The wonderings, ponderings and other 'ings' of me. Lifestyle, review, news and opinion posts. Chic with a hint of sarcasm... hopefully!

Monday 27 April 2015

Victoria Beckham Store Review

We all (or most of us) now know that Victoria Beckham (nee Adams) has emerged as a serious fashion designer.  With several wildly popular collections under her belt since the line's conception in 2008 she finally opened her first boutique store in London's Dover Street last year. VB's ready to wear collection averages at around £1,500 a pop and with the diffusion line, Victoria by Victoria Beckham, also costing around £500 each she's not aiming for any customers under the top 2%.  So if you are just going along for a mooch around what can you expect?

On arrival we thought it was closed, but then there's no security guard with a key here - how 1990's of you to expect such a thing!  No, here we have a security guard with a remote control which he uses to slide a large metal block doorway into the wall, of course he does.

Inside is a stripped back/unfinished looking stairway with dark grey and pure white walls. Minimal clothing hangs from thick chains that are linked to the ceiling's exposed metal crisscross beams. Hagrid's brother could comfortably give him a piggy back around the store with no fear of smashing his skull in, such is the height of each floor.  

Mixed in with this stark hard look is a brightly coloured snap dragon plant, the scale of which now means the store takes on a Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Fairyland On Acid vibe.  The small pink and white thing next to the plant is a dress which gives you an idea of what I mean.  
The bees are bigger than even Kanye West's head and almost as disturbing.  Whether this is VB's sense of humour or the designer's love of contrast I'm not sure, however there were some softer aspects to the d├ęcor.  The delicate scent of Diptyque candles waft around both floors, there are three in total but the bottom one (with the Damien Hirst heart on the wall) is only open to serious shoppers.
You'll need an epipen the size of the empire states building if this dude gets ya! 
 Happily, I didn't catch even a whiff of the usual 'you can't afford this' scent walking around.  The staff greeted us politely and seemed fine with our wandering around, trying on the sunglasses and taking copious selfies.
 It seems they're as happy being both assistant and museum curator as we are window shopping.  The structure and shape of the SS2015 collection will keep me lusting after her line for a while to come, but in the meantime I'll contend with pictures of the clothes rather than the real deal.

There may be enlarged insects around but for a high end store experience without the usual judgemental sting, I highly recommend hanging out at VBees!

Love Ally xxx


Monday 20 April 2015

Clarice + Claire = Joy!

Image from here
Last Friday I spent a stoopidly relaxing day with Claire my BFF at Clarice House, which I just had to tell you about.  Purely for information you understand and nothing whatsoever to do with reliving a glorious day! This extremely busy Bury St Edmunds spa is set in some proper snow white style grounds.  I'm sure there were deer and rabbits close by but due to my 'short cut' it was gone 10am before we were there so we raced in eager to spend a day not racing around.  We were lucky enough to be experiencing the superior bliss day, bought for me by my superior husband.  This included:
  • Back and neck massage
  • Facial
  • Manicure 
  • Two course lunch 
As well as a fair amount of lounging around time. We also got a robe, towel and flip flops in the package NB: this is not standard and you can feel a little fleeced if you get there and find you need to hire them (towels £1/ robe £10).  After flitting from pool to jacuzzi to steam room to sauna (I have the attention spam of a three year old who's off her Adderall) we pootled off to our first treatment.
Happy Feet!
The music was soft, low.... and recognisable.  Being someone that has trouble switching off I can safely say film soundtracks do little to help.  I kept thinking "this is the bit in Blade Runner when Mr Ford gets it on with a bot" oh oh this is The Piano soundtrack... didn't that star Anna whatsit who played Sookie Stackhouse in True Blood"? Luckily my masseur didn't notice but did mention that I had 'quite knotty sholders'.  I apologised and like those people that do all the housework before the cleaner gets there I made a mental note to have a massage before my next massage to save this  embarrassment.

