jewellery.

My Wardrobe
Overview: Launched in 2006, hot on the heels of the Net-a-Porter success story, My Wardrobe was pitched at a slightly less high-end market.  With the tagline 'Everyday Luxury', My Wardrobe owner Sarah Curran cites the website's customer as the woman with a realistic budget who has to do the school run and then head to work but isn't going to compromise on wearing killer heels while doing it.  This glossy website stocks a good range of carefully edited women and men's labels and delivers your brand new purchases wrapped in plenty of tissue paper and ribbon (and last Christmas the website collaborated with Alice Temperley to create a leopard print wrapping paper that you could choose to have your gifts wrapped in - I may have opted to have my normal shopping wrapped in this too...).  
3BM Top Buys: House of Harlow 1960 Chelsea leopard print cat eye sunglassesEquipment black daddy shape jewel collared blouseAmerican Vintage basicsEstelle Deve gold Solis set of two rings.

The Outnet
Overview: Launched in 2009, The Outnet is Net-a-Porter's outlet site selling women's previous-season designer fashion.  Originally the majority of the site's stock was from Net-a-Porter, but these days many brands (including Christian Louboutin and Balmain) partner exclusively with The Outnet using the online store as their sole past-season outlet.  Like a sample sale without the need for sharpened elbows and cat fights with other bargain hunters - I love the Outnet for basics, wardrobe staples, shoes and cocktail dresses.  With all the customer service of Net-a-Porter and luxe tissue paper wrapping, you get a high-end shopping experience with the added bonus of bagging a savvy bargain.  
3BM Top Buys: Tibi Venice appliqued mini skirtPistol Panties swimwearJoseph white shirtCamilla Skovgaard Spear platform sandals.

Overview: In a similar vein to Singer22, Revolve stocks a large range of more unusual, up and coming labels alongside a good range of trusty denim labels.  With free international shipping on all orders over US$100 - another easy, seamless shopping experience.
3BM Top Buys: Winter Kate Neela RomperOne Teaspoon original Bonitas cut-off denim shortsAkiko detailed maxi dressMaison Scotch loose lace dress.

Overview:  Since the first boutique opened in Wimbledon in 1990, Matches has been synonymous with cutting-edge chic.  The online store brings the boutique shopping experience to your home.  With exclusive designer collaborations each season and marbled delivery boxes which are just as gorgeous as their contents - Matches is designer online shopping at its best.  Even better, the website's offering free worldwide delivery during May...
3BM Top Picks: Isabel Marant Snakeskin fringed bootsIssa strapless lace dressAge of Reason Bondage Doll ScarfGoat Cleopatra silk jumpsuit.

Overview: The site that sparked my internet shopping habit has evolved from a small website selling clothes you'd seen in films and TV to the online retail giant that it is today.  Aimed at fashion-hungry twentysomethings, the site stocks a huge range of men's and women's fashion with over 50,000 branded and own-label product lines.  Also selling accessories and beauty products, the website really is a one stop shop which I've lost many an afternoon browsing.  ASOS also publishes a shoppable monthly magazine, ASOS is Net-a-Porter's younger, funner, much more affordable little sister.  
3BM Top Buys: Aqua Floyd DressKore by Sophia Kokosalaki silk GGT swing dressAsh Cool suede strapped wedge trainersASOS Africa printed knicker shorts.

HQ Hair
Overview: This online make-up, haircare, skincare, accessories and appliance retailer stocks all your beauty favourites.  Free UK delivery and international delivery from £2.99 and great customer service.
3BM Top BuysBlax snag-free hair bandsKorres Lip ButterTweezerman Slant TweezersKerastase Shampoo & Conditioner.

Beauty Bay
Overview: This online beauty boutique stocks a large range of make-up, skincare, fragrance, haircare, accessories and appliances.  Offering free international shipping, it's a God send for those of us living in a country without Boots and means that hard to find beauty must-haves are just a few clicks away for all of us.
3BM Top BuysTangleTeezerNeom CandlesCiate nail varnishSeche Vite Top Coat.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

British Fever...

