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Celebrating Halloween? October 31 2013

Spider Diamanté Brooch - My own

Ghosts, goblins and witches!  It's that time of year for pumpkin carvings and stocking up on goodies for Halloween trick-or-treaters but little do we realise that we are actually performing an ancient Celtic ritual.

The celebration that we know today as Halloween is actually a blend of ancient and modern traditions.  Halloween is one of the world's oldest holidays dating back to Pagan times.  The name is a short form of "All Hallows’ Evening" the night before the early Christian festival of All Saints’ Day held at this time of year which was itself the Church’s adaptation of an ancient Pagan feast.

Many associate Halloween with the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain.  It was believed that on 31 October, the spirits rose and mingled with the living, that veil that separated the living and the dead grew thin.

Fires were burned and people danced and donned crazy costumes to frighten spirits away.  The fires were to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they were permitted to move onto Heaven.

The grinning pumpkins lit by candles that you see are a variation from turnips that ancient Celts carved into skulls before placing them in their windows at night.  For the Celts, the skull represented the head which was to them the most powerful part of the body as it held the spirit.

Cats were also believed to be holy animals as they were considered to represent people who once lived and as punishment for their evil deeds, were reincarnated as a cat.

The custom of trick-or-treating and the use of "jack-o-lanterns" comes from hundreds of years ago when Irish farmers  went from house to house begging for food in the name of their ancient gods.  They would promise good luck to those who gave food and made threats to those who didn't. 

Over the years the form of the celebrations have lost their original meanings, so many people today will happily carve a pumpkin and place it in a window without knowing that they are performing a magical ritual to honour the good spirits and keep the evil ones at bay.  You would have to agree that today, Halloween is most definitely not a holy evening!

 


The History of the Boucle Jacket October 14 2013

The Boucle Jacket is a timeless design that every lady deserves to have in her wardrobe. But have you ever wondered about the history of this chic piece of fashion?

Boucle Jacket -Topshop
Black Patent Chain Bag - Local Boutique
Giant Pearl Necklace - Topshop
1950s Gold and Green Rhinestones Knot Brooch - For Sale on Betsy Blue £23.00

Created by Coco Chanel in 1954, the Boucle Jacket was inspired by menswear, straight and fluid with four real pockets, a trim in matching or contrasting tones, buttons stamped with famous Chanel logo or no buttons at all. 

The French designer had used originally used tweed for her designs in the 1930s because it was cheap and two decades on she was using a buckled tweed for her Boucle Jacket.  It was lined with Silk and a Brass chain that ran along the seam so it would fit and fall perfectly.

The jacket was made up of a multiple of panels so it could be adjusted 2 or 3 sizes up or down to fit every woman according to size.

Coco Chanel paired her genius jacket with knee-length wrap skirts to create an absolute freedom of movement and the jacket has graced our catwalks ever since.

Although the Boucle Jacket was more seen to be worn by the older and wealthier lady, today, young or old, who cares, they are all sporting the look.  You don't have to spend a small fortune for an inspired Chanel jacket.  Topshop, Asos, H&M and even Primark have versions that won't break your piggy bank.  

You can dress it up with a smart pair of trousers or you can dress it down with a pair of skinny fit jeans.  Wear it with a dress or a pencil or full skirt.  You can wear it to a wedding or you can simply wear it for a lunch date with the girls.  However you choose to wear it, the Boucle Jacket is pure class and one day I'm gonna own a real Chanel Boucle Jacket!  I best get looking on eBay then...!

Want to wear a brooch with your Boucle Jacket? Or any jacket for that matter!  There are several vintage brooches from the on Betsy Blue that will brighten up your outfit...

 


Laura Mvula October 06 2013

Totally unexpected, I got a call from my brother to ask if I wanted to go to see soul singer-writer Laura Mvula at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire in London. "Oh yes!" was my reply.  I had seen Laura Mvula play a set on a late night showing on TV at Glastonbury in the Summer.  She sang, "Green Garden" and I instantly liked what I heard, a raw heavy stomping sound stripped bare of any kind of remix or collaboration.

Laura Mvula (pronounced Mmm-m-vu-la) was born born in Birmingham and within 12 months of sending two demo tapes, she had a debut album, "Sing to the Moon".

First into the venue, my brother and I took our pick of where to stand...  At the front, naturally, where we could get a good look and take decent photos!  Only, no one told us that photographers would be standing right in front, trying to get one decent shot for their rag!  It only went on for the first three songs much to the annoyance of the front line audience but once they were gone, we were free to enjoy the rest of the set and be as snap happy as we liked without a photographer's head getting in the way!

