20/52 – The Shard and The Tower of London

My housemate Tom invited me to a business breakfast event hosted by the Times. It was a debate about Britain’s place in the European Union hosted by Business Editor Richard Fletcher, with Roland Rudd and David Buik on the panel, representing each side of the debate.

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 And there was food. And it was hosted on the 22nd floor of the Shard. That’s what swung it for me, to be honest. That being said, it was actually a really interesting and well organised event, and even for a political newbie like me, the lively debate was easy to understand, and the Q and A session was handled really well by the panel.

The best thing was the incredible location- The Shard is such a fancy place, and the floor to ceiling windows make for amazing panoramic views of the city, and an incredible space for seminars and meetings. I especially loved the little glass capsules tucked into each corner for ‘concentration’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘contemplation’. Tom and I spent a long time in the contemplation pod contemplating how much we like the decor and the view, and wondering exactly why somebody had decided to hang (apparently real) orchids upside down from the ceiling. A strange choice for indoor plants, but it looked awesome.

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After the seminar, we headed across the Bridge and down to the Tower of London. It’s a really gorgeous area, right next to the river, and although it costs £18 (£18!!!!) to actually go into the tower, nobody will stop you from heading around the outside (towards the pier) where there’s an ice-cream bar, benches in the sun overlooking the Thames, and great views of the castle (which is actually such a cool and impressive structure, which seems so out of place in the middle of London!)

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Just past the bridge from this lovely spot is St Katherine’s Docks. A calm secluded spot, frequented in the summertime by families and sunbathers relaxing on their boats. There’s a small row of shops and cafés, and a tiny Starbucks ideally located next to the water. It’s actually such a nice place, I really really loved it. I can’t get over how nice this area is, (as you can probably tell). It’s so worth a visit.

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Before you rush over to the Tower of London to enjoy the gorgeous weather, head over to the Times+ website (click here) where you can see Tom and I in pride of place (scroll through the pictures until you get to the last one. That’s still sort of pride of place right?) and read more about the event we went to. I’m sort of an expert on the EU now. #winner.

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Big Love,

PV x

T-shirt to Crop Top DIY

It’s actually so hot in London I’m feeling the need to complain about it.

Boooo.

Anyway, I have this huge weirdly shaped t-shirt which, due to my hoarding tendencies, I have been hanging on to because I love the whimsical watermelon design. I like this watermelon themed shirt so much that I decided to make it wearable by transforming it into a tied crop top which I can wear in Turkey (not long before I go – eeee!)

I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I’m happy that I got to hang on to the shirt, because I really do think it’s so cute - the buttons are shaped like watermelon seeds! (yep, lame, I know – I don’t even like the taste of watermelons – I think the heat has made me insane)

Here’s how I did it:

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First, work out what length you want your t-shirt to be cropped to, and mark this on the back (turn the t-shirt inside out first if it has a bold pattern) with a pencil. On the front of your t-shirt, create a ‘V’ shape, and cut out both, leaving approximately a centimetre to hem later.

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Your shirt should now look like a strange sort of swimsuit. This is good.
To make the ‘ties’ on the front, simply cut a straight line from the bottom of the ‘V’ which ends in line with the sides of your shirt.

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All that’s left is to sew a small hem around all of the newly created raw edges, and you’re good to go! It really is that easy. I’ve ruined an incalculable amount of t-shirts by ‘experimenting’ with scissors (actually, encouraged by the success of this t-shirt makeover, I ruined a perfectly good vest just this afternoon by trying to create a macrame effect.. oops), but this method is pretty foolproof, and easy to do in under an hour.

Plus… how cute is that watermelon design?! I need to stop…

Big Love,

PV x

19/52 – Box Park, Shoreditch

I was supposed to post this post yesterday but instead I sat in the garden and ate ice cream. Awkies. (Or, as my sister would say, ‘Nnnnaughty’. Actually she’d probably say awkies too. Such a refined creature <3 )

Anyway, London is total, full-on, heatwave-city at the moment. Everytime I step out my front door I worry that my face will melt off. This being said, with the help of a large iced drink, and some serious determination, I made the ten minute walk from my workplace on Liverpool Street to the Boxpark pop up which stands next to Shoreditch High Street station.

Constructed out of huge shipping containers stacked two storeys high, the small complex is certainly a haven for a certain kind of hipster with a penchant for really good thai food. Each shipping crate is a tiny pop up shop – often a miniature version of a niche online store, although there are some big players and popular brands represented too.

