Friday, 30 April 2010

Anchor & Hope for Summer

Just because Spring has been around for a while now and we are looking ahead to summer, I can't help but picture myself sprawled on the deck of a megayacht, tanning my pasty bum and toasting my rosy cheeks under the hot sun of the Grecian paradise. Add to that, a sailor hat, some boyish boat shoes, a pair of dark blue high-waisted shorts, a striped blue & white marine shirt and a marine salute, and I'll look like a million sailor bucks. Argh. I'm not kidding though, that is my idea of the summer picture perfect outfit- in a picture perfect setting. But now that I'm dreaming, I might as well add that I've had my eye set on some cute Anchor accessories that would compliment this picture perfect outfit most wonderfully.

Tatty Devine, Monmouth Street, Covent Garden

Tatty Devine's Covent Garden boutique has me all giggly with summer love and I am super excited about gifting myself with a couple of these lovely neck and ear treats. For only £12-£40 a pop, these playful accessories make for an easy breezy summer lovin' look. 

Anchor & Chain Necklace, £12

Not surprisingly, the matching anchor earrings and seagull necklace are quite sweet as well, and though I wouldn't recommend wearing both accessories at once, they are a couple of head-turners themselves.

Anchor Earrings, £15 Seagull Necklace, £39

Wrap something cute and frilly like this crown or ice lolly around your neck and you'll earn yourself a free drink at the pub.

Crown Necklace, £24

Ice Lolly Necklace, £25

Also, in line with the upcoming Sex & The City 2 Movie release, Tatty Devine has decided to put all of their name necklaces on sale for £22, giving you the green light to go wild when designing your own name necklace. Remember the Carrie necklace? Today is the last day (til 5pm) for you to buy and save so do check out their website or pop 'round their store on Monmouth Street to design and order a Carrie necklace of your own!

Name Necklaces, now £22 (usually £27.50)

Now's your chance to be quirky with your accessories. Summertime has left the docks early and is taking you on a long and happy journey to a land where plastic name necklaces and thunderbolt earrings are cool. So don't be shy: sail away!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Photography Test Run at the Broadway Market

This is the first day of the new and improved London Zest. Saturday was the day of my photography workshop at Studio Time at London Fields. I could not vouch for this place enough. If you're a photo-blogger, this is a great place to start. A full day's learnings and practice gave me the small bit of confidence I would never have obtained had I just stuck to reading my camera manual. 

Photography is a tougher hobby than I anticipated though. So many variables to factor in: lights, focus, angles, shadows and depth of field are some of the things you constantly have to think about as you're handling your camera. It's a constant strive to improve and enhance the quality of your photographs. It's a challenge to ensure that each shot is more precise, more "on purpose" than the previous one; richer, and with more texture. Because at the end of the day, that's the hard bit: getting exactly what you want. It hardly ever happens.

The morning at the studio felt long and tedious, going over the innumerable techniques of photography, understanding the various settings of the SLR, finding my way around the menu page. It also felt strange to be in class again. Soaking it all in, I was desperately trying to remember all of the details the teacher had just mentioned. I struggled to understand the theory without the practice. You see, I've usually been more of a "trial and error" kind of learner.

London Fields is a mad and crazy place on a sunny Spring Saturday. But it's an even crazier and exciting place to go for your first test drive. That was when the fun began. People wearing strange outfits, walking about, playing around and dancing to drums and guitar. Plenty of great material.

A short while after that the teacher took us to Broadway Market, instructing us to capture a variety of depths of field and focus angles as possible. The exercise was simple enough: the market has a great many colourful bits about it; take it all in. It's gonna be hard to screw it up. Here was my first attempt at capturing the wonderfully exciting Broadway Market.

The Everything Stall

The Junk & Jewelry Stall

The Cheese & Sausage Man

The Hamburger Man

The Cupcake Stall

The Cake Stall

The Carrot & Banana Cake stall

The Panty & Bra stall

That was a restrospective of my day of fun in photography land. I would love to hear your feedback on these shots. Please indulge me a little. This was a practice run. And it's just a start! If you're also into photography, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the hobby and how difficult you found it. Is it always this hard or does it become second nature?

Friday, 23 April 2010

A Mean Bean Cappuccino - the Only Way to Start the Day

This is my first coffee post. Not because I don't like it, au contraire. Coffee is a big weakness of mine. I need my cappuccino fix daily. The vicinities of my work have not been too promising when it comes to coffee joints, and I find myself struggling to find my fave and regular coffee-on-the run spot.

