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  1. Easter 2014

    We invited friends for an Easter Sunday lunch, and I had such a nice time setting a pretty table. Little wooden bunnies added a festive touch while organza ribbons added an air of elegance to the table. The menu? Aubergine, red pepper and halloumi stacks topped with a sweet tomato relish, served on a bed of rocket; herb rubbed roast chicken with garlic mashed potatoes, lemon green beans and buttery sprouts with chestnuts; a pea and mint risotto for our vegetarian guest; and a rich chocolate mousse to finish, topped with lightly whipped cream, fresh mint and raspberry.

    Happy Easter!

     

  2. It feels so good to have reorganised my wardrobe. But seriously - the next time you hear me say that I’ve nothing to wear, slap me; I believe I have 46 dresses in my closet……… *blushes*

     

  3. Lights in Chicago
    2013
    Satoki Nagata

    This is such a beautiful set of photos…

    (Source: foxmouth, via meetmeundertheappletree)

     

  4. Loving my fuchsia pink Boden jeans this spring! (I’m wearing them with striped tee by Ganni, and a Woolovers cardigan…)

     

  5. It's possible to take a bus to the Boone Hall Plantation if you're travelling without a car. It's well worth the journey - a beautiful and fascinating place.
    Rainbow Row is a pretty sight on a sunny day.
    Our favourite restaurant in Charleston? Virginia's on King, for the super sweet staff, great ambience, amazing food and reasonable prices.
    Virginia's is great in any weather, but the restaurant looked gorgeous with sunlight filtering through the windows at breakfast time.
    Our pick of the breakfast menu at Virginia's? The buttermilk pancakes, without a doubt. Perfection on a plate.
    For an evening's entertainment and a flavour of the area's musical history, buy a ticket to The Sound of Charleston.
    In need of a sweet treat? Christophe's on Society Street sells delectable pastries, cakes and chocolates.
    The Aiken-Rhett house was a fascinating glimpse into the history of Charleston. It's unrestored but interesting.
    The Nathaniel Russell house is exquisite - if you only visit one house in Charleston, make it this one.
    There are so many beautiful churches in Charleston.

    Carolina in my mind

    I have just visited Charleston, South Carolina for the first time. My mother and I decided to take a trip - it’s supposed to be the number one vacation spot in the US at this time of year, and it’s filled with history. Spring is late to many areas of the East Coast this year, and Charleston is no exception. We may have been promised temperatures in the late 60s/early 70s, but our timing wasn’t too good. In fact, the first few days of our trip were so cold - in the 40s! - that we wore our (fake) fur hats to stay warm. We saw some sunshine, though, and were able to cast off our winter coats for the last day of the visit.

    Our favourite things about Charleston?

    1) Virginia’s on King. We found eating out in Charleston rather expensive, so when we stumbled across the wonderful Virginia’s, we were delighted. The food is fantastic (and we ate there three times, so we sampled a few items from the menu) and affordable. The waiting staff are super nice and made us feel extremely welcome. And the restaurant looks great, too. Highly recommended - particularly for breakfast. Order the buttermilk pancakes or you’ll be sorry!

    2) The Nathaniel Russell House. There are a great many historical houses in Charleston, but we think this neoclassical dwelling is the best example. Lovingly restored, it is beautifully furnished and maintained and the grounds are as lovely as the house. Be sure to check out the incredible floating staircase in the entrance hall - a feat of engineering in its elegance and simplicity.

    3) A sweet treat at Christophe Artisan Chocolatier & Patissier on Society Street. We dived in on a pouring wet day to escape the rain, and warmed up over hot tea, delicious sandwiches and delectable pain au chocolat. We returned another day to sample some cakes, too.

    4) Boone Hall Plantation. No trip to Charleston is complete without a visit to one of the many plantations which are just fascinating. Surrounded by beautiful old oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, Boone Hall is a superb example - and what’s more, it’s easy to reach by bus from historic downtown Charleston if you’re travelling without a car. Look out for the Low County Loop Trolley which leaves from the Charleston Visitor Center.

