Saturday, 29 September 2012

Vodafone London Fashion Weekend Event Review

This time last week I was packing my suitcase for a weekend away and boy, was I excited? Having never been to Fashion Weekend I was super-psyched to be heading out on the Sunday to Somerset House in London for the event...


Having never been to Fashion Weekend, but also knowing that it is one occasion where you really do need to dress to impress, I hunted through all of my clothes and finally settled on a mid-length graphic-print tube skirt from Topshop (which apparently magnifies my butt so it looks almost Kim Kardashian-esque *so says my mom*), a black peplum top from Topshop, and my sky-scraping wedges from (you've guessed it) Topshop.

As for my make-up on the day, I wanted to try something truly different, so took a leaf out of my friend Cara's book and got creative with my eyeliner extending it into three elaborate swirls on my temples. It worked quite well considering this was the first time I'd ever done it. I kept the rest of my make-up really quite simple and used my Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation because I find it keeps my skin matte throughout the day, which when you're trying to navigate the London Underground on a Sunday morning carting a heavy suitcase around you could really do with safe-guarding.


Now, onto Fashion Weekend itself.

As I was working on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I wasn't able to attend until Sunday, the last day. So I arrived at Somerset House on Sunday morning having strolled down the Thames in the rain. I was eagerly awaiting being indoors for the day. How wrong I was... Although everything for Fashion Weekend is technically indoors, you needed to go outdoors in order to access the different areas which when it is bucketing it down outside isn't fab. Within minutes my hair was frizzy, my feet were wet and my damp skirt was clinging to my apparently huge butt even more than it previously had. But I wasn't bothered, because LIFE IS NOT A DRESS REHEARSAL and you only live once. So I soldiered on...

After putting my suitcase in the cloakroom (which was free by the way) I headed over to the press desk, to collect a map and find out which areas I had access to. Sadly, there was no-one manning the desk so I grabbed a map and wandered aimlessly for a little while just trying to soak up my bearings. I checked the press desk again another two times during the day and there still wasn't anyone sat there...

Nonetheless, I soon realized what was what and was able to go explore the different exhibitors. I was expecting more of an exhibition hall layout like The Clothes Show in Birmingham, but found myself in a very different type of setting. Imagine a big huge mansion with loads of different corridors with rooms going off on either side, then the exhibitors are based inside those rooms. It was nice in a way because it felt like you were really in the designers own little pop-up shop, but everything was a bit chaotic as most rooms only had one door to come in and go out of so I found myself doing that awkward little you-go-first-no-you-go-first exchange multiple times throughout the day.

I'm sad to say that the exhibitors themselves generally weren't much to my taste... It was nice seeing Elizabeth Arden had such a large stall (being one of the event sponsors) but it wasn't quite big enough for me to get anywhere near it because there were so many people there! This was a huge shame really because I've been wanting to chat with an Elizabeth Arden representative about skincare for ages, so I guess I'll just have to head into Debenhams one weekend. benefit had a stall, but they weren't actually selling their products but just offering their services such as eyebrow threading and lash tinting, neither of which I was interested in. Diet Coke were giving out free cans (but I don't like Diet Coke), Kinder Bueno were giving away their new white chocolate bar (but there were none left when I was there) and Compeed were handing out free blister patches like they were sweeties. Apart from that, I didn't experience any freebie pushing or hard-selling all day which was kind of a nice break from what I experienced at The Clothes Show where if I so much as blinked in the direction of a stall I was pounced on and told about an 'exclusive offer' or five...

Other brands I was interested in browsing through included House of Holland, American Retro and VV Vintage. However, as much as I enjoyed having a look through their bits I didn't spot anything I was desperate to buy although I must admit the discounts available were really quite reasonable. Apart from these three, Elizabeth Arden and benefit I genuinely wasn't really that interested in many of the other exhibitors. Having said that, I was pleased to be introduced to a brand I've never known before named Lotus London which has a collection of Indian-inspired pieces (I'm a bit obsessed with Asia in general at the moment so I was automatically drawn to this brand) and another called Attiqueue which had some of the most reasonably priced vintage fur coats I think I've ever seen.

The only offer which I was drawn to all day *and then decided against* was that of Elle magazine who were offering 12 issues of the magazine for just £15 plus a free gift from benefit cosmetics worth £25. However, when I noticed that the Elle representatives were solely giving each customer two travel sized BADgal mascaras each and remembered that I only rarely pick up Elle I decided against investing. That said, I did invest in a £1 copy of their most recent issue. I kind of wish I'd spent the £15 now because I'm really enjoying the pieces especially the beauty pages... Nevermind.

I found bloggable fashion on the guests a bit thin on the ground to be honest... There was only one girl who I had a true style crush on but she breezed past me too quickly to grab a photo. She was wearing a shorts-suit which was in the most cutesy red and black focused plaid print you've ever seen with a white blousse secured with a black ribbon at the neck. Very adorable.

As for the catwalk fashion I found the best look on the Trend Catwalk Fashion Show to be the Lady Brocade look which is something I've been obsessed with for the past couple of years in fact. Its all about the vampy black and deep red colour mix, except its more grown-up than Twilight. Think structured silhouettes, stiff fabrics and a generally more professional approach. Obviously this is perfect for me because since gettinga job I NEED formal work-style clothes and I found this look really quite adaptable. The other two looks which where presented were Kitchen Chic and Sergeant Indigo but I didn't find either of them to be particularly ground-breaking.


I did manage to attend two of the talks which I wanted to see including the ELLE Beauty Panel and also the Sunday Fashion Panel, but I plan to blog about them in more detail in the upcoming week, so you'll just have to bear with me!