But wait no more, the best coffee in the West End has made its self known! And the winner is...Reynolds on Eastcastle Street. With a coffee blend so rich and so flavourful, you'll find that this mean cappuccino gives you that amazing sensation any good cappuccino should give you: the feeling of being bad. Like you've just sinned so badly, you're gonna get whipped. Like you're eating a sweet so vicious, a piece of chocolate so delightful, or a chewy chunk of toffee. But actually, it's just coffee. And it's good.

They offer a range of other products as well: fresh and healthy salads, cute and plumpy sandwhiches, organic crisps and delicious snacks. Their selection of sweets is even better. Pain au chocs, croissants and more. Dip their scrumptious banana cake from Borough Market into it, and then you've got yourself a sinfully good breakfast feast or an even better snack attack. 

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Prima Ballerinas

After I discovered the amazing shoe that is the Bloch ballet flat, I've been having trouble settling for anything else. I'm a tough crowd when it comes to the perfect ballet flat. In fact, when I am investing in a pair of flats, I follow a strict self-inflicted protocol. I think about the 4 following factors: value for money, comfort, timelessness and versatility. I am not one to spend over £180 on a pair (I will forever hold my breath at the sight of patent £300 Lanvin slippers but I will never succomb), and I consistently think about how many different outfits I can match them with. That's my policy, and it's worked so far, especially when safeguarding my loyalty to Bloch.

  Pretty Ballerinas, Pont Street, Belgravia

It's time to diversify that shoe rack, though. And I've been encouraged, better yet, urged, by a couple friends of mine to give this Menorquina brand a try. They are called Pretty Ballerinas and the UK flagship store resides in Belgravia, on Pont Street to be exact. A delightful location for a delightful shoe-shopping experience. Speaking of candy and cakes (see previous posts), the shelves and presentation of the shop resembles that of a candy store at the peak of the Christmas Holiday period. It's full of riches and treasures, waiting to be snagged. 

Leopard print flats, £140

Silver glitter flats, £110

And fair enough, celebrities have been spotted everywhere about town, sporting these adorable little  shoe gems. Claudia Schiffer, Lily Allen and Elle McPherson have all been seen wearing the latest models, patent red, black and leopard print, my favourite.

It's about time you realize Topshop and Zara make crappy shoes and you upgrade your shoe rack with a pair of shoe gems from Pretty Ballerinas.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Colour Me My Cupcake

When I was in New York I could easily have survived on cupcakes and Diet Coke. I know, gross and completely illogical. I lived right around the corner from the Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery, which offered some of the best red velvet cupcakes with the most velvety frosting on top, like its name suggests. From then on, my cupcake expectations have been elevated to a very high standard. In my opinion, London is still learning to make great cupcakes. What can I say? It's an American tradition. Like bagels, muffins and burgers. Some things just taste better in their original country.

Candy Cakes, Kingly Court off Carnaby Street

Lately though, I've been opening up my cupcake horizons quite a bit, desperately trying to find my new go-to cupcake place. Hummingbird, yeah okay. Lola's, fine. Ottolenghi, slightly better. Candy Cakes (Monmouth Street, Goodge Street and Kingly Court) is my latest cupcake discovery. It's not revolutionary in taste. You've got the dough, the frosting, the unbelievable sweet aftertaste and the strange artificial colouring. But the playfulness is quite unbeatable. Talk about playful. Finally an original and kooky take on cupcakes.

Clowns, footballs and fairies, the cupcake decorating is completely out of the box. Bright greens, reds and yellows, Candy Cakes is not afraid to overdo it with the primary colours in its frosting palette. Though more of a kid heaven, due to its slight Alice in Wonderland colour scheme, you'll definitely find yourself a slice of paradise as well. A cuppa tea and and a little playful eating never hurt anyone. Also on the menu: Made to Order cakes and cupcakes. Pick out your frosting colour, your dough flavour and your decoration of choice. You've got yourself an original creation.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Place For Kids- Even You

Do you ever think of yourself as a small child trapped in the body of an adult? I do all the time. I'm definitely still a kid at heart. And I'm not embarrassed to say it. From time to time, I like to watch cartoons. Every so often, I buy myself a stuffed animal for comfort at night and I squeeze it as hard as humanly possible just to remind myself that I am a strong and "grown up" woman. And sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, I go to the candy store and fill a candy bag to the very top and devour them all until I'm on a sugar high and can't sit still in my chair. I still like Christmas morning like I did back when I was 4 and I love and need my family just as much as well. I'm definitely still a kid and I'm not embarrassed to say it.

Cotton candy even still does it for me. At least I used to love it as a kid and don't think that ever went away. So when I walked by R.S. Currie's cotton candy stand on Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill on Sunday, I had to have myself a piece of that. What? It's free for kids? And what exactly do you mean by "kids"? Like does it by any chance go up to and include 26 year olds? No? Hm. Didn't think so. Anyways, nice talking to you. Going in now.