    5) It can be difficult and upsetting to consider the slave trade that provided so much of Charleston’s wealth. The Old Slave Mart Museum on Chalmers Street is an essential visit on your trip, to learn more about the other side of this historical town. The museum recounts the story of the city’s role in the slave trade by focusing on the history of the building and site and the slave sales that occurred there.

    Charleston really is a wonderful spot for a trip. We spent four days there, and at no point were we bored. It’s a beautiful city, filled with architectural gems and Southern charm.

    **We arrived by train having taken the overnight Amtrak service from New York. We booked about eight weeks in advance and paid $447 for a roomette which sleeps two. The fare also includes a three course dinner in the dining car. From the railway station, we took a cab to downtown Charleston for around $30 (there is a taxi rank at the station). We stayed at the Holiday Inn Historic Charleston Downtown for around $200 per night. We flew from Charleston International Airport for our next stop, Washington DC - we took the Nash Express bus from Charleston Visitor Center to the airport. It costs $3 and takes around 30 minutes.**

    Like this? I’m also the author of Pops Trips. Read more about my travels here!
     

  6. I went for the chop last night. My husband has been encouraging me to go to his hairdresser - Aki, at Danny Oh in Angel - for about three years now. I took the plunge and had a new fringe cut in. It feels great! A haircut is good for the soul - really lifts your spirits.

     


  7. February Favourites

    The rain falls… and falls… and falls. The wind howls. The sky is grey, the cloud is unbroken and the River Thames is a muddy, overflowing mess. This is February in London. So let’s remind ourselves that spring will come, and think of some nice things to cheer ourselves up. Read on for my February Favourites, keeping my spirits up in this most depressing of months…

    At the end of January, I turned 30. My family clubbed together to buy me this beautiful Persephone coat from Hobbs, and it makes a wonderful change from the black and khaki coats that have seen me through the winter so far. Hurrah for pretty coats!

    Yes, it’s quite spring-like for February; but teamed with flat black leather boots, black tights and a cosy cashmere cardigan, this neon pink Kendal dress from John Lewis brightens my daily commute and has definitely gone down well with my colleagues. This colour makes my heart sing!

    And speaking of boots… It’s all about the Beaumont, from Duo. They’re not cheap at £170 a pair, but talk about a classic. And because Duo make all their boots in a wide range of calf sizes and half shoe sizes, the fit is brilliant. I intend wearing these boots every winter for the next five years.

    Soap & Glory beauty products continue to impress me. Yes, the marketing is fun; but that doesn’t mean the products aren’t super effective. This moisturiser is dreamy: light, nourishing, and deliciously apricot-y. Not to mention affordable.

    I’ve never used Philosophy products before, but I’m utterly sold on this serum. My face looks tauter and brighter and when I’ve applied it - and believe me, now that I’ve hit the big 3-0, that’s all I care about with my skin regime!

    I stumbled across Wen’s Cleansing Conditioner in the autumn, and I have’t looked back. It’s incredibly gentle and nourishing - ideal for fine, brittle hair like mine. It’s so strange to use after a life time of lathering shampoos, but it makes my hair squeaky clean and doesn’t strip it. It’s been months since my last hair cut, but this cleanser is keeping my locks going. Brilliant stuff.

    When my hair was cut in a pixie crop just a few years ago, I never worried about knots; but now that it hangs below my shoulders, keeping tangles at bay is a constant challenge - particularly in this weather! After hearing colleagues rave about the Tangle Teezer, I finally treated myself to this smart gold version to keep in my handbag. It’s a cracker! And so cute…

    We all know a dash of bright lipstick lifts the spirit - and the new Sisley Phyto Lip Twist is just lovely. Creamy and bold, it brightens the complexion - and the packaging is super cool, too. I’m wearing the Berry shade and it gives me a lift each time I apply it.

    Ok, who doesn’t have an iPhone? Not many of you, right? And while they are utterly wonderful and I couldn’t possibly live without it, I’m frustrated on a daily basis by how short the battery life is. Last week, I bought one of these Anker back-up batteries, and it’s great. It cost about £14, and it holds three full charges. And it takes about the same space in my handbag as a lipstick. Now, I can use my iPhone to my heart’s content without worrying that the battery will be dead by noon…

    My mum bought me a selection of books by Elizabeth Taylor - the novelist, not the actress - for Christmas. They are wonderful stories about incredibly real characters (mostly women) with brilliant observations of mid-century Middle England. If you haven’t read any of her books yet, go and treat yourself to Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont - it’s a joy.