*£5.50 worth of cous-cous salad I didn't even want...*

When it was time for something to eat I was really quite disappointed with the lack of options and the price of food. I just wanted a simple ham sandwich and some crisps, but Tom's Deli only had posh salads and beef and horseradish sandwiches. I ended up with a cous-cous salad with melon and parma ham which was alright but wasn't worth £5.50 at all. Stinger.

Also, I know a lot of people will be wanting to know if I got a show bag but I have to admit I did not. In order to get one I was expected to part with twelve of my hard-earned Great British Pounds and after listening to a rather disgruntled 'goodie' bag buyer grumble about the fact that the only thing worth having inside it was a self-tanning mitt I very rapidly decided to keep my walled closed.

To conclude, London Fashion Weekend was a good day out for me without a doubt. Although the exhibitors weren't to my taste, the food options were terrible, the day seemed rather disorganized, there was no-one around to assist press and the goodie-bag was labelled a 'farce' by the aforementioned disgruntled girl, I felt that the two talks I attended were more than worth my heading down to London for the day. Plus the atmosphere *although chaotic to say the least* was amazing and it was fantastic to be able to soak it all up. Plus, I even spotted a couple of celebs...

*Fashion Royalty Hilary Alexander and TOWIE's Lydia Bright*

Did you go to London Fashion Weekend? What sort of exhibitors would you be interested in seeing at an event like this? Would you have taken advantage of the various discounts on offer?

Love and snuggles

ps. I must add that I did select a blogger as the winner of my Press Pass giveaway, sadly she was unable to make it at the last minute due to family commitments so I was unable to invite my other entrant at such short notice. Only two bloggers entered and I was really shocked with the community that no-one bar a friend of mine re-tweeted the giveaway or showed any interest whatsoever really. Its like, when the prize is free beauty bits everyone enters, but when it is a prize which offers the opportunity for bloggers to actually have a bit of a networking opportunity where they have the chance to interact with the industry they can't be bothered. I understand that many girls won't have entered because they couldn't get to London, but I also know that a great deal more could have done if they'd been passionate enough to generate worth-while content for their readers, Really quite disappointed. On the flip-side I wanted to say a great big thank you to the two committed bloggers who actually did enter. I have a really deep respect for both of you since seeing that your passion for your page apparently puts you in the minority group that place good quality blog content above free products. Thanks.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The GabriellaSofia Diet

That's right folks, I've created my own diet.

*I must get back to this... I've put on a quarter of a stone since this photo was taken apparently but it feels like A LOT more :(*

I know what you're thinking, 'She's lost it... she's finally lost it' but that is where you would be WRONG. Quite the opposite in fact. I'm not claiming to be some kind of nutrition genius like everyone makes Dr Atkins or Dr Dukan out to be. I'm just a girl who has tried many a diet in her time (3 Day Diet, Cabbage Soup Diet, Atkins Diet, Weight Watchers Diet, Slimming World Diet, Jenny Craig Diet, Special K Diet and so on and so forth...) and has learned what does and doesn't work. With that knowledge and experience, I have chosen the things which work and built my own little diet. And actually, I shouldn't really call it a 'diet' because it isn't just about the food you eat but the lifestyle choices you make in general... The basic rules are as follows:

GabriellaSofia's Diet Rules

1) Drink at least 8 pints of water per day. Most of the time when you think you are hungry you are actually just thirsty. Plus, it works wonders for your skin. Total no brainer! *SEE ADDITION AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE*

2) Don't nap during the day and sleep at night for between 7 and 9 continuous hours... If you wake up in the night and stay awake for longer than five minutes, switch the lights on, read for ten minutes before attempting to go back to sleep. If you wake up when you were going to stay asleep for an hour or less, get up and start your day early.

3) Eat a minimum of three veg and a maximum of two fruits per day. Veg is really incredibly good for you (which is no surprise to anyone). However, people often get it wrong with fruit. I went on a diet very recently where I just ate fruit all day until dinner and it actually did me no good at all. I don't know if I actually put weight on (I only did the diet for a couple of weeks) but considering the amount of sugar I was taking on I'm sure I would have done if I'd carried on. Plus, all the acid that I was taking on in fruit was making me very bloated and my stomach literally felt like a balloon. Obviously fruit is good... but it is better in moderation, hence sticking to two portions a day. Also don't overdo it with nuts and cereals... they can actually be surprisingly bad for diets!

4) Don't avoid carbs. Carbs are not the enemy, carbs give you energy! Every time I've been on a low-carb diet I have felt very weak throughout and often given in within the first couple of days because I have craved something heavier than just meat and veg. However, again, you want to moderate the amount of carbs you do take on, make sure they are all wholegrain and don't eat carbs after about 3pm.

5) Eating six to eight 'mini-meals' a day is a bad idea. I'm not sure about you guys, but I need to feel like I've got one nice big meal to look forward to, so eating itty-bitty meals every few hours doesn't work for me. However, I'm not saying you should eat three or fewer meals per day and nothing else. Three meals a day is the minimum and you should have healthy snacks in between. See my GabriellaSofia Sample Diet Day Plan below...