Dressed in a Black jumpsuit and a long Black snood, Laura Mvula is one cool chick whose stage presence had everyone in the house captivated.  Her set was a mixture of drum heavy stomping to soul smooth strings of the harp, cello and violin.  And her song "Diamonds", a song she said she penned for her friend who sadly passed away, brought a tear to my eye.  It was so pure and beautiful.  Somebody shouted from the audience, "Laura, you're an angel!". Whether you believe in angels or not, Laura Mvula certainly makes you believe there are...


History of the Slipper September 10 2013

As the longest day has come and gone and the Autumn evenings start to draw in, we slip off our shoes for more comfy, warm shoes, “Slippers” or what my mum calls them “House Shoes” are favoured as we begin to settle in for cosy nights with the central heating cranked up full blast, racking up that Gas bill during the long (and they are in the UK) winter months.  But slippers aren't just things for the Winter, slippers can be worn in the Summer too and if you’re like me, I can’t stand having cold feet so I have slippers for all seasons.

These Chinese slippers are by Beverly Feldman.

The word comes from the verb “to slip”.  It is thought that slippers were originally from the East but they have been worn by every culture.  The earliest recorded reference to the slipper was is in the 12th Century by a Southern Song Dynasty Officer where he describes two types of slipper he saw in what is now Vietnam.  These slippers had a thong to fit between the toes or a leather strap across the foot and the outsoles would have been made of leather.  In the West, slippers were first recorded around 1478.

In the East, the slipper was a symbol of captivity.  A Sultan’s harem would wear them for indoors making it easy to slip the shoes on and off before stepping on expensive Persian carpets.  The slippers were very soft and comfortable and for indoors use, therefore, a concubine wouldn’t have been able to make a break for freedom in them as they were too thin and slippery for the hard rocky roads outside.

In certain cultures, such as Japan, it is a social obligation to remove shoes and wear slippers when entering a place of residence. This is due to tradition and respect for the house.  The Meiji period (1868-1912) was one of unprecedented transformation that was to affect all areas of life, including clothing.  During this time, special slippers were created for foreigners to pull over their shoes as the Japanese were accustomed to taking off their shoes and donning slippers indoors but their Western friends were not, hence the invention.  The Japanese also have toilet slippers, which you put on before you enter the toilet and you slip off after you leave so you must leave the toilet as you entered as the slippers are meant to face the toilet!  Although I've been told that this not a common practice.

Geta Slippers, Japan - Photograph: Gavin Hellier

By the mid-16th Century most wealthy men wore slippers made of soft Leather, Silk or Velvet, often in patterns that matched their outfit.  Don’t forget, men in those days were more dandier than the women!  Women also adopted an extremely impractical form of shoe called the “Chopine”.  These slippers sat atop a platform that ran the length of the shoe and could be as high as twenty-four inches! As a consequence, chopines were very difficult to walk in.  Both men and women used ribbons, bows, and jewels to decorate their shoes.  Of course, such shoes were not intended for outdoor wear and both sexes wore overshoes called “Pattens” and “Pantofles” to protect their dainty shoes if they did go outside in them. 

Italian 16th Century Slipper, Leather - Photograph: www.metmuseum.org

The Victorian era, saw the “Prince Albert Slipper”, so called after Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert.  These shoes were a velvet slipper with a quilted silk lining and leather outsole.  They were first worn by English aristocracy when Black tie dress for dinner was required by standards of etiquette and they would don velvet smoking jackets with a cravat and coordinating Prince Albert slippers.  Eventually, this custom moved outside the home to clubs and smoking rooms.  Nowadays, these slippers are known as “Smoking Slippers” and are worn by both men and women, sometimes worn informally outside.

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Smoking Slippers - Hmm, I don't think I'll be wearing these ones outside, what do you think?

Today, slippers come in many styles, Slip-On Slippers, Boot Slippers, Novelty Slippers and Moccasin Slippers.  They can be made from different types of materials from leather, suede, wool to manmade materials with outsoles being made from again a variety of different materials like leather, rubber or EVA.


Slipper Trivia
  • Apparently, Cinderella didn't loose a Glass Slipper, there are over 500 versions of the tale in scores of languages, the earliest version dating back to 9th Century China.  The slipper was never made of Glass but of Gold or Silver and sometimes embellished with gems.  The story as we know it is a result of a translator error.
  • Until the first half of the 20th Century, it was customary for pilgrims having an audience with the Pope to kneel and kiss one off his Red Papal slippers.
  • On 30 June 2007, Derek “The Slipper Man” holds the Guinness World Record for wearing a pair of slippers for 23 straight years!!!
  • A pair of Red test slippers for "The Wizard of Oz" from the Hollywood collection of actress Debbie Reynolds sold for $612,000 in May 2011.  (I think I need to get my hands on pair of these slippers so I can flog ‘em and live the life of Riley!)
  • "The Ruby Slippers" worn by Judy Garland in the “The Wizard of Oz” sold for a record $2 Million in May 2012.
  • In 2013, a Scottish university found a delicate pair of slippers that had been sitting unnoticed in its collection for more than a century may have actually belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte's sister, Princess Pauline Borghese.  The narrow silk and leather shoes, which measured just 1.5 inches across the toes and about 4 inches long (UK Childs Size 2), were marked on the outsole "Pauline Rome."