    What makes it into your Top Ten this month?

     


  8. Wills Vegan Shoes

    Not so long ago, the very mention of ethical, fair trade, vegan apparel made fashionistas blanche. How times have changed. There is now a very real concern among a large swathe of society that the way in which the majority of fashion is produced and consumed is flawed. In manufacturing and retailing terms, it looks as though the race to the bottom may be over as consumers increasingly question the provenance of items, and what constitutes a fair price for the goods we buy.

    It’s good to know that ethical consumption needn’t break the bank. Ethical footwear producer Will Green, euphoric over the success of his recently-launched fashion brand Wills Vegan Shoes, is rewarding customers with an end of winter sale as he readies for his forthcoming spring collection. Seeing as spring is still some time away – at least in the UK – it’s a great chance to snap up a bargain that will see you through the next few months in style – and next winter, too. Not only are the shoes vegan; they are also produced in Europe, resulting in a low carbon footprint and fair wages for their creators.

    The Wills Vegan Shoes brand has been an instant success with a diverse range of consumers. Company founder Will explains, “I see our shoes as bridging the gap between what people want and what people can afford. Our customers are not just getting the latest styles and fashions, they are also supporting a business that pays fair wages while not contributing to human or animal suffering. Our customers are getting ethical and fashionable shoes at high street prices.”

    I’m sure I can’t be the only one who longs for the day when ethics and fashion go hand in hand. It’s heartening to see the success of this new player – let’s hope Wills Vegan Shoes goes from strength to strength.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to investigate these lace-up high heels… I think they would be a great addition to my wardrobe, what do you think?

    The end of winter sale currently features a range of adorable heels, on-trend loafers, boots and wedges - plus a few styles for men - all made from industry-leading, durable and comfortable materials. The end of winter sale is set to run until mid-February before giving way to the huge spring collection, including an exclusive launch event in central London.

    New style releases are planned monthly as 2014 progresses.

    All shoes (including winter sale) can be seen at www.willsveganshoes.co.uk.

    For more information on Wills Vegan Shoes or to interview Will Green, please contact sean@fgvpr.co.uk or on +44 (0)7511 443 761.

     


  9. “From exploring why we’re still letting malpractice mar our clothing industry, to predicting the future of how we shop, it’s time to read the palm of the British high street.” Bertie Brandes.

    Well worth a read.

     

  10. Elegant evening tails and a Made in England duchesse silk gown.
    Getting ready was so much fun, with my mother and closest friends. I had a blast styling the girls' hair - and my own!
    The wedding dress of my dreams: ivory duchesse silk, hand trimmed with pearl and crystal beads, set off by a homemade veil.
    The groom and his best man created the most incredible cake using architectural figures and a lot of imagination. What an amazing surprise it was!
    The fabulous photo backdrop, created by David.
    A fabulous party with a soundtrack by The Gershwin Gang and our good friends Andy and Sally who DJd late into the evening.

    The Shankskills Tied the Knot

    David proposed on Christmas Day 2012 and we were in agreement that we did not want a long engagement. September is my favourite month, and also fitted in well with work commitments – so when we discovered that our dream venue was available for the first weekend in September, we snapped it up! Neither of us liked the idea of a hotel wedding – we wanted something more unusual. The King’s Hall & Winter Garden in Ilkley was perfect – an old theatre with two very different rooms for a light, sunny welcoming reception and a rich, dramatic evening party. The accommodating staff were brilliantly enthusiastic – it was a joy to work with them.