Well with the Jubilee celebrations just around the corner (22 days and counting until a 4-day weekend - hooray) we are all getting very patriotic and I love it! My first feeling of excitement was last weekend when mini mouse and I walked down Oxford Street to see it lined with union jacks...

BUT it has to be said the winner happened this week and involved the daddy of Princes. If you missed this you missed out but not for much longer! So Prince Charles was apparently passing through the BBC Scotland studio and as you do thought he's try his hand at a spot of weather forecasting - amazing! The best thing i've seen in a long time... 


Short and sweet today - a bite size post just enough for a hungover Sunday fix!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Music Medicine...

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Hendricks, frozen rose cocktails and Amaretto Sours equals fuzzy heads for all at 3BM London Towers...! That, plus a nice 7:30am wake up by BT to fix the Internet, has left me feeling as fresh as a dead daisy! However we are fully back up online and can now blog and Internet shop until our hearts are content!! 

A short one today, mainly down to my head banging, middle mouse is napping (I'm jealous!) and night time partying has begun for HK mouse! So I thought I would share the music I am listening to whilst relaxing, blogging and guessed it Live Lounges are on the wayyyy!!!!

Ben Howard is top of the list, amazing voice and massively talented, I love him! Singing his current track 'Only Love'...

Love her or hate her...she can sing and puts a lot of effort in here covering David Guetta's 'Titanium'...not sure about her pink rhinestone 'T' earpiece though! 

I just LOVE Marina, I think she is effortlessly cool, gorgeous, incredible distinctive voice and always releases brilliant catchy songs. Not only that but she is amazing she is with Primdonna...

Finally this is especially for HK mouse...this week she admitted on Twitter that she has fallen for Justin Beiber-lake, so I thought this cover of 'Boyfriend' was pretty fitting (plus it's win!)...

And in case that didn't give you your 'Beiber-lake' fix HK mouse, here's the original....JUST FOR YOU!!!!

I'm off to hide under my duvet now...however Middle mouse has woken and has the bright idea of getting Boris Bikes in the sun...keep your eyes peeled on Twitter, there could be some golden photos uploaded!!!!

Friday, 11 May 2012

This Week the Mice have Mostly Been…

TFIF is all I can can a four day week be so exhausting and why aren't there enough hours in the day for work, play, socialising, eating, cocktails, Internet shopping...something has to give, I think I'll pick work! 

Anyway, a little Friday round-up of the week just gone, this week the mice have mostly been...

Loving....H&M Selfridges Concession! Surprise surprise, I spent my Bank Holiday Monday on an impromptu shopping spree...I thought what better way to rid back to work blues!! We spent about 10 hours in Selfridges - ohhing, ahhing, shopping, trying on and even eating, it was my temporary home for the day!! In the past I've never really paid that much attention to the H&M section in Selfridges but you really should - they literally select the highlights of all the ranges and display it all together for easy peasy shopping! I was drawn to the Fashion Against Aids section - I've read loads about it and seen it all over the press but hadn't had a second to snap anything up! I remember loving last years festival chic range, i fell for the leopard print tent...which thinking about it is still under my desk at work! 

H&M are back with their fifth collection to create awareness and raise funds for AIDS/HIV, 25% of every sale is donated directly to a variety of youth HIV/AIDS projects. The designs are amazing, incorporating numerous global styles with a fabulous ethic theme and patterns through out. Check out a few of my favourites...

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I obviously couldn't buy everything, so for once I put on my sensible hat and bought just two pieces from the range!! I fell in love with this chunky black and silver collar necklace, £9.99 AMAZO...

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And this quirky extreme stepped hem top with a very cool pink ombre print only £14.99....

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And Middle Mouse fell head over heals for these amazing sunnies, could they be any cooler and only £5.99?!!

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Head down there sharp'ish as the range has been out for two weeks...festival fever has arrived at perfect prices!! 

Lusting after...the re-stocked Ciate Caviar Manicure Set! After selling out earlier this year and kicking up such a storm that a waiting list of 14,000 people formed, they have done the good thing and brought it back into our lives! 

