[Feature] LK Bennett x Vente Privee

Some of you may have noticed from my Instagram feed that a couple of weeks ago I was spoilt to a day in Paris courtesy of LK Bennett and Vente Privee.  Well as fun as it was, it wasn't in fact just a jolly - it was to film a video called "Where Will LK Bennett Take You?" for the exciting news that LK Bennett are holding a private sale starting this morning at 6am (if you happened to have been awake). Most items between 50 and 70% off (including all items in the video. Shop the sale here.

If you haven't heard of Vente Privee before (tut tut) it's an online private members club (with a modest 20 million subscribers) that do flash sales throughout the week.  In honesty, I have only just become a member and already bagged some great bargains from Stella McCartney, La Perla and Moschino - it really is very good.  They notify you by email the day of the sale, which is handy too.  Sign up here if you fancy it.

So here are the pictures of me trying to calm and cool around the camera (who can around that number of pairs of shoes though, really?).  As an additional little "thank you" from LKB and Vente Privee, having watched the video here, which is titled "Where Will LK Bennett Take You?" comment below (with a contact detail of some description) and we will choose the person who comes up with the most inspired answer to that very question... The winner, shall become the owner of this Kelly bag (which I have genuinely been after for ages, it's gorgeous!

Thank you so much to Holly from LK Bennett and Sophia and the team from Vente Privee. A wonderful day was had!


[Feature] Having A Dog In London

I've been meaning to do this post for a long time, as people ask me a lot about how I manage having Lopez around work and living in London.  So, when Argos approached me (or rather, Lopez) about doing a post it made more than sense to do so. I'd wanted a dog for so long, but having been brought up with cats I had absolutely no experience with them so when it came to getting one I really was going into the idea "cold."

Lopester and I have been a team for nearly 3 years.  I first met him when he was 3 weeks old and fitted neatly into my hand (as above).  I knew from the moment he peed all over me that we were meant to be together.   I've popped some basic tips if you're thinking of getting a dog below, but in essence it's quite simple: If you have the time, the patience and the available resources, dog ownership is one of the most rewarding things you can ever take on.  

On a day to day basis I use sites like PetsPyjamas and StyleTails to keep tabs on where is dog friendly in London. As a general rule all London transport systems are dog friendly.  Drivers can say no to a dog if there is already one on board and/or your dog is making a noise/growling etc. Friends like Rose, Angie and Rosie have dogs too, so we often share tips on where to go thats dog friendly in town (or sneak the dogs in carefully). As a rule the bigger the chain of restaurants/hotels/venues you are going to, the more likely they are anti-dog. If it's privately owned then it's more likely they'll say yes.  Some positively embrace dogs, examples of those are here.

My vet told me to start as I meant to go on, so he's very confident about getting on the tube and isn't really scared of anything (except when buses rush past him, he hates that).  The same with being left alone; I knew he was going to be on his own for at least a few hours every day. So as much as it killed me to leave something the size of a rubber duck in my flat alone, I did it from the word "go."  As a result, I have one very chilled, laid back dog.  

