Friday, 29 June 2012

Film review: The Five Year Engagement

Generally I’m pretty reluctant to go to watch a film with Tom. I’d much prefer to spend my pennies scoffing my face with yummy food while bending his ear about what happened in the Kardashians last night, let alone brave a rom-com sitting next to the bloke with the loudest laugh at the back of a cinema. And oh my how Tom loves to laugh. Loud. At anything remotely funny. But one Sunday morning we were faced with no other options thanks to the disgustingly dull weather, so decided to go and see The Five-Year Engagement.

As rom-coms go, it was your typical girl meets boy, they fall in love, break up and then realise they can’t live without each other and get back together and live happily ever after. But the route it took wasn’t quite as predictable. I don’t want to give the whole story away (just in case you do want to fork out £8 for a ticket) but I will give you a few ideas.

Beginning where most romantic comedies end, the new film from director Nicholas Stoller and producer Judd Apatow who were behind genius films Knocked Up, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin looks at what happens when an engaged couple, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, keeps getting tripped up on the long walk down the aisle. It deals with modern issues in an enlightening and honest way but I often failed to feel much sizzling chemistry between the two main characters. Emily plays an aspiring academic whose success not only postpones her marriage to Jason’s chef character but also results in his upheaval from his progressing cooking career and eventually his spiralling mental state. The couple goes through recognisable relationship ups and downs, before a couple of affairs and horrid break up makes them realise they were meant to be.

I’d recommend it if you are a big fan of Jason Segel, and by that I mean have seen all of his films and watch How I Met Your Mother on a daily basis, but if not I’d say wait until it comes out on DVD and spend your money on a large glass of wine in the sun.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Fly away fashion

Untitled #5

June has been a fashion frenzy of style news hitting the headlines for us to feast our eyes on. And what a Royal bonanza it’s been. Despite the summer being washed away by all the flood water that engulfed the UK this month, least we could look to the smiles from the Windsor family to give us a little snapshot of sunshine.

We saw K Middy got back to basics and embrace her wild side on a children’s camping trip, but still maintain an air of class as she donned £300 leather-lined willies from French bootmaker La Chameau. The Queen named her prestigious honours list and aside from Take-That-crooner-turned-X-Factor- Mr-Nasty Gary Barlow, Sarah Burton was flying the flag for British fashion. The creative director of Alexander McQueen was given an OBE for her role in creating the Duchess of Cambridge’s stunning lace wedding gown.

Aside from all the hip-wiggling celebrations down at Buckingham Palace, the crowds came out in full-force for the Royal Ascot. Spotting displays of outrageous fashion is an annual attraction at the five-day event, but this year it was different. Organisers put a stop to the trend of shrinking skirts and fascinators, and imposed a strict new dress code, fit with eagle-eyed ‘fashion police’ positioned at the turnstiles who were armed with ties, pashminas and hats to give to anyone who failed to comply with the tough rules.

Surrounding myself with the tropical location photoshoots from the spreads of Vogue and ELLE is about the closest I’m getting to a sun-soaked holiday at the moment, but if you’re counting down the days until you jet off somewhere scorching, you’ll need to jam pack your suitcase with some summer staples.  

Life's a beach and then you get sunburn, stub your toe on a rock, break your nails boogie-boarding, snag your sarong on a palm tree and decide that maybe more sangria and less sand is really the life for you. But armed with the right dress code you’ll look great and feel even better. 

Holidays are a time to dip into more adventurous looks with graphic prints, retro cat's eye sunglasses and a European-inspired kaftan. You can push the boundaries and experiment with vibrant designs that are a world away from your dowdy day-to-day office attire. Bright, bold colours are bang on trend and also make mix and match packing a breeze, so stock up on the bare essentials at h&m.

When it comes to strutting your stuff round the blue waters and perfecting that lobster-slash-olive-skin tan, nailing the right swimwear is crucial. The one-piece swimsuit is a poolside lounger staple, but its fashion-forward cousin, the cut-out suit, is a whole other animal entirely. Whether they're slashed up in unexpected places, strung out or plunging, these tanks make a statement. If you’re brave enough, head down to River Island for a daring range of swimsuits to dive into. If you prefer to play it safe with your regular two-piece bikini, then Monsoon do a great selection of shapes and designs to suit. Not a fan of flashing the flesh? The sarong can do duty as skirt, strapless dress and shawl and the kaftan is easier and hides more faults. Next is a brilliant place to stock up on brightly-coloured necessities to make sure you tread trendy on your jollies.