A chic 3D nail trend creating a dramatic, feminine yet fun look, which I for one, am desperate to recreate and jump on the bandwagon! This idea was all down to the Creative Director of Ciate, who was after something a bit different for a magazine shoot and has now started the craze of all crazes!! 

The three new colours - Rainbow, Black Pearl and Mother of Pearl, went available to the public yesterday and you can get your mits a set for £18! Even better, trot on down to my second-home Selfridges and get yourself an appointment at the pop-up Ciate's nail bar, to have your recently purchased manicure set applied for free!! It'll only be there until 16th May so don't miss out!

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Fallen for...the new Limited Edition Jo Malone Plum Blossom Cologne. It is simply amazing - sweet yet not sickly, fresh yet lasts all day, floral yet crisp and it also comes in a limited edition bottle all tied up with a sweet lilac rope! Middle mouse couldn't resist and now each morning I plan discreet ways to go into her bathroom and steal a few sprays!! 

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Celebrating the weekend...even though a long bank holiday break has just passed and it was only a short oh my has it been a painful one!! Working hard, catching up with friends and gym training...I am officially in need of a holiday, However for now a good weekend will have to suffice! 

Tonight I'm trying out the Hawksmoor in Spitafields (apparently the Lobster Rolls and cocktails are to die for - I'll report back!), lots of blog writing, seeing the fabulous Ellie for a WELL overdue wine catch up and all topped off by...a BBQ of course! To kick off Summer time we're heading to a friends for a BBQ'ing get together...apparently come rain or shine it will go ahead! Sun dances at the ready please....! 

How can I also forget...London Sevens at Twickenham (boo hoo I'm missing out on the fancy dress extravaganza, damn the Internet repair man but a mouse has to blog!), Buy My Wardrobe comes to Notting Hill for a fabulous fashion soiree and wait for it....The Britain's got Talent Final...totes rooting for Pudsy the dog!! 

On that note hope you've all had a fabulous week and have an even more FABULOUS weekend! 

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Going Local: Travel Tippers Who Call Your Holiday Destination Home

I've been thinking about travel a lot recently.  Not just the usual dreaming of sipping mojitos on a white beach, but also the actual mechanics of getting from desk to beach and how to plan what to do once you get there.  It's great that we have the internet to help us book and plan our trips; armed with a few fantastic travel websites, the holiday of our dreams really can be just a couple of clicks away.  But the real question I've been pondering is how we make sure that when we arrive at our dream destination, we're equipped with all the right information to know where to get an authentic, tasty meal; which bars mix the best martinis and just generally how to have the best holiday that we can possibly have.    

There's a wealth of information out there, from the traditional printed guide books to e-guides to articles in newspapers and magazines to online traveller forums and blogs.  But, where to start?  Who to trust?  And how prepared is too prepared? 

I read a very interesting piece recently on Quite Alone about guide books in the digital age.  The post lamented the growing trend for overguiding.  Publishers it seems, are becoming obsessive about including infinite detail in their guide books: geotags for everything, telephone numbers for churches and the locations of every wifi hotspot in the vicinity.  I'm as guilty as anyone of overplanning and refusing to go to anywhere not featured in my chosen guidebook.  I have travel FOMO - an intense fear of wasting a meal on something disappointing or average, when just around the corner there might be a restaurant serving exquisite food that I'd be enjoying if only I'd done my research.  

But am I missing out on the adventuring and exploring side of travel by confining myself to the guide book picks?  Is having the odd average experience really so terrible?  Is travelling by rote and knowing what you'll get when you arrive at a place really better than the joy of the unexpected, fantastic find?  Am I missing out on the real gems by blindly following the swarming packs of tourists to the places featured in the guides?  

I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle.  I see no harm in taking advice from a guide book, newspaper or blog.  The people who put these books and articles together have (hopefully) visited the places that they write about and can point out hard to find places in an area that you're not familiar with.  But I think that these resources should be used to help steer you in the right direction, not dictate where you should and shouldn't visit.  You shouldn't be afraid to try new things and make mistakes; travel shouldn't lose its spontaneity.  A memorable holiday is very often the one featuring not just the sublime but also the terrible, the unexpected and the downright odd.