Some important things to consider:
  1. Insurance - Do it.  Don't even think about it.  At first when they're really little you think "why do I pay this money every month" - but once they mature it will save you £100s.  I've already saved over double what I've spent on Lopez' in one visit to the vet.  Trust me, when they get ill (which happens, and it's horrible) you don't want to be in a position that you can't pay for what they need.  Try Argos for good pet insurance deals.
  2. Landlord permission - Make sure you have it. I was lucky enough to have a fabulous landlord at the time who was more than willing for me to have Lopez - my flat had outside space, so on the understanding that Lopez would be housetrained immediately he had no problem with it.  However I know of people who have had to give up their dogs, or got in trouble for not notifying landlords - it is probably against your contract not to do so. As a tip, if you rent through an estate agent try and speak to the owner directly - agents often say 'no' immediately without actually asking. I wrote a letter to mine explaining the breed, how often he'd be left alone etc... So there were no surprises.
  3. Housetraining - Be strong, dogs will only do something if they understand they have to. It's terribly hard to tell off something so cute, but if you want nice carpets and shoes for the next 15 or so years you really need to be firm with this one.  A friend, Barry has an excellent dog fitness/training/general discipline company called The Dog Jogger if ever you need someone. 
  4. Friends / Family - You really do need a network.  I'm lucky in that I have close friends and family in London I can call on. However, you do need to have a Plan B and thats definitely something I fell short on until recently. I'd recommend sites like Borrow My Doggy to help you find regular, trustworthy sitters. It's really important to me that Lopez feels as relaxed as possible when he's away from home, or I'm away so I try to use the same group of people to help when I'm on holiday or away with work.
  5. Work - Not all companies are dogs friendly, and I'm lucky enough to have worked for a couple. In truth, if they're not then it does make it very difficult for you - I'd find it near on impossible.  You just can't leave them all day, and a dog walker for an hour just doesn't provide enough company for any dog (in my opinion).  If you're desperate for one, then try asking neighbours who stay at home if the dog could spend mornings/afternoons with them - otherwise, for me it's a no-go. If you can take them to the office, make sure they're house trained too and there is a degree of routine too.  Lopez knew what time "walkies" was, where he could play and who wanted a cuddle from him.  Be strict.
  6. Breed - I'm completely biased but the Maltese breed is a total winner for me.  Incredibly loyal, calm and fun to be around.  They also like time to themselves so leaving Lopez on his own for half a day isn't a problem - I start to notice he wonders off to a quiet part of the flat on to get some "alone time" if we're together all day.  Him being a smaller breed is very handy too, I can literally pick him up and take him on the tube/bus/train. I'd absolutely recommend something this size for London living - friends who have taken more energetic dogs (Lopez needs 20 mins walking a day) have struggled. 
  7. Other dogs - I think it's really important to have other dogs around as much as possible.  The few friends I do have in London with dogs think the same, so we schedule playdates as much as we can.  I can really see Lopez's mood change after a solid afternoon's play, and it's lovely to watch!
As always, if you are thinking about owning a dog and want any tips then feel free to email Lopez and ask his humble opinion.  He will do anything for a biscuit.  I hope this information helps you in some way.  Getting Lopez was the best decision I ever made; the love you get from a dog makes any bad day into a good one!  You can follow Lopez' London adventures via his very own hashtag on Instagram: #theLopezdiaries, enjoy! Goodbye from us!

Photos (where professional and not my phone), Nancy Gibbs. This post was sponsored by Argos Pet Insurance.


[Trend] Darling Buds of May

Not sure about you but for the last week or two I've been a bit stuck for inspiration with summer dressing.  The confused weather (one minute I'm baking, the next I'm running as quickly as I can for a jumper) doesn't help - but neither did any of my usual go-tos for inspiration.  Yesterday I was walking down the Kings Road in the rain when I spotted Hobbs' shop window.  Finally, some "cheer me up" clothes. It reminded me of a lovely floral jacket I bought from Warehouse years ago, which I promptly put on (below) for the afternoon.

floral jacket, Warehouse (old) similar here / dress, Claudie Pierlot / shoes, LK Bennett

I then set on the hunt for floral fancy purchase for this season.  It has been hard to choose.  It's always tempting to spend half and hour lusting over the £2,000 Mary Katrantzou dresses but once I came to my senses I had a look around some more sensible price points (with a few "sillies" chucked in for fun). Here are my findings, high and low:

Ok so the D&G dress is a little unrealistic... But we can dream, no?  The Hobbs one is very similar, and what you can't see from the photo is how good the fabric is, totally dreamy.  I've spotted 2 or 3 girls wearing this around near me, probably on route to the Chelsea Flower Show... Topshop have made a strong effort with the shoes and top, and about 200 other floral items in their range at the moment.  And (below) Warehouse makes a rare appearance on the blog these days, but the floral shirt is gorgeous! What do you think?



[Outfit] How We Wore It: The Reiss Bryana Skirt

Well here is an exciting project myself, Monica and Wendy have been putting together for a while.  Having become friends through the blogging world we giggled about how similar our basic tastes were, but how we often styled the same basics in different ways.  With that in mind we've partnered with Reiss to show how you how we would style a piece from their new collection, namely the gorgeous striped Bryana Skirt.

I went for a "workwear" look, pairing my skirt up with a simple blue shirt and some lovely black heels (also from Reiss, meet the Jades).  The skirt is shorter than I'd usually wear, but the stripes (and you know how much I love a Breton stripe) somehow make it a bit more office appropriate.  The fabric really reminds me of Burberry's collection from a couple of seasons ago.  I know I'm going to get a lot of wear out of this already... my knits and bits are very excited to get partnered with this later in the year...

Have a look at the other girls' styling ideas on their blogs (Monica here, and Wendy here).  Monica's is no doubt bright-brave, and Wendy is renown for her daytime-to-playtime outfits.  We'll be tweeting our looks and favourite Reiss pieces (sorry, couldn't resist) this week, follow our choices on Twitter with the hashtag #HowWeWoreIt.  Hope you all have a good week!