Even the latest bling is being influenced by the sea, with the high street awash with necklaces, bangles and earrings sporting something fishy from crabs to corals, and buckets to boats. Topshop and Accessorize have a great selection of eye-catching jewels. So whether you’re off for a week in the Bahamas, a month’s jaunt round Australia or a weekend camping in Bognor, looking stylish should all be part of the package.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Summer wardrobe wishlist

1 £22.99 New Look 2 £35 Warehouse 3 £55 Topshop
I've been lucky enough to bag a few extra pennies this month and with the boost to my bank account I've headed straight for the high street in search of some summer goodies. The stores are awash with graphic prints, cutesy pastels and vibrant gypsy designs; I literally can't stuff my shopping trolley fast enough. So while I'm spending money faster than I am earning it, there is so much that has caught my eye and left me dreaming of patterned jeans and crochet tops. With my summer diary getting booked up thick and fast, I need a few new outfits to dazzle in and here are my top picks that will be money well spent.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

I love Brighton...

When the sun shines (I'm hoping it will at least once this summer) there is nothing I love more than harping back to my hometown to see Brighton in its full glory. The streets come to life, buzzing with sunseekers in shorts and wayfarers and the sea looks like a floor of mirrors beaming with yellow light. I love the seafront, the brightly-coloured beach huts, the quirky lanes and even the tourist haven that is the Pier. So one unexpectedly jolly Saturday, me and Emily took full advantage of the short-lived warm weather and headed into town to treat ourselves to a cheeky glass of vino. Armed with the cash I trotted into a pub in the lanes and decided Emily deserved a large glass of white, while I, as the designated driver, opted for a smaller offering of rose. It was a lush way to spend an afternoon.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Wayne Hemingway talks vintage...

So a couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of interviewing design extraordinaire Wayne Hemingway as he prepares for his third Vintage Festival to be held this year at Boughton House in Northamptonshire. Here is a sneak peek of the final piece.

A determined business sense combined with an instinct for great style has given Wayne the tools to build many a successful brand. Starting his adventure selling second-hand clothes on a market stall in Camden, his passion for sustainable clothing soon became the basis of his fashion label, and together with his wife Geraldine, the Red or Dead brand was born. After 21 consecutive seasons on the catwalk at London Fashion Week and winning the British Fashion Council's Streetstyle Designer of the Year award three years on the trot, Wayne and Geraldine sold Red or Dead in a multi-million cash sale in 1999.

Fresh from the realms of the catwalk and the fast-paced fashion industry, Wayne then turned his hand to other creative projects with his new design practice Hemingway Design, specialising in affordable and social housing projects.

After once again building a brand into a highly successful business and scouting other members of the family to trust his eye for design, he now also heads up the Vintage Festival which comes to Boughton House in Northamptonshire for its third successful year in the summer.

Cheap and cheerful
Growing up in a less than privileged background, recycling old clothes and giving materials a dual purpose was all part of the Hemingway way of life.

“I was brought up in a thrifty and really creative family,” Wayne explains. “Sewing machines were used everywhere and my mum and nan were brilliant with using the resources around them to create something original. Back then they never had magazines or people in the media dictating the trends to them and Morecambe wasn't exactly the centre of the fashion world, but somehow the ladies in my family always came out looking like film stars in their handmade gear. It didn't just stop with my mum and nan either, my granddad made all my toys and was always growing vegetables or dabbling in some DIY. My whole life revolved around thrift and nothing was ever thrown away – I just throught it was normal and that's the way everybody lived. 

"By the age of 13, wearing second-hand clothes had no stigma attached to it, it seemed like the sensible thing to do and was a great way to make things last.”

After being surrounded by this sustainable ethos for his entire childhood, he soon developed a passion for second-hand clothes and utilising materials in any which way possible. Then, after meeting his wife, he took this onto the streets of London in an attempt to make a quick buck or two.

“My wife came from a very similar background to me and when I met her on the dancefloor of a nightclub, I was drawn to her individuality and quirkiness expressed in the way she was dressed. In 1982, money was tight so we decided to empty our wardrobes onto Camden market to have a go at selling them, never expecting it to take off in the way that it did. We soon realised that people liked our second-hand clothes and our taste seemed to be reciprocated.”
By the end of the year, the small selling operation had expanded into 16 other stalls, with shipments of second-hand clothing and footwear being brought in from all over the world. It was a definitive success. After a decade in Camden, Wayne decided to don his business cap and created fashion label, Red or Dead.

