Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Beauty is Pain

Sometime ago, a good friend of mine swore to me that there was this type of exercise, which would miraculously make all of my wobbly bits disappear. I didn't believe her. This is how the conversation went:

Friend: "Have you heard of the reformer?"
Me: "No, I haven't seen it, but I hear Megan Fox is hot in it."
Friend: "No, not Transformers...the reformer machine, the thing you do pilates on."
Me: "Oh!...no, what is it?"
Friend: "It's a torture machine..."
Me: "Say no more. Going to the gym is painful enough for me as it is. I'm not torturing myself anymore than I already am."
Friend: "Silly girl. It's the good kind of torture. The good kind of pain. You'll love it, you'll see. All of your wobbly bits will disappear."
Me: "Alright, alright. I'll do it. Wanna go have a burger?"

My friend is now a reformer addict. She swears by it. Says it's the only way to exercise. Months later, I finally mustered up the courage to sign up for a free class at Heartcore Pilates in Notting Hill (Kensington & Hampstead).

 Heartcore Pilates, Notting Hill

My friend led the way to the studio, as I dragged my feet, walking snail-slow, not looking forward to an hour on the said torture machine. Heartcore is a bright and airy space, with red bricks, white walls and large windows. The sun shines right in through the glass and warms your face gently. By the time we got there, my friend was already in reformer-mode and she lost me at "It's great, right?" She grinned at me, mouth wide open, sweat trickling down her temples. Meanwhile I was fuming, cursing at every plank, notch, hook and bar on that machine. My feet wouldn't go anywhere, I was so confused by all of it, not knowing what went where. But only minutes after I settled in, and much to my surprise, Keri from Heartcore was already standing right by my side, assuring me that I wasn't going to hurt myself. She told me that I was safe and then before I knew it, I was smooth-sailing on the reformer and enjoying the class. I was grinning and sweating too. Whaddaya know. Pilates is a tough sport. You've gotta know what you're doing if you're gonna be doing it right. The reformer helps you get into place and supports you every step of the way.

You'll be in heaps of pain the next day, and the day after that and the day after that. And the cost is a tad cringe-worthy as well (£25 for a single class, £20 for a 10-class package). But it's worth it. You'll see the results almost immediately. Hey, beauty is pain, right?

Friday, 21 May 2010

Kelly Graces London

The V&A is one of my all-time favourite museums in London. Firstly because, knowing myself, I think I could spend hours just gazing it. Architecturally, it carries within it that impressive London regal status that only a few other monuments have in London, and it catches my eye every time I pass by it. And secondly, because when I enter the grand doors of the museum, I can't help but think about and be moved by the fantastic love story that took place between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and the love they both fostered for art and beautiful objects. I think, yes, I'm in the presence of true love. Last Saturday, I strolled down the long corridors of the true love V&A to catch the 4pm viewing of the Grace Kelly show- a selection of Grace Kelly's most beautiful and desirable gowns and accessories, accompanied by a snippet of her life story as Hollywood actress turned Princess of Monaco.

Not only was I mesmerized by the her fabulous 1960's Haute Couture designer wardrobe, but I also realized how forward-thinking she was - in her dresses, her accessories, in her choice of outfits, in her hair, in her jewelry. I couldn't help but think: "hey, I could wear this!" Or maybe more appropriately, "hey, I would wear this if I could afford it! This Chanel suit is timeless. I think I might just be able to pull it off at my next client meeting."

But there is nothing I could ever do to measure up to this gorgeous woman. What an elegant lady Grace was. As she ducked out of her vintage Rolls Royce, as she floated down the aisle arm in arm with Prince Rainier, and as she gently waved hello to her thousands of adoring fans, she always carried herself like a true Princess. She stood tall next to Jackie O. She could pull her weight for sure. Her sense of old Hollywood glamour mixed with regal floor-length gowns made the conservative touch of Jackie's New England pencil skirts and twinsets nothing but conservative non-fashion.

And there was nothing more beautiful than her glowing smile and golden locks combed backwards and perked sideways beneath her bejeweled ears. She truly was a style icon wrapped up in the tiny yet voluptuous body of a blond siren, of a Grecian Goddess.

I fell in Love with Grace that day. I fell in love with her Chanel Couture, her Balenciaga gowns, her Hermes bag and her dreamy diamonds. I fell in love with her life as a Hollywood actress turned Princess. And I fell in love with her gorgeous smile. But I could not have imagined a more horrible end than dying so young in a tragic accident at the wheel of a car. But her legend still lives as she graces the walls of the Victoria and Albert monumental museum.