    My thoughts turned to the look of the day immediately. David and I both have very definite ideas about decor which, fortunately, converge more often than not. He occasionally has to rein me in when my ideas become a little too vintage or floral, but we didn’t come to blows too many times! The only thing that really caused disagreements was my tendency to race ahead and try to plan too many things at once – David takes a more measured, calm approach to planning than I do…

    We were definitely on the same page when it came to the colour scheme. Neither of us wanted a very pretty, pastel affair; we wanted bold colours. My starting point was a beautiful teal silk evening dress that David bought me for my 27th birthday, and the bold colours and simple silhouettes of Mad Men, our favourite programme. I knew that red had to be in the mix, because my bridesmaid Genevieve suits it so well. Regal purple and autumnal pumpkin with accents of gold were brought in, too.

    Shankskill Style

    I was determined that my bridesmaids choose dresses that they loved, that suited them, and that they would enjoy wearing again. By chance, I found the teal evening dress that David had bought me in a dress agency, in Karen’s size; I snapped it up for her immediately, and fortunately, it fitted perfectly! Genevieve wore red in a gorgeous off-the-shoulder style; and Kate wore elegant royal purple.

    David and I were in agreement on the style of the men’s outfits. David has such a classical face and slim build – I had a vision of him in evening tails, and it stuck. He loved it. My father was somewhat sceptical, but was won over when he saw how elegant it looked. And given the bold colours the bridesmaids were wearing, to have the men in simple black and white was the perfect balance. I was inspired by the elegance of a Viennese ball.

    We really liked the idea of a formal, elegant wedding – but with some Shankskill character. When I told my stepmother that we were aiming for quirky elegance, she said the two just didn’t go together; but I think we proved her wrong!

    The Gown

    Choosing my wedding gown was always going to be a major event. Although I did try on several dresses in bridal boutiques, I liked the idea of having a dress tailor made for me, here in England. On the recommendation of my colleague’s wife, I went to a wonderful local dressmaker. We worked together to create the perfect gown in ivory silk duchesse with a demure bateau neckline, slightly dropped waist and full skirt which fell into a train. It was a simple gown with minimal detailing – just a scattering of delicate pearls and crystals, and a bow on the back – which made quite an impact with its decidedly vintage silhouette. My gown was echoed in the flower girls’ dresses, which were also ivory and full skirted with a bow at the back.

    My veil was a triumph. I was determined that my mum and I should make it ourselves; I couldn’t find the full, classic style that I wanted, and all the veils in stores seemed so expensive! My mum bought some inexpensive ivory tulle and we worked together to make it just right. It took three attempts in the end, but the end result was exactly what we had both envisaged, and I’m so grateful to my mother for her hard work! A classic pearl hairband was the perfect finishing touch. A tip for brides who want to craft their own veils; we read that it was not a task to do at the last minute, so we made a start six weeks before the wedding. It really is a time consuming task, and to get it right, you definitely need to allow plenty of time for trial and error! Even allowing for three attempts, the total cost of the tulle was less than £25.

    Although my dress was utterly classic, I branched out with my shoes: I chose red silk peep toes with a jewelled clasp, and they were gorgeous. My mum was surprised, but red shoes are something of a trademark for me; I loved wearing them.

    Makeup

    In keeping with the classic look of my dress and veil, I went for utterly classic makeup. I used Benefit Porefessional primer beneath Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua foundation for a flawless finish – and it really did stay put all day, and all night. I emphasised my brows with Suqqu’s eyebrow pen in Moss and applied a little Chanel cream blush for a rosy glow. I tend to be quite shiny, so a light dusting of T. LeClerc powder ensured a matt finish. I avoided panda eyes by having eyelash extensions ahead of the wedding, and used the Timeless Beige eyeshadow palette from L’Oreal.Finally, I applied my favourite red lipstick by Rimmel: its staying power is magnificent, and it’s really a true red.

    The Flowers

    I chose ribbon-tied bouquets in cream to unite the bridesmaids with their different dresses. We carried bouquets of wonderfully scented roses and Lily of the Valley, and the gentlemen had buttonholes of Lily of the Valley too. In the King’s Hall, we had beautiful, contemporary arrangements of bright red carnations tied with teal ribbon. Our close family friend and gifted florist Joy created them, along with the bouquets, buttonholes and corsages; they were all glorious. My mum and I made the hydrangea centrepieces in the Winter Garden using fabulous silk flowers and vintage-style glass jars from a wholesaler called Lavenders in West London. They were inexpensive and gorgeous!