Obviously I got my obligatory 'cantscratchit' itchy nose.  Not sure what to do I tried the bewitched twitch to no avail.  So I breathed out hard.... my nose made a loud whistle, which I suppose was better than it drippling snot onto the masseurs foot. Then my arm started to ache, I'm really really bad at this sitting down doing nowt malarkey but that's not to say I didn't feel much more chilled at the end of my face down time.

The facial was a true delight, having not had one before I expected nothing more than for the beautician to slap a Boots mud mask on, wait 10 minutes then flannel it off.  I was therefore ridonkulously pleased with the 25 mins of massage, exfoliation and gentle pressurising loveliness that ensued.  Even though my skin is now very much like that of a teenager, not all dewy and fresh more covered in spots, I'm assured this will pass and it does feel much softer.  I'm not put off that easily!

As we sat awaiting manicured nails to dry Claire and I were truly hooked, Googling other spas that were half way between us both.  I smell an at least annual tradition afoot.

The ever popular Buy One Get One Free offer is now on.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Places I love in Cambridge

Yesterday my blog hit little milestone.  Don’t get me wrong it’s not something that the megastar bloggers would even notice but it made me feel all fabulous so I decided to treat myself. Into town I went armed with my camera and sunny disposition and had a just blissful morning chatting to some of my favourite independent Cambridge boutiques.

First off I went to the best vintage shop in Cambridge Rosie’s Vintage which is tucked away down Kings Street.  You have to pop in, it’s full of various wonders and knick-knacks.
 Truthfully vintage clothes have to be really, and I mean really special to get my attention however Carmel O'Neill, the owner, has tons of trinkets, jewellery and some really girly china and interiors for sale as well.  Luckily she told me she was planning to embrace interior design a bit more (yay). It would be incredible to have genuine vintage pieces to buy for our homes right?
Next is my ‘when I win the lotto’ store Boudoir Femme.  I spent a happy half hour shooting the breeze with owner Pippa Sanderson and generally lusting after most of the shiny things there.  I’m also a big fan of Sam Edelman and Pippa stocks some of his lovely range which I photograph, pin and then show my husband copious images of!  It’s here I found a new crush worthy brand O My Bag.  Eco-friendly silky soft leather satchels, clutches and bucket bags (they even have an Ally bag – is it a sign?!).
Della Kaur is an independent shop supporting most countries in the world's products! Scarves from India, bags from Spain and jewellery from Italy, Poland, Germany and now Cambridge too.  Della and Stephanie were so friendly and relaxed, letting me snap away and helping me get practically every diamond they had out of the cabinets.  One necklace I saw was particularly bling and I coveted it big time! I wanted to try it on so badly but chickened out of asking... maybe next time.  All the rings at Della Kaur are adjustable as they have an in-house jeweller Chris Powell (who made my wedding and engagement rings!)  

Finally I mooched (one of my favourite words that!) around Cambridge Market, this is a great place to people watch and practise my photography as evidenced below. 


Let me know where you like to go and maybe I’ll see you there.
Love Ally xxx

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Alice In wonderland - for crazy people

OK it’s been a while so I can now bring myself to write about an event of extreme pain that I went through with my sister.  Families have their ups and downs and this was a real low point which will forever be known as ‘The night we went to a conceptual Opera’.

Having never been to an opera before I was ready for something different to a night at Nandos and figured a little culture never hurt anyone.  I was quite looking forward to Unsuk Chin’s first opera Alice in Wonderland which The Barbican describe this as “A glittering work by Chin and librettist David Henry Hwan” and that it include, “riotous exhilaration and jet-black humour”.  I can only deduce that Chi, Hwan and the Barbican hate mankind.  It was about as riotously funny - and entertaining - as watching a radiator being installed.