Not really the Ruby Slipper but a cupcake made for my Niece Lucy's birthday!


Last day of the Summer Holiday September 05 2013

 

Today was the last day of the school summer holidays.  My niece Olivia called to ask if I wanted to spend the day, I mean, hang out with her (teenage speak!) just chilling, busy doing nothing.  So I made a picnic of ham sandwiches and egg mayonnaise, juice, water, pop chips, left over pizza, homemade chocolate and courgette muffin (courtesy of my friend Emma!) and a big flask of tea.  And me, Livvy and her two dogs Millie, a very old King Charles Cavalier and Coco, a bonkers Shihtzu in tow, all mosied down in my car to the small village of Tilford in Surrey.

The River Wey and the 800 year old Tilford Oak

Tilford is a picturesque village just 2 miles from Farnham, Surrey and lies within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It had has chocolate box cottages, a pub called the Barley Mow facing the cricket green and a freshwater riverside that you can sit and have a picnic and paddle if you wish.

"Did you bring a water bowl for the dogs?" Livvy asked, "I think they're thirsty..."

"No, why did you?" I replied.  (Her dogs and she was asking me if I brought a bowl!!)

"No, I forgot." Livvy said grinning.

"So what are the dogs going to drink out of?" I quizzed, the cogs going around in my genius brain.  "I know..." I exclaimed, "I'll make a bowl from tin foil!"  And from the tin foil that the sandwiches and pizza were wrapped in, hey presto! I made a bowl, hopefully one that didn't leak.  Livvy poured the water in my masterpiece and it worked, no leaking, A water bowl for the dogs...!  We were happy, the dogs were happy, everyone was happy in the muggy heat.

After stuffing our faces, feeling satisfied and the dogs treading on everyone else's picnic blankets but our own, we decided to go for a little wonder around the village.  We admired the little church just off set from the village green and were amazed by the pre-historic looking plants by the wooden bridge on the River Wey.  Livvy and I thought we would go for a little paddle in the river to wash our dusty feet.  Coco was straight in the river but Millie was rather reluctant.  Livvy picked Millie up to help her cool in the water but she really didn't want to go in and I didn't blame her because as soon as I stepped in, oh my, the water was so-ooo cold!  I couldn't believe there were people in there up to their waists in water let alone their feet!

I asked a young girl who was wading through the water giggling at me, how she could stand it and she told me matter of fact, "Oh once you get in, the numbness just kills the pain."  And she was right, I couldn't feel my feet, not to mention the water was turning them fifty shades of Blue!

At this point, we had all had enough of sitting in the sun and it was time to slowly head home but not before trying to get Coco out the water and going to Waverley Abbey, a monastery ruin surrounded on three sides by a bend of the River Wey.

Waverley Abbey was the first Cistercian abbey in England and was founded by William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester in 1128.  All that is left are fragments of the church and monastic buildings.  The abbey was closed in 1536 as part of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries and as a subsequence, was largely demolished, its stone reused for local building work.  The site is now looked after by English Heritage and is open to the public.

The Church ruins

While we were there, there was a film set in the making for a Disney film called, "Into the Woods".  It's about a baker, his wife and a witch...  Sorry folks, that's all I can tell you because I can't remember what else the plaque said but it did say that they promised to leave the area as they found it.  They were building a tower where a girl with long hair lives.  Sounds like Rapunzel to me!  I believe, Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep are in it so maybe Tinsel Town is coming to Farnham town!

Coco loves water and just as we had got her dry, she was running back into the water again, darting up dusty pathway to the car soaking wet!!!  EEK!  Thank God for the old sheet I had in the boot of my car because Livvy the Divvy (I love her really) as well as forgetting the water bowl, she also forgot to bring a towel for the dogs.  I think she just plain forgot her brain that day and left it at home having a lie in bed!

We finished off the glorious day at a watering hole called The Mill in Elstead.  The original mill burnt down in 1647 and was occupied by solider Cromwell's Roundhead's.  The new mill was rebuilt in 1648 and it still stands.  It was thought the mill was originally a corn mill, then used to make braids for military uniforms in the 19th Century.

The mill still has a working water wheel which can be seen as you enter the pub.  It is surrounded by natural beauty, ducks, swans and the the River Wey.  It's truly a beautiful setting.