With this in mind, I go back to my initial question - with a glut of guides and tips, where do we start when we're looking for our steer?  I very often find that the best source of travel tips is friends who live in the place that I'm visiting.  They'll guide you away from the tourist traps and towards the locals' favourite haunts.  Having dragged various visiting friends and family around all the main landmarks and must-sees, they'll have the inside track on skipping queues and the best time of day to visit various tourist hot spots.  But this only works if you know someone living in the place that you're visiting doesn't it?  Well, the Guardian to the rescue.  The Guardian's Been There Locals webpage features a local from various cities around the world who regularly posts tips about the city that they live in.  So next time you're in Seville head to Kim's favourite tapas bar.  Off to Prague this summer?  Shop up a storm in Helen's favourite Czech boutique.  

And the latest edition to the crew of locals?  Me!  I've already posted several of my top Hong Kong tips to the website and I'll be adding and updating as often as possible.  In the meantime, if you're visiting Hong Kong anytime soon, here's a couple of pointers to get you started:

The Peak

Victoria Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island which means 360 degree views of the island and a breathtaking harbour vista as you look across to Kowloon side.  Hong Kong's most popular tourist attraction is a definite must-see, but I have a couple of tips that the guide books don't include.

View from Victoria Peak

My first top tip relates to getting up to the Peak.  Your guide book will tell you take the Peak Tram, a funicular railway that's been running since 1888 which creaks 396 metres up the side of the hill at a hair-raising gradient.  The ride is an experience not to be missed but the queues to catch the tram up the Peak (at the Garden Road Terminus in Central) snake right around the block morning, noon and night.  The queues at the top to ride back down again however, are much smaller and anyway, in my opinion, the ride down is even more exciting and roller coaster-esque than the ride up.  So, I always save the tram for the way down the hill and just jump in a cab on the way up thereby skipping the maddening queues at the bottom (Hong Kong's cabs are plentiful and cheap - the red and white taxis are for hire when the red circle on the dashboard is lit up and the white taxi sign on the car's roof is alight). 
My second tip centres on what to do once you get up there.  The majority of visitors flock straight to the Peak Tower, a wok-shaped viewing platform 428 metres above sea level.  You undoubtedly get breath-taking views from this lookout point but it sits atop a giant shopping mall packed with tacky souvenir shops and generic chain restaurants.  While I see the Peak Tower as a definite must do (it’s a great place to snap a few impressive skyline photos) I’d suggest that you don't confine your Peak experience to this Disneyfied corner but instead combine it with something that not everyone does.  Ask your cab driver to drop you off outside the Peak Tower and take a gentle stroll along the Hong Kong Trail, a route which loops for about an hour around the top of the Peak through lush greenery that chirrups with cicadas.  Along this trail you'll get beautiful views across the city and wind past some of Hong Kong's most luxurious houses (prices of the real estate up here exceed even those of Monaco's mansions).  This is a perfect walk to take during the latter half of the afternoon so that you end up back at the Peak Tower just before sunset.  Head to the viewing platform in time to watch the sun sink below the skyscrapers and stay until the city’s kaleidoscopic lights come up.  By this point you should have worked up a healthy appetite.

Which brings us to my third tip - where to eat.  Scoot straight past the shopping mall chain restaurants and head directly across the road from the Peak Tower to the Peak Lookout, the quaint cottage-like building that twinkles under chains of fairy lights.  The restaurant sits on the site of the former resting shelter of the sedan chair carriers whose job it was to ferry the Peak's wealthy residents up and down the hill.  Bag a table out on the terrace which overlooks the South side of the island and refuel with jet-fresh seafood, tandoori oven fired meats accompanied by pillows of fluffy naan or a char-grilled steak from the barbeque. 

