Sunday, 30 March 2014

Photo diary: Edinburgh & 5 things any vintage girl (or otherwise!) should do

I recently visited Scotland for the first time - or, more precisely, Edinburgh. While this was a trip for B's birthday weekend and not for selfish little ol' me here, we did end up doing a lot of things that I especially like doing (oh, how did that happen...). Things that included a royal boat from the 1950s, a pin-up tea room and some retro photography...

So, I thought I'd share my top 5 things I did in Edinburgh that I think other similarly 'vintage-minded' girls would also enjoy. It will help if you also like eating as much as I do, as I couldn't do a top 5 without including at least one brilliant restaurant we went to.

1. HMS Britannia

This is the Queen's royal yacht that was decommissioned in 1997 and is now moored in Edinburgh - built in 1953 and retaining many of its original features. And where the features have been upgraded, it was quite hard to even tell, so you feel like you're walking around a floating piece of history. Great for mid-century lovers like me, as the royal rooms particularly were rather cute and kitsch, as per the first photo of one of the sitting rooms.

You'll need to pay entry, but you get to walk around the whole ship (which takes about two hours) and you're given an audio guide which we thought gave just the right amount of detail. One of my favourite facts from the guide is that the sitting room in the first picture had its decor chosen by the Queen herself, who elected for it to not be 'ostentatious'. Note that the second picture, of the grand piano, is from the other half of this room. Enough said.

I don't know much about life at sea, but I feel like I know a little bit more than I did, now. Well worth the trek out to where the boat is (which is actually easy to get to from the city centre by bus).

One is going for 'country casual' here (also according to the audio tour)

One needs a big piano for country casual

One needs much crystal at one's dining table...

...Especially for a table that seats about 50 people (this is only one small part of it)

One spots a stowaway!

2. Camera Obscura museum - website

Alas, I didn't get any pictures of this one, but to be honest it's one of those you need to see for yourself, as part of the fun of this museum is the range of optical illusions it houses! Ranging from tricks where you can swap your nose with your companion's, see your 'true' reflection (not for the fainthearted/insecure - I got rather sulky about how wonky my jaw truly is), wonder at rooms of holograms, go cross-eyed at Magic Eye pics (ok, I love these), navigate your way through a maze of mirrors (much harder than it sounds), walk through a rotating tunnel (not for the seasick) and find yourself inside a room full of infinite lights. If it's as windy/cold outside as when I was there, dipping into this museum for a couple of hours is a bit of light-hearted relief from the battering.

This is also a good one for lovers of retro photography, as the museums' crowning glory, quite literally, is the big camera obscura at the very top of the building that's been there for years and years. A novel way to see the view...

One small downside is you'll need to part with some money for entry as it's privately owned, but I'd argue it's worth it.

3. Explore the Old Town (Madam JoJo's Boutique)

This has to be the reason a lot of people take a short break in Edinburgh. The Old Town is just beautiful. It's also full of independent shops, from milkshake shacks to Madam JoJo's Boutique - you could easily spend a day diving in and out of these places, before you even get to things like the castle. So I won't waffle on about it anymore than that, especially as I have lots of photos that speak for themselves!

A view of Edinburgh Castle from below, between buildings

So pretty - and full of activity

This very noisy bird clearly perched here just to give us a wonderfully colourful backdrop

Just demonstrating that it is still cold and windy in Old Town (many hairs will escape up-dos)

Possibly the cutest houses I've ever seen

Rainbow-coloured shop fronts - such a nice idea

It's very hilly to walk to/from, but here we'd found a handy slope 

4. Two quirky tea stops

I'm essentially an old woman at heart already and like nothing better than a nice cup of tea and a scone. In my head, scones are calorie-free on holiday (as, unfortunately, is everything else) - so all the more reason to indulge, I tell myself! We limited our tea room visits to just the two, but they were both so charming I wanted to share them.

Curious Tea Rooms

This is basically a sort of Alice in Wonderland themed cafe, with lovely but not intrusive decor (including an upside town table and chairs on the ceiling), that specialises in offering loose tea in as many different flavours as you can think of. I had vanilla and grenadine flavour, which actually wasn't like syrup and in fact was very nice and just mildly sweet. You can buy all the teas too. We initially darted into this place as the first tea-provider that wasn't Starbucks we found in the main city centre (because I was nearly crying with misery at how much my nose was running), but it was a very happy accident.

