Alice in Wonderland at the British Library

One of my favourite books in the world is Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll. In fact not just the book – I love the ideas, the illustrations, the history and the endless versions of it that have been created.  When I heard the British Library were having an exhibition dedicated to it I just had to go. 

    

From the British Library website: 
“Happy Birthday Alice! To celebrate 150 years of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this exhibition explores how Alice has captured our imaginations for so many years. Although the story has been adapted, appropriated, re-imagined and re-illustrated since its conception, we are still enchanted by Carroll’s original, much loved story, which continues to inspire new generations of writers and illustrators.

Come and see Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript with hand-drawn illustrations, alongside stunning editions by Mervyn Peake, Ralph Steadman, Leonard Weisgard, Arthur Rackham, Salvador Dali and others.
Discover how Lewis Carroll’s story has been re-imagined, re-interpreted and re-illustrated over the last 150 years with newly commissioned articles, a selection of manuscripts, reviews and literature relating to Alice in Wonderland”.

You start by taking a journey through a pop up of mirrors and maze walls all peppered with Alice in Wonderland quotes and various illustration from books across the 150 years of its publication.  

  
You then enter the exhibition itself which showcases everything from the first edition, details and photos of the original Alice; Alice Liddell, examples of all the different illustrations that have been done over the last 100+ years, plus original art, vintage toys and of course, the ‘Disneyfied’ Alice and her merchandise.

My favourite thing had to be the original diary and then handmade book (complete with hand drawn illustrations) by Charles Dodgson (the real name of Lewis Carroll) that he made Alice as a present after that afternoon of storytelling…for a fan like me it was just breaktaking to see it.
 
 
 Plus there’s a fab pop up Alice in Wonderland shop with lots of fabulous quirky items.  

Its definitely worth a visit whether you are a fan or not and its wonderful that it is free for the nation to enjoy. Thank goodness for the patrons of the arts whose donations make this sort of thing possible. 

The exhibition is in the library foyer, is free to get in to and runs until 17th April.

The British Library is at 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB – nearest Tube Kings Cross/St Pancras. 

The Vogue 100 Exhibition – National Portrait Gallery, London

As part of my birthday celebrations myself and my boyfriend had a great day out in London recently and I got to do one of the things I love doing – visiting art galleries.  The Vogue 100 exhibition had been on my ‘to do’ list since it opened in February and I was thrilled to be able to go and see it.  But the question is, is it worth seeing?

Once you enter the exhibition through pillars of different Vogue covers you are faced with this huge image of the late great Lee McQueen and a stark room with a  small selection of the past 100 years most iconic images from which you can then access the different areas grouped by decade.

The layout is quite a strange one as it doesnt run in chronological order so I made my way to the ‘century of magazines’ area first and then worked forward from the 1920’s finally ending in the film area.

I went into to one of the end rooms first  – The ‘Century of Magazines’ room

This room showed a copy of Vogue from every year of the 100 years it has been in publication…including the very first copy (pictured). It is breathtaking to see how a publication can represent its era, carry on through two world wars, touch politics, feminism and the changes to the world that happened during that time but still be a great fashion magazine.

 Another great room was ‘The Planning Room’ 

In this room you entered a darkened space with negatives from all eras presented on top of light boxes and series’ of shoot images being projected on the wall showing how many shots the Vogue team would see before they picked ‘the one’.

  

And then there were the rooms of the different decades…

My highlights

The 1920s/30s –

Aristocracy mixed with silent film stars and glamour girls. Many of the images looked as modern now as they did 100 years ago…


The 1940s – against all the glamour the starkness of these reportage shots from the WW2 really made you realise Vogue was never just a frivolous fashion magazine…

And seeing key fashion illustrations in real life, remembering they had been done at the time and were of the most contemporary fashions.