Book online (in advance!)
Victoria & Albert Museum
Cromwell Road

Friday, 14 May 2010

Let the Bling Bling Make a Bing Bang

After months of searching and digging around London; after days of surfing the web for their London-based shop, I finally found my all-time most favourite jewelry designer, and believe it or not, they're smack in the middle of Liberty's! I discovered Iosseliani back in NYC at my friend Ashley's store Honey in the Rough (though they hail straight from Rome). Her lovely boutique featured a broad range of pieces, which always seemed way out of my league and more importantly way out of my price range. In fact they were so out of my range that I dragged my mum down there one time just so I could vicariously live through her, and watch her as she purchased one of the most unbelievable pair of earrings I've seen under the £300 price mark. 

I stole from her jewelry box often, the days in NYC when I came uptown to do my laundry. My god what a devilish child I was! I would dig through her jewelry box like I always did when the drying cycle was in full throttle and the noise of my clothes banging against the walls of the dryer would make more noise than my fingers rummaging through her jewelry box. There they were. These beauties were calling my name and it was a sudden love affair between myself and those gorgeous diamante objects. The reason I said that they were out of my league is that I never considered myself to be a diamante-wearing kind of a gal. I've always preferred the simple studs or button-size pearls over the bling-bling and the watermelon-sized jewels. I'm more of a t-shirt and jeans kind of a gal. But come on now, you can't help but notice how smashing a pair of stunning earrings can look as they frame a woman's face so gracefully. Even it's with a pair of jeans. Or accessorizing an evening dress. It's a sight for sore eyes.

Speaking of bling, Iosselliani is also a pro when it comes to rings. Their rock n' roll rings represent chic and modern glamour and will accessorize any outfit, from the day wear to the evening wear. You'll turn heads and toes around. Women will salivate for these, and men will be hypnotized by these monster diamonds, when they see you reaching for your champagne glass! Wear them together or wear them single-banded, both options are appropriate and both stand out in the middle of the crowd.

Needless to say, I'm a little obsessed with the bling. But let me assure you that this is not any bling. It's the bling you steal from your mum's jewelry box and it's the bling you love to wear for years on end. And the fact that Liberty's features a few of Iosselliani's most beautiful pieces, earrings, bracelets and necklaces, makes me slightly uncomfortable. And for the quality and shine of these tiny pieces of art, you're making quite a bargain , and a long-term investment at that. So don't under do it. Over do it. Iosselliani wants you too.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Fashion Can Save the Children - And So Can You

Grazia's famous celebrity Editor-in-Chief Mary Portas has opened her very own clothing boutique on Westbroune Grove. Mary's Living & Giving shop for Save the Children is the latest addition to Notting Hill's hip and posh shopping street, and The Queen Be of the UK's fashion publishing world is heading it up. And she's not in it just for the fashion. No, she's in it for the children. Ain't nothin wrong with a bit of pro-social fashion, is there? Hey, I like fashion. And I like children. Put your hands together for a double whammy of win-wins all around. 

I'm a big believer in using one's name for charitable causes. Bill and Melinda Gates are doing it with their foundation. Bono and Oprah are doing it. Reese and George have also tattooed their names onto big and significant charitable organizations. Angie Jolie has been the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador for years. Call it a marketing stunt. Call it a big fat lie. Call it whatever you want. I think it's brilliant. Why the hell not use your celebrity status to raise awareness for a cause when you know you have the clout to pull it through? Mary Portas is no international celebrity, but she is definitely well known in the UK especially when it comes to her incredible fashion sense and her generous sense of charity. And let's not forget, her awesomely fun fashion/tabloid mag Grazia has graced my nightstand a few too many times. And I'm sure it has yours. So for that alone, she deserves your attention today.

This is the drill: you visit the shop and if you're lucky, you'll find some impressive items on sale, like these gorgeous pieces below.

Louboutin sneakers, £190 (instead of £545)

Antonio Berardi Dress, £300 (instead of £860)

Alexa Mulberry bag, £300 (instead of £895)

And if you're a Grazia reader, you can even be one of the first ones to visit the shop on May 22nd from 10-11am. You'll meet the brains behind the whole operation and get the chance to get first dibs on a bunch of smashing deals! You can sign up on rsvp@savethechildren.com for an invitation to the very special event and earn yourself a free manicure and cupcakes in exchange for a fashion donation of your own, designer or high street. As I said before, it's win-win! You give away your things, and you leave with something nice for yourself. Oh, and you save the children. Wouldn't you say that's win-win-win? I most certainly would.