I loved the little milk bottle

And the dainty tea strainers

Token tea-drinking picture #1

Token tea-drinking picture #2

Mimi's Bakehouse

As the name suggests, Mimi's sells a lot of good cakes as well as tea. I sampled the scones (of course) and can confirm it was both freshly cooked and melt-in-the-mouth. Delicious. B had a hot chocolate that basically would be a model in the hot chocolate world, it looked that good (see below). What I liked just as much as the refreshments was the decor, including the duck-egg blue and black theme and the amazing pin-up wallpaper. Another place we stumbled on, but were very glad we did.

5. Bar Frizzante

Ok, so this one isn't remotely 'vintage' unless you count eating enough to gain pin-up curves (and then some), but if you like food indulge me please because it will be worth it! This is a family-run small Italian restaurant in the city centre that we stumbled across on TripAdvisor. I ate the best pizza possibly of my life there - and I went to Rome last year! They have a huge menu and offer gluten free pasta (always a winner for me, if I could only force myself to choose it over a pizza). Service is great and one waitress even told me I looked 'very pretty' - which considering I had a stinking cold and was in a strop about my hair (hence, no photos for this entry!), couldn't have been more appreciated at the time. That alone possibly would have made the visit worth it ;)

So, that's the 5 things I'd seriously recommend anyone do on a city break to Edinburgh.

And as this is a photo diary of my trip, I leave you with an image of the birthday boy, about to blow out a candle on his ice-cream sundae. Because it's my blog and I can :)

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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Outfit: an ode to a trusty winter coat

I recently went to Edinburgh for a few days (I refuse to say 'mini break') - and anyone who's been will know it's a very pretty city and one that warrants lots of exploring. Which is possibly much better when a) it's not winter outside and b) you don't have a stinking cold. But we can't always have it all ways...

So it was relentlessly windy and my streaming face wasn't a huge fan, but I was quite toasty in many layers and with my favourite winter coat on top. This coat hasn't featured much on this blog, apart from here, which isn't really doing it much justice as I virtually live in it in the winter months. Time to right this wrong...

The best thing about it is the big fur collar - which I always think makes it look kinda 60s - but its real appeal is that my neck stays warm without a scarf. And I can bury my face in it against the brutal Scottish winds too...

I also chose it for its tie waist, to pull bulky knitted layers underneath in and the classic colours that go with everything, but aren't black. I just don't like black coats, so boring. All my boots go perfectly well with navy and beige, which is really all that matters! Yellow boots of course distract from the fact your fringe is going mental in the wind.

In case anyone is interested, this coat is from Miss Selfridge and they actually sold it both winter two years ago when I bought it and then released it again last winter. It's not on their site now, but I bet some might turn up on ebay...

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Sunday, 16 March 2014

Make-up: Revlon Super Lustrous Fire and Ice lipstick (are you made for it?)

I don't often wear cherry-red lips, but sometimes I want a change from the usual... Which is normally one of the five lipsticks mentioned in my post about favourite reds. Each one has a warm tone and I tend to go for the classic bright, pillar-box types.

Sometimes a cherry red is nice though - and can work better with pink blusher, I think. What I particularly like about the lipstick I'm reviewing today though is how much it satisfies my inner vintage-geek; because this little shade has been on the scene since it first came out back in 1952! You don't get more authentic than that, surely (don't know about you but I have no desire to wear an actual lipstick from the 50s; germ fest). 

Stay tuned and I'll even give you a little bit of history - which I find fascinating, so hope you will too... But for now, onto the lipstick itself.

I'd say the colour in the below picture is pretty accurate - although it somehow comes across as a tad brighter in the flesh. And yes, my top does have cherries on it - the 50s like matching things and so do I. Eh-hem.

Although it's a pink-based red, I still think it works for people with slightly warm skin tones, like me - it's quite neutral as red goes. Doesn't lean too much in the blue or orange directions. 

  • I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love the Super Lustrous packaging for the transparent lid which makes it so much easier to find when you've got a few
  • The shade - and its history - is just so classic and instantly brightens up your face
  • The colour wears fairly well - you can get a good few hours out of it
  • It's good value for money at about £8
  • It doesn't dry your lips out like so many strong colours do
  • I don't personally like the slightly shiny finish - but blotting it and/or adding translucent powder over the top tones that down
  • The strong pigment transfers onto anything it touches

But really, I can't think of much worse to say about it than that; it does what it claims to and the colour's so lovely that if you're after a fairly neutral, cherry-red, this could be the one for you.