The 1950’s – this room held some of the most glamorous photos including original by Cecil Beaton and Norman Parkinson…

The 1960s – Probably my favourite era, style wise, I loved the tone of this room with its retro textured wallpaper and full wall shot of David Hockney, his assistant and glamorous model Maudie James in his studio by Cecil Beaton…

 

The 1970’s – a strange mix of glamour, sexist sterotyping and the grungy beginnings of punk rock. Probably my least favourite of all the rooms although this Helmut Newton pic taken the year I was born stood out…

The 1980s – Big, brash and bold was the order of the day in this room…

The 1990’s- a key time in British fashion with film stars and artists suddenly taking up as many shots as the models and the grungy ‘Heroin Chic’ style starting to appear…

The 2000s and onwards – it is quite breathtaking to see so many iconic images in one place – the curation was perfect and you really ‘felt’ each decade and its subtle changes…

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And finally (of course!) the shop

Look at these amazing Biscuiteers biscuits!  The Vogue 100 book was great too but I’ve got to be honest I’m not going to buy it for a ‘special price’ of £35 in the gallery when Amazon have it for £26. The vintage copies of Vogue on sale (from £35) were tempting though… 

I just adored this exhibition and would definitely recommend a trip. It runs until 22nd May 2016 and adult tickets are £17.00 each.  If youve been I’d love to know your thoughts…

National Portrait Gallery

St Martin’s Place
London
WC2H 0HE
020 7306 0055

Opening hours

Daily 10.00 – 18.00
Thursdays and Fridays until 21.00.
Last admission to the exhibition is one hour before the Gallery closes.
Exiting commences ten minutes before the closing time.

Easter Bank Holiday Weekend Inspiration

Happy Easter! What ever your personal beliefs, this weekend in the UK is a double bank holiday weekend for most of us that we can spend with our families, hopefully seeing some sunshine, having fun and treating ourselves to lots of naughty food.  I’m a great believer in seizing any free time I have and making the most of it while creating some great memories at the same time. However that is easier said than done – in todays blog I share some things I do to acheive just that. 

Start the day right

Make a healthy breakfast exciting using boiled eggs (well it is Easter!) and some carefully chosen egg cups – I love this stylish cutie by Buddy and Bear or try Etsy or NotOntheHighStreet.com for similar contemporary designs. For a more eclectic look, seek out vintage ones and create a mismatched set.

 photo Buddy and Bear via EtsyUK 

Or maybe choose not so healthy… Creme egg stacked pancakes, you say? Easy to make (one egg per stack was enough sweetness for us) and very, very indulgent.  Yes it’s laden with calories but for one day over Easter it makes an amazing treat! 

Dress for it     

Spring means we can start dressing in pastels and cute prints again so lets embrace it. Spend Easter digging out some of your summer clothing and styling them up to feel and look great.  I love being able to get out of dark jumpers and boots and embrace something more joyful! Fingers crossed the sun shines too…        

Get crafty

More free time means more time for activities! I do like a project with the kids – for Roald Dahl day Reuben and I made this Mr Twit beard as seen below and this Easter I want to make some of these amazing giant origami rabbits that I saw on the wonderful Oh Happy Day blog. Find the tutorial here  Photo via Oh Happy Day

Have an egg and spoon race

Want to get the kids off their games consoles/TV’s and out into the fresh air? An egg and spoon race is easy to do and you dont need to buy anything. We use plastic toy eggs (find race sets in most Easter seasonal aisles) but you can easily use chocolate or hard boiled versions instead.  On your marks, get set, GO!!!

 

Make and bake

If the weathers not so good, another great activity is to bake cakes or make some other special treats to share. We recently made homemade Lemonade as a family (à la Diary of a Wimpy kid) which the boys loved doing and often make cakes over Easter (see our 4yr olds nursery-made offering from this week below). This year we’ve made Spring themed fairy cakes together and I’m sure they will all get gobbled up soon. 

   

  
 

Go for a special day out 

Ok, it can be expensive to go on big days out but across the two weeks of the school Easter holiday we always try and fit one day trip in. Look for 2 for 1 offers, discount codes or free events – whether its to a theme park, zoo or just the beach or play area its perfect for making those special memories. And lets be honest – who doesn’t want to act like a kid again for the day?!?

     Do an Easter Egg Hunt

Easter wouldn’t be Easter without chocolate eggs but I do like my kids to work for them! Last year we hid them throughout the house and garden and our three boys had to follow clues to track them down…they loved it! We will do the same this Sunday, as well as give them a couple of their favourite chocolate bar eggs too.