    The Favours

    I suspect that my bridesmaids and mother thought I had lost the plot when I announced that I would be baking cookies as favours for each of our 130 guests. It was a little bit tiring the day before the wedding, but quite good fun – and they looked so nice in old fashioned gold and white striped paper bags, sealed with a custom sticker to commemorate the day. And who doesn’t like a homemade chocolate chip cookie? We also gave our guests mini sparklers in a customised sleeve.

    The Finishing Touches

    The artwork for our wedding was a major undertaking by David and his brilliant best man, Alex. They are both gifted architects and artists, and they put their skills to good use. The invitation came about by chance; Alex made us a lovely engagement card with the balloon motif which we liked so much, we asked if we could use it. The motif stuck, and we used it again for the thank you notes, the order of service, a fabulous photo backdrop, the posters around the venue and the beautiful wedding cake, which also featured intricate Japanese architectural figures. The table names, which were all locations in the Pacific Northwest where we were honeymooning, were laser cut from acrylic and suspended from huge white helium-filled balloons. And finally, lustrous black-and-gold posters decorated the interior and exterior of the hall.

    The Ceremony

    It was very important to me that our wedding ceremony be in a church – and not just any church. St Thomas’ is not only beautiful, but very familiar and the site of my late sister’s funeral back in 2011. It was important to me and my family that such a joyous event be held there, and it was a wonderful thing to see so many people we love reunited under happier circumstances. To be married by the vicar we have known for many years was lovely, and he guided us through the process. We chose hymns that we love: Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, Love Divine and the less well known but equally lovely Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God. And alongside a religious reading, Corinthians 13:4, we chose a quirky but appropriate passage entitled You’re On Your Way! by Dr Seuss, which our American friend Thomas performed brilliantly. It injected a little humour and character into the otherwise solemn proceedings.

    The Party

    We arrived at the King’s Hall and Winter Garden in 1930s Rolls Royce, and the journey over the Yorkshire Moors as newlyweds was marvellous. We walked up the red carpet and entered the Winter Garden to find the Gershwin Gang swinging out and our friends and family mingling, enjoying canapes and quaffing champagne. It all looked beautiful in the September sunlight, and it was wonderful to see people posing for photographs in front of the backdrop.

    After I had tossed my bouquet, we all entered the magical King’s Hall which the boys had decorated so beautifully. Festoon lighting twinkled; a black and white chequered dance floor provided an eye-catching centrepiece; red flowers on snowy white tablecloths were timeless and chic; and the cake looked stunning. I couldn’t have been happier. After dinner, I had a quick costume change into a little sequinned dancing number before the Gershwin Gang struck up to the tune of I Wanne Be Like You from The Jungle Book, to which David and I performed our first dance, a Charleston. It was all such fun – our guests danced the night away to the band, and then to our brilliant DJs Sally and Andy, good friends who have a radio show up in Glasgow. They kept the dancefloor busy all night with Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and much more.

    For David and I, the party ended at 11.30pm with a sparkler send off. It was a fitting end to such a sparkling day. We’re so grateful to all the people who made it possible.

    PHOTOGRAPHS:

    Our photographer was Howard Barlow and he was superb. He is based in Cheshire, and we highly recommend his services. He is such a professional, and such a lovely person to have involved in your big day. We feel that we had made new friends in Howard and his wife Kerry.

     

  11. Strolling near our hotel (the always-brilliant Mama Shelter on Rue de Bagnolet) we stumbled across some work by street artist Fred le Chevalier. It made an amazing backdrop for my red and black outfit. We also liked this bold striped wall near the hotel.

     

  12. Saturday 30 November 2013: Swoon Studio ‘Motherlands’ exhibition at Galerie L.J., Paris

    For the past week, my husband has been in Paris assisting with the installation of Brooklyn-based artist Swoon Studio’s latest show, Motherlands, at Galerie L.J.

    I caught the Eurostar to Paris after work on Friday to join him for a weekend in the City of Lights, and on Saturday we attended the opening night of the exhibition. As you can see, the work was beautiful.

