Thursday, 28 February 2013

Outfit: night at the ballet

Time for some arty pictures from an arty trip to the Royal Opera House to see some ballet! My first ever experience of watching live ballet. All very beautiful and a great excuse to dress up - although amazing how many people didn't bother! I couldn't call myself a style blogger if I didn't put a little effort in with my outfit (not that I do go around calling myself that, I'm mostly not an idiot).

The trick was being both warm and wearing a pretty dress - not something that goes hand in hand.  Hence in some shots we are in coats, scarves and cardigans and in others we're in posh dresses... and in fact we didn't quite crack it but I'm leaving out the photos of pretty dresses with big ugly boots.

Coffee to chase out the cold...



Couldn't resist including this shot of L grappling with an olive at dinner!


The Royal Opera House and our fantastic view!



Posing on some posh stairs...


My dress was my Tesco bargain - also seen in this post - and Laura's was a little purple number from River Island last year.


Token shots of hair and dresses!







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Monday, 25 February 2013

Bake: Apple and Blackberry crumble dessert cake

One word - YUMO!

This is a super yummy dessert cake, delish when served warm and just as good cold the next day (I'm munching on a bit as I type)

What you need:

Cake
175g unsalted butter
150g golden caster sugar , plus 1tbsp
4 eating apples , peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges (I used braeburn)
3 large eggs, beaten
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g crème fraîche
150g blackberries
3-4 tbsp clear honey or maple syrup
crème fraîche or double cream, to serve

Crumble topping
50g unsalted butter
50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
75g plain flour
50g blanched hazelnuts , toasted and roughly chopped

The method:
  • Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Butter and line a 20cm springform tin or a loaf tin (I used a loaf tin) with baking paper.
  • To make the crumble topping, melt the butter, then mix in the soft brown sugar, cinnamon, flour and chopped hazelnuts. Heat 25g of butter in a large frying pan. Add 1 tbsp caster sugar and the apple wedges. Cook for about 10 minutes until the apples are tender and golden. Cool.
  • Beat together the remaining butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually mix in the eggs. Using a large metal spoon, fold in the flour and baking powder. Add the crème fraîche and mix until smooth.
  • Spoon roughly two-thirds of the cake mixture into the tin, spread level and scatter over one-third of the crumble. Top with the remaining cake mixture and level again. Scatter on another third of the crumble and arrange the apple wedges and blackberries on top. Finally top with the remaining crumble.
  • Bake for about 11/2 hours. Loosely cover the top of the cake with a sheet of baking parchment or foil halfway through the cooking time if it is browning too quickly.
  • Cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes and then transfer to a serving plate. Warm the honey or maple syrup in a pan and drizzle over the cake. Serve warm with a bowl of crème fraîche or lightly whipped double cream.
And... I forgot to take a picture because my guest gobbled it up instantly!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Vintage style: catseye glasses, part ii - buying vintage glasses online

Following on from part i, where I showed you the merits of vintage frames versus new and chose new, part ii is going to show you the other side of the coin and explore the joys of buying vintage glasses while demonstrating my continued talent for finding ways to never have to set foot in a physical shop.

So, there are many vintage eyewear shops out there, particularly online. I've browsed around as many as I could find, but I always returned to one in particular: Dead Men's Spex. Why? Clear presentation, useful navigation tools (you can search by era!) and, most importantly, a simply huge range of excellent condition frames. Especially catseye frames, which they have in absolute abundance!

From the classic...


To the more unusual...



Not being brave enough to order anything on the unusual side, I opted for classic:


Ordering the frames
  1. Ordered the frames without lenses from Dead Men's Spex - partly because if I didn't like the frame I could return them because they weren't made-to-order, partly because there's cheaper options out there for putting lenses into glasses. Dead Men's Spex sent the frames along incredibly quickly
  2. Faffed around with frames deciding if I liked them - decided I did (or this would be a very short post!)
  3. Picked an online company specialising in reglazing glasses - in this case Ciliary Blue, chosen because they offered competitive prices, seemed to have a great reputation and promised to send a box along I could post the glasses back in
  4. For the grand total of £25, Ciliary Blue put in anti-scratch, anti-reflective lenses in my prescription and then sent them back in another box, all within a couple of days of me posting the frames off - excellent service!
And here they are!


Top tips for buying frames online - vintage or new
  • Have a prescription that is under 2 years old - a lot of reglazing sites especially won't put in a prescription older than that (Ciliary Blue being one of these and they ask for a scan of your signed prescription). Generally it's a good idea to not put in an old prescription anyway, eyes change constantly - they can even alter if you use a computer more frequently than usual one year
  • Work out your pupil distance either by asking when you have an eye test (they don't give you it in writing) or by using an app. Don't worry about the app measurement not being perfect, for mild-medium prescriptions (i.e. you're not almost blind) you can be a good few millimetres out and it doesn't matter - in fact, I WAS 3mm out for my first pair of online glasses and I can't tell at all
  • Buy your frames from a website that gives you clear measurements, especially for temple-to-temple and bridge lengths, and the height and depth of the lens 
  • Use measurements from your favourite pair of glasses as a guide for what will fit - it's a good idea to stick to a shape similar to those you know are flattering, paying particular attention to the temple length, how the top of the frame curves and how thick the frame is across your nose - these things can look bad if wrong
  • Don't worry too much about the length of the arms - any glasses shop can adjust these usually free of charge (especially the one where you have your eyes tested) - concentrate on getting the temple length right or frames will look too big or too small for your face
  • Check returns procedures - especially for vintage eyewear shops that may have a smaller window for this than the bigger, more commercial ones
And here are my lovely new 50s frames!