 
Do some exercise

After all that indulgence some hard work is required to balance all those calories out…I know it’s boring but if you eat lots of chocolate and treats you have to exercise. As someone whos lost a lot of weight and now exercises regularly I will make sure, holiday or not, I’ll run my usual 5k run. As well as meaning you dont put on weight its great to de-stress, have some ‘me-time’ and clear your head and for me, Spring is THE best season to run in.

  
 

So make the most of those extra days of fun with the people you care for the most and make this Easter one to remember!

All photos via my Instagram unless otherwise stated. Follow me on Instagram for lots more here.

Pharmacy 2

Let go back in time…

Its 1998 – London is in the grip of the Rule Britannia phase, Brit Pop rules, as do lads and ladettes doing too many drugs, New Labour were telling us ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ and the British art scene led by the likes of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas and Gary Hume is changing the face of modern art.

Mathew Freud and Damien Hirst open up Pharmacy, a restaurant in Notting Hill and the rest is the stuff of legend. I went once with some people from Loaded Magazine (remember that!?!) but sadly I cannot mention most of the stuff that happened that night for fear of being sued! It was a pretty cool place though, although the waiters in surgical gowns did freak me out a bit…

Jump forward to now and Damien Hirst, in collaboration with chef Mark Hix, has opened Pharmacy 2, this time based in his Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall, South London.  See below what I discovered…

Its small but perfectly formed! The bar area is a mix of neon, pill prints and hanging leds.  Hirst butterfly print medical ‘+’ signs sit each side of the mirrored bar backdrop and cocktails are mixed as you perch on pill shaped bar stools.

There are booths to sit in for bigger groups and loads more Hirst originals. I tried to leave with one up my jumper but sadly there were too many waiters!

img_6420And even the bar stools are cool…  Just like the original piece of art, 2500 or so different pills fill the cabinets on the walls…The menu covers British and European classics, including the likes of shaved winter squash with Treviso and Graceburn cheese, white polenta with a Burford Brown egg yolk and shaved Wiltshire truffles, plus a Mark Hix signature dish of crushed potato and black pudding with pineapple upside-down cakes or chocolate mousse with honeycomb for dessert. Pharmacy 2 covers breakfast, weekend brunches and Sunday roasts, plus it serves a mean cocktail.

What do you think? Pharmacy 2 is now open for bookings – find the details here.

London Fashion Weekend 2015

At the weekend I was lucky enough to go to this years London Fashion Weekend having won a pair of silver tickets from Very Exclusive.

So what is London Fashion Weekend? Following London Fashion Week, London Fashion Weekend is a fashionista extravaganza taking place straight afterwards, letting everyone experience the fabulous world of fashion. The Saatchi Gallery is transformed into an exclusive fashion experience, brimming with designer catwalk shows, pop-up shops, hair and beauty areas and days of educational panels and talks.

The beautiful location of the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea had been cleared of art and filled with lots of rooms of pop up shops plus a huge catwalk area on the top floor. The sun was shining and it was teeming with bloggers, fashion lovers and creatives. 

 

I wore a simple, yet (hopefully you’ll think) stylish outfit of a black jersey roll neck from Select and a Primark pleated animal print maxi skirt with leather heeled boots from Next. Instead of a necklace I tied a chiffon scarf around my neck to create a pussy bow effect and added a fab studded belt I have from Warehouse which always creates the most flattering silhouette for me.  All high street clothing too!

 
I took one of my favourite people in the world, my friend Ciara, who also loves fashion. Once there we were booked in to see the AW15 trend show by Very Exclusive which showcased key looks for the season in 4 fashion stories. It was hosted by fashion write & stylist Angela Scanlon and really filled me with inspiration.

Here are a few of my favourite looks… 

A Modish colour pop dress with a retro vibe:

 A stunning red statement coat:

A laid back Boho smock dress:

Luxe trousers with a berry leather biker jacket:

And the finale… My only real critism of the show was the models were so thin and there was no mix of age. In all this talk about plus size and more ‘normal’ models there wasnt a girl over a size 6/8 and no girls over about 21/22 years old… There were quite a few young girls there with their parents and you have to question what message it sent – I’m a size 10/12 and watching them made me feel enormous!We then went around the venue looking at all the different brands most of which had special offers and discounts of between 20-70% off. 

