28/07/2016

Thursday's outfit: navy, stripes, my take on corporate chic

Look what the cat dragged in... I was looking through my camera memory card earlier and I found these pictures which I had planned for a work outfit post a few weeks ago, but then I completely forgot about them (life has been very busy lately!). I thought it would be a great opportunity to post these now, despite the fact that I am currently taking a well-needed breather from all things corporate... this outfit exemplifies perfectly what corporate chic means to me.



See, for me, corporate chic doesn't necessarily mean grabbing a pinstripe suit and donning some female form of the male office uniform, matched with a pair of boring mid-heel court shoes and a snooze-worthy innocuously black bag... This is 2016 people, we can all do better in the office (and not just style-wise, but that's a conversation for a post in a few months, it would appear). Fashion and attire expectations have evolved since Gordon Gekko's days, thankfully. There are a lot of ways to be stylish and corporate, like a plain sheath dress, or a beautiful asymetric skirt suit, and I tend to navigate towards separates a lot lately, although I think of myself more as a dress person usually.



One trend I am loving this year is stripes... with everything. From ripped white jeans for a Sunday brunch to cigarette pants in the office, I'm always wearing them lately. I know I am not alone, but I like how all the shapes we've seen this season mean it's easy to do a new take on the classic look. This shirt is incredibly easy to wear, it's super forgiving in shape and it comes in a super light material which is perfect for the odd sweltering day in London (a handful of occasions this year already, which could well be a record!).



Add some cigarette trousers, a little peplum jacket from last year (I've used this well, in fact so much that it ended in the charity pile a couple of weeks ago when I started my workwear purge), and that's the basis of the outfit found. Now for accessories... This is usually where I have fun, and this outfit is a perfect example, with the gorgeous lace-up sandals in a bright fuchsia pink from the Bionda Castana collection for L.K. Bennett. Aren't they darling?



To finish, I grabbed my blue double bag, which is the perfect size for a full day of work, as I can fit all my day essentials, a few presentations, a laptop etc. I picked the colour because it is a good year-round tone, but also because it's quite different from the ubiquitous light pink and black that we usually see this bag in. The colour name is Aviator Blue... One last note, if you're contemplating which Prada work bag to get: I had the double zip bag before this, and in my view this one is better, first because the longer straps mean it's a shoulder bag if you want, but also because it looks more elegant with the clean line stripped off the zips. Just my two cents.



Before I take a bow, here are some links for the different pieces:
- Stripe shirt, Kate Spade
- Cigarette trousers, J.Crew
- Peplum jacket in cotton tweed, from the SS2015 collection at J.Crew
- Lace-up sandals in pink suede, Bionda Castana for L.K. Bennett
- Saffiano double bag in Aviator Blue, Prada

27/07/2016

Wednesday's beauty essential: A visit to Blush + Blow

After many years of despairing over the beauty scene in South West London, I think I have found my ideal salon.... So far, beauty spas around Fulham and Chelsea were spread between shabby (sometimes grotty) places where affordable but often quite good treatments are dispensed on precariously balanced and hygienically challenged manicure stations from before the millennium, and over-priced salons where all the attention was given to the decor, and none to the actual treatments (if you want bleeding cuticles these are the places to go). Enter Blush + Blow, the new arrival just off Parsons Green, literally a couple of minutes from my house, and my prayers have been answered.



The brainchild of make-up artist cum entrepreneur Bridget O'Keefe, Blush + Blow is the stuff dreams are made of. Think gorgeous greys and aqua decor, with antique gold accents (those pedicure basins are simply lush, I want one in my bathroom please), every single detail has been thought of: the decor is definitely from this century, but with a nod to the retro years of weekly blow-dries.

Which is exactly what this place is meant to offer. The services range from manis to blow-dries, but also massages, facials, etc. The prices are affordable (not cheap, but then again nothing is in this area anymore, but remember the saying about getting what you pay for, people) and the packages are really interesting, there is even an unlimited blow-dry monthly for those of us pining for a Duchess worthy mane!



I also love that Bridget really understands the neighbourhood she has opened into: this is the ultimate Nappy Valley, where women take their children and assorted prams everywhere... So it's perfectly fitting that there is a fold-away children play area, complete with toy blow-dryers and straighteners, and for little ones who want to imitate mummy there are children friendly everything-free nail polishes for a mini mani!



I have been coming here a few times now, and I have to say each time I've been greeted with friendly and welcoming service from everyone on staff, and the ultimate treat? Having little Pickles, Bridget's cavalier pooch, snooze on my lap as I'm getting a pedicure done is just a little extra perk of this fabulous place.

If  you are nearby I cannot recommend a visit highly enough, you will come out perfectly groomed, with the best products in the market by a team hell bent on making you go out happy and relaxed. Next on my list? Probably a facial... I need one after my holiday in the Greek sun!



Check out more details here:
Blush + Blow
http://blushandblowlondon.com/
197 New Kings Road
London SW6
0 207 736 0430

12/07/2016

My beachwear etiquette rulebook

Ok London, this Summer is turning out to be beyond disappointing, in many more ways than I've become used to, so I'm packing my bags (and those of the little people in my life, obviously...) and upping sticks to milder climes, where I'll not only find sunshine but also a little peace. Before I go though, it's time to open the big beachwear drawer and take stock...