Just five minutes from Brick Lane (specifically Brick Lane Beigels, awww yissss), the complex is ideally located, and surrounded by some pretty rad graffiti which means it’s definitely worth a visit for a shopping trip with a bit of a difference, or just to grab lunch in the sunshine.

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One of my favourite stores was this lovely little gift shop, #TuschUndEgon, full of all sorts of strange and wonderful little gifts, prints and sculptures.  I love these ‘See no, Hear no, Speak no’ gnomes. Even though they’re totally hideous, they’re gold and the more I looked at them, the more I started to find them kind of cute. Just me? And these tiny frames with Starwars lego mini figures? So cool (and probably super easy to DIY!)

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A couple of units further down, #PlayfulPromises had a gorgeous selection of dresses and bikinis, as well as some really nice underwear and accessories. I found a gorgeous pansy print bikini, and I adore those pink dresses, especially the floral print one. They seemed so reasonably priced, and such high quality – it’s really nice to find something that’s a little more unique than high street options.

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#BeautyMart has a fantastically curated selection of make up which you wouldn’t necessarily find on the high street – and it’s displayed so temptingly! The bright colour mix in this pop up is such a great example of why these miniature shops make such a cool shopping experience. The beauty mart capsule is like a little wonderland of fluorescent skincare (Yes, I realise what I just said, and yes, I know it’s lame). The #Marimekko store is similarly enticing, and although it’s realllly pricey, some of the smaller items like the mugs or notebooks would make really lovely gifts.

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If you’re hungry, and you’re sick of bagels (pfft, like you could ever be sick of bagels), the top floor has a great seating area in the sunshine, and some great restaurants offering thai, mexican and fusion foods, as well as some cafes and even a cute little pie shop. (Am I the only person who would never eat a pie from a café because #SweeneyTodd ?)

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I hope you’re making the most of this gorgeous sunshine! I’m spending my days making frappucino’s for fraught business people and impossibly large groups of Italian school kids, but you could probably achieve the same effect by ruthlessly throwing milk all over yourself, and then deep conditioning your hair with syrup and chocolate chips. It’s a super good look.

Big Love, PV x

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Begin Again

(I got to see two amazing films this week, The Fault in Our Stars, and Begin Again, and I thought I’d share my thoughts – go watch them if you can, they’re both definitely worth seeing. )

Begin Again

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This film starts with a bit too much of Mark Ruffalo’s nearly-naked body. He’s very hairy, but totally rugged and a little bit cute, so I suppose that’s okay. Mark, who plays Dan, an ageing record producer with a drink problem, soon becomes an ageing ex-record producer with a drink problem, no job, and a moody teenage daughter who lives with his estranged wife, Miriam, and enjoys playing the bass guitar loudly and tunelessly while radiating teenage angst.

Meanwhile, Greta, played by Keira Knightley, arrives hopefully in New York with her boyfriend and song-writing partner Dave (Adam Levine), only to find herself broken hearted three weeks later as Dave gets signed to a record label, and leaves to go on tour, growing an awful beard and leaving poor Keira to move into the delightfully chaotic little flat owned by her friend and aspiring music producer, Steve* (James Corden).

Greta and Dan meet at rock bottom, and as Dan convinces Greta to let him produce an album for her, after stumbling across her at an open-mic night in the east village (and slurrily assuring her that he is a record producer, and not a homeless man – why women in films agree to these kinds of things is quite beyond me), their business partnership turns into a really adorable friendship, which was probably my favourite aspect of the whole film. The chemistry is perfect, and the pair seem to have a real affinity, and affection for, each other, bonding over a mutual love of music, and a shared passion for the purity of recording, without the over-production and over-management of a record label.

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With this in mind (and having just been fired from his job at a record label), Dan suggests an ‘outdoor album’, and using a makeshift setup in the back of his car (courtesy of Steve – played hilariously by James Corden), he and Greta, along with their band, (an adorable motley crew comprised mainly of  bored musicians poached from music schools, where they are sick of playing ‘f**cking Vivaldi’) travel across New York City, creating an album which is filled with the sounds of life and summer.

I have to say I absolutely loved this film, it is funny, it has great character, and, although I am a great lover of Hugh Grant films myself (just don’t tell anyone!), I found that Begin Again had a lot more to say for itself than some of the more cliché productions of its genre. Most of all, I think this is because it is not a ‘romcom’, and although it explores Greta’s complex relationship with her boyfriend, and Dan’s complex love for his wife, it is primarily about the friendship between Dan and Greta, and Dan’s attempts to rebuild his relationship with his daughter Violet. It is not a love story, it is a story about love, and that is so refreshing, and pretty heartwarming to boot.