Heres my top 5 favourites…

Wolf & Moon jewellery:    The Cambridge Satchel Co.’s collaboration with Vivienne Westwood:Wooden Prada sunglasses: In fact I fell in love with a lot of sunglasses! These are Prada and Mui Mui respectively and its clear that theres definitely going to be a lot of fun OTT oversized styles coming out next season. Frends ‘Taylor’ headphones in rose gold coloured metal & white leather: Helene Berman London coats:  

It was great fun and I’m looking forward to reading the official magazine and deciding what pieces I cant live without for AW15!

Whether it’s shopping for your new season wardrobe or experiencing the atmosphere and drama of the catwalk or a VIP experience like no other – London Fashion Weekend is a great event. To be the first to find out when tickets go on sale for the February 2016 event, sign up to their newsletter here.

  

Getting Engaged 

So…I’m engaged now.  At 42, divorced with a child, getting married again doesnt seem like something you need to shout about…except you kinda do!  It is definitely a lovely feeling that makes you feel safe, very happy and most importantly very very loved.

Its fair to say Russ and I are a sickly sweet loved up couple already and making our love ‘official’ was always on the cards.  We own a house together and parent four (yes four!) boys between us so we are already totally committed to each other. Plus we both have been wearing a ring on our wedding ring finger since we got serious…a committment ring of sorts.


After getting together after both leaving long term dead and pointless relationships, we promised each other we would really start living our lives. Properly living them, seizing each moment and as part of that each year would travel to a new and exciting foreign place. This year we decided to discover Copenhagen in Denmark which I blogged about here.  Long story short – we absolutely loved the place!

on a boat trip exploring the sights

 

So back to the event itself – after taking (and leaving) a love lock as a surprise for Russ on a our trip to Barcelona last year, I’d read that there was a pedestrian bridge on the edge of the city where Danish couples came to express their love in the same way.

For those not in the know, love locks have become a global phenomenon.  They are messages of love, written by lovers and locked onto bridges, fences and gates in prominent and iconic spots and the keys then thrown away leaving the message (and the couples declaration of love) locked there forever…

This time I said beforehand that I wanted to do it, and in a lovely touch Russ hand engraved our padlock himself.

The Bryggebroen bridge is tucked behind a large shopping centre, on a street called Havneholmen, and spans the distance between the Danish areas of Kalvebod Brygge and Islands Brygge.  No cars can cross it, so its quiet, clean and elegant.

where it happened

 

We went to find it hoping it would be just as good as the other love lock spots we’d seen online. Walking over the bridge, gazing along the Sydhavnen (South Harbour) the modern architecture almost blends into the colour of the water and placed every so often along the railings are small groups of padlocks, a stark contrast with their mix of colour strewn across the bridge.  Towards the centre of the bridge the numbers grew and the bridge became full of declarations of love.

Smiling, kissing and laughing (as ever) we placed our lock, declared our love and threw the keys in the river.

And here is our lock…❤️❤️❤️

love locks in Copenhagen Denmark via Always a blue sky girl blog

love locks in Copenhagen Denmark via Always a blue sky girl blog

And then the proposal!  Suddenly looking very serious, Russ asked for my lovely emerald and diamond ring back, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him!  The feeling of joy was just overwhelming.  As I got ready to answer a Danish jogger ran past smiling and shouted “say yes!” and we both burst out laughing.  It was a perfect moment we’ll both never forget – and of course I said yes!!!

After quite a lot of kissing and cuddling, we then went out for a celebratory dinner, toasted our future, took a romantic walk back to the hotel and did a final bit of celebrating behind closed doors doing what we do best! The rest I’ll leave up to your imagination! 😉😍😉

I feel very lucky to have such love in my life and to have received such a wonderful proposal in such a romantic place and can’t wait to marry the man I love.

And now…wedding planning!  I am a style blogger who is getting married!!!  As you can imagine I want it to be fabulous, so watch this space…

Find my Pinterest wedding boards here here here and here for how its looking so far.

 

Visiting Copenhagen

My partner and I have made a promise to ourselves to see a new city and do a new thing every year and this Easter was the turn of visiting a new place. 