I grew up going to the beach at least twice a year, and for me a Summer holiday is the synonym of long lazy days on a beach (although it's fair to say that they have become slightly less lazy with the arrival of the two little treasures of my life, ha ha). I won't say that I am an expert on beachwear but I have found that, when one lacks the body of a Victoria's Secret model, one needs to come up with a few tricks to still look smashing on the sand. And this girl, my friends, might have brains, she definitely doesn't have the plastic of an Angel (see pictures below for evidence)... So here I am, trying to let you in on a few of my beachwear rules.



1) Judging by the size of bikini bottoms, I have come to the conclusion that most European brands of swimwear must be designed by sadistic people: how will covering my bottom with a huge nappy-looking thing (hello... Princesse TamTam, I'm pointing at you) make it look smaller or more attractive? I tend to gravitate more towards Brazilian brands which in recent years have adapted their cuts to the shier European clientele (think nice flattering hip cutout, not dental floss, which). The idea is to avoid too much fabric (meaning, shorties bikini bottoms are out as well unless you have the legs of a giraffe, and even then thread carefully) in order to show a little more flesh. I know it's counter-intuitive but give it a try, you'll see it works.

2) Most well-meaning fashion editors will tell you every year "If you're a shorter frame, go for a higher cut on the hip". Ahem... Not so fast, I say. You want to have a nice cut on the hip but a high-rise 80s style bikini cut is still pretty tart-like (even in 2016, when we've seen the revival of pretty much every single 1980s trend). I steer well away and find that, so long as the cut is good, I can even dab in hipster territory. And I'm not 6' (ok, sometimes I am, namely when standing on a chair?)...

3) Fabric quality is of upmost importance! Where to begin? A good swimwear fabric is always one that is thicker than you think, that keeps you in, that survives sea and pool water, and that doesn't lose shape over time. What does that mean? That your flimsy swimwear fabric, dear Mr Eres, is not for me, merci beaucoup! Whilst you're at it, if you're buying a light-coloured bikini, triple-check the lining: it needs to be sturdy, and either nude or white (my white bikinis have never let me down, if you know what I mean). Bear in mind no lining, even on dark colours, sometimes means odd fabric placement, need I say more? Get a lined bikini! Recently there have been a lot of brands tuning to neoprene for their swimwear:great about keeping everything tucked in but a bit thick so pick those in sporty shapes for your paddle-board outings.

4) Regardless of your size and shape, it's always good to have a nice beach cover-up. It's better to slip something on for a lunch at the local beach cafe (and men should pull a t-shirt or a polo over as well, I don't know too many people who like staring at hairy chests whilst munching on a lobster salad...). In my experience it's a bit easier to go for a proper caftan or summer dress than attempt to tie a sarong nicely (this never ends up as stylish as I wanted and usually it falls out half-way between the beach lounger and the table).

5) Please, whatever you do, avoid high heels on the sand ... I know, sounds obvious, and yet when you see pictures of some celebrities you wonder. Of course to each their own but to me it looks ridiculous, unpractical and quite dangerous (even poolside, where you're walking around dripping swimmers)... Plus, I don't think I'm being too old-school by associating the high  heels plus bikini look with adult movies am I?

6) It is true that summer jewellery can look really nice on the beach, but I usually try to limit it to one or two pieces to avoid looking like I've just come out from shooting Pirates of the Caribbean, or maybe a little collection of friendship bracelets, and similarly I prefer that hubby dearest sticks to just his watch and wedding band on the beach (thankfully I didn't marry the big gold chain macho type...)

7) Keeping the accessories light and summery has always proved to be a winning strategy for me. I love my Birkins... but I would never consider following in Marc Jacobs footsteps and taking them to the beach. For me, it's tortoise-shell coloured eye-shades, huge straw hat and massive canvas tote or basket all the way.

8) If I want to feel confident on the beach, I find that being perfectly groomed helps a tremendous amount: smoothly waxed, freshly manicured and pedicured, with glossy hair, this is when I feel the happiest if I must be displaying more than my usual amount of flesh. Not only that but I believe it is a mark of respect to others (I will never forget the queasy feeling at the bottom of my tummy years ago when I spotted a topless sunbather who didn't seem to have heard of hair removal, anywhere!) Just before stepping out to walk to the beach I slather myself in sunscreen-filled cream, maybe one with a little shimmer if  I really want to push the boat out...

9) The way you sit matters... Whenever I can, I try to find beaches with sun loungers (and umbrellas since I don't really go to the beach to roast) so that I can put the back at about a 60 degree angle and sit with my legs slightly bent and my feet flat. This is apparently the most flattering way to sit on a beach. When there are no sun loungers around, I dig a little dip to sit in, it is a perfect alternative!

10) With years, I have learned what works for me and what doesn't, and have some spots that I always turn to for beachwear and accessories, here they are, enjoy!

SWIMWEAR
My favourites currently are: Mara Hoffman, Melissa Odabash, Heidi Klein (a bit bigger bottoms), Vix, Lenny... and if you are looking for bikini tops for DD cups and up my favourites are Blush by Profile, Pilyq and L*Space...
If you ask Hubby Dearest, he will tell you that I have already quite an extensive collection of bikinis, however every year I try to add one piece to increase my options (also this means I can chuck out some of the older pieces which are begging to be retired). The idea is never to leave with less than 2 bikinis for each day we're staying at the beach.