6) Don't you dare cut 'naughty things' out! Don't even try it. Actually, don't even call them 'naughty' because contributes to the unhealthy relationship with food you've probably spent the majority of your life building. If you are anything like me, you like anything that is bad for you. That includes Fruit Pastilles, kebabs, chocolate muffins, Chinese takeaways, ketchup, pizza, fried chicken, double cream, Indian food, Coca-Cola, crisps, wine, Jammie Dodgers and so on... This rule can be easily remedied with my three sub-rules which are;

   a) Find healthy alternatives: Instead of Coca-Cola, try flavoured waters or tonic water (tonic water is my absolute favorite!) Instead of salt and vinegar crisps, switch to salt and vinegar rice cakes. Instead of fried chicken, try it grilled but with the same spices as you would usually use on it when it is friend and sprinkle it with wholegrain breadcrumbs.
   b) Remember never to deny yourself anything... but to do it all in moderation. I entrust myself with one square of dark chocolate at the end of every day. Dark chocolate is much healthier than milk or white, plus it is much richer so you need a lot less of it to satisfy your craving.
   c) Have one day off every week. This DOES NOT MEAN you can make yourself sick stuffing your greedy gob with every calorific item in your house. However, if you know that you are going out for dinner on Saturday, don't deliberately choose the most pathetic salad on the menu and resent everyone else around you as they chow-down on steak and pasta and curry. Have one day off. But make sure your next day off is at least seven days apart from your previous one (for example, if you have Saturday 'off' don't have the following Monday 'off' too... wait until Sunday instead.)

7) Plan your week of food the week before so you can buy all the right ingredients and don't end up eating something unhealthy just because there was nothing else in the house. Eat veggie for your main meal twice a week. Eat chicken or turkey twice a week. Eat fish or seafood twice a week. Eat red meat no more than once a week. Its a simple formula and it is healthy. Stick with it.

8) Get active. I know, this is the one that sucks the most, but this is the one which makes your day off your diet ok. I don't want you to just shrug your shoulders and say, 'Fine, I'll go for a jog' which you'll only stick at for two days. I want you to really think about what you enjoy the most and do it. If you like dancing, try ballet for adults or zumba or pole dancing. If you love swimming, sign up for a membership at your local baths or teach your little cousin how to swim. If you can't think of anything better than to paint landscapes, walk up some nightmarishly tall hill and draw! You get the idea.

9) Cook your own food or at least know exactly what ingredients are going into your food (and I don't mean just read the label and act as if you understand the scientific words on the label). No matter how 'healthy options' your ready meal is, the fact of the matter is that it is nowhere near as good for you as it would be if you'd made it for yourself. Sure, at first this may be a big effort and may result in your food tasting slightly more bland than usual because you've simply never made sweet and sour sauce before... However, you'll get used to it! Plus, there are easy recipes all over so don't even try to use the excuse that you wouldn't know how to start. If you can read you can cook. That's what my granny always says to me, and she's not been wrong yet.

10) Make sure that your main meal is not eaten after 3pm and that you never let yourself go hungry... See below for GabriellaSofia's Sample Diet Day Plan. Also, never write off the rest of the day or week or month or year just because you've had one cheeky chocolate finger. Forget it and move on.

And that's it! Those are the rules which will allow you to lose weight without having to cut too much of the good stuff out. As you can see, the diet mostly surround portion control, activity and meal timing, plus general healthy living. I have done this diet on and off a few times in the past five years and have felt energized, detoxed and healthier in myself. Plus, I've lost weight and felt better about my figure. Here is a sample of what I would eat in a day:

GabriellaSofia's Sample Diet Day Plan for A Weekday

Upon waking - A pint of ice water

Breakfast - Actimel and a Special K Bar or a bowl of Porridge made up with water, and a pint of water

Snack at about 11.30am - One piece of fruit, eight nuts and a pint of water

Lunch at 2pm - Heinz Tomato Soup, a slice of brown bread with a bit of butter on or a rice cake with a cheese triangle spread on it, a piece of fruit and a pint of water

Dinner at 6pm - Tuna salad seasoned with lemon and balsamic vinegar and half a pint of tonic water

Evening snack - A piece of dark chocolate and a pint of water.

Obviously this day sounds VERY low calorie because I chose tomato soup rather than a meaty meal, but I could easily have chosen a slice of homemade fish and veg pie, or chicken and veg stir-fry with brown rice, or pasta with prawns and olives... you get the point. Also, I would be wanting to drink at least three more pints of water. *SEE ADDITION AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE*

So there you have it... the official GabriellaSofia Diet. And I would advise everyone wanting to lose weight in the long term to GET ON IT because it really is very sensible. Having said all that, I'm no angel. I know it is reasonable and a good idea to follow this diet to a T because it is such a healthy way of living... but I've been very bad recently, eating all kinds of trash. I really am going to try from now onwards though. Scout's honour.

What diet are you trying at the moment? Do you have any healthy living tips to add to my diet plan? If you decide to get involves with the GabriellaSofia Diet plan please let me know then maybe we can cheer eachother on!

Love and snuggles

*ADDITION - A couple of ladies have told me that drinking 8 pints of water is unhealthy and that it can impact your kidneys negatively. Of course, as with anything I say on my blog, my readers are welcomed to read my posts and take what they want from them. I drink from pint glasses and on days when I spend half an hour exercising I find that 8 glasses is the right amount for me. This may not be the case for everyone. Just listen to your body. If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated so keep this in mind. Thanks for the heads-up ladies, I'd hate to be making anyone ill in anyway.*

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

My Plans For London Fashion Weekend...

Having spent the past few days feeling a bit like death cooled right down, I am really hoping and praying that I am 100% recovered for Sunday the 23rd of September, because I'm going to London Fashion Weekend and after looking at the jam-packed schedule of fun activities, I'm going to need all my energy...

So I've got it all planned. I'm hoping to roll into Temple tube station at about 9.30am and my dream day plan is as follows...