“We did that for 10 years, before setting up our fashion label Red or Dead which still echoed our sustainable ethos. It was an affordable label, made out of found and recycleable materials. One of our flagship stores in Kensington used old wires that were taken from an old run-down BT depot nearby. Even when we sold the company, we still carried on this economical philosophy and since we had the money to build our own house, we were able to design it exactly how we wanted. We done it up with recycled products – our sofa is made from an old boat – but it still encapsulates a completely modern persona.”

Restore passion
So what it is about recycling clothes and materials that gives Wayne such a buzz? “I think upcycling and reusing things not only gives you a sense of pride, but it makes a better way of living. You can make things last longer, make your money go further while also gaining a lot of personal satisfaction from a project. Saying this, although vintage and the second-hand culture has lost its stigma – it's no longer seen as just something for poorer people – it is still a minor sport and far from making it into the mass market.”

The Hemingways have had some huge projects to tackle over the past few months, from working with McDonalds and upcycling company Worn Again to design the uniform for its 85,000 employees in time for the London Olympics, to collaborations with G Plan, Antler Luggage and Hush Puppies. Not to mention the small task of co-curating the official party for The Queen's Diamond Jubilee in June 2012 in Battersea Park, which was nothing short of spectacular.

Party like it's 1920
Now the team is gearing up to host the third Vintage Festival in its newest location of Boughton House in Northamptonshire. Described by many as the most ambitious and coolest festival ever, the Vintage Festival brings together the best of British talent for a creative feast that lasts for one glamourous weekend. It celebrates the music, food, fashion, art, dance, film and food from the 1920s to the 1980s that helped make the UK a cultural hot bed. The first festival was in 2010 on the Sussex Downs which saw 50,000 party-goers attend and since then it caused quite a stir on London's Southbank in 2011 and looks set to be a fantastic success again this year. Over three days, visitors can learn the dances, take in special live performances, exclusive DJ sets and catwalk shows, taste the food and cocktails from this era or take advantage of the decade-specific hair and beauty makeovers and all the vintage shopping on offer.

“After going from festival to festival and finding that none of them suited what we really wanted,” says Wayne, “we came up with the idea for a totally different vintage festival experience. It's not just about standing there gaping at a band, it incorporates music, fashion, art and design into one venue and gives visitors the chance to learn new skills and find out more about all aspects of the festival. When we were growing up it was very rare to have a fashion movement that didn't go hand-in-hand with a fashion style; punk, mods and rockers and disco for example. So we wanted to bring this back and give a new generation the chance to experience music they wouldn't normally be exposed to and see how it really has stood the test of time from the reaction it gets. I love the fact that we've focused on vintage and what we've done to promote it throughout our lives together.”

This entirely new concept is one of Wayne's finest ideas and captures the trends from eras gone by to transfer to the next generation as well as inspiring more people into his way of sustainable thinking.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Jubilee madness!

Monday June 4th saw the Monk family gather together to celebrate our monarch’s 60 years on the throne. In true patriotic spirit, we donned our cardboard Royal family faces, put up the bunting and had a BBQ complete with bangers and chicken legs. Thankfully the weather was good to us and as my dad says ‘the sun shines on the righteous’ and it certainly made a few appearances for the Queen and her posse.

We even had a friendly game of rounders where we divided the teams into girls against boys and even though I saw my dad do the most running he has done in decades much to the delight of me and my brother, I think the lasses came out victorious; especially since I caught Tom out twice.

After the match I had a well-deserved glass of wine and carried on the festivities with the grilled food, summer salads and even a toast to the Queen herself. The day finished with a bit of Jubilee music at the concert at her Marj’s home and a heated few games of UNO, before saying our goodbyes. It was a fun-filled day and great excuse for a good ol’ knees up!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Weekend in Nottingham

This blog post is long overdue but here goes. At the start of the month and for the bumper bank holiday courtesy of our dear Queenie, me and Tom bagged a free two-night stay in Nottingham all in the name of Hotel Business magazine

With the prospect of spending a whole five days with Tom on the horizon I was very excited to finish work on Friday and head over to see him and greet him with a smooch.

So after a slightly boozy Friday night spent in the company of Tom's mum and her hubby, we packed our bags once again and headed up North to lose my Nottingham V plates. We arrived around 1.30pm and hopped straight on a tram to take us to our hotel. After paying £1.80 each for a tram ride that we could've walked in less than 10 mins (it's fine Tom paid) we found the Mercure dropped off our bags and ventured out to explore the city. 
As first impressions go, the one I got from this city was pretty ace. It was buzzing with young people who oozed style and individuality; people definitely weren't afraid to express themselves through their wardrobe choices. It was quirky, atmospheric and gave off a really relaxed vibe, ticking all my boxes for a city that was cool with a capital C.