It was a real magical emporium in there. Bounds of colourful toys, wooden and plastic, small and large, techy and traditional. My eye was zooming in and out of the candy table, while I could hardly restrain myself from staring at the little raggedy Anns and the awesome barbie dolls. Though definitely more of a boys' toy store (you'll find loads of mini race cars, paper airplanes and swords and shields), it's a real treat for any kid.

Massive lollipops and sweet tarts don't discriminate and neither do dreams and fantasies. So whether you've got a kid at home dying for a new game or stuffed pet to squeeze, or whether you just want to use your kid as an excuse to go check out the magic yourself, you'll love this hole in the wall luxury toyland. Cuz it's just plain fun.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Pick Your Park - Grab n' Go Lunches on the Green

Now that we Londoners have experienced the hottest day of the year, our hopes are way up. But that's okay. It is vital to start thinking positively about the weather to come and it is crucial to start preparing yourself for it as well. Because otherwise, you just fall into a dark hole that some people call depression. And by preparing yourself I mean, seeking out the outdoors - in everything that you do. I am a particular fan of the outdoor lunch concept. Yes I do like lazying around a "terrasse de cafe" for hours, drinking rose and nibbling on summer fruit and biscuits. But that's not what I am referring to. I am talking about the grab n' go park lunches. Just sit your bumm down on the lawn of a beautiful London square, enjoy the scenery, the greenery and everything that ends in -ery. It's magical. That is the London that I have come to adore and relish. I have a few spots in mind that I think make that lunch break quite enjoyable.

 The first one that pops to mind is Lincoln's Inn Fields off of Holborn. You can lounge around there for hours at a time on those lazy summer fridays, watching the people come and go, with clothes that tend to slowly disappear as the weather gets warmer (it's still a mystery to me how some people manage to get any work done in a place where girls wear practically nothing). 

Kastner & Ovens, Floral Street, Covent Garden

Just 5 minutes away, you'll be able to pick up a yummy spring salad at Kastner & Ovens or a quiche and greens at the Fleet River bakery.

The second one I can think of has got to be Cavendish Square, the only green spot near Oxford Circus that isn't Hyde Park. There, you'll be able to find bounds of interesting people watching and a lovely 360 degree view of the old Victorian buildings of Cavendish Square. You can very well picture 19th century wealthy Londoners sitting on those park benches and discussing high society matters with one another. 

Pho Thai Chicken Salad at Pho, Market Place, Soho

In terms of grub-to-go, my faves have got to be Pho, for the freshest and yummiest Thai chicken salad and Tortilla, for the perfect naked burrito (burrito sans wrap) ever!

The third, but not the least, is a park I visit less often due to it's northern-ish location, and that's Islington Green. A lovely place to enjoy the sight-seeing of Upper Street and Camden Passage passers-by. A little less green and a little more rugged, it offers more park benches and trees than the abovementioned squares.

Wild Rice Salad at Ottolenghi, Upper Street, Islington

It is, by my standards, a lovely place to stop and eat a wild rice salad from Ottolenghi.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

It's a Jungle Out There

One of the many great things about London are the hundreds of sample sales that are at our disposal week after week. I generally tend to miss out on them unfortunately, always finding something better to do, or some other excuse that will keep me far away from spending way too much money on something I'll convince myself I need, at a price I'll convince myself I can afford. Sample sales are killer. But hey, that's part of the game. You get there, you promise yourself you won't buy anything over £100 and then you end up with 4 things adding up to exactly 4 times that amount. It's inevitable. You sample sale, you ruin yourself. 

New York's Barney's Warehouse sale did that to me every year. It killed me but I loved it. The smell of a large uninhabited warehouse and the thousands of clothes and accessories ready to be snagged off to better and greener pastures. The women, the crazy women, stomping, ripping, yapping, shouting and swearing at each other all for a pair of marked down Loubs and McQueen trousers. I would go there at times just to enjoy the unreal jungle scene (it's a Mean Girls moment). Here in London, I hear there is something quite like it called the Secret Sample Sale at the awesome and legendary Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch (87 BRICK LANE LONDON E1 6QL) and it must not be missed.

It starts today, April 8th, and lasts through the 11th, all day til 9pm. You print out your pass (only needed for today April 8), you show up, you pay £1, you got yourself an entry to the sample sale of the year. 

It's your last chance to grab a McQueen anything for a decent price, your shot at a great pair of Seven jeans for the spring, some Stella McCartney blouses and Miu Miu jackets, a Zimmermann bathing suit, Martin Margiela shorts, and of course Marc Jacobs colourful prints sometimes only for a  tenner. It's all there. And the prices are crazy at discounts of up to 80% off. It's a jungle out there. Be ready to unleash the lioness in you!