Sunday 23rd September

10am - Arrive at Somerset House for London Fashion Weekend!

12.15pm - VIP Styling (A celebrity panel talk about key looks for Autumn/Winter and trends for Spring/Summer, sharing their top styling tips and telling stories of styling disasters hosted by Amber Atherton, Jessie Ware, Kim Howell and Avigail Claire)

1.45pm - The Sunday Fashion Panel (The expert panel discusses, What makes a fashion trend? Hosted by Hilary Alexander, Lydia Bright, Olivia Rubin and Nick Ede)

2.30pm - Twenty8Twelve Fashion Show

3.15pm - The Elle Panel The Beauty Panel (An inside preview to the hottest hair and beauty trends of the season hosted by Tony and Guy, Elizabeth Arden, benefit and more)

5.00pm - Trend Catwalk Fashion Show

Now, I'm not sure how long any of these things are going to last so I might be being exceptionally ambitious with my time, but hopefully that will be my plan. Apart from these different events though, I'm not quite sure what else will be happening as I've never been to London Fashion Weekend before...

Have you every been? Is it like The Clothes Show where there are tons of stalls and a beauty area? Are you attending London Fashion Weekend this year?

If you don't yet have a ticket, don't forget to go enter my giveaway where you can win a ticket to the event right HERE... Good luck!

Love and snuggles

Monday, 17 September 2012

Culture Shock: What I've Been Watching: One Day (2011)

This is the film adaptation of a book I've long wanted to read but haven't quite found the time for just yet... David Nicholls published the text in 2009 and it was shortly adapted into the 2011 silver-screen version starring Anne Hathaway as UK Northern lass (with a terrible put-on accent) Emma and the beautiful Jim Sturgess as Dexter.

Now, this is one of those books that I've wanted to read, but only really because other people rave about it. That's probably why I never got round to it, because I didn't know enough about the plot and was never totally and completely drawn to it. I think the fact that Anne Hathaway is in the film kind of put me off even reading the book because I've really never liked any of her works at all. Nonetheless, when I was full of flu today I decided to make the most of the fact the film was available on Sky Anytime and settled down with my Halls Soothers and lemon tea and began to endure nearly two hours of what reminded me of one of my other least favourite films which scandalizes everyone around me, When Harry Met Sally.

The plot follows Emma and Dexter who spend graduation night from Edinburgh University together but decide not to bonk eachother's brains out. Then through a series of unfortunate events years and years pass and they still don't bonk eachother's brains out. In fact, Dexter becomes a horrendously boring coke-head television presenter and Emma becomes and even more horrendously boring frigid school teacher with a hilariously nerdy 'comedian' boyfriend called Ian (Rafe Spall).

Consequentially, although Ian only plays a small part, he is one of the best characters in the whole film. He's possibly the only character I actually related to throughout because he is just so normal and genuine, doing everything he can to please his girlfriend and although he sometimes gets it wrong, ('Choose anything from the menu, Em... as long as it is cheaper than £14... only joking... get whatever you want... within... reason' *INSERT CHEESY SMILE WHICH MAKES YOU INWARDLY CRINGE BUT EQUALLY WANT TO CUDDLE THE POOR GUY*) his heart is generally in the right place and he worships the ground she walks on.

Another character that I loved throughout was the character of Dexter's mother Alison (Patricia Clarkson) who begins as a vibrant, young-at-heart, proud mother but ends as a disappointed, desperate, disheartened cancer sufferer who ultimately succumbs. She tells her son that she doesn't 'like' him any more but that she has faith that one day he will be a good man. I just felt so sorry for her that my eyes even watered a little bit.

Even Dexter's grumpy misogynistic father Steven (Ken Stott) had a bigger likeability factor than either of the main characters. At one point he states that if Dexter shows up in the same intoxicated state to see his dying mother as he did the previous time, he won't permit him access no matter how much Alison wants to see him. I loved this because this was the only realistic part of the whole film in my opinion. The only part that I could imagine relating to.

I'm not going 'ruin the surprise' or spoil the (terribly disappointing) climax of the film for you, but I felt a bit cheated when it all ended to say the least.

This is because essentially the whole film is about two people that end up letting themselves drift away from one another, wasting all their time letting 'life' get in the way, using up all their spare time on lacklustre love interests when they would quite obviously make a much better plot if they just pursued the romance that is staring them in the face. I don't enjoy films when I spend most of my time being annoyed at the characters because they seem so blindingly stupid. It is a bit like horror film when the brainless teenager walks into the dark and allegedly haunted mansion.  When I want to scream 'YOUR WIFE IS CHEATING ON YOU', 'YOUR SON IS A COKEHEAD', 'YOUR BEST FRIEND IS THE ONE' the whole way through, I just can't relax. Then again, it isn't really in my nature to relax.

Anyway, since watching the film (which by the way speeds through the lives of the two characters so quickly that what would usually have been the climax of the whole film, where they finally do bonk eachother's brains out, is skimmed right past without almost any reference) I am even more torn about reading the book. Part of me says, 'NONONO it will be an even further waste of your time DO NOT DO IT, it will only make you angry'... But then another part of me says, 'Maybe it is just a REALLY TERRIBLE film adaptation and the book is quite as good as everyone says...'

I don't know! What do you think? Have you read One Day by David Nicholls? Have you seen the film? Do films like this make you angry?

Love and snuggles

Sunday, 16 September 2012

London Fashion Weekend Press Pass Giveaway

That's right guys... I'm giving one lucky blogger or vlogger the opportunity to win a Press Pass to London Fashion weekend. Don't all stampede at once!