Making a break for it?
You know you're in trouble when the evening starts with a cellist crawling around on all fours. I’ve yet to work out if this was part of the whole awful event or just some douche who lost a contact lens. Off to the left was a guy with some lab specs and a bunch of empty glasses – it would be too much to hope they would later be filled with wine or anything fun.  A couple of times in the show he would don said specs and smash a glass.  Errrrm ok then!

There was the obligatory soprano and tenor vocals but this was forced into spoken words with all the direction of a 2-year old who had been kept up way past his bedtime and was a bit cranky.  The real sopranos would have taken them out, but as they aren’t around we are forced to deal with what I can only describe as an exercise in how to make Alice in Wonderland painfully God Damned boring!
The caterpillar was represented by a saxophone player who I think may have rohypnoled herself before coming on stage to ensure she hit as few notes as possible.  On and on and ON it went, butchering any innocent or entertaining aspect of the original writing. I counted three people asleep and saw several others looking longingly at the exit.  I felt their pain but for some reason we all stuck it out and while the people behind us laughed at the ‘funny’ bits I wondered what I had done to my sister that she would punish me so by bringing me to the seventh layer of hell.
Bored much?
At one point even glass boy looked wistfully at a large piece of smashed ‘instrument’ I imagine hoping he could slit his own throat for something more interesting to do.  About 4 days (or so it felt) in we got to the ‘chop off her head’ jury scene and I felt like volunteering so that I didn't have to sit through any more douchbagery!  When in the last scene Alice took about 7 actual minutes to get some scissors off the wall (signalling the end of the torment) I decided they were doing it on purpose. There must be a camera somewhere checking out if the unknowing specimens could watch the whole thing without it inducing a psychotic rage.

Strangely it hasn’t put me off going to a real opera.  And while it’s very possible the show was totes fab and my sister and I are complete philistines, it seems much more likely the glowing reviews are Emperor’s New Clothes offerings.  A bunch of people saying how awesome something is because it was the most nonsensical piece of arse clowning they had come across.

The one good thing was that it ended and now our house has a new threat.  Be nice or I’ll take you to a conceptual Opera!

Friday 10 April 2015

Kiss Air Candles - Interview with Louise Cox

As my previous blog posts can attest to, homeware is a real interest of mine.  How we choose to decorate our little boxes and what we put in them says a lot about our taste and personal style. One of the easiest ways to spruce up a home is with candles as these work on two senses, sight and scent.  Kiss Air Candles are especially present in both this aspects and I was lucky enough to experience them first hand.    

Caffeine fix is a real hit to heighten the senses.  The coffee essence is strong and unapologetic, I could smell vanilla as well - though don’t quote me on that, it may not even be present!  It’s definitely one of the most attention seeking scents I’ve come across.  Jasmine and Freesia is light and fruity, as my mother loves freesia this makes me think of her.  Both candles seem to delicately scent the room even when they aren’t lit (which makes for longer lasting pleasantness!).  I got to speak with the owner of the company, Louise Cox, quizzing her on her favourite scents and what’s in store for Kiss Air Candles... 

How did you come up with the name Kiss Air Candles?
In the 90’s there was a racehorse called Kissair and the name stuck. When brainstorming brand names it was on the list and the more we thought about it the more we thought that when you burn a candle the scent kisses the air, it fitted perfectly.

What was it about making candles that appealed to you?
We initially started making candles because we were buying ones that did not smell when burning. After researching, experimenting and testing we hit on a winning formula. Once we cracked this, making candles allowed us to be creative in the scents, this is really what appeals to us.

What does Kiss Air provide that is unique?
The thing that really makes Kiss-Air Candles stand out is our fragrances. We have some unusual scents like Really Rhubarb, Cut Grass and Mojito which customers are always intrigued to smell. We also develop collections that take people back to a time in their life such as cocktail hour range. People often recall fabulous holidays when they smell our Pina Colada candle. Of course, we still have the traditional lavender, coconut and vanilla but it’s those that are a little bit different that customers love.