Mary's Living & Giving Shop for Save the Children
177 Westbourne Grove
London, W11 2SB

Monday, 10 May 2010

Scandinavia Dreamin

You'll remember the excitement I felt back in December, as I wrote about the St Lucia festivities that take place right around the Christmas period in Sweden. The Norwegians and the Swedes have another long-standing tradition of celebrating the summer season with a day of outdoor fun, eating, drinking and dancing around the maypole. The 17th of May, being the National Day for Norway and the 25th of the June, being the Midsummer festivities for both Sweden and Norway. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to celebrate Midsummer with a couple friends in Sweden and I still foster fond memories of the day. What better way to celebrate the start of summer than by eating herring, fresh crayfish and drinking Aquavit while dancing around the maypole with inebriated Swedes? I say none. I have never met or encountered a people more elated about summertime than the Scandinavians. There's something about sunshine that brightens up their faces. It's almost mechanical. Like they've been stuck in a dark hole all year round, watching the sun set and the moon rise 365 times before summer, the real fun, can finally begin - the day of Midsummer.
The Midsummer Swedish Maypole

I am a huge fan of Scandinavia and its many festive traditions and have been ever since a dear friend of mine from Oslo introduced me to her culture my Freshmen year of college and when a couple years later, my lovely Swedish man, traveled with me to his motherland for the Midsummer celebrations. Navigating through the Norwegian Fjords last summer made me even more positive that this is a culture I respect and will remain fascinated with for years to come.

The advantage of living in a city like London as an expat, as opposed to living in a city like, say Liverpool, means that certain products and facilities, are at arms length when you are missing your home country and all of its cultural and culinary offerings. Living in London during Midsummer means that you can find places to be when the festivities take place. I witnessed the exciting Swedish festivities with excitement last year in Hyde Park and I look forward to trying out the Norwegian 17th of May festivities in Southwark Park.

17th of May in Southwark Park, SE16

You can also be sure to find the stores to purchase the goods from when you are hosting a dinner party and you want to impress your Swedish and non-Swedish guests. Scandinavian Kitchen has been my go-to Scandi place for my Senapssill and pickled Smorgas Gurka cravings as I work right down the street.

 Pickled Herring, in various sauces

 Sweetened Pickles

 Scandinavia's Favourite: the Wasa Toast Bread

The Scandi Kitchen is also a cafe, where you can sit and enjoy meatballs, pizza (Swedish cabbage) and beetroot salads, shrimp and dill on toast and lots of many other delicious dishes. Quite kid-friendly as well, Met Mum and I enjoyed a lovely lunch there a couple weeks ago, while her adorable daughter Little L licked her lips from the Maribou chocolate milk she was sipping.

 Swedish Maribou Chocolate

Scandinavian Kitchen
61 Great Titchfield Street
0207 580 7161

Thursday, 6 May 2010

It's all There: In Pimlico the Beautiful

My overall feeling today is joy. Joy and excitement. As I glance over at the date on my computer screen, I realise that we are more than halfway through this short week and we can start looking ahead to the weekend. As a frequent traveler, I tend to enjoy my London weekends a lot these days. Maybe it has something to do with constant urge to discover new places, maybe I just like it here. It's probably a little bit of both to be quite frank. I like just hanging out. And I don't care that the term hanging out has a colloquial tone to it, there is just no better way to translate my feelings onto the page. Hanging, from being loose. Out, from being out and about.

 Church of Saint Saviour, Pimlico

Spring is my favourite season to enjoy the many beauties London has to offer. Lately I've sort of developed an obsession with the squares that dot our gorgeous city. Yes it's true. Last weekend, we were lucky enough to be blessed with at least one nice day. I took this opportunity to wander about an unfamiliar area, Pimlico. Me oh my, what a lovely little picture book neighborhood. The little Square cornered off by Pimlico Road and Ebury Street offers all of the above. It's all there: the church, the fountain on the square, the little farmers market buzzing with loud butchers and bakers.

Restaurants and pubs permeating the air with the salt and batter scent of their freshly cooked fish n' chips. Walking around the little square, you'll want to try out all of them: the Orange, owned and operated by the same owners as the Thomas Cubitt on the neighboring Elizabeth Street, the Ebury Pub, La Poule au Pot, Daylesford Organic. And they are all within walking distance of each other. 

If you fancy a terrasse lunch or dinner when the weather gets warmer, La Poule au Pot, offers a lovely southern exposure and a prime location on the square. You can enjoy a delicious bowl of onion soup while you marvel at the hundreds of passersby. It's a charming sight, you'll see.