The lovely Charlotte from Single Market PR sent me two Press Passes for Vodafone's London Fashion Weekend which runs from Thursday the 20th of September until Sunday the 23rd and as I can actually only attend on the Sunday, I wanted to give a little back to my lovely followers and fellow bloggers who have supported me through a really hard year.

So what do you have to do to win?

1) Follow my blog (at the right of my page you'll see three little grey boxes... click on the top one and hit 'Follow')
2) Leave a comment telling me your blog or vlog name, a sentence on what it is about and finally why going to Fashion Weekend would benefit your page.
3) Follow me on Twitter @HauteFuture and Tweet ' @HauteFuture is giving away a Press Pass for London Fashion Weekend #bbloggers #fbloggers #lifeblogs x '
4) Leave your Twitter handle and email address so I can get in touch if you win!

Pretty simple, huh? I would love for whoever enters to come on the Sunday with me as because of the late notice of this giveaway I don't believe I'll be able to get to the post office in time to get it to you if you need to go any earlier... Plus, then I won't be on my own all day! Win-win situation :)

Obviously this prize does require you to be able to get to London on the 23rd of September (Sunday) in time for 10.30am as the event starts at 11am until 5pm.

I will only be seriously considering bloggers or those who plan to start a blog in the very near future solely because this is a Press Pass and it is not just a free ticket. I wouldn't want to give this prize to someone who doesn't blog when there are tons of girls out there would kill for the opportunity to have this extra bit of blog content. I hope you all appreciate that!

The giveaway closes on Friday the 21st September at 8pm. I will be announcing the winner both here and on Twitter and I will be choosing the winner based on the comment which is posted here. I will be choosing the person who I think will make the most of the experience... I think that is fair.

So, let the games begin!

Love and snuggles

Friday, 14 September 2012

What does 'business casual' mean???

Hello Haute-ettes...

So since most of my life currently revolves around work I figured I'd better write a work-related post whilst also touching on something I've forever been interested in... FASHION :)

I'm not sure about you, but I have always been baffled by the idea of 'business casual' attire. My senses when I nipped into the office a couple of days before officially starting determined that the dress-code in the office might fit into the category of 'business casual'. But WHAT DOES THAT MEAN??? Does this mean I need to wear flats or heels? Collared shirt or t-shirt? Blazer or cardigan? 

Well my friends, I did what any new starter at Phones 4u's head offices would do, and scrutinised my future colleagues closer. I soon realized that the wardrobes of my fellow staff members were super-duper varied, and the general idea is, 'Be comfortable, but look smart'. Simples *insert squeeky meercat noise*.

It is a good job I realized all this to be fair, because it took me about a week of wearing the same clothes before I came to this conclusion, by which point I had saved enough pennies to take myself on a little spree at the weekend. Purely in the name of my career of course. I mean, as much as it pained me to buy clothes, I managed it because I just HAD TO. It was agonizing blowing nearly £100 in New Look, but you know what, I took one for the team and went for it.

Who am I kidding? I had an amazing time trying on sexy grown-up office clothes! 

So check out some of the bits and bobs I have bought and get to wear every day...

*Peplum tops create a really sexy silhouette and this pencil skirt is like a bodycon so it makes my butt look incredible... yes, I went there.*

*This is the same pencil skirt with a Topshop peplum top. I like the detail the little brown belt adds too, cinching me in even more at the waist. My patent black peep-toes are actually from Nine West via My Mom's Wardrobe. Pretty uncomfortable but incredible for my legs...*

*Yet another peplum top from Topshop (are you sensing a pattern yet?) This time I have on a super-skinny black belt and a black, silver and bronze beaded choker necklace. In this picture it is just black though. Also, let's not ignore the elephant in the room... yes, my breasts are apparently bigger than my head.*

*This is a slightly more casual look and it is actually totally unlike me to chose blue. Like, seriously, I have next to nothing in blue. This New Look skater dress reminds me so much of my best friend Vikki because she always wears things like this. I think they are really flattering and I think my black cardi and tights make it look a bit more suitably conservative for work.*

*This is my favorite thing that I have bought which makes it even sadder that this picture really doesn't do this dress justice. It is a little short, and the leather accents on the pockets and shoulders add a slightly dominatrix look to the whole outfit which makes me feel oh-so-powerful and sexually confident. Considering this is a relatively shapeless dress with a kind of A-line finish and shift-dress length I find it works for my figure so well!*

So what do you think? Do I fit in with the business casual look? I find myself occasionally going into the office slightly over-dressed. However, I've always preferred to be over-dressed than under-dressed because I've never really minded people looking at me and thinking, 'She made too much effort' rather than, 'She made NO effort'. 

What would you wear for a business casual look? Where do you shop for work-style clothes? Have you noticed that quality in New Look has seen an amazing improvement in the past couple of years? I used to think New Look was a bit skanky to be honest, but now I'm a big fan... I even got asked if the dress in the bottom picture was from Zara or Karen Millen! Apparently both have similar designs... Brilliant :)

Love and snuggles

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Culture Shock: What I've Been Watching: The Hunger Games (2012)

As a self-confessed fan of all films fantasy (Twilight, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Avatar etc...) I was surprised that I was patient enough to wait to watch The Hunger Games until it came live on Sky Box Office. However, once it was available for purchase this Sunday just gone, I was one of the first to buy the film. I settled down with my blanket and a Galaxy chocolate skinny latte and got ready to be wowed.