COVER-UPS
My current favourites are by Vita Kin and March11, but you can never go wrong with Heidi Klein, Antik Batik, and usually random market finds in Greece and Thailand...I rarely go for vibrant colours in my day-to-day outfits, so for beachwear I tend to be a little more daring, especially when we're headed to the tropics. This year I'm going crazy about folk inspired embroidered blouses and dresses, perfect for the Med.

ACCESSORIES
For bags I love a Goyard Saint-Louis, the Woodstock in raffia by Gerard Darel, Hervé Chapelier's classic square bottom tote, and of course you can't go wrong with an LLBean. Recently though I discovered an Australian brand called State of Escape, it makes the most gorgeous neoprene bags, and I'm a bit obsessed. You want to fit in all your kit (sun protectors, water spray, books, ipod, sarongs, and possibly a house-full of beach toys,  baby wipes, water bottles if you have children...) and still look stylish.
For sunglasses, the choices are limitless, but I usually like a good pair by Celine, Coach or Tom Ford. Basically I'd advise against metal frames in favour of plastic ones, as the metal heats in the sun, which can be a bit ouch...
Sarongs are best picked up during your travels, a Kikoy or a Batik is far better than some acrylic monstrosity picked up at the airport, and do get on the round beach towel bandwagon, it's all the rage this year!

Links to some of my top names for a perfect day at the beach:
- Heidi Klein
- Hervé Chapelier
L.L. Bean
Lazul
Mara Hoffman
Miguelina
Pitusa
State Of Escape
The Beach People (for the aforementioned round beach towels)
Vita Kin
Vix

30/06/2016

Thursday's treat: Our special Milli Millu discount code

If you live in London, you may be forgiven for thinking we've moved straight from a chilly Spring into a wet Autumn... it's depressing, but then again after more than a decade in this beautiful city, I'm not surprised anymore...

The only thing to make it better? A bit of shopping of course! The Pre-Fall collections are hitting the floors everywhere these days, and I am particularly taken by Milli Millu's beautiful bags mixing rich hues with the softest leathers...



So, isn't it wonderful that the adorable team at Milli Millu has offered to give you a special 15% discount on any purchase (from the new collection or the sales!), simply by using code LILACPF15.

Now the question is... which bag (or bags) will you pick?! Check out the collections on: Milli Millu and do comment here to let me know which model won your choice!

28/06/2016

A week in Ibiza... with No1 Bootcamp

A few weeks ago, stressed out by the rarefied atmosphere in London, I felt it was time to do something I never do: take some time off for myself (ie, not for my family, not for the clients I work with, just for me, ... I  know, shocking) and focus on getting to my healthiest fittest potential. I had hear about fitness retreats and bootcamps everywhere from magazines to blogs, but didn't really know where to start... Thankfully, reviews abound online and No1 Bootcamp seemed tot get consistently good write-ups, together with the attraction of one of the locations being Ibiza...




When I originally told people I was off to Ibiza, I could see my friends thinking how odd it was, seeing as I'm not really your typical party animal, but then I explained the bootcamp and wellness goals, and it seems to click, especially as people around me have seen me focus so much more on fitness in recent months. The weeks leading up to the bootcamp had me think apprehensively that I wouldn't do so well on holiday on my own, something I've not done in more than a decade, and worry that my fitness levels were too low, or that I wouldn't get on with the rest of the bootcampers... I could not have been more wrong...



As soon as I arrived at the house towards the end of the afternoon (by the way, it puzzles me why the organizers prefer not to hand over an address when it's so simple to get to the villa with simple instructions, instructing me to take an over-priced driver service when I instead opted to visit my cousins who live on the island instead) I met with some of the other house guests for the week, and though it was clear we all came from very different walks of life and had ended up at the Bootcamp villa for different reasons, we quickly got along and started chatting animatedly.

We promptly had our first self-deprecating laughs especially after finding out that the first dinner consisted of exactly one bowl of broccoli soup, no extras. Weight-loss, here we come! Evening one is also when we got weighed and measured and discussed our goals and the rules of the Bootcamp with the head trainer, Gee, and the house manager and hike guide, Gina. As strict as they tried to sound, I'll bring you in on little secret: they are both absolutely adorable with hearts of gold and the ability to understand how to motivate and push each of the Bootcampers to their very own limits.

In my case, for instance, I was concerned that the military origins of No1 Bootcamp would entail some getting yelled at, something I absolutely detest, but in actual facts this didn't happen even once, instead both Gee and Gina found the sweet words to  coax me into finishing up some grueling stair climbs and HIIT circuits. For that I'll be thankful to them both for a very long time.



The house itself is lovely, with brightly lit common spaces to hang out and cool fresh rooms, some individual, some shared (the single rooms meaning a slightly more expensive stay, but at least you only have to worry about your own snoring and shower towels on the floor!). The house's best feature is the fabulous Mediterranean garden, sprinkled with fruit trees, laden with lemons, apricots etc. and featuring a lovely pool around which we often congregated during rest times.

As beautiful as it is, I would suggest improving the villa slightly by adding a shade over the work-out area, as doing some of the circuits in the blazing sunshine can be a bit overwhelming for some. Also, I would try to organise the HIIT sections on a slightly flatter surface, as the work-outs often happen on the main drive-around space in front of the house, which is on a slight incline.