I’ve wanted to visit Denmark for a while.  Its one of the most stylish places from a design perspective, is a totally different experience from travelling in southern Europe, embraces English as a language and is said to be one of the happiest place to live.

I instagram’ed A LOT while there so let me share with you what I saw, discovered and felt…

The airport – yep, Denmark scores high in the design department, even the airport is stunning.


Tourist attractions – theres so much to choose from but heres a few I loved…

There are a lot of royal palaces to visit as various ones were built, burnt down or replaced since the 1700’s. The current royal family live in two modest palaces (similar to an English stately home size) protected by Bearskin wearing guards not unlike ours. 

The Little Mermaid has to be THE thing to visit while in Copenhagen.  It can be reached on foot and is quite amazing to see in real life. Hans Christian Andersons legacy can be seen all around the city and gives it a magical air. I have to say I got quite emotional seeing it in real life.  There is also a ‘Big Mermaid’ to visit further up the shores edge where you can also do watersports and sail.

Copenhagen is quite unique as it has a theme park right in the middle of the city. Tivoli Gardens was founded in 1843 and has become one of the cities biggest attractions. Hans Christian Andersen visited many times, as did Walt Disney who was said to of used it as inspiration for Disneyland.  Part of Tivoli Gardens’ secret is that there is something for everyone – the scenery is beautiful with exotic architecture, theres fantastic food and drink, it has historic buildings and of course the famous gardens. At night, thousands of coloured lights create a fairy tale atmosphere that is completely unlike anywhere I’ve ever been to. It is quite expensive if you want to go on all the rides and eat dinner but its definitely worth it.  I will never forget how magical it was.

  

For a great view of the city visit the Rundetårn (The Round Tower) which is a 17th-century tower built as an astrological observatory. It is most well known for its corkscrew style path instead of stairs leading to the top, and for the great views over Copenhagen.  We liked the glass floor where you could look down and see how high you were plus we got to do one of our holiday traditions of kissing at the highest point we can find in the city!

  

  Food and drink – 

Denmarks food is fresh, simple and tasty. Copenhagen is expensive to eat and drink so it was great to have a good breakfast at the hotel before we started our day. Hot breakfasts arent really a thing in Denmark so expect boiled eggs, breads, meats to make sandwiches, yoghurt and many types of pastries.  Open sandwiches with variations of salt beef, roast beef, fried eggs, beetroot, herring, liver paté and rye bread should definitely be tried for lunch.  And for dinner?  Well I loved their steaks…

  Nyhavn – 

If you picture Copenhagen you will probably picture the postcard prettiness of Nyhavn (New Harbour).  Bright coloured buildings line the side of the canal with lots of beautiful boats moored there.  Its a great place to eat and drink or take one of the sightseeing boats round the city – we did both.  Absolute holiday perfection.

 
Love Locks – 

Last year we visited Barcelona and left a engraved padlock there and it has now become a holiday tradition to do so.  This years padlock is now happily amongst the others on the bridge at Bryggebroen where you will find hundreds of other peoples padlocks too. 

If you don’t know the idea, also seen in many other big cities, it is that couples come and lock their padlocks (decorated with their names, dates and other messages) to the wires of the bridge, then throw the keys to the water below as a sign of unbreakable love. Pretty romantic, eh?  See our love lock below…

Modern Architecture – 

As well as the old, Copenhagen also has some amazing modern architecture.  It really takes your breath away as it is such a stylish place. My favourite was the ‘Black Diamond’ building (seen below with us reflected in it) built to reflect the water all around so ever shimmering like a gem and close second was the Opera House (seen after). 
Shopping – 

I did some shopping of course!  Strøget, the main shopping street in the city is Europe’s longest pedestrianised thoroughfare, running for well over 1,000 yards.  The selection of designer homewares is amazing with recognisable Danish brands everywhere plus lots of antique shops.  There’s also a real ‘healthy’ feel to shopping with the biggest selection of fitness clothing across different shops that I’ve ever seen including specific departments just for kids.  Clothing wise, H&M rules the high street and its not hard to see why.  Look out for further blogs on what I bought there!  My partner loves Lego and he was not dissapointed either.  Made in Denmark its presence is strong in department stores, toy shops and its own stores and it looks great.