*She so pwetty. She's also one of my body idols.*

For me, I think it is really important to watch a film adaptation before you read the book it was adapted from if you can help it, solely because I had always found adaptations to be disappointed with adaptations. At least if you watch the film first then you stand a better chance of enjoying it without the restrictions of comparison running through your brain. So before you ask, no, I haven't read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins just yet. But it is definitely on my list.

Anyway, back onto the film.

I was so on-the-fence about The Hunger Games at the beginning. Although the film is opened by a captioned blurb in order to set the scene in time, location and context, I found myself lost through the majority of it. Unexplained flashbacks, seemingly significant glances between characters and inhuman brutality throughout just put me in such a weird state of confusion that I struggled at time to concentrate on even the basics of the plot. This continued for the first half hour.

From what I can understand, the film is set in some sort of North American nation in the future (in spite of the archaic experiences which the characters go through such as bathing in a tub of cold water, next-to-no access to technology and hobbies such as hunting with a bow and arrow) where there are twelve different 'districts' surrounding one Capitol. As a punishment to the poor districts for attempting a rebellion years earlier, the Capitol forces each district to select one boy and one girl  between the ages 12 and 18 each year by a random lottery to compete in a brutal version of the Olympics, whereby they must be let go into an 'arena' which is basically like a big huge forest. In order to win, they must kill one another until the final child, or 'tribute', standing wins. The District 12 lottery chooses Primrose Everdeen. However, he older sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers in her place and becomes a 'tribute' with fellow District 12er Peeta Mellark.

The rest is history really! There is a bit of action, a bit of romance, a few father issues, a LOT of bravery and generally a very Darwin-esque approach.

After watching for a little while, I started to understand the plot slightly better because I just let go of my preconceptions about how unrealistic the whole idea was. I mean, isn't that the whole point of fantasy? To let you invest yourself in a different world, to escape from reality.

The casting was generally brilliant, especially with Jennifer Laurence able to play the most kick-ass babe in the games. Similarly, her little ally Rue (played by Amandla Stenberg) gave me an awesome sense of girl power and how if we are united we can conquer the world! I also really liked Lenny Kravitz in the slightly camp role of 'stylist' Cinna, and Stanley Tucci (perhaps better known from The Devil Wears Prada, Easy A, Burlesque and The Lovely Bones amongst others...) as bitchy broadcast host Caesar Flickerman. The one-to-watch for me in this film is Elizabeth Banks in the role of Effie Trinket who is a control-freak, image-obsessed, optimist. Although some might say the role is slightly over-acted I saw a lot of Wicked's Madame Morrible in her performance and as a Wicked-fanatic I really couldn't complain!

Although they may find the plot a bit too fluffy, I think tech-y film fans might like this one, because the range of shots and sound techniques is really quite impressive, even for those of us who know nothing whatsoever about film.

This is a film which takes a lot of concentration, but is well worth the effort. I even found myself mentally cheering the tributes on and having a bit of a lump in my throat during a couple of different stages throughout. However, I was expecting something I would be a little MORE passionate about, like Avatar where I cried like a baby or Harry Potter where I was literally sat on the edge of my seat, or Twilight where I spent many a night dreaming about my very own forbidden-romance vampire-lover... But The Hunger Games is a good film nonetheless. Even if I do feel like there are bits I missed... maybe I'll have to watch it again.

Have you seen The Hunger Games? Which other films would you compare it with? Do you like watching film adaptations of books?

Love and snuggles

Monday, 10 September 2012

Healthy Eating: How to Cook Tuna Steaks...

My family and I have decided to go on a great big healthy eating attempt at the moment which (lucky for me as I absolute LOVE it) includes a lot of fish. As the family food shopper for the past three weeks, I have found it quite easy to eat healthily around the house, because I make sure I am not hungry when I walk into Tesco and I take a specific list with me and don't stray at all. This means that the house is full only of healthy treats, including fruit, nuts, veg, brown rice, rice cakes, cereal bars and so on and so forth.

Anyway, last weekend my Dad (our resident food adventurer) decided that we should try tuna steaks for a change as we enjoy fish but are often left wanting more. More meat, man! So on my hunt through the Tesco shelves I strutted over to the fish counter and handed over £16 (!!!) for four tuna steaks. I can honestly say they were worth every penny.

A picked up some new potatoes and an assortment of salad things to throw on the side of the plate and headed home.

My dad boiled the potatoes and a few eggs, marinaded the tuna in a soy sauce, lime and chilli flakes sauce, wrapped them in foil and baked them for ten minutes in the oven. While that was cooking, he whipped up a salad with rocket leaves, carrots, tomatoes and cucumber and threw the hard-boiled egg pieces over the top with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. When the tuna was ready, he dished up the whole thing and smeared a tiny bit of low-fat Lurpak on the potatoes. 

Here is what the meal looked like...

The meal cost about £5.50 for each of us, but that is cheaper than we would usually spend on a kebab, curry, pizza, Chinese or McDonald's takeaway! The whole thing was absolutely delicious so I have to give proper props to my dad for cooking an exceptionally successful meal. It was like a very posh version of a tuna nicoise salad. NOM GOBBLE.

Have you ever eaten tuna steaks? Do you know of any fishy recipes I should try out? How do you keep yourself in check when trying healthy eating?

Love and snuggles

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Louise Gray for Topshop Makeup on a Budget...

If you are anything like me at the moment, you'll be saving up your pennies for Christmas already (I like to be WAY prepared so I don't have to scrimp around the festive season...) so although Louise Gray's colour-popping cosmetics collection for Topshop is absolutely beautiful, you'll be hunting for a cheaper alternative.