Where are the candles made?
We make our candles in Cambridgeshire by hand. We’ve no fancy equipment but make them in small batches, manually mixing in the fragrance and hand pouring the wax into the tins. As we are a small production we are able to ensure the quality of our candles.

How long is the candle making process?
We tend to spend a day in the workshop making batches of different scents.

Why Soy?Soy wax is the new buzz word when it comes to candles. It’s a natural vegetable wax which is created from renewable resources and completely biodegradable. We like its green credentials but the main reason we use soy is because has a great ability to hold fragrance, perfect for producing highly scented candles.

Do you know if the soy beans are fairly traded?
We don’t believe the soya beans are fairly traded.

What inspires you to come up with new and interesting fragrances?
We take inspiration from things we love such as cocktails, flowers or work towards a theme, so when it comes to developing a scent we generally know what sort of fragrance we want and whether it will be a standalone scent or part of a collection. We then work with highly skilled perfumerists to create a fragrance that is true to life. We work hard to ensure our scents are authentic and love the comments we get from our customers telling us our scents are spot on and what memories they evoke.

You’ve been featured in several must have lists, what do you think is the secret to this success?

We think it’s a combination of the fabulous scents, stylish packaging and affordable price point that make them a must-have item. We also think it was this that led to our Cocktail Hour collection being shortlisted in Gift of the Year 2015.

Similar candles on the high street are anything from £10-£50, how do you keep your prices so reasonable?
As our candles are in tins and use fragrance oil this keeps the cost down. We are developing a pure essential oil range in glassware and this will push the price up (so) the price comes down to the materials used.

Tell me about your association with Wood Green the Animals Charity, how did that come about and why did you decide to partner with them?
We support Wood Green The Animal Charity because it’s a charity that does so much great work in looking after and rehoming dogs, cats and many other animals too, plus it is a just up the road to us. In 2013 we rehomed a dog, Berty, who had been looked after by Wood Green after being left tied up in a field. So, for the charity we give £1 from every Cut Grass and Toasted Marshmallow candle sold.
We like to support local Cambridgeshire charities and last October we created a limited edition Pink Roses candle for Addenbrookes Breast Cancer Appeal and will be partnering again with them in 2015.

Do certain scents suit particular rooms?
Fragrance is a personal thing and we tend to burn all scents from Chocolate Cake to Rose Garden in the lounge or bedroom. However, we do have fragrances which are well suited to certain rooms such Caffeine Fix for the kitchen, Sea Spray for the bathroom, Cut Grass for the conservatory and Lavender for the bedroom.

What is your favourite scent of Kiss Air Candle?
My favourite changes all the time but at the moment it’s Peach Bellini from the cocktail hour collection, with its juicy peaches and champagne scent ~ you can really smell the champagne bubbles. I am really looking forward to our summer collection, Ice Cream parlour, as Mint Choc Chip and Mango Sorbet are divine!

Which store would be your dream stockist for Kiss Air Candles?

You can currently find Kiss Air Candles in over 20 fabulous independent boutiques and gift shops across the UK and we are hoping to increase that this year. A dream stockist for us would be a stylist home store such as Habitat.

Which celebrity home would you most like to see a Kiss Air Candle in?
We already have several fabulous celebrity fans including Katie Piper, Camilla Dallerup, Jessica Wright and Anna Passey and Jess Ellis from Hollyoaks. Our candles fit really well in comfortable, yet stylish homes with their pop of colour and we’d love to see (them in) the homes of Gok Wan (we have sent them to him in the past) or the Kardashians!

What’s next for Kiss Air Candles?
We’ve lots of exciting things in the pipeline. We are really excited about our summer collection, Ice Cream Parlour, a range of five ice cream inspired scents launching in May. We’re also working on an affordable luxury aromatherapy range which we hope to launch in the autumn. 

With ice cream candles, a perfect note for the coming months and Louise’s passion for aroma it looks like even more great things are likely for KissAir Candles.
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