Still not convinced..? Maybe this little bit of history will sway you...

This particular shade had its own now infamous ad campaign featuring a rather glamourous and smouldering woman wrapped in a red fur (Google it), and asked the question: 

Are you made for fire and ice?

If you answer 8 of the following 15 questions in the affirmative, you officially should go out and buy this lipstick too ;) And bear in mind, these questions were supposed to appeal to every woman's inner bad girl...
  1. Have you ever danced with your shoes off?
  2. Did you ever wish on a new moon?
  3. Do you blush when you find yourself flirting?
  4. When a recipe calls for one dash of bitters, do you think it's better with two?
  5. Do you secretly hope the next man you meet will be a psychiatrist?
  6. Do you sometimes feel that other women resent you?
  7. Have you ever wanted to wear an ankle bracelet?
  8. Do sables excite you, even on other women?
  9. Do you love to look up at a man?
  10. Do you face crowded parties with panic - then wind up having a wonderful time?
  11. Does gypsy music make you sad?
  12. Do you think any man really understands you?
  13. Would you streak your hair with platinum without consulting your husband?
  14. If tourist flights were running, would you take a trip to Mars?
  15. Do you close your eyes when you're kissed?

I love, love, love that an ankle bracelet was considered somehow immoral! Anyone knows what on earth 11 is on about, do let me know...

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Monday, 10 March 2014

Photo diary: dog heaven (Crufts 2014)

I really, really miss having a dog. I'm not even 1% a cat person, despite probably having more personality traits in common with them (as I perceive them: lounging around, no desire for strangers, enjoying sunbathing). There's something about the trust and love you can get from a dog that just melts my heart. I'm that person who will cry when there's a story about an abused dog in the news. 

But as B said to me, as we walked around just one small fraction of the huge arena hosting this year's show - Crufts is proof that there is so much love for these lovely animals out there. Which possibly made me just as happy as getting to stoke probably close to 100 different dogs!

We took nearly 100 photos - but this selection is my personal Best in Show ;)

A Spanish Water Terrier - or a living teddy bear

This Irish Wolfhound was giving me the look of love for an intense 30 eye-gazing seconds

This Springer is for my housemate, L

The intense look of a dog watching its owner!

This gorgeous Otterhound didn't move a muscle when it received a huge hug from a small child...
when the child moved away, it rather hilariously tapped him on the back with one paw - presumably for more!

Just a huge bear of a dog

One of my favourites - a Bernese Mountain Dog

Can't even remember what this is (suspect a German Shepherd), but it has a great face

However, this has to be the best dog face ever

Another of my favourites, an Airedale! Just look at that mischievious expression

A beautiful PAT (Pets as Therapy) dog - if this dog were my therapy, it'd probably cure any illness I had

Towards the end, this is how I started to feel being on my feet all day
(this dog looks an awful lot like my childhood dog, Sam, who was also a bearded collie)
Actually, it was more like this!

And finally, what does one wear to a dog show? A doggy headscarf of course
(and very comfy shoes, a backpack for easy stroking + clothes you don't mind getting haired up or drooled on :)

If only I could go every weekend...

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Monday, 3 March 2014

Photo diary: adventures with a 60s camera

As I was going through my photo albums, I stumbled across a batch I never shared from last Spring that resonated deeply with me in March 2014 because of how darn cold and wet the pictures looked... 

Beaches make such lovely backdrops for pictures - even in the winter - that when we took B's dogs for a walk, we brought along his Diana F+ camera, which is a reproduction of an early 60s camera that's become popular again for its blurry, dreamy photos. They're are all taken on film, so if one goes wrong it's tough luck, but it's fun waiting to see what they'll come out like. 

I do think these came out quite dreamlike - helped by the grey sky. You can imagine Instagram got a bit of inspiration from cameras like the Diana...

B's dogs are enigmatic creatures that never fail to make me smile... although not quite so much at the particular moment his Jack Russell ran round and round me in circles, tying me up with his lead like a cartoon villain. Fortunately no photos exist of this moment. B was probably laughing too hard to take one.

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