As a lipstick lover, I made it my goal to track down some dupes for the two Lips in the collection entitled  Mexican Wave (a rich blood-orange-peel colour) and Legend (the hottest of hot pinks in a deep hue). After seeing that they cost a whopping £10 (!!!) each I scribbled with each of them on the back of my hand just so I would have a swatch for colour comparison.

*Mexican Wave is on the bottom, Legend on the top*

The formulas are absolutely heavenly. Usually I find that with glossier more moisturising Lips that the colour pigment suffers, coming out slightly fainter and needing a couple more coatings just to achieve the colour you see in the stick. However, with these they are both true to the colour in the tube and incredibly creamy and soft. An absolute dream. Nonetheless, they are still £10 and I can't really justify spending that much when I am trying oh-so-hard to save. So I put the Lips down and had a quick glance over the rest of the counter before planning to head off in the direction of Boots to find my dupes...

HOWEVER, and here is the real clincher. As I was 'glancing' I spotted the Lip Sticks in the shades Hedonist and Clueless which looked almost identical to the Louise Gray colours. Amazing right? And better still? They are only £7 each. 

See, Hedonist is the orange line and Clueless is the pink one! Once again, the pigment is fantastic and in the pencil form the Lip Sticks are easier to apply for a more precise finish. The only drawback is that as the Lip Sticks are intended for a matte effect they don't have the same kind of glossiness as Louise Gray's Lips do. Having said that, we all know that this can quite easily be resolved by slicking on some lip balm underneath and dabbing on a little clear lipgloss over the top.

Now, I know what you are thinking, '£7 is still a lot babez! You'd only be saving £6 if you bought both! NOT GOOD ENOUGH." And I would be inclined to agree with you.... that is if I wasn't mad on the Louise Gray Cheek Duo in Up In The Air too...

Cheek Duo in Up In The Air By Louise Gray

The duo costs £12.50 which once again, I can't really justify. But just look how those colours pop in the palette! I very nearly couldn't resist... That was until I swatched a little of each colour on my hand and was horrifically disappointed with the pigmentation. 

You can hardly even see the colours! I soon realized I got a colour which was much truer to the pan when I scribbled a bit of the Lip Sticks on each finger and patted them into the apples of my cheeks. So technically, these Lip Sticks dupe for not just one product each, but two. Great success.

Needless to say, next payday I will be heading out to buy Hedonist and Clueless for £14 as opposed to buying the Louise Gray Lips and Cheek Duo for £32.50. A whopping save of £18.50 is to be made here. You. Are. Welcome.

Have you given into the temptations of Louise Gray? Do you know of any other amazingly cheap dupes for the Lips and Cheek Duo? Do you ever put lipsticks on your cheeks in place of blusher? I do it all the time, the creamy consistency is WAY better for staying power.

Love and snuggles

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Restaurant Review: Miyako Teppanyaki Birmingham

So last Thursday I went for my first conference with work! I had a fantastic time and learnt loads about Phones 4u and how important the recruitment process (which I'm a part of) is to the company. Because the conference was in Phones 4u's state-of-the-art purpose-built facility in Birmingham's Fort Dunlop, the company paid for transportation, accommodation, food and drink for us for the whole day, brilliant, huh?

Anyway, I wanted to write a review of the restaurant we headed to after the conference because it was just so unusual and fun that I just wanted to write a review and recommend it to everyone! 

After the conference, we had about an hour and half in which to get ready, but in spite of the fact that our hotel was LITERALLY JUST AROUND THE CORNER from the training facility, we managed somehow to get lost on the M6 for about and hour and a half. This meant that by the time we got to the hotel to get ready, everyone else was stood waiting for taxis outside ready to go. Quel desastre. 

Luckily as I wasn't driving I was able to do my makeup while we were in the car, so I literally ran up to my room, took the quickest 'hold-your-hair-and-face-out-of-the-water' shower I've ever taken, rolled on some deo, spritzed some perfume, changed my clothes and slipped into my platforms. This whole process took me just five minutes, which even I was impressed with. This is what I looked like:

*This picture was actually taken a few weeks ago, which does in fact make me an outfit repeater. However, when I went out with my colleagues I was wearing black tights and a cardigan too, and my hair was straight so it is all good.*

So, the restaurant itself was a Teppanyaki place, which is Japanese. As a huge fan of sushi, I've always been very excited about the idea of exploring Japanese food in more depth. However, having been to a very disappointing Teppanyaki three years back at Walt Disney World I wasn't too hopeful... The whole idea of Teppanyaki is that the chef comes and cooks the food on a hot plate right in front of you and since the plate is flat, there isn't much in the way of sauce because it would just be impractically running all over the place. As a saucy person, this is a bit of a turn off to me, because it usually means the food is kind of bland. 

*First up the beautiful Japanese waitress brought along a salad for each of us with the most delicious dressing on it which taste like a cross between ranch and Marie Rose*

*Our starter was made up with a battered shrimp with an orangey flavoured sauce, a California roll with what I think was chicken in it and a crispy won-ton with something beefy inside and a sweet sauce drizzled over the top*

*This is how the restaurant is set up with the tables in a kind of half-a-square shape so the chefs can put on a fab show for everyone sitting nearby*

*See the mingy-looking slimy grey things on the left hand side of the dish of raw food? They were soon to become my yumalicious fried king prawns. Nom gobble.*

*They set fire to the table right in front of you. And throw scrambled egg at you to catch in your mouth. It really is very interactive...*

*Look at the chef showing off juggling eggs and balancing them on top of each other. I liked this!*

*This is what the rice looked like as it was in the process of being made. It looked really easy in fact as the chef literally wanged some soy all over the rice, chucked in some scrambled egg and threw an onion pepper mix for good measure. And it tasted incredible.*

*My prawns in the process of cooking.*

*My plate before the chef piled on a side of beansprouts.*

For dessert we got a little scoop of coconut-flavoured ice-cream which was very small but nice to eat nonetheless. Also, the Big Boss bought us all a little cup of hot sake wine each which really tipped the balance of what is and isn't an appropriate amount of drunkness for some of the team. We all had a FANTASTIC time though and the whole Miyako Teppanyaki restaurant experience got us all right in the mood for a good boogie around some of the bars in Birmingham's Arcadian. 