Although James Corden is fantastic, and it is impossible not to like him (as always), I worry that he is cast here as the ‘jolly friend’, and I would have liked to see his character developed beyond this categorisation. There are a few cringey moments, such as the incredible bass solo which Dan’s angsty daughter suddenly produces, which creates a neat cinematic bonding moment with her Dad but is a little unbelievable, especially as Miriam stated pretty explicitly in the previous scene: ‘she’s terrible at guitar, Dan. She really is terrible.’  However, these are all things which only occurred to me upon reflection, and they didn’t impact at all upon how delightful and uplifting this film is. The music is fantastic, the setting is beautiful, and Dan’s scenes, especially one mid-recording where he bargains with a group of kids to try and get them to keep the noise down, and ends up giving them each ‘five dollars, two puffs of a cigarette and a box of matches’ – genius.

This film will make you happy, and if that’s not a reason to go and see it, I don’t know what is.

 

(L-R) KEIRA KNIGHTLEY and MARK RUFFALO star in BEGIN AGAIN

Big Love, PV x

*Nobody in this film has a particularly interesting name. Dan, Steve and I’ve already forgotten the other one. They should have been called Rocket, Zodor and Tyrion. #justasuggestion …

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Above: Violet angstily eats ice-cream with Greta (in a scene which is actually really sweet and funny. Hailee Steinfield plays Violet so perfectly.)

The Fault in Our Stars

(I got to see two amazing films this week, The Fault in Our Stars, and Begin Again, and I thought I’d share my thoughts – go watch them if you can, they’re both definitely worth seeing. )

The Fault in Our Stars

‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars.
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

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You know how sometimes, you just want to sob so hard that you’re afraid you’re going to choke? Nope? Just me? Well, if the urge ever strikes you, The Fault in Our Stars is really, properly, tears-streaming-down-your-face-and-making-your-t-shirt-soggy, just plain sad. It’s heartbreaking. But that’s how you know it’s a good movie. It really, really makes you feel something.

John Green has created an unexpected sensation with his most recent young adult novel, based around the crazy adorable love story of two teenagers on the brink of adulthood, and the friends and experiences which they have along the way.

Except that Hazel and Gus both have cancer. And that’s the thing about cancer. It’s not a fantasy foe which can be vanquished with some uplifting music and moments of sudden epiphany. And that full on sucks.

But don’t think for a second that the film is not funny. It is witty, and clever, and joyful, and Gus, who literally bumps into Hazel (and then into a door) at ‘Cancer Kid Support Group’, was actually massively annoying to me at first because he is so cocky, (in one of his first scenes he casually puts an unlit cigarette to his lips, and explains to Hazel that it’s a metaphor – ‘you put the killing thing between your teeth, but you do not give it the power to kill you’. If I was Hazel I would have told him that it was a stupid metaphor and a waste of money, but..) but he won me over, and by the end I think I was just as much as love with him as Hazel was.

The pair exchange adorable text messages, favourite books, and eventually, despite Hazel’s declining health, travel to Amsterdam to meet the author of ‘An Imperial Affliction’, Hazel’s literary obsession.

Shailene Woodley, the actress who plays Hazel, is dazzling from the start, and the chemistry between Augustus Waters (‘Gus’, played by Ansel Elgortt) and Isaac (Nat Wolff), his on (and off) screen best buddy, is absolutely perfect, and leads to some heartwarming (and heartbreaking) scenes.

4   Above: Shailene Woodley (Hazel), Nat Wolff (Isaac), Ansel Elgort (Augustus), John Green (Author and all around badass) are greeted by an adoring audience as the cult novel is turned into a box office hit.

Without going into too much detail about the plot, (no spoilers!), I can say that it is a funny, tragic story which explores the enormity of being alive, being in love, and if you have ever been seventeen, or head-over-heels for anybody, it will make your little heart happy to watch Hazel and Gus as they fall in love with each other. And then you’ll cry. You’ll cry a lot.