CiCi x

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Make-up: Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dolce Vita

Another day, another lipstick review! This time another great daytime colour - Dolce Vita Velvet Matte Lip Pencil by Nars. (Also, Happy Valentines Day!)

This is a good little daytime light pink/red that would probably work best with cool-toned skin tones. It's quite close to most people's natural lip colours so it really is quite a subtle choice. My favourite daytime pink is still Rockalily's Vintage Vixen.

I'd definitely like a few more of these pencils, but first, to win the lottery!

Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil Dolce Vita review

Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil Dolce Vita review

Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil Dolce Vita review

Pros
  • Lovely texture - not drying or cakey, which is a real rarity for matte products!
  • Truly is matte, not a hint of shine
  • Pencil makes it super easy to apply
Cons
  • Expensive (£17.50)
  • Requires a pencil sharpener - probably means you're wasting product every time you sharpen
  • Very slightly 'slidy' - the texture is almost a bit balmy and as such I find it quite easy to smudge

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Sunday, 10 February 2013

Vintage style: Hollywood Costumes at the V&A


This most excellent exhibition has now closed at the V&A - L and I went back in mid January when there was so much snow around the public transport system collapsed (as always) and we got stranded on the journey home in various places, taking us 5 hours instead of 1. But we agreed that we'd have done it all again to see this exhibition - it was honestly that good!

Now I realise we are all busy people and some of you probably merely skim my musings to get to the pictures (if I were you, that's what I'd do anyway), so this is largely going to be my favourite costumes... although here's an obligatory shot of me with Audrey. I couldn't pose standing forwards, you understand, as the contrast in our beauty would be too great (and I'm not for a minute suggesting I would outshine Audrey!).


I'm going backwards, but one of the last outfits you see in the exhibition is one of the most famous - and somehow, even though I was largely going to this to see the famous Some Like it Hot dress, I had missed the fact the famous white dress was even in the show!


L and I really liked the screens propped on top of the costumes, it was very clever how they'd picked shots that worked so well with the set-up. But what we really, really loved, was how all of the mannequins had seemingly been modelled on the exact sizes of the people themselves. One of the most shocking things I learned, and I say this as a keen Marilyn fan, is just how curvy her proportions really were. And no, I don't mean fat. If you can't gauge the size of her waist from that photo, let me tell you it was much smaller than mine and at a UK size 8-10 that's not exactly large. And her bust! Dear me, the contrast between the two is like nothing I've ever seen on an actual human being today. So this was my favourite costume, not because I love the dress (if anything, it's one of my least favourites that Marilyn wore), but because of being able to picture her dimensions so clearly like that. Amazing.


Now, this was L's favourite costume. Keira Knightley's gorgeous green dress from Atonement. This was just so stunning in real life - surrounded by dresses covered in sequins, like the one behind it, I think it was more eye-catching than many of them. So elegant and so simple, we were fascinated by the detailing around the neck, which you can't really see here or in the film, it's that subtle. And the folds and the colour and the material! So beautiful.

Back to Marilyn, though, and the costume I'd gone to the exhibition to see... the nude dress from Some Like it Hot. This is how it should have looked...


... However when we saw it they'd covered the top of the dress - the exciting bit with the see-through  mesh - with a big white fur stole. Not impressed! And no idea why they did that. Other than to ruin my day. Thank heavens for the unexpected Seven Year Itch dress at the end.

Here's hoping for more exhibitions like this - thanks, V&A.

CiCi x

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Create: painting with patterned rollers

For Christmas I received this brilliant patterned roller from The Painted House. They have lots of different patterns and are great for painting fabric to make cushions, decorating your walls, making cards or even a piece of wall art.

Design no.6
You can choose from two different applicators - one for paper, wood and walls, and one for fabric. I got the paper, wood and walls applicator for Christmas, but I cheated and used it on fabric because I was too keen to re-cover my old blanket chest with a cute little woodland deer scene. (I'm sure this project would have looked much better if I had followed the rules and used the right applicator!)

I'm not going to take you through step by step of how to recover your blanket box, because quite frankly, I did a bodge job! But I will show you the before and afters, and link to the info on how to use the applicators. I can't recommend it enough -it was so easy to use, and looks really great once you get the hang of how to use it.

So, here was my blanket box before...


and after... (spot Max the cat in the corner)

 with a little help from...


And here's the video tutorial if you want to have a go yourself...

Marie ♥

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Friday, 1 February 2013

Outfit: dotty date

Hooray, it's Friday! And even better, I have the day off to go and play somewhere far removed from the office. The things you can do with days off - brunch, for example! No one eats brunch at work, you'll be lucky if you grab a tea break some days. But today, I'm going to have a great big brunch with some lovely company.

And as I dolled myself up casual-chic style, I realised I could even put an outfit post up - that's how much free time to enjoy my life I have today!

So here is what I'm wearing on this most unusual of days... 

Boohoo Polka Dot Long Sleeve Dress review

This is one of my many bargain dresses - a stretchy little t-shirt number from boohoo.com that cost me £12. They don't sell this colour-way anymore, but they do have a grey and berry red number that are identical. There's nothing like a polka dot dress to inject an instant bit of 50s style to your look.

Clarks Yarra Desert Boots Black Suede

I realise you can't really see my shoes, but they are my trusty black suede Clarks Desert Boots with a wedge heel - crucial for someone as small as me. Without a slight boost, how on earth are you going to reach to kiss someone hello ;)

Clarks wedge Desert Boots Black


And as it's so cold, I'm rounding the outfit off with my new fleece-lined tights, hastily purchased after a comment on my winter dressing post and rarely taken off since.


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