Most mornings are structured around a group of circuits, many of which built around a boxing routine. That part was very hard work, but thoroughly enjoyable.

To my relief, we didn't run too much, mainly went for little jogs as a warm-up to circuits, with the exception of one morning when we went for a run on a beach deck, something even I couldn't resist in such a beautiful setting.

In the afternoon, usually the programme includes a hike around some beautiful Ibiza sights, including gorgeous beaches... Don't be fooled: the hikes were not easy, in fact they lasted around 2-3 hours each, and at the end of the one we did on one of the later days I admit I was so tired I went for a swim in the sea in my Lulus and sports bra... Not very elegant but it did cool me down!

Most days finish around 5pm, with some yoga or a well-needed stretch session, something we're encouraged to double up with an evening session to avoid sore limbs, but in my case at least, and despite stretching before, during and after circuits, DOMS sets from day two...

Food-wise, the portions are small and healthy, measured to give women 1,200 calories and men a bit more, but in my case I found the meals delicious and so well-timed that I was hardly ever hungry, except in the immediate five minutes leading up to food... Some of the snacks such as the oats flapjack feature high in my to-replicate list, and I'll be sure to post a recipe here when I do.

What did I take away? A sense of serenity from having had most of my days planned for me (said serenity was promptly destroyed within days but hey ho, what can I do...), a few great circuits that I'm now reproducing at my gym or in hotels in those lone sessions when I'm trying to work out without the help of a trainer or a class, the pyramid circuit is a personal favourite, and the confidence that I can go away on my own, meet new people, and enjoy and truly bond with them, if only for a few days, regardless of their age, occupation, origin etc. etc. I also did manage to leave behind a not so small poundage of fat, some replaced with muscle and some just lost altogether, and for that, my bikini is thankful, I'm sure!

So, trust my verdict: if you want a quick week to focus on your wellness in a no-nonsense environment  with a team who focuses on making you the fittest you can be in as little as seven days, then No1 Bootcamp is the place for you. Choose Ibiza for sunshine and beautiful sea views, but also remember they have a location in Norfolk and another in Marrakech.

Check it out here: http://www.no1bootcamp.com/

25/06/2016

Little Monsieur's Pirate Party

Last Sunday, we had the annual party for Little Monsieur, not exactly his birthday, as he's a December baby, but the closest thing... We took to the south banks of the Thames for a Pirate themed party on the Golden Hinde II, a beautifully refurbished 16th century ship just a few steps from Bourough Market. As usual, I planned everything myself from the invitations to the goodie bags, but given how tormented I've been with other areas of my life lately, I was really glad of the last minute rush that I usually get 48h before each party!



The main attraction of the party was obviously the cake, a beautiful and equally delicious creation by the only baker I trust for novelty cakes, Lucy at Vanilla Frost Cakes. She and I had discussed the inspiration in the weeks leading up to this party and I'm truly in awe of how beautiful it turned out, together with the little assorted biscuits that she also prepared for us in the shape of Jolly Roger flags, little parrots, and mini treasure chests. I don't know what I would do cake-wise if I didn't know  Lucy, I am not  a particularly good baker and catastrophe is always just minutes away whenever I grab a piping bag...



The rest of the food was a mix of children party favourites (though no crisps here, they are a hard NO in my book), all presented with little buffet cards to complement the theme: tuna sandwiches were Shark Bait, free range chicken nuggets were Golden Nuggets, etc. I hope the parents of our little guests won't mind, but I think I found a way to have little ones eat fruit at parties: make little cups of fruit salad, call the whole thing Pirate Jewels, and then explain that only little pirates who eat a bit of fruit get cake. That's child-level negotiation for you!

At Little Monsieur's insistence (read, constant reminders whenever he saw me on my laptop ordering party goods), we had a Pinata, not something I usually go for but then I found this adorable little parrot shaped one on Etsy and I thought why not, once filled with chocolate coins and little fruity gums it looked pretty good hanging by the top of the table.  



I tried to keep the rest of the room as uncomplicated as possible, a few handmade banners from the same printable collection as the buffet cards, bottle labels etc, and lots and lots of jewels thrown on the table which the children were fast to snatch to take home as little tokens. This meant it was ok to use plain hessian as tablecloth, and black, red and white tableware which looked quite striking on the simple background.



We had drinks for everyone, as I can't fathom poor parents having to stand around a room filled with squealing young children and not having something to drink (preferably alcoholic)! Children had still water bottles with personalised labels and apple juice, and for the grown-ups we had little drink dispenses with Pimm's and jugs of San Pellegrino. 



We had two little side tables for the water and the goodie bags, and those I went a little to town with, with a mini treasure chest (cue more acrylic jewels and chains), a skull complete with headscarf which will work perfectly at our next Hallloween party, hopefully, and a little castaway bottle with a treasure map.



For goodie bags we had little skull and crossbones cotton puses filled with chocolate coins, but I also thought it would look quite cute to have mini gold ingots for the little ones to take home, filled with smarties (aka precious stones) and finally I found a lovely book called the Pirate's Handbook, which is funny and clever at the same time, a perfect complement to the sugar-filled goodies!



As fun as planning everything was, the main attraction for the children remained the ship itself, and the wonderful activities that the two duty Pirates had organised for them. The ship is absolutely stunning, and the team take charge of the children from the minute they get on board, with a list of super exciting tasks for little aspiring ship mates. 