    Back in September while we were honeymooning in Washington State, we happened upon a fantastic boutique in the Ballard neighbourhood of Seattle. It’s called Velouria, and after ten minutes in the shop we felt that we had become friends with the owners, Cat and Chika. Velouria is not only a brilliant, independent clothing store stocking interesting local designers - it’s also a mini gallery that supports the Ballard Art Walk each month, as well as hosting art works in the store.

    As a honeymoon gift (and because we were both so impressed with the store) my husband bought me the ‘Charmie' dress in Night River blue dress from a San Francisco-based brand called Curator. I finally had the opportunity to wear it on Saturday night: a Made in America dress from an indie boutique and gallery, worn at the exhibition of an American artist in Paris. Perfect! I wore it with a pair of brilliant red suede ankle boots, a red mini-satchel (also a gift from my husband, from a lovely brand called Matt & Nat) and a necklace given to my by my late sister.

    If you find yourself in Paris over the next month, pay a visit to Galerie L.J. to see Swoon’s show. If you find yourself in Seattle, mosey on down to Velouria!

     


  13. I need some new winter boots. Do I go for a classic knee high boot, or do I go edgy with a biker boot?

    HELP!

     


  14. "1. push yourself to get up before the rest of the world - start with 7am, then 6am, then 5:30am. go to the nearest hill with a big coat and a scarf and watch the sun rise.

    2. push yourself to fall asleep earlier - start with 11pm, then 10pm, then 9pm. wake up in the morning feeling re-energized and comfortable.

    3. erase processed food from your diet. start with no lollies, chips, biscuits, then erase pasta, rice, cereal, then bread. use the rule that if a child couldn’t identify what was in it, you don’t eat it.

    4. get into the habit of cooking yourself a beautiful breakfast. fry tomatoes and mushrooms in real butter and garlic, fry an egg, slice up a fresh avocado and squirt way too much lemon on it. sit and eat it and do nothing else.

    5. stretch. start by reaching for the sky as hard as you can, then trying to touch your toes. roll your head. stretch your fingers. stretch everything.

    6. buy a 1L water bottle. start with pushing yourself to drink the whole thing in a day, then try drinking it twice.

    7. buy a beautiful diary and a beautiful black pen. write down everything you do, including dinner dates, appointments, assignments, coffees, what you need to do that day. no detail is too small.

    8. strip your bed of your sheets and empty your underwear draw into the washing machine. put a massive scoop of scented fabric softener in there and wash. make your bed in full.

    9. organise your room. fold all your clothes (and bag what you don’t want), clean your mirror, your laptop, vacuum the floor. light a beautiful candle.

    10. have a luxurious shower with your favourite music playing. wash your hair, scrub your body, brush your teeth. lather your whole body in moisturiser, get familiar with the part between your toes, your inner thighs, the back of your neck.

    11. push yourself to go for a walk. take your headphones, go to the beach and walk. smile at strangers walking the other way and be surprised how many smile back. bring your dog and observe the dog’s behaviour. realise you can learn from your dog.

    12. message old friends with personal jokes. reminisce. suggest a catch up soon, even if you don’t follow through. push yourself to follow through.

    14. think long and hard about what interests you. crime? sex? boarding school? long-forgotten romance etiquette? find a book about it and read it. there is a book about literally everything.

    15. become the person you would ideally fall in love with. let cars merge into your lane when driving. pay double for parking tickets and leave a second one in the machine. stick your tongue out at babies. compliment people on their cute clothes. challenge yourself to not ridicule anyone for a whole day. then two. then a week. walk with a straight posture. look people in the eye. ask people about their story. talk to acquaintances so they become friends.

    16. lie in the sunshine. daydream about the life you would lead if failure wasn’t a thing. open your eyes. take small steps to make it happen for you."
    — Sixteen Small Steps to Happiness   (via ambling)

    Yes. Great advice: let’s do it!

    (Source: emma-elsworthy, via meetmeundertheappletree)

     

  15. Hankering after this fabulously smart coat for Autumn…

    (Source: xiomarah)