Ultimately, what is so uniquely heartbreaking is that it is just so unfair. There is no hope of a happy ending here. I think I was crying for a solid half hour at the end of the film because I knew what was going to happen, and I knew there was no saving grace. The writing engages deftly with the audience’s emotions throughout, (at one point I found myself both laughing and crying), and this truly is John Green at his best. Although it is really sad stuff, it’s a film which is definitely worth seeing. The Fault in Our Stars is amazing – as a book, as a movie, and as a portrayal of teenage love; the explosive, tragic nature of loss, and the brutality of cancer in young people (and, in all people). It might make you ugly-cry in front of a cinema full of strangers*, but that’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt. **

*(luckily a- it’s dark, and b- they’ll be sobbing into their popcorn too)

** from, An Imperial Affliction

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#ontheblog tomorrow – Begin Again - another amazing film, with much less sobbing and more James Corden (although admittedly also much less Shailene Woodley, who may have to be my future wife… ) Big Love, PV x

Ten Minute DIY – Jewellery Display

H A N G

Since I moved in, my jewellery has been sitting sadly in a tiny box on my bookcase, getting tangled and forgotten, so I came up with a quick DIY solution which means it can be on display.

This really is an easy fix, and all it took was a cheap cork board from Wilko (here), and some gold metallic paint (which I’m now tempted to paint all over everything I own – and which I also used for my polka dot table runner, here. The paint also happens to be from Wilko and can be purchased here)

Start off with a medium sized pin board (or a massive one if you have a ton of jewellery!), and use masking tape and metallic paint to first tape and then paint your chosen design. I love this metallic paint because it’s actually very subtle, and adds a slightly iridescent shine which only shows up from certain angles. The geometric design I chose turned out to be very fiddly to measure correctly, so I chose not to worry too much about precision. I think simple stripes, more polka dots, or diamonds would also look fab.

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Once the paint has dried, lay the pin board flat, and experiment with the best ways to display your jewellery. I used simple drawing pins to pin my necklaces in place once I was happy with the layout, and pinned binder clips to the board to make little ‘hooks’ for pairs of earrings.  Stud earrings, rings and bracelets are stored in the pink dish which I thrifted for my bedside table, and everything fits just perfectly. I just love that everything is on display, and nothing has to be tangled up.

IMG_5251 IMG_5250My bedside table has had yet another change around, with the addition of this lovely shell dish which I snagged from the Laura Ashley sale (for about 20p – that sale was so good!)

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The hanger is not only a lovely way to store my jewellery, I love the way it looks, too! I’m sure I’ll be switching up this little part of my room again soon, but for now I’m so happy with this super quick DIY.

Give it a try, and get your lovely jewellery out on display :)

Big Love, PV x

 

100 Happy Days

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This week, I finished my #100happydays challenge (which I introduced here) and I can’t believe how fast the time has gone!

I’ve really enjoyed collecting together all of my happy moments, and it’s no surprise that most of my pictures are full of the smiling faces of my friends and family. It also seems like food and home decor projects are my true happy place, again no surprises, what a wild life I lead and all that ;)

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It actually made me reflect a lot on how I’ve grown up over the past couple of years. I’ve even stopped blagging child tickets on the train, (from which I learnt that being an adult feels just the same as being a child, but it’s more expensive) and now own things like a food processor, an iron, and a ‘sensible’ pair of shoes (shudder). These things aside, (please lets not talk about the shoes again, I sound like I’m middle aged!), the Happy Days challenge made me think that the biggest part of growing up is feeling less entitled to, and more responsible for, happiness (your own and other peoples).

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When you’re a kid it is your parents’ sole job to make you laugh, feed you delicious milkshake, and be the general guardian of your happiness and your heart’s desires (if your parents ever try and tell you that they actually have other jobs and don’t have time to feed your happiness with delicious milkshake, this is a slanderous lie).

But eventually, you have to be responsible for your own happiness and your own delicious milkshakes (it would be useful at this point if you happen to work at a coffee shop and have around the clock access to their stash of sugary treats and a blender… Double chocolate, caramel and marshmallow smoothie, anyone?)

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that recently, more and more, I have found myself consciously choosing to be happy. I choose to celebrate the little things, and I choose to turn bad days around by letting something insignificant, like a new book or a short phone call, make me happy. This doesn’t mean that I’m never sad, or that I never spend time sulking because I’ve run out of tuna, but I have realised that life is simply too short, and I might as well decide to be happy.

Okay, happiness rant over, the challenge also allowed me to take gratuitous selfies and force my housemates to pose for photos (while insisting that they ‘try and look natural!’). It was really fun, and I love having a record of the things which cheer me up.

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To get involved, start posting, collecting and tagging your photos, I think it’s definitely worth doing.

Choose Happy :)

Big Love, PV x