The Peak Tower
128 Peak Road, The Peak, Hong Kong Island.
Google Maps:

The Hong Kong Trail

The Peak Lookout
121 Peak Road, The Peak, Hong Kong Island.
(852) 2849 1000 
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For arguably Hong Kong’s best cocktails in a bar so cool and under the radar that a lot of Hong Kong locals don’t know about it yet, head to 001.  That’s if you can track it down.  Hidden away in the Graham Street wet market, this Speakeasy is accessed via an anonymous black door sandwiched between a fruit stall and a stall selling paper lanterns.  Bustling by day, at night the market takes on an eerie, ghost town nature.  Gingerly pick your way around stray tomatoes squashed underfoot by the day’s shoppers and through puddles from where the pavements have been hosed down of fish guts after a day’s trading and, turn down Graham Street a side alley off the main market road.  Come to a stop outside the unmarked doorway, keep your fingers crossed that you’ve picked the right door and ring the spotlight-illuminated doorbell.  

Not the most obvious location...just outside 001 in the wet market

At this point I should warn you that a prior booking is essential, I’ve seen a couple who decided to drop in for a spontaneous drink turned away by the bar staff on the basis that the bar was full, on entering the bar this very clearly wasn’t the case.  This may sound petty, but as long as you’ve had the foresight to book, giving your name and whizzing straight past the floundering people being turned away is all part of the fun.  Once you’ve made it in, you’re greeted with a moodily lit bar full of shadowy nooks which hint at secret liaisons and misbehaviour.  Low jazz hums below the burble of the bar's patrons' conversations and waiters glide around proffering silver trays of cocktails and bowls of nuts.  The Earl Grey Martinis are legendary and deservedly so.  The Elderflower Caipirinha and the Strawberry Blonde come a close second but be warned, the Pear Side Car is deadly.  A few cocktails down, order the grilled cheese sandwich and a plate of fries, a deliciously naughty midnight feast.  For an elegant evening of liquor and languid lounging, 001 can't be beaten.   

LG/F Shop G1 Welley Building 97 Wellington Street, Hong Kong Island.
+852 2810 6969 
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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

I'm Glamping in the rain....

Wedding time is fast approaching within my friendship circle - everyone is beginning to head off on breaks away and returning looking gloriously happy with diamonds twinkling on their left ring finger! I'm not even vaguely at that stage and I'm generally fine about it but what does worry me is that I'm not at all grown up in any sense of the word! I still go out every weekend with the girls, have no interest in quiet nights in or family get togethers (unless it's a night with my sisters fuelled by cocktails and cava) and planning and saving for a big day of celebrations in a white dress would totally kill me! 

So I think it's safe to say that I give all my engaged girls a hug, congratulate them and get super duper excited (as it is so nice to see your besties ridiculously happy), but secretly know I am still a massive baby who is totally selfish and would rather spend my money on a brand new Mulberry Harriet Satchel! 

Having said that, I'm very much enjoying all the hens...!

I have just returned from a hen weekend for very good friends of mine, Charlie who is marrying the very lovely Chris. Now they're not your standard couple, they are totally in love and deliriously happy but they aren't going to jump into a grown-up house, with a garden and start having babies straight away! Charlie still comes out on all the girls' nights out, gets blind drunk and can always be convinced to do the worm down the bar (even when she's wearing a teeny tiny dress)! Meanwhile Chris goes out with the boys and returns home to Charlie with only one of his favourite winkle picker boots on claiming he lost the other at the gig he was!?  They truly are the most fun couple in the world with the BEST stories...Sheryl Crow ring any bells Charlie...I just can't wait for the wedding and especially the best man's speech!!!

So, back to the hen.  Charlie's sister was given the job of organising the hen and I was asked to help out as she wanted to plan a weekend away and I've recently planned quite a few New Year Getaways as previously blogged! We thought long and hard about what to do with 18 girls and tried to think of what the bride would really enjoy...a villa abroad was in the mix, a big stately house came up, as did a cute country cottage...but we eventually agreed on.....Glamping!!!  

So we set off to Wild Luxury Pigeon Wood in Norfolk - top tip...DO NOT rely on your sat nav as it takes you to a crossroads in a country village and apparently that is your destination...75 minutes later we found our real destination in the pitch black!! Anyway, navigational issues dealt with we arrived and checked out our home for the weekend.  You can either rent out a single lodge (from £225 for 2 nights or from £559 for 7 nights) or like us, for a bigger group, you can hire out the total location, 5 luxury lodges set in a 2000 acre estate.