 

 

As the day was coming to a close, we finally decide to drive home in the warm Indian Summer breeze, windows down, music blaring and smiling.  As I dropped Livvy off she gave me big hug and thanked me for such a lovely day, she had thoroughly enjoyed it.  At that moment, I felt warm and happy because a lovely last day of the Summer holiday it was...

 


Black Rock Sands August 27 2013

 

It was August Bank Holiday and I was invited by one of my oldest friends Emma for a mini break up in North Wales to stay with her mum who lives in a cottage up in the mountains by Mount Snowdon.  Wales is renowned for its interchangeable weather and on this particular weekend, Wales was HOT, no RAIN!  I kid you not it was so hot we slipped on our swimming costumes and hit the beach.

Black Rock Sands is a 2 mile long sandy beach situated at Morfa Bychan, 2 miles from Porthmadog in North Wales.  It is one of the few locations where you can take your car on to the beach.  There is a small charge to enter the beach and the charge is per car.

The sea along Black Rock Sands is shallow, with a gentle gradient making it ideal for swimming and bathing.  Black Rock Sands has become a well known beach for activities and is popular with windsurfers and kite-flyers.  It has designated bathing and boat-launching areas.

 

The sand dunes forming the backbone of the beach are a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Dogs are allowed on the Eastern and Western sections of the beach but are banned from the central section.  If you go walking up the sand dunes, be careful of the grass, the long blades are quite hard and spikey and you can't avoid them sometimes pricking you.

If nature calls, don't worry, there are public toilets you can use just before the entrance to the beach.  There is no charge to use the toilets but just take tissue with you just in case the toilet rolls provided run out (which inevitably they do.)

We had a lovely day, soaking up the suns rays, forgetting all our troubles, building sun castles and chilling with a picnic made by Emma's mum.  A word of warning, Black Rock Sands can be really windy, don't be fooled by the sea breeze in thinking that it's not that hot and not wear sun cream because if you don't wear any sun protection, you will end up leaving the beach looking like a Belisha beacon!

We finished off the day with an ice cream from Mr Softee (not a name I personally would have chosen but there you go!) the Ice Cream Man and headed home back into the mountains for a much needed rest and roast dinner.. Well it was exhausting sitting in the sun all day!


What's in a name? July 29 2013

 

It's been a week since the Royal bundle of joy arrived, HRH Prince George Alexander Louis, our future King of England.  Much speculation has been around what would the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge call their son and they chose the 9th most popular boys name in the UK.  So what's in the name George?

In my book collection, I have a book of babies names that was bought for me many, many years ago.  I remember seeing the book in Martins Newsagents and asking my dad if I could have it as it had my name in it and that is soul reason why I wanted the book because it had my name in it!  The book cost 50p because that's what's printed on the front cover and the pages have turned yellow over the years but is still an interesting read if you want to look up the meaning of your name (if it's in there, if you've got a hippy trippy name like Oceana or Wolf, you've got no chance of finding it!  It's a pretty traditional book by today's standard.)  So I looked up the meaning of the name "George".

George:  From the Greek, meaning a 'farmer'.  A variant is Georgie.  Examples:  George Washington, George Burns.

Half of you who's reading this are probably thinking George Burns?  Who's he??  Yes that's how old the book is...  George Burns was an American comedian and actor who lived to the age of 100 whose career lasted over 90 years!!!  His famous trademark being Black round glasses and a cigar.  If that book were now, it probably be updated to, George Clooney.

Now back to HRH Prince George.  There have been six King Georges but there is no guarantee that as monarch he would use his first name.  His Great-Great-Grandfather, George VI was actually christened Albert, Frederick Arthur George and although known to his family as Bertie, he chose to be known as King George like his father.  So we may have a future King George VII or we may even have a King Alexander or Louis, who knows?

 


I want to break free...! July 27 2013

July has been a busy, busy month and I have been rather slack in my blogging but before the month is entirely out, I wanted to tell you about the wonderful Picnic in the Park I went to a couple of weekends ago...

Every other year, a picnic in the park is held at the King George Playing Fields near where I live. It's where you can bring your own picnics and listen to tribute bands playing through the night with friends and family. But every time it's been on, for some reason, I've not been able to go until this year...

My friend Rachel and her family have been going since the year dot and Rachel's mum Pat said, "Linda have you ever been to Picnic in the Park?" "No, never." I replied. "Well why don't you come along?" she said, "The tribute bands playing will be Killer Queen and Counterfeit Quo, even if it's not your type of music, I think you'll enjoy it. Come along..." One of the bands I cannot stand, is infact Status Quo! But you can never say you don't like something unless you have tried it so that what's that, I was going!