First, the children got to push the anchor wheel to set sail... that in itself,  and checking if the anchor was coming up, was just the beginning. They were then taken under deck for more adventures, such as finding and putting together the pieces of a treasure map, hearing stories about long-dead pirates, and finding the treasure itself. A whole afternoon of adventures perfectly planned for my little munchkin's age group, meaning everyone could participate in the fun.



The whole afternoon was a roaring success, especially as I was lucky enough to have my little sister and her boyfriend on hand to help, meaning we had two extra set of hands to organise and serve the hungry little pirates after the ship activities, and two extra set of eyes to watch everyone! 




Sounds exciting? Here are some of the links to throw your very own children pirate party (or, if you're London based, send me an email, I'll be thrilled to help!):
- Ship hire and party organisation, Golden Hinde II
- Pirate party printables, Chickabug
- Parrot pinata, PinataPinatas on Etsy
- Party favor bags with skull and crossbones, GracefulGreetingCo on Etsy
- Party tableware, straws etc. Pretty Little Party Shop

15/06/2016

Back in the office... Classic shades and my favourite Mary-Janes

After a little hiatus which had me run, jump, box and climb up and down Ibiza (it’s less exciting than it sounds: I was on a fitness bootcamp which I will tell you all about during a week-end post, I promise), it was back to Canary Wharf on Monday morning…



Having spent a week wearing little bar leggings and sports bras, pulling together an office appropriate outfit didn’t come too easy, especially as London seems to be afflicted by the oddest of weathers this week: muggy, humid, warm-ish… Everything I dislike. In order to stay as fresh as possible I opted for bare legs (a favourite of mine from April to October, in case you hadn’t noticed), and kept the colours simple and classic. I guess I had enough of brights for a few days with all the neon lycra!



Cream, black and camel work really nice together, in particular in a more formal setting. The pleated skirt is a pick from J.Crew’s office collection, it is a nice shape for workwear and though it isn’t lined the fabric is heavy enough that I didn’t find it see-through… I know, sigh of relief from all corners of the room.

I don’t usually like wearing patent shoes outside of Winter, but for these peep-toe Mary-Janes I sometimes make an exception. They are a few years old now but I still love them as the first day I got them, and to be frank I use my shoes so little they still look pristine. The heel is the perfect height for work for me, not acrobatically so, but just high enough.



Up top I covered up with one of my (too many) macs… a short version this time. I find that with the passing of our years living in London, my collection of trench coats and jackets seems to increase to give me options to cope with the endless rain. This one is a short version which looks adorable with jeans but also looks the part with office separates.



Before I go, a word on the bag… this is my Milan by Milli Millu. I fell in love with the model when I saw it in the pre-collection lookbook, and I still adore its classical yet unique lines, its roomy shape and of course the uber classic colours. If you don’t know Milli Millu, you absolutely must check it out. Every bag is designed with the busy woman in mind, it’s roomy enough to accommodate a laptop or at least an ipad, as well as numerous day essentials such as papers, make-up bag etc. All in the softest luxe-est (is that a word?) materials… It’s a must.

Outfit details below:
- Cream wool pleated skirt (now on sale!), J.Crew
- Short trench jacket in camel, Comptoir des Cotonniers
- Camel and black shoulder bag, Milli Millu
- Black patent mary-janes, Jimmy Choo, these Rupert Sanderson ones are similar

30/05/2016

So, how was your week?

Hello friends... I'm cheating a bit on my weeklies today, as usually I look back on the week on Sunday evenings, but seeing as it's the Bank Holiday I thought I'd post about my week today...

Although I stayed in London all week, a rare feat in my schedule, it's been a full one, lots of work-outs, but also lots of delicious food (it's all about the balance, darlings).





I managed to fit a work-out every single day except for Sunday: Psycle / Model Method / Psycle / Model Method / Heartcore Pilates / Jump and then Psycle again this morning after rest day yesterday. As you can imagine I am trying to get to Ibiza next week in as fit a condition as possible, so that working out most of my waking hours doesn't feel too much like torture, but in reality I have become a bit of an endorphin addict (shh... bad word) and I'm really enjoying my daily 5:00AM wake-up calls which have all to do about health and nothing about work travel!

I can't say this week will be as good tough, as I have two trips lined up later on, but I am determined to keep up the good work.

On the food front, we had a bit of everything: good girl protein shakes from Protein Haus (the BEST thing to open in Canary Wharf since my office moved there four years ago), vitamin juicing at home, but also fabulous Ottolenghi cakes which I just had to have having spotted them on my Instagram feed on Friday morning, my weekly almost healthy bake, and of course a glorious spread for late brunch this morning after Psycle and a little visit to the office. We also squeezed in a breakfast  at Granger & Co on Sunday, it was delicious and healthy, and well worth all the hype around the place.

Sunday Little Monsieur and I went to see his favourite extinct friends, aka the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum after breakfast, it was brilliant as usual and we got to explore new areas of the museum like the cocoon, much to the little man's excitement.

Oh and I also managed to sneak in a little tour of the Chelsea streets adorned for the Flower Show. I can't say I'm much in love with this year's tropical theme, I thought the Wonderland style last year was far better. But I still adored the facade of the Ivy Gardens...