In all I'm a huge fan of Miyako Teppanyaki. The waitresses were brilliant, the chefs put on a fantastic show and the food could not possibly have tasted any more amazing.

This was literally one of the best all-together days I've had in a long while. I learned loads, I got to eat delicious food, I drank a couple of cheeky beverages, I bonded with my colleagues and I had a taste of the high-life in which your company invests money in ensuring that you are as psyched about the company as they are. I really couldn't complain.

Have you ever been to a Teppanyaki restaurant? Do you know any good egg-fried rice recipes? How much do you think is too much for a nice meal out? Apparently Miyako Teppanyaki cost £20 per person for Phones 4u, but I guess it would be more expensive if you were going as a couple or with just a few friends.

Love and snuggles

Friday, 7 September 2012

My USA Haul...

This is the post you've all been waiting for ladies... the USA Haul!

Now, I must warn all of you that were expecting a haul similar to that which I carried home with me last summer... This year was not as flashy. Last year, I carried an entirely separate suitcase full of new things back with me, and I must have spent no less that $2000 on shopping alone. I did this because I was working last summer so was constantly earning, plus food was so cheap last summer and I never needed to pay for fun things to do because working in Disney World they let you go into the theme parks for free. This year, I wasn't earning. Also, I found the food to be somewhat pricier in the places on my route from Los Angeles over to New York than it had been in Orlando. AND I wasn't getting many freebies in terms of activities.

*Last year's haul...*

That being said, I couldn't come home without 'investing' in a few key items for the coming season, now could I? Of course not, it would be a scandal! So here is (the majority of...) what I bought in the States...

*WOWZAS. From the left to right you will see... A red lacy dress with a deep back from Forever 21, two pairs of cheeky panties from Victoria's Secret, a yellow bodycon skirt from Forever 21, a galaxy print blouse from Forever 21, a very short peach lacy dress from Forever 21, two MORE pairs of cheeky panties from Victoria's Secret, ANOTHER bodycon skirt from Forever 21 but red this time, a sheer hot pink blouse from Forever 21 and a pleated pleather skirt from Forever 21. Three guesses what my favorite store is? Oh and in the middle of the peach dress you'll see two MAC lipsticks in Sequin and New York Apple in the Frost finish.*

So as I say, this is the majority of the stuff I picked up in the States. For once I didn't spend much in American Eagle at all really, except for on the red sweater in this photo:

And the New York T-shirt in this photo:

Here are the goodies I bought closer up...

*My uncle actually bought me the red dress which was such a lovely treat! I figured these panties were cute because they let my butt peek out at the bottom which I kind of like... The yellow skirt is a bit bright, but with the right coloured sweater it is pretty cute.*

*This peach dress caught my eye immediately because I was looking for something to wear on a hot date and I just thought it was really cute! Although it is really quite short, it is floaty enough so it doesn't look cheap or slutty or brassy. I think the colour suited my tan quite well although I'm note sure how fab it looks now I'm pale again!*

*MAC lipstick swatches... Frost finish, Sequin on the bottom, New York Apple on the top. This photo was taken with flash. Look out for my review on both these products and I'll probably using them in tutorials very soon too!*

*Now for without flash... I also bought a MAC Lipstick for my sister in Russian Red too so I will probably be robbing that from her soon for a video or two :)*

*I actually bought the galaxy print blouse because the back of my neck was SO sunburned in Los Angeles that I needed something light to cover it. I bought this blouse which kept me covered but actually caused me even more bother because the fabric was so scratchy and rough on my sore skin... Having said that, it is a really cute blouse. Very sheer and sexy. I couldn't resist buying another couple of cheeky panties, and as soon as I saw the flattering fit of the yellow bodycon I just had to have it in red too!*

*This pinky blouse (I know it looks purple in this picture, but trust me, it is pink) is totally not my style AT ALL. I just picked it up so I would have something to try this black skirt on with (which I fell in love with at first sight because it is so effing na-na-na-come-on-feels-so-good-being-bad S&M I just couldn't resist) and I immediately loved it. I haven't tried it on since though and looking at these pictures is making me a bit apprehensive as it is so not me... watch this space*

*There are a couple more items which I picked up while I was away including this Essie nail-polish in the shade Masterplan. I also bought another shade named BBF Boy Best Friend which is a very pale pink polish. I'm hooked on the Essie formulas, they just look so shiny and smooth, I can't stop looking at them and stroking them. Full review soon to come!*

Apart from everything in these pictures, I also picked up a couple of bits of jewelry and a pair of black booties from (you've guessed it) Forever 21! I'm sure you'll see them tons this season as I swear I'm going to wear them every day through Autumn/Winter. 

So what do you think? Are you gutted I didn't buy as much as last summer? What is your favourite part of my haul? Have you tried Essie polishes yet? Don't you JUST LOVE the MAC Frost Finishes?

Love and snuggles