Picnic in the Park

It had been a really hot day and we were in for a really hot and sticky night. As we approached the field, we could see the turn out was already massive. For such a small area, there must have been at least 5000 people all with picnics! There were posh picnics with tables and chairs. There were not so posh picnics with just a blanket. But everyone had a picnic, soaking up the last of summer sun as it was getting ready for bed.

We found a spot and set up our chairs and laid out our blankets. Rachel's mum Pat had very kindly supplied the whole picnic, insisting that she wanted no contribution. But I couldn't not bring anything, so I bought a few bottles of fizzy pop for us to down.

The Counterfeit Quo were the first to play with a small crowd congerating at the front of the stage. As I expected, all the songs sounded the same. Status Quo aren't known for their stylistic diversity and the strumming of the infamous 3 chords was somehow getting my foot tapping! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my foot was a tappin' to the old boogie blues of the Counterfeit Quo! But just because they had my foot tapping, I wasn't going to be converted into a die hard Quo fan, no way, I just appreciated that the band could play!

It wasn't long after the Quo were off, Killer Queen were on. I was told this band is the best tribute band in the country. Not only did Brian May have hair like Brian May but Freddie Mercury had teeth like Freddie Mercury! And they sounded just like the real thing. Although I seem to know a lot of words to Queen songs, I am not a fan. It's their songs were really catchy and words were easy to remember. My oldest brother was fan and I always remember him playing their music from the record player in his bedroom.

Killer Queen had everyone up and dancing it was like being at a mini festival just 5 minutes walk from where I lived, it was quite surreal. For an hour or so they belted out the classics and said they weren't even going to pretend to go off stage and do an encore, they were just going to play until they had had enough! Brian May did a guitar solo as did Roger Taylor did a drum solo. Freddie Mercury sang and played the piano to Bohemian Rhapsody. They finished their set with "We are the Champions" leaving everyone singing and on a high. Killer Queen were simply brilliant!

As the band left the stage, fireworks were let off and we stood for a further 15 minutes "ooing" and "arrhing" staring into the still of the night at the display put on before us. As the show came to a close, the grande finale was a beautiful spray fountain firework which left the crowd with undoubtedly a smile and a high as a good night was had by all.

 

 The Grand Finale


Strawberries and Cream Anyone? July 07 2013

What a beautiful day it was today, the sun was shining, everyone was smiling and I was sunbathing with my mum, sister and niece, taking a nice long dip my sister's swimming pool. It was like being on 'oliday wonnit!?

And Andy Murray won the Men's Wimbledon Championship against Noval Djokovic. I don't think I need to say it but I will, he is the first British man to win the title since Fred Perry in 1936! I admit, I was basking in the sun during most of the match and only came in to watch the match when it was coming up to championship point or three but well done Andy Murray, you had us on the edge of our seats but you did it! In that heat, I'm not surprised you were delirious after winning and forgetting to hug your mum but you will probably get a Knighthood for this mark in history!

Pimms O'Clock!
*See below for recipe

 

So after a glorious day of frolicking in the sun and water, an eager awaited BBQ was had with a *BBQ pack of meat from Wood Family Butchers in North Camp that was absolutely yummy scrummy (meat from the butchers tastes so-ooo much nicer) and to make us feel even more stuffed, a homemade Strawberry and Cream Pavola made by my sister and Olivia with ice-cream for afters.

 

Homemade Strawberry and Cream Pavola

The Perfect Pimms (Serves 6)

  • 1 Large Jug
  • 1 Bottle of Pimms (don't worry it's not all going in!)
  • 1 Litre 7Up Lemon and Lime (or Lemonade if you prefer)
  • 1 Whole Orange Sliced
  • 1/2 Lemon Sliced
  • 1/2 Lime Sliced
  • 1/2 Cucumber Quarters
  • 3-4 Strawberries Quarters
  • Handful of fresh Mint

If you're feeling really exotic you can also add...

  • 2 Rings Pineapple Diced
  • 1 Kiwi Fruit Sliced

How to Mix It

Pour the Pimms one third into the jug half filled with fruit and fresh Mint.  Top with 7Up Lemon and Lime (or Lemonade if you would prefer).  Lightly stir and serve chilled or pour over ice in the glass and there but it's better chilled... And there, you have the Perfect Pimms!

 

*BBQ Pack comprises of 10 x Plain Burgers, 10 x All Sorted Sausages, 10 x Lamb Kebabs, 10 x Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks (I asked for plain so we could marinade the Chicken with Honey and Mustard also from Woods), 10 x Chinese Ribs. 


A Budget Tour of New York June 23 2013

Visiting any major city can be expensive but it can be done on a budget if you are in the know.  Unless you've suddenly hit jackpot on the lottery and cost isn't going to be an issue, you will want to keep the cost of your visit to as little as possible without missing out on the sight seeing and shopping.  And if you're on a budget and let's face it, most of us are on a budget of some sort, here's a list of some of things I did in New York that doesn't have to cost the earth.