And you? How was your week? Any good snippets?

29/05/2016

Sunday's double denim and coral

Do you want to know what my favourite day of the week is? Sunday before a bank holiday Monday. I know, not so frequent an occurrence, just four times on any regular year, but still, that's my favourite day of the week. For me a three day week-end is perfection. I manage to relax enough and unwind in a way that I never manage to usually: on two-day week-ends I am still super wired on Saturday and Sunday I start to get stressed about the work week even before lunchtime. This is why I loved today...



Don't get me wrong, long week-end or normal one, Monday or Sunday, in our household we still wake up at the crack of dawn every single day, 6AM this morning to be precise... So no lie-in for either Hubby Dearest or me... but we haven't had one of those in a super long time so that's not really an issue, it comes with the territory of having two extra cute children, and it does have its merits, such as: you don't get to queue at Granger & Co for breakfast, seeing as you arrive literally within minutes of opening time!



So this morning, with no work-out planned for rest day (I did work out every single day this week, so I deserve a little rest!), I got up, ignored my leggings drawer, and planned a fun Mummy outfit for a busy day out. Breakfast in Notting Hill, then off to the Natural History Museum to visit Little Monsieur's dinosaur friends and other creatures, and finally a birthday party in Barnes... Phew. It's a good thing I opted for flats and comfortable denim!



I told you I have a thing with short-sleeved jackets lately, and I had been looking for a kimono inspired denim one for a while, and was so surprised to see how lovely this one ended up being, considering its price! I know it's a bright blue denim so it was risky mixing it with another shade but I figured dark jeans would be ok. It looked fine to me and the jacket was the perfect cover-up for today's undecisive weather, although it will look nicer with white jeans, I'm sure...



A word on my sandals... And please do not comment how ugly my feet are, I know it, you know it, let's move on and look at how fab these little flats are. They are super comfortable with the adjustable straps, meaning that the multiple straps don't dig into any part of my foot. They are hand braided in Spain with the softest leather, and although they are super flat they have a little cushion on the insole which makes them pillow-like! Sadly the gold ones are all sold out (but not the black and tan suede ones), as they were part of the May capsule on the Sézane website, where all the collections are teeny, but fear not, for Tuesday the June collection goes online, and I'm sure it will feature some pretty lust-worthy pieces!



More outfit details below:
- Kimono jacket in denim, See U Soon
- High-waisted skinny jeans, Frame Denim
- Printed peasant blouse, Antik Batik
- Gold braid sandals (also in black, green, and tan suede), Sézane
- Blood orange Trapèze bag, Céline at Vestiaire Collective
- Beaded charm bracelets, MeMe London
- Braided tie-up bracelets, Carolina Bucci

25/05/2016

Wednesday's beauty essential: A well-stocked travel kit

As the Summer approaches (at least in most normal countries, if not in the UK...) my mind is turning to holidays, and more practically to my next trip abroad. I'm off for a week in Ibiza for a fitness bootcamp with No1 Bootcamp in a few days, and as I'm trying to save as much space in my bag as possible for two pairs of trainers, hiking boots, and enough leggings for all the upcoming workouts, it's key that my beauty kit is minimal, but perfectly workable.

Which is why I thought I'd share some of my most recent finds, along with  some of my long-time essentials. In my mind, you need three items to make your day: a great hairdryer (and when was the last time you saw a good one in a hotel room?), a serious SPF CC Cream, and a transit-friendly but fabulous travel beauty pouch, because really the ones they give at airport security as just too drab to think of, right?

Anyhow here are some of my picks for this trip... Let me know if you think of any good picks you would like to share, I'm always on the lookout for a good beauty product!





From bottom left, clockwise:
- Pomegranate lip butter, Korres
- BB Correcting Cream with SPF 50, Kiehl's
- Clear zip pouch, Truffle
- Pink nail polish, Smith & Cult
- Luna Go skin cleanser, Foreo
- Anti-frizz hair essentials, Kebelo
- Make-up removal wipes, RMS Beauty
- Featherweight foldable hairdryer, T3 Haircare

17/05/2016

Friday casual: Bring on bare legs and short-sleeve jackets!

Summer is almost here... finally. I'm embracing tight-less skirts, tie-up sandals, and short-sleeved jackets. In fact, I think short-sleeved jackets are my obsession for this season. It's a fun way to wear a very classic piece, be it a trench, a parka or even a blazer... Watch this space, you'll see more of these!



I instantly fell in love with this one. It has a nice utility look which I love, because it works well in many situations. But I was also attracted to the quirky pocket distribution and belt, it's really original and it's quite lightweight so easy to wear. It's perfect for this time of the year as well, when the morning chill means I need a little more layering but then I tend to lighten up as the day goes by. It comes quite big though, so make sure you size down if you order it!



The other lovely thing about warmer days? Bare legs of course. There is something so nice and liberating about being able to leave the tights in the drawer, isn't there? Actually a few years ago that meant planning my outfits according to how long had elapsed since my last visit to the wax bar, but a few years ago I got laser treatment, and though it had pretty rubbish results elsewhere (a lady never talks, ahem), on my legs it's radical: I have maybe 2-3 resisting little fellows on each leg, but otherwise it's a smooth ride to skirts and sandals for me!