[Outfit] Claudie Pierlot + win my Ray-Ban Erikas!

Sorry for the mini hiatus, I had an unexpectedly busy week last week.  But I'm back, and with a very cool little competition for you guys.  The lovely team at Sunglasses Shop asked me to pick a pair of my favourite "funglasses" (see what I did there) for this summer.  It wasn't a difficult task, these cobalt Ray-Ban Erikas have been on my wish-list for a while.  They're a bit different, a definite upgrade on my mirrored lenses from last year (that sadly died a sad death on a taxi car seat).

I'd imagine anyone who is naturally into the whole festival vibe could make these look amazing with denim cut offs and cropped tees, but as I'm still a bit of a classic girl at heart (and we were taking th e pictures in my back garden, apologies for the dog, ball and hose pipe on display) I put mine with my ever faithful Jaeger bomber jacket, new-in babydoll dress from Claudie Pierlot's Flirt Collection (if you haven't already checked out this French brand, I very much suggest you do) and my LK Bennett Floretes.

Enough of my wittering on, here is the important stuff: How to enter! 

If you're up for a chance of winning, you must like the Sunglasses Shop Facebook page (here) and mine (here).  Leave a comment below with your name, email and Twitter handle. A winner will be picked (out of a hat, or bowl... whatever I can find) on Sunday evening and announced via my Twitter. Good luck!

Psst - people who tweet, instagram or facebook this get extra votes. This post was in collaboration with Sunglasses Shop, all photos (as always) by Nancy Gibbs.



[Food] The King of Currys at Moti Mahal, Covent Garden

I've been meaning to blog about this for a long time, but in truth I kind of quite like this place being my little secret.  Last month Ben and I had "date night" as the guests of Covent Garden curry house, Moti Mahal.  Tucked away just beyond the Opera House, as soon as we walked in I knew it was going to be something special. For one, take all assumptions of it being a curry house straight from your mind.  In fact calling it a curry house does it no justice - this is fine Indian cuisine.

Anyone expecting a korma and a standard onion bhaji, this place isn't for you.  If you're looking to really get to grips with what Indian food can be like then you'll have a ball.  The menu is split across the different regions of India, so the meat dishes are inspired by the inland areas, and the fish dishes are age-old recipes from the country's coastal districts.  We had salmon and scallops to start, I tried the butter chicken (one of Moti's most famous dishes) whilst Ben went for a red snapper curry.  I also tried mince-stuffed naan bread - no naan bread will ever live up to expectation after that, even if it was a meal in itself!

What really stood out for me was the wine menu (obviously).  The sommelier (see, told you it was different - how many Indian restaurants have you been to with one of those?) really knew his stuff.  By the time we'd sipped down a bottle of white and eaten our starters and mains we were full to the brim, but we decided to rest for a bit and try dessert.  All I can say is, try the pineapple with pistachio rice pudding. Amazing.

Expense wise, it wasn't too bad.  Granted, it's not somewhere you would go every weekend, but neither does it want to be.  Moti Mahal is a very special restaurant and the price is very much on par with the service and food (I think it was around £50 per head including wine, which we had a lot of). Sorry for the stock imagery, but the restaurant was quite dark so impossible to take good photos without using a flash - and as the restaurant was packed I didn't want to be that annoying person.  In a nutshell, if you're looking something a bit different and know you like the usual Indian flavours, I absolutely recommend you go to Moti Mahal.

*Thank you to the lovely team at Moti Mahal and Grace at PRCO for organising our meal.


[Trend] Palm Prints

lovely denim palm print shirt / swimsuit - get exact one here

Maybe it's just having returned from LA (or more specifically having visited The Beverly Hills hotel) but palm prints seem to be everywhere at the moment.  I first spotted them on this Reiss bikini (pretty much sold out, but if your size remains please buy it as it's beautiful). I then walked pass Zara yesterday spotting this dress and this beauty in the window... You only have to look at the 30+ items in Topshop (here) to have it confirmed this is very much a trend for summer...

Blair Eadie in her bomber jacket (buy her exact jacket from Shopbop, here) / another swimsuit!

Personally my favourite bits are the green ones, but the prints seem to be popping in all sorts of colours - and the accessories (like the Edie Parker one below) are super fun.  It's sort of a Hawaiian feel but somewhere not prim - not just for surfer dudes or post-beach outfits. ASOS have tonnes of the prints, but as they don't have flat cut images on their site I couldn't include them on the boards; check out this (reduced from £131 to £20!) and this if you're after something for a teeny price.  Anything to keep up hope of summer, right?