Manhattan Skyline

This one of the most famous skylines in the world.  Sitting on the mouth of the Hudson River, Manhattan, is one of the smallest boroughs of the State of New York but yet one of the densely populated.  You can get a really good view of the tall buildings the reside along the East River leading up to the Brooklyn Bridge.  From Brooklyn Bridge Park you can see the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and the famous Manhattan skyline that you see in so many films, photos and postcards.

 

The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States in 1886.  If you are not particularly interested in going up The Statue of Liberty and you don't want to pay the earth on a boat trip around the Hudson Bay, you can still get a good view of the lady herself on the Staten Island Ferry which leaves from Whitehall and Water Street...  And it's free!  The boat ride is run by New York  City to transport locals between Staten Island and Manhattan but many tourists also get on the boat just to see the wonderful New York skyline.  The boat ride is about 25 minutes each way and as soon as you get off Staten Island, you quickly embark to another boat going back to Manhattan by walking off the boat you just arrived on and hopping on the one leaving for Manhattan.  You have to be quick though or you may miss the boat and you'll have a long wait for another!  But you can get some fantastic photos of not just of the Statue of Liberty but of the New York skyline as well.

 

Home to NBC since 1933, you are better off going up The Rockerfeller Center than going up the Empire State Building.  Although the Empire State is the taller of the two, it also the better looking of the two in architecture.  To see a panoramic view of New York from the top of the Empire State Building, you view the scenery through mesh wire whereas from the Rockerfeller Centre, you view the city through glass and you can poke your hands through the gaps between the panes so you don't have to take a photo through the glass and you get to see the magnificent Empire State in all it's glory.  Also, you can't see Central Park from the Empire State Building but you can see how big Central Park really is from the Rockerfeller Center.  And if you look hard enough, you can see the apartment block where John Lennon lived and was sadly assassinated outside but if you go up at night, you won't be able to see Central Park as it is not lit up at night.  Opening hours are 8am-12am with the last lift going up at 11pm.  It's not cheap though, $27 for adults but well worth the visit.  We stayed up there for about an hour and half just taking in the views, sitting and chatting.

 

Bryant Park, Midtown Manhattan

A wonderful scenic park situated behind the New York Public Library between 40th and 42nd Streets which in surrounded by trees and skyscrapers.  It is only small in comparison to Central Park but in the Summer, you can sit at tables or just lie on the grass and have a picnic and people watch.  There are even ping pong tables shaded by the trees if you fancied a game.  In the Winter this park turns into an ice skating rink.  There are cafes in the park but there are a few places around that you can grab a sandwich from if you prefer.  If you're like me and a bit of a chatterbox, the local New Yorkers seem friendly to strike up a conversation with and they'll happily sit and chat for ages if you let them!

 

Along the way to the flea market in Lafayette Avenue, we stopped off for a bite to eat at this truly scrumptious eatery.  It was only by coincidence that we stumbled across it but seeing that it was popular with a lot of people, we thought we would give it a try.  It was particularly hot this day and the restaurant had opened up its glassed front for diners to sit in comfort and diners alike sat inside and out with fans blowing inside.  We didn't have to wait long for a table and were seated inside.  A glass of chilled water was poured for us (pretty much all restaurants in the US automatically do this and it is free) with the "Best Hot Dogs in Brooklyn", a Joint Dog with either pulled pork, beef or chicken as a topping and a large cup of creamy coleslaw (the Americans know how to make good coleslaw!), it all came to $8!  So if you are looking for somewhere cheap and yummy to eat, be it a Hot Dog, Spare Ribs (which are massive!), fries, salad, fish, chicken, beef or pork this is the place.

 

Brooklyn Flea Market, Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn NY

From vintage baseball gloves to vintage clothing, furniture from the 50s and 60s to old vinyl, the Brooklyn Flea Market offers an eclectic choice of stalls.  Set in the grounds of a High School and between Clermont and Vanderbilt Avenues, I found a lot of things here rather expensive (really no different to a vintage fair in the UK) but if you look hard enough, there are things you can pick up rather cheaply, it all depends on what you want and are willing to pay!  And don't be shy to do a bit of haggling!

 

The best homemade burgers I've tasted in a long time, the Piper's Kilt is a small bar/restaurant that is reasonably priced.  In actual fact, the Piper's Kilt reminded me of how a bar would have been in the 1970s with its old fashioned tills they still use and with "Love Like Oxygen" by Sweet blaring out the speakers.  Prices for a burger vary between $7.95-$12.95 depending on what toppings you have, Blue Cheese, Canadian Bacon with Cheese or just tomato.  Water  is served if you want to keep the price down because drinks can bring your bill right up but a soft drink is around $1.75.  Remember to give a 20% tip on top of your bill as this is expected in all bars and restuarants in the US.  I would recommend you make a table reservation before you go as it gets quite packed or you may have a bit of a wait until you are seated.