Obviously we still have quite a few chilly days ahead in London before the Summer arrives, but I will be milking every single opportunity to wear my legs bare, my sunglasses, and my sunny accessories... it just feels far too good to miss!



Full details of the outfit below:
- Military short-sleeve jacket, Marissa Webb
- Pleated faux suede skirt, Zara
- 140cm silk scarf and Etoupe Lindy bag, Hermès
- Lace-up suede sandals, Vince Camuto

15/05/2016

So, how was your week?

Happy Sunday everyone! Just a tiny post to tell you about my week. Work was pretty stressful and unhappy, but nothing new there... So, per my now well developed coping mechanism, I went off to Brussels and Paris to see clients, the one part of my job which is unstressful, happy and makes me feel motivated. And of course I worked out, quite a bit... That certainly helped!



For sure, sometimes when I'm feeling a bit low it is tempting to skip the work-out and just go to bed, but I have found that if I only give it 10 minutes, the endorphins kick in and soon enough I don't want to stop. You just have to kick yourself to the gym, and voila! The upside is I found out that I can still pull my splits, almost... and I'm sure in a couple of weeks they will be even better... Isn't that worth it?

Another way for me to cope when life gets a little stressful is a pampering session. Most often I opt for facials but this week I had enough of my long lank hair, and decided it was time to give it a chop. Cue a little visit to Alejandra at Rossano Ferretti's hair spa in Mayfair, and hello new choppy hairdo with bangs. Ta-dah!

We did finish the week with a little home baking, some healthy muffins free of gluten, refined sugar and dairy, and I am happy to say that I am ready for another week in the happiness obliterating black-hole... See you on the other side! xo

13/05/2016

Wednesday night... Back from Brussels, off to Heartcore

Unlike leisurely jet-setters, trophy wives and other time-rich gym bunnies, one of the biggest issues about my journey to a fitter me is that I need to fit (ha!) my workout sessions around a totally hectic work schedule. I often take flights and trains at the crack of dawn, and back again the other way well after most people's bedtime.

On the days when I am in London, I try to squeeze Psycle sessions before my morning meeting, Pilates classes after the children's bedtime, etc just so I can manage to spend a little time with my adorable little munchkins. So, as the phrase goes, the struggle is real!



Sometimes, I am lucky to catch an early return home, and when I do the temptation to roll around with the little ones and muck about is strong, but these days, with the days until bootcamp dwindling fast to single digits, my willpower has seen a real uptick and that's exactly how I found myself exchanging my Roger Viviers for Nikes on Wednesday night: it was time to hit the reformer!



It was a hot day in London, so I reached for my favourite leggings of the moment, with the double mesh panels and the lighter fabric they feel great even in a warm room! They feel amazing on, with tight compression which I need to feel comfortable working out (I don't like to feel lose around the legs). The fabric is sweat-wicking, which means they are perfect for Psycle, Power Yoga... In fact, I love them so much I'm considering ordering another colour, although my leggings collection is starting to be a bit large...



As usual I layered up top, that's my usual look: full support sports bra, long halter top (to cover my wobbly bottom!), and cropped tee. I topped it off with a lightweight jacket as it was overcast and raining on and off, with its leopard print this one is pretty distinctive, it has a little cinching around the waist at the back so it has a feminine shape, and it's lined in super soft jersey, so it's my perfect Spring go-to when I'm off to the gym.



I wore my favourite Nike trainers (in fact I love these trainers so much I ordered my 2016 NikeID in the same pattern!) and decided to go for a playful bow on my head by tying one of my silk scarves. It made for a little change from my usual high ponytail!



Full outfit details below:
- Leggings with mesh inserts, Lululemon
- Grey shirt-tail tank top, Victoria's Secret Sport
- White crop top in textured jersey, Sweaty Betty
- Leopard-print sport jacket, School Rag
- Photosynthesis trainers, Nike
- Falabella grey bag, Stella McCartney

10/05/2016

Three super easy healthy breakfast options for busy bees

Breakfast is my favourite meal in any given day... I love sitting down and indulging in pancakes and fruit juice with my little ones, but most days that is not an option. And, it is definitely not an option for me to have pancakes every day, as my metabolism isn't that of a marathon runner!

As you know I've taken to smoothies lately, and I love the convenience of taking my Nutribullet everywhere, from the office to the Eurostar... still, sometimes I am in need of something with a bit of oomph, so I figured I'd share three of my favourite breakfasts for the busy bees out there. I hope you like them!





1) The chia seed parfait
This one is so simple and yet delicious and filling… First, the science bit: originally, chia seeds are from Latin America, where they were grown and consumed by the Mayans (clever people, they not only invented a fabulous calendar but also knew how to eat good, clean food, just saying…), and they pack an astounding 40% fiber and 14% protein, not to mention magnesium, manganese, anti-oxidants, more omega 3 than salmon, more calcium than a lot of dairy products… in short, these little gems will deliver only good things to your body and keep you nourished for longer. Ok, that’s it for the educational minute of the day… Now, how do they actually taste?  Actually, they don’t taste of anything much, like most whole grains, so they make a perfect breakfast base. The texture is a bit gelatinous after you soak the seeds in liquid, a little like eating thick caviar.