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If, like me, the word camping scares you senseless then please don't be put off, Pigeon Wood definitely falls more heavily on the glamorous side of glamping with comfort at the forefront of every element of design. The lodges sleep 6 people - 1 king bed, 1 double cabin bed (so cute and lots of fun) and a bunk bed and are surprisingly spacious. For a small fee you can have all your linen and thick duvets provided - nice luxury satin striped white bed linen at that!  

Each lodge has a small Aga for cooking and heat and wood, fire lighters and matches are all provided. It's probably a good point to mention that the site has no electricity... but you'll be surprised how refreshing and fun a weekend of candlelit lanterns, oil lamps and Agas can be! Just make sure that you charge your phone before you arrive and bring laptops and speakers for music! 

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Back to the lodges...electricity aside, each one has all your essential home comforts: a flushing toilet; a boiling hot shower; a big cool box packed with ice to stash all your food and drink in; all necessary utensils, crockery, pantry basics; and of course your all important hot water bottles! 

We spent two evenings and a day drinking, eating, playing inappropriate games, BBQ'ing in the rain on our fire pits (!), and generally being very drunk and having lots of fun! It was a bit on the cold side but I think that may have been down to the fact that we spent the whole weekend in the communal lodge (we only needed 4 of the 5 lodges so used one as a communal area for cooking, eating and games which worked fantastically for us as people could head off to bed and leave mess with no complaints!) and totally forgot to tend to our Agas which meant that our sleeping lodges never fully heated up...

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I can't leave out our Saturday daytime activity, it is definitely one that most us won't forget in a hurry, if ever!!! We packed ourselves off a little worse for wear, most of us in not a scrap of make-up and very unattractive outfits, to the near-by Extreeme Adventure! As Charlie has always been a competitive one who is very sporty, what better way to entertain her?! I'm not a complete wimp but it's safe to say that I have never been so petrified in my life!! I decided not to bring my gym trainers as I didn't want to get them muddy and instead brought my old grey plimsoll trainers with NO grip...a decision I very soon regretted when I saw the 40 foot high cables that I had to balance on! We were all harnessed up and then embarked on a two and half hour course of zip lines, swinging logs, suspended tight-ropes, nets and rickety tubes to climb through, all with 20-40 foot drops below them! We pretty much all completed it somehow and ended up on a swing contraption which was the scariest yet funnest of them all, see video evidence here a few laughs....

A really fun weekend was had by all and definitely one to visit again - big group or not! If high ropes and zip lines aren't quite your thing, there are also tonnes of pubs in the area, perfect for long country walks and cosy drinks to fill your days and evenings! My advice would be to pack wellingtons and a waterproof jacket instead off the Uggs and a fur trimmed parka that I packed - two days of rain and gale force winds and I cared much less about looking good and much more about staying warm and dry!

Now onto the next hen...ideas welcome...!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Met Gala 2012: Superhero Chic, Feathers & Vampy Lips

 "Women dress alike all over the world: they dress to be annoying to other women".
Elsa Schiaperelli

And never was this quote more aptly illustrated than on the Costume Institute Gala red carpet last night where each fresh limousine arriving outside the New York Metropolitan Museum dispatched a woman vying to look better than the woman before her.  The annual gala organised by Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, celebrates the opening of the Met's yearly fashion exhibition.  This year's exhibition Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations honours two of the greatest Italian doyennes of fashion, Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada.

Each year the gala draws a glittering crowd of models, Hollywood starlets, pop princesses and anyone who's anyone in fashion.  Often dubbed the "Oscars of the East Coast", the gala is undoubtedly one of New York's top social events and the red carpet is renowned for showcasing cutting-edge looks, fresh from the catwalk.  However, while Oscars' fashion requires high glamour with a measure of decorum, the Met Gala is an evening to up the high fashion ante and flaunt your style credentials.  It's without a doubt our favourite red carpet of the year to scrutinise and last night's certainly didn't disappoint.