Guggenheim Museum, 5th Avenue, Manhattan NY10128

A contemporary and modern Art Museum with various exhibitions to see.  General admission is $12 but I'm not entirely sure if this was because part of the museum was closed off when I went for a pending exhibition because I thought entry was $22...  But if you are on a budget, from 5.45pm until 7pm, admission is free.  There are works by Bauhaus, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne and many more.  If you are not wanting to see a particular exhibition, then this should give you enough time to have a look around.  If you are walking up Fifth Avenue, then I suggest that you take a walk in Central Park, a path that runs along side and leads you up to the Museum Mile.  It is a lovely walk and away from the hustle bustle of the cars.

 

D&N (Dumpling & Noodle), 26 Palmer Avenue, Bronxville NY10708

This is restaurant is a little gem!  Homemade authentic Asian dumplings and noodles that are very reasonably priced.  The staff are very friendly and attentive and the place itself is quite quite small but clean and modern, I would say it seats around 20 people but you can get a carry out (that's a takeaway to you and me) if you please.  I ordered a Pork & Shrimp Dumplings (you get 4 giant Dim Sums that I did share!), Roast Duck with Rice and Chicken Broth Soup with Scallion (it was meant to be noodles but I customised it and asked for rice instead) and Steam Custard Buns (5 Egg shaped buns, again I shared I'm not a complete little piggy) all for about $20!!!  They do Curry Puffs which were also delicious and Fried Ice Cream!  On asking how they fry ice cream , the waiter said that the ice cream is rolled in breadcrumbs, then quickly fried and served so although it is hot on the outside, the ice cream is still cold and solid on the inside.  Clever...  If you want to give this a try, I would call up and book a table before you go as it does fill up quickly.

 

Shopping

I was in my element here!!  Unlike the UK and other countries I have been to, the US doesn't seem to have a seasonal sale.  They do have Summer and Winter sales but there is always a discount of some sort going on.  I'm told  no one in New York ever pays full price and in some shops even if an item is already in the sale, you still get further money off depending on what the discount is for that day or week.  Even if you don't have a voucher for discount, most stores will have a voucher at the till you can use.  Have a good look around first to see which places are doing deals and better deals.  For example, I found the department store Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue having a week 25% discount on most items except chocolate candy and 10% discount off perfume.  But Bloomingdales on Third Avenue just had a half price sale on selected items.  So it's worth having a mooch just to get your bearings about the place.  Just make sure if you don't have an actual discount voucher that the till you are paying at has one you can use or you will be charged full price.

 

Clothes and especially shoes can be expensive in New York but sportswear by Nike (futuristic looking Basketball boots and Converse are big here) underwear by DKNY and Calvin Klein is cheap and even cheaper if you go to a shop with discount.  UGG boots are a lot cheaper in the US (also big here) as is believe it or not, Hunter wellies even though they're British!  I was told there is an 8% tax on any single item that costs over $100 to purchase and anything under that, even if you buy 3 items and they come to a total of $115, you will not be charged the 8% tax.

Getting around on the Subway

They say New York is the city that never sleeps, well this is because the subway in New York never stops.  Of course there are more trains running during the day than after midnight but the trains never stop running even after midnight.  No matter how far or short you go on the New York subway, it is $2.50 a ride.  You can buy a 7 day Metro Card for $30 and go on as many rides in NYC as you want provided it is within the 7 days.  Or you can buy a refillable Metro Card for as little as $1 and top it up as and when you need it.  For example $ 10 will get you 4 rides.  Just watch you don't accidentally swipe your card twice when entering the subway or you'll be one ride down than you think and then you'll have an insufficient fee for what you think is your last ride.  You can pay by cash or by card but best to just use cash if you have it.  So getting around on the subway is cheap.

And so...

I know I haven't covered everything to do in New York but I hope my little insight of the place has helped plan part of your trip and to show that you can do the city on a budget if you really want to.  I will say this much though, be prepared to be filling your suitcase full of clothes, underwear and shoes!  Seriously, even if you think you won't be buying anything, you will once you see how cheap certain things can be!  New York is a truly amazing place, I absolutely loved it and I think myself lucky that I got to go.  I heart NY, I really do...


Lace & Tweed Vintage Fair June 01 2013

 

After a hearty breakfast in the greasy spoon near where I live, my friends and I went to Lace & Tweed Vintage Fair in Guildford.  "So does anyone know where we're going?" I asked.  "No..." everyone said in unison...  It was lucky that Rachel and I had looked this up on the map the day before because no one had a clue where it was although I had a rough idea.  Up the hill in Guildford town we trundled, up through Jeffries Passage (phnaar phnaar said the Actress to the Bishop) and there on the other side was the Holy Trinity Church with a big sign outside saying "Lace & Tweed Vintage Fair".