For the base of the parfait, you need:
0.25 cup chia seeds
1 cup coconut milk
0.5 tsp vanilla extract
(feel free to add a little bit of your favourite sweetener, such as agave syrup, though the recipe doesn’t really call for it)
Just mix everything together in a little plastic box, and leave in the fridge for at least 45 minutes, or overnight. If you want you can make a bigger batch, it will last 2-3 days in the fridge. 

Toppings which go well with this:
Fruit puree (pulse your favourite in a blender and pour over, no sugar required)
Sliced fruits (kiwi, banana, berries, the sky is the limit)
Chopped nuts (again, the choice is yours…)
Gluten-free granola
Low-fat yoghurt
Cacao nibs
Quinoa pops
I could go on and on… Basically the idea is to layer it, mix it up, have fun, and enjoy your food. Don’t think that just because you are eating healthy means you must let go of tasty food. 

2) Overnight protein oats
We all know how amazing oats are… and yes they are carbs but then so are all grains, fruit, quite a few vegetables (hello carrots and beets…), wine, bread, cake etc. My point is, if you’ve decided to give up all carbs, then good luck in your new life as a rabbit, I wish you and your leaves a long and happy, if a bit sad, life. If not, go on reading, this is a post about eating healthy, not torturing yourself... So, as I was writing, oats are carbs but they are the complex kind, and they are filled with fibers so good for you. Overnight oats are the perfect busy bee breakfast, you can prepare them the night before, put it all in a jar and take it with you in the morning.

Base:
0.5 cup oats
0.5 cup almond milk (add some yoghurt or mashed banana for extra creaminess)
0.5 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 tsp chia seeds
Mix it well and leave in a jar in the fridge overnight (or at least 5 hours)

Topping options:
Like the chia seed parfait, you can pick and choose whatever you like, here are some combinations that work well together… Add them on your way out in the morning, and there you go, healthy, filling breakfast which looks amazing as a bonus!
Blueberries – Raspberries –  Strawberries – Honey
Dessicated coconut – Pecan nuts – Pineapple chunks
Apples – Cinammon – Maple syrup (classic, I know)

3) Smoothie bowl
Ok, so smoothies are great, as you can just grab your mixer cup with you and hop to your next meeting / workout / mummy play group. But, the reality remains that, in order to fill full, it’s better to chew, preferably slowly (true, it’s scientifically proven! So much science today, I’m getting a headache), so much so that slow eaters apparently consume less food than those who guzzle their food, not to mention they digest better. So, if you have a little bit more time in the morning but still want a healthy option, just make your smoothie a little thicker, and top it up to make a smoothie bowl.

This recipe is for a nutella tasting smoothie bowl, but you can adapt pretty much any smoothie recipe to make into a smoothie bowl (hint: add a frozen banana or half a frozen avocado to thicken the texture). 

Nutella smoothie base:
1 frozen banana
0.5 cup Greek yoghurt
0.5 cup almond milk
1 tbsp nut butter (almond is my favourite…)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla powder or extract
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
Blitz in your blender until a creamy consistency develops, a bit like soft ice cream. Pour into a bowl, and add toppings.

Toppings:
Half a sliced banana
Chia seeds
A small dollop of nut butter
Chopped hazelnuts
Cacao nibs

Add as much or as little toppings as you like, again don’t take it too seriously. Just enjoy it!

09/05/2016

Sunday at home with the bambini: white hot and summery

It's official, Summer 2016 arrived in London: it was yesterday... A cooking 26 degrees and sunshine so bright Little Monsieur decided it was perfect weather to go to the "Splash Splash", ie the water play urban beach in our nearby park. Alas it was not to last, and we're back to crazy weather once more, but hey, at least we had one good day, which is better than we can say some years!



I love a white dress on warm days, it's so fresh but it can still look quite put together, especially if it's a crisp shirt dress. I fell instantly in love with this one when I saw it on the Sézane website a few weeks ago. It's part of the Summer collection but like everything Sézane,  it keeps selling out. I think it's time the lovely Parisian brand upped its game logistics-wise. Don't worry, if you like it, just comment down, I'll do a little post on the best alternatives out there.



I accessorized this look more for the purpose of the pictures than to go out, as we spent the whole day between the garden, the roof terrace, and the park. Still, I thought the dress would look cute with some summer-ready accessories. The wrap sandals are from the resident cobbler who takes over at Henri Bendel in June, they make bespoke sandals whilst you wait... these are extra special for me: not because they show my ugly pointe-deformed feet, but because I got them a few hours after finding out I was expecting Little Madame, so that day will always have a magical memory attached to it, and so will these sandals, horrible toes or not!

The one thing that was a must was the Panama hat. This one is from a past collection but I have a few that I've collected over the years, some I got in Ecuador, some from designer brands. It's a classic shape that's very easy to wear, it doesn't look too beachy and its brim is still wide enough to protect my face from the sun.



In my eyes the clutch is the real winner of the outfit. It looks very "artisan" with its greek style embroidery, in fact it will be perfect for our trip in July (more on this on a later post...) and it really resonates with my love of improved neutrals. Simple but beautiful...



All the outfit details are below:
- Broderie anglaise shirt dress, Sézane
- Jute clutch with white embroidery, Mango
- Lizard wrap sandals, Tuccia Prima bespoke for Henri Bendel (during the Summer months only)
- Panama hat, from Tory Burch's 2014 collection, look at Sensi Studio for a similar style
- Reversible mini H belt, Hermès
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