First stop for me and Tom was the castle which is a great attraction for Nottingham. Surrounded by all the history cemented by Robin Hood and his merry men, we spent the afternoon reading up on his escapades and dodging groups of small kids as we made our way around the six floors of exhibitions.

After a mooch round the vintage shops and enlightening Tom on the bargains hidden away in charity shops - after purchasing an ASOS jumper for £1.82, he was hooked - the hotel beckoned for us to check-in to our suite and give our tired tootsies a rest. The oldest hotel in Nottingham, the Mercure is steeped in history and the walls are awash with pictures of famous faces and renowned figures who have visited over the years. It holds a fantastic location right in the centre of the Lace Market area, great for capturing the buzz of the nightlife.

Saturday night we were booked in for a meal at Iberico and to say it was a treat would be an understatement. Lurking in the shadows of the old justice house in the city, this hidden gem is a real must-visit. Specialising in Spanish-inspired tapas and with scrumptious dishes ranging from pork belly to mackerel and horseradish and apple, and potata-bravas to chinese beef, just browsing the menu was a feast for the eyes. We ordered a strong eight dishes to share and a couple of cocktails on the side and were bowled over by the fantastic mix of tastes, textures and flavours that complemented each other so well. Tom was in a food frenzy with his tastebuds loving every minute, and inbetween all the mmms and ahhhhs we managed to hold some conversation. 

We carried on the party back at the hotel with a bottle of wine in the bar and earwigged on an older couple's brewing row that escalated and finally exploded right under our noses which was quite entertaining for us.

A good night sleep and then we indulged in a full-English brekkie before heading to the Galleries of Justice museum for a tour of the old dungeons and caves. Played out by actors, characters such as old kings from days of yore were brought to life to help tell the story of the history of the place. It was good fun and I even learnt something!

After the tour, it was raining cats and dogs, so we had a pit stop for a hot choc and piece of Victoria sponge at cutesy eatery Homemade Cafe, filled with vintage touches and deliciously British light-bites. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent warming up in the comfort of our hotel and watching the brave tourists who had descended on the capital for the Thames Pagent wave their flags and eagerly scramble to catch a glimpse of Lizzy.

In the evening we had a table booked at Le Bistrot Pierre, a modern French cuisine restaurant with fancy dishes at very reasonable prices. Tom had his first taste of duck and I opted for sea bass, which was classically simple with a subtle taste of flavours, accompanied by seasonal veg and yummy creamy potatoes.

Monday morning swung round and it was time to head home after a weekend of being wined and dined and well and truely spoilt. To finish on a high, we chose to dine in McDonalds for breakfast, toasted our brilliant weekend with orange juices and an extra hash brown.

Friday, 1 June 2012

My Jubilee favourites

Tuesday 5th June is not only an extra day off work to snooze/watch films/eat junk food, it also sees our very own Lizzie celebrate 60 years on the throne. From street parties and pampered corgis to special limericks and her maj’s face recreated in toast, Jubilee fever has definitely spread. I’ve scoured the internet to find the best and most quirky homage’s to the Queen, created in anticipation to the big day itself. 

1. The Cake Store in London got in the spirit of the Diamond Jubilee by baking a huge replica of the Queen herself, made entirely from sponge, icing and sugarpaste. Creative director Steven Howard took two weeks to craft the creation and it weighs in at an impressive 30 kilos. The whole cake was decorated with fine sugar paste sculptured to represent Her Majesty. The masterpiece has caused quite a stir in the media already, with appearances on This Morning, The Graham Norton Show and being displayed at the Ideal Home Exhibition at Olympia.

2. The Golden Boobilee is the splash on the latest issue of lad’s mag Zoo. Although I’m not an avid reader myself, when I caught of glimpse of the design it did make me chuckle. I’m sure blokes all over the country will see this and soon find a reason to celebrate the Jubilee.

3. A trusty cupboard favourite and a memory from my childhood, Marmite is the next to get in on the action. Love it or Hate it, think it’s a yeasty feast or a disgusting goo, the iconic British brand has earned a worldwide reputation since its launch in 1902. Marking its 110th anniversary this year, Marmite is celebrating the Jubilee by releasing a limited-edition Union Jack inspired design which has been flying off the supermarket shelves.

4. This special commemorative tea-towel is a steal at just £15. Its modern slogan is bang on trend and gives everyone the chance to have a Queenie collectable in the kitchen. It looks so smart that I reckon even her majesty would consider drying the royal china on it.