Set in a beautiful Anglican Red-brick church in the centre of Guildford, the Holy Trinity was built on the site of a Medieval Church that collapsed in the 18th Century.  It is thought the foundations of the church are Norman.  There were so many beautiful things on first sight, it was difficult to know where to start looking.  The first stall I stumbled across was a stall selling the  most beautiful 1920s and 30s dresses, some with their tags still on, having never been worn!

Musicians and a live DJ played on the stage and a backdrop of Black and White movies were being played.  We sifted through rails of clothes and mounds of jewellery.  Rhiannon had found a vintage scarf and I had spied a vintage brooch.  Lorna was umming and ahht's really hard going to a ring about a dress and Rachel was meant to be looking for a birthday present for her friend but ended up buying for herself!

With so many pretty things to buy and reasonably priced too, it can be all too easy to get carried away and spend a small fortune on stuff that you don't even want!  I was very good and managed to contain myself but then that's because I have trip to New York coming up and I was saving all my pennies for a trip to Brooklyn's flea markets and thrift shops.  Oh my God, I can hardly wait!!!

There was a hair and beauty pop-up parlour and Lorna said she wanted to have her hair and make-up done so we eagerly watched while she was made up 1940s style with me snapping away with the before and after shots.  For £10, Lorna had eyeliner flicked on her eyelids and Victory Rolls put in her hair and Lorna became Lana, a beautiful starlet from the 1940s!

Aww look how beautiful Lorna looks!

It was a unusually warm day today (yes I know it's the first day of June and June is in the Summer but it had been cold and raining that week) and Rachel and I were gasping for a drink, a cold drink.  Handy there was a large vintage tea room then!  I'd say this was the biggest bargain of the day because for £2.70 we got a cup of tea and plus a top up and a large slab of homemade cake!  Lemon Sponge, Carrot Cake, Victoria Sponge, Scones with Jam and Clotted Cream, Chocolate Brownies, the list went on...  There was even homemade lemonade!  After a hard morning of mooching, supping tea and scoffing cake was well deserved.

And best dressed goes this lovely lady...


Get the Gatsby Look May 26 2013

Seeing "The Great Gatsby" the other night has inspired me to write about how to replicate the glamorous fashion of the Roaring Twenties from from drop-waist tea dresses and head scarves to crisp bow ties and spectator shoes.  You don't have to dress head-to-toe in it, you could just pick out a few items that replicate the style of Jay Gatsby or Daisy Buchanan.  Just mix and match, using items from a variety of lower-priced stores like H&M, Accessorize, Primark and eBay.  I picked up a lovely strand of knotted faux pearls from TK Maxx for £7 by the Danish jewellery makers "Pilgrim".

Lace Jacket - River Island Sale £10
Vintage Faux Pearl Necklace - Ebay £5
Vintage Box Bag - Present from my Mummy when I had Chicken Pox!
Turquoise T-Bar Shoes - Carvela Sale £15

 

You could also sift through secondhand shops and vintage fairs that evoke the era although, actual clothes from the 1920s will be expensive so try to replicate the look cheaply rather than spending a small fortune (unless you want to of course.)

You can easily pull together plenty of fashions and accessories that reflect 1920s glamour by just searching the racks of less-expensive clothing stores like H&M and Primark.  Half the fun can be in the treasure hunt.

Plenty of fashion stores offer such looks as drop-waist dresses in lace or embellished with sequins or beads and head scarves.  Accessorize are doing pretty turbans and embellished clutch bags that are very 1920s.

Looking for a strand of Faux Pearl and T-bar shoes with a small heel?  Shop at low-priced shops like Primark, you could easily pick up both a Faux Pearl necklace and a pair of shoes for about £15 or less!  Pin a Feather or Diamanté brooch to your turban and wrap a string of Faux Pearls around your neck and voila! you have my dahhling, the Flapper Girl look!

Beaded Bag - Accessorize

And boys, if you don't want to wear a Pale Pink suit like Jay Gatsby, you could wear a Pale Pink vest and matching jacket with a Beige pair drop-crotch skinny fit jeans with Slip-on Boat Shoes without socks.  Just don't roll the sleeves up on your jacket or you'll end up looking like Crockett and Tubbs from Miami Vice!  We're talking 1920s here not 1980s!

Betsy Blue has some beautiful decadent brooches for sale from the Art Deco period.   Art Deco is possibly my favourite era, I just love the smooth clean lines of the furniture and architecture and the glitz and glamour of the fashion from that time.  I am an old romantic at heart.  Here are just a few Art Deco brooches on the website..