[Travel] A Few Days in Las Vegas...

Paris hotel, with a mini Lourve, Opera and Eiffel Tower / The floral fairground in The Wynn

Following on from my LA round up we moved on to the one and only Las Vegas.  I didn't really know what to expect, other than craziness.  The drive took around 4 hours (4 and a half if you include stopping to take some outfit post pictures - here) through the desert before you suddenly find yourself in a metropolis.  It's a surreal experience during the day; wandering through Paris, New York, Egypt... Crazy.  We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel just off the main strip, which I'd recommend to anyone looking for a solid night's sleep in a good bed with a very good pool outside.  The rooms are pretty basic, but when in Vegas you aren't going to be spending much time there. For £50 a night, I thought it was brilliant.

The famous Ceasar's Palace / The Alice in Wonderland garden inside The Bellagio

The hotel had it's own casino and restaurants (from Nobu to diners to juice bars) but we were keen to get straight into the thick of it in the centre of town, so we hopped in a cab and had a drink in The Cosmopolitan, before eating some outstanding Spanish food (including croquettes out of a shoe) in Jaleo.  It was there the sheer size of the hotels there dawned on me.  Think of it as a Westfield for shopping, drinking and gambling.  There is no reason you'd ever need to leave; you can even smoke inside.  We moved on and went to The Bellagio, watching the famous fountains before going on to view the beautiful Alice in Wonderland style gardens inside the hotel.  We then went and lost $20 each on the roulette machines before heading to bed.

Eating tapas out of a shoe at Jaleo / The Bellagio's famous fountains at night

On the second day it rained. It happens 4 times a year and it happened to us. So Olivia and I went over to Premium Outlets where I bought about £500 worth of J Crew current season pieces for $80.  I can't recommend it enough if you have the time and want to get away from the casinos for a couple of hours. We next went to my favourite place in Vegas, the Stratosphere Tower.  It's like walking into the 1970s, a total time warp.  We ate (the food... just go with it, luxury it is not - but it's worth if for the experience) in the rotating bar on the 85th floor, meaning you get a 360 view of Vegas and the surrounding desert over lunch. Oh, and people bungee jump from above you as you eat.

Desserts at Buddys, inside The Venetian

In the afternoon we "did" the hotels, which takes a while so here is my summary: Mandalay Bay is the best, something completely luxe about it.  The Wynn is enormous and best seen and night, they also have a floral fairground which you really need to see (we also went to Tryst, their enormous club with a waterfall in it - really, really cool).  The Venetian is an experience, though essentially a shopping mall with a canal - see it, but no need to stick around.  The Palm is looking very tired, but worth visiting to see what Vegas was all about back in the day. We also wondered up to the iconic Vegas sign and watched a couple get married, before photobombing them completely to make sure we got our snaps sorted...

the floral fairground at The Wynn / Photobombing a wedding at the Las Vegas sign

That evening we had a date with the lady herself, Britney Spears.  She is resident at Planet Hollywood at the moment, although she does only do 3 or 4 dates a month.  The stadium only has capacity for 4,000 so it's impossible to get a bad seat, so if you're booking don't worry about being right at the back. It was amazing, even if I'm certain she mimed the whole way through.  She "sang" all of the classics, and some more.  Her dancing isn't quite the same as her Slave 4 U days but with all that nostalgia bouncing off the walls (and sugar from the mojitos) it's impossible not to have a good time.  

slight selfie fail at Britney Spears concert

The next day we went shooting at the Gun Garage where I discovered a new skill for hitting the Bullseye (no one was more surprised than me...) before heading back to LA for a final night. There were lots of things we'd have liked to have squeezed in, but hey - it gives us reason to go back!  We were really surprised to hear the Elvis museum has closed... and I'd have loved to have seen the neon graveyard and to have done the roller coasters at New York New York...

The canal boats in The Venetian / at the shooting range

So, here (in my opinion) are the best things to do in Las Vegas:
. Eat at The Stratosphere and look out for Marg, the waitress from Long Island - she's ace
. Go to the Mandalay Bay hotel and see the sharks and tide machines (not in the same tank), and from there walk to the Vegas sign (10 minute walk)
. Take ID everywhere with you, even if you're 75
. Wear flat shoes, you'll be walking a lot (rather than paying $10 in cabs every half an hour)
. Book things - we fell short as we thought you could just turn up everywhere. Not the case.
. Wear a watch... because you won't find a clock in the whole city

one of Vegas' many wedding chapels

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