So, here's our round up of the best dressed, the worst dressed and the highly commended for bringing high fashion to the red carpet and owning it...

Best Dressed

Camilla Belle in Ralph Lauren

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Scarlett Johansson in Dolce & Gabbana

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Kate Bosworth in Prada

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Carey Mulligan in Prada

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Rooney Mara in Givenchy

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Emma Stone in Lanvin

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Worst Dressed

Kristen Stewart in Balenciaga

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Leighton Meester in Marchesa

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Mary-Kate Olsen in The Row

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Kate Upton in Michael Kors

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Anja Rubik in Anthony Vaccarello

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Chloe Sevigny in Miu Miu

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Dakota Fanning in Louis Vuitton

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A* for Rocking High Fashion

Elizabeth Banks in Mary Katrantzou

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Florence Welch in Alexander McQueen

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Christina Ricci in Thakoon

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Karolina Kurkova in Rachel Zoe

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And we couldn't help noticing a few trends springing up...

Hot on the heels of Gwyneth's show stealing Oscars look, last night's red carpet was draped in capes.  From Lana Del Rey in vampy Altuzarra to Anna Wintour in cropped, luxe, white fur, right through to Bianca Brandolini d'Adda in shimmering liquid bronze Dolce & Gabbana.  We're loving Superhero Chic!

After a pretty monochrome set of awards ceremonies this year, there was a notable riot of colour last night.  Schiaparelli pink was not surprisingly a popular choice but its a tough colour to pull off.  Karlie Kloss was our pick of the bunch in Jason Wu, which struck just the right balance between sickly and sexy with slithers of black lace overlaid against the pink.  But our favourite of the brights was yellow.  From Solange Knowles' daffodil hued Rachel Roy gown and Emma Roberts' yolk yellow Escada to January Jones' buttercup sculptural Versace, these girls were putting the zing into spring (despite the cold, wet weather).        

Unsurprisingly, the label of choice last night was Prada.  Host, Anna Wintour began proceedings by elegantly gliding onto the carpet in a white Prada gown embellished with a gold lobster - a tribute to Schiaparelli's infamous Dali Lobster dress.  Co-hosts, Carey Mulligan and Gwyneth Paltrow also both wore Prada, the latter showing more than a hint of controversial side-boob... Milla Jovovich wore a fabulous 20s inspired scarlet Prada gown and Jessica Biel, flashing her new engagement ring also wore Prada but we really wish she'd loose the unflattering fringe.  

By the amount of spine on show yesterday evening, it's clear that the back is back.  Rihanna in Tom Ford, Karolina Kurkova in Rachel Zoe and Renee Zellweger in Emilio Pucci all covered up in front to go low at the back.  Inbuilt corsetry/ a modest bust a must for pulling off this look - watch and learn Kate Upton.

Granny Dressing
High necks, long sleeves and floor-skimming hemlines.  There was a definite sense of buttoned-up granny-chic amongst the A-List last night.  At first glance we felt that Lilly Collins' Valentino gown was too old and dowdy for her but the more we scrutinise her look, the more we like it - definitely beats the tacky, too low-cut, too tight, too high thigh-split dresses at the British Soap Awards last month.  Also channeling Octogenarian style were Sarah Jessica Parker in Valentino and Kirsten Dunst in Rodarte.

Birds of a feather flocking together seemed pretty apt last night.  Feathers ruled the roost with Kate Bosworth in ombre feathered Prada and Chanel Iman in feathered Tom Ford.  But a dusting of feathers around the hem was the key look.  Beyonce sent jaws dropping in an embroidered, sheer Givenchy gown trimmed with black and purple feathers, Cate Blanchett came over all black swan in Alexander McQueen and Diane Kruger opted for yet more Prada but this time a violet feather hemmed gown with a boho silhouette.

Vampy Lips
Black cherry was the hue on many a starlet's lips last night.  Lana del Rey, Kate Bosworth, Leighton Meester and Camilla Belle all plumped for a plum pout.  Camilla Belle told journalists that she'd mixed three shades of lipstick to get just the right shade - let's hope it didn't require too many touch-ups through the night..