  

Bikes – 

Continuing the healthy feel, there are so many people riding bikes.  It is a very ‘green’ city and you can hire bikes and park them pretty much anywhere.  This leads to a very laid back vibe, with the streets clean and quiet. 

We found everything really easy in Copenhagen. You can fly there cheaply (our flights only cost us around £50 each return and that was during the Easter break), the people are very friendly, everyone speaks English and signs/announmcements are all in both languages. The weather in April was warm and not that different to the UK.  Its easy to get from the airport to the city centre (about 20 mins on the train) and the city can be navigated easily on foot or by metro/train.  It has definitely become one of my favourite places and I would highly recommend a visit.

Its the perfect city break!  

Ripleys Believe it or Not – London

As you may know, in our family there are 6 of us. Myself, my partner, my 8yo son and my partners three sons of 23, 8 and 3). Being in a blended family has its challenges, but also can be wonderful too. My ‘stepson’ Cam’s (although we are not married I refer to my partners younger children as my stepsons as I bring them up 50% of the time) birthday was last month and we looked to organise a fun day out in London he would enjoy.

IMG_9130 We settled on Ripleys Believe it or Not in Piccadilly and booked tickets for the Saturday. I’d been past it so many times as its in such a busy part of London but never really found out what it was. Well I think it’s a hidden gem for families! Due to the type of attraction it is we choose to not take our youngest as at three he wouldn’t really understand what he was seeing, so a family ticket for two adults and two children’s was all we needed. Now, tickets for Ripleys are not cheap – the family ticket bought online is the cheapest option at £67.96 and you can also use Tesco Clubcard tokens too. After a quick search on the internet though I found a buy one get one free offer so all together for the four of us it cost £45.82 – not bad for a central London attraction. Ripleys is in a fantastic building just off of Leicester Square and the attraction has over 700 artefacts spanning six floors, 19 themed galleries, plus an additional Laser Race area which certain entrance tickets cover.

IMG_1445 Inside it really is a mass of things to look at – mostly totally random but lots of fun. I didnt realise that Ripley has been a real person who spent his life collecting the unusual and the rare for people to then visit – there is information about him all through the tour – he must of been an amazing character. Some of it is probably a bit silly for older kids (knitted car, giant chair, upside down room) but for two 8 year olds it was perfect! There are crazy objects, models of record breaking things such as the worlds tallest man, the smallest piece of art, ornate coffins, animal skeletons and bits of meteor to name but a few…

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IMG_9133 Parts of it are more like a traditional museum whereas other parts are much more interactive. You can walk through a medieval dungeon with all its torture equipment, see Olympic Torches from throughout the years and look at crazy optical effects like walking through a tunnel of moving light that makes you think you are moving upside down.

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IMG_1444 I have to say I loved it! I loved seeing all the different art made from crazy things, part of the Berlin Wall and walking through a hall of mirrors. The boys loved the interactive parts such as the light tunnel, creating virtual graffiti as the Berlin Wall and feeling how cold the water was when the Titanic sank.

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IMG_9144 The Laser Race Attraction at the end of the tour had long queues when we got to it, but to be fair we moved to the front quite quickly. You go in as a family and then have to navigate through to rob the bank vault without setting off the alarm via the laser sensors. The boys loved the idea and did really well but be warned you do have to wiggle all over the floor like a cat burglar!!! No good if you’re wearing a dress!

There were a few parts I found a bit ‘too’ weird – there was a whole section on real life freaks and some of the real shrunken heads (including a film on how they were made) were quite macabre! At the end of the journey there is of course a gift shop which is over priced and mainly full of sweets and a hard sell if the £25 posed photo books of you in Ripley style pith helmets they encourage you to pose for. However you can leave via the Laser Race route, which we did to avoid the cries of “Mum/Dad can I have…” We had a great day and I’d definitely recommend it. Book the tickets in advance and definitely don’t pay the price on the door and avoid the gift shop. But if you have kids under 12 I think its a great day out that will keep them talking (and thinking) for long after they leave. Find out more on the Ripleys website here. Photo sources my own or via the link above.