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Stylist Live 2015

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Months ago, one of my best friends Lucie messaged me asking if I fancied going to Stylist Live. I’m always up for a weekend in London with my girls so said yes and last weekend we took ourselves off to the Business Design Centre in Islington for the day.

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Upon arrival, we were handed our free tote bags by none other than Dawn O Porter and Edith Bowman (!) before grabbing a glass of free champers and exploring. The venue looked great with iconic Stylist covers hung from the ceiling. I have to admit that I’m not an avid reader of Stylist but I love the fact that their magazine incorporates so much more than just beauty and fashion such as food, art, travel, interior design and all this was reflected by the stalls and talks on offer.

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There were so many wonderful speakers over the four days that this event was on and in an ideal world, I would have liked to come every day! My friend Amy went before me and saw Caitlin Moran speak which I am very jealous about. (She wrote a great review on her blog too!)

We had tickets to see Nigella speak so headed straight there and enjoyed a talk on what food means to her, her take on the latest clean eating trends (just don’t mention juicing!) and there was  also a Q&A session.

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Afterwards, we decided to scope out the venue and stalls. There were beauty treatments and hair styling on offer, book signings, food stalls, make-up stands, gin tasting, candles, stationary, homeware…I was in heaven!

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I didn’t go too crazy but did try my very first Crosstown Doughnut (pumpkin and lemon – bloody delicious!), bought some beautiful Rituals foaming shower gel as well as this amazing goodie bag from Clarins.

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Priced at £20 for the event, I picked up a pretty coral leather make-up bag which contained some Pure Melt Cleansing Gel, a little pot of Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch, some Skin Perfecting BB Cream in 01 Light, a beautiful Blush Prodige in Soft Peach, a tube of Be Long Mascara in Intense Black and a tube of Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector in 01 Rose Shimmer. Along with this bag, I received lots of samples too.

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I am also considering signing up for this monthly postal service from Katie Leamon. This stall had the most beautiful cards, prints and stationary and it would be such a treat to get a monthly delivery full of goodies to use. It’s not that cheap but I love the idea of supporting a new designer so I may give the Christmas edition trial run.

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Around lunchtime the queues were huge for the food places in the venue so we decided to get some fresh air and head down the road to a lovely Spanish restaurant for some grub.

When we returned, we attended the fashion show which showed 5 autumnal fashion trends and was fascinating to watch. We had planned on attending a few more talks but these were in very small rooms and sadly filled up very quickly.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this event. There was a great mix on offer and I loved that there were talks and shows as well as the shopping aspect. As with all first-time events, there are improvements to be made – I would have more selection of places to eat and drink and also ensure the talks were hosted in larger rooms as they filled up too quickly. Would I go again? Yes – it was a lovely girly day out and I came away feeling very inspired and discovered some great new brands.

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Travel Guide – Washington DC

We spent 5 days in Washington DC this summer which felt just right to visit the various iconic monuments and museums dotted around the capital city. Whilst this wasn’t my favourite US city, it is definitely worth a visit and was a lovely ending to our most recent trip.

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EAT

Luke’s Lobster

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I became a little bit obsessed with lobster rolls on our two weeks away and we had a great early evening dinner at Luke’s Lobster where we had crab, prawn and lobster rolls with a few sides.

Shake Shack

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We had an awesome burger here that definitely lived up to the hype.

Oyamel

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We ate at this Mexican restaurant and had an amazing meal. I am used to Mexican street food-style places like Wahaca but this was a much more refined version of my favourite dishes. We had fresh guacamole made at our tables, margaritas and some great fish tacos.

DO

Visit the Newseum

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Probably my favourite museum of our whole trip, the Newseum is just fascinating. I love the ins and outs of the media and seeing how different events are reported around the world and this place had such interesting exhibits. My favourites were the Vietnam War, 9/11 and the Pulitzer Prize winners gallery. I even had a go at some news reporting in the interactive gallery!

Walk through the Sculpture Garden

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We stumbled upon this quite by accident on our way to a museum but it is a lovely little park to have a wander through. The Roy Lichtenstein ‘House 1’ is very cool to view from different angles.

Go and watch The Nationals

We’ve been to see a couple of baseball games in America now and although I’m a little fuzzy on some of the rules, the atmosphere is always great! It also feels like you are doing something non-touristy and on certain nights, there’s a fireworks display after the game and who doesn’t love some fireworks?!

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Take a Bus Tour

We found that Washington DC was very spread out so trying to do everything by foot in the August heat was impractical. We bought tickets for a 2-day hop-on/ hop-off bus tour which took us all over the place.

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Hang out in Georgetown

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My favourite district in DC, this place is so cool and doesn’t feel like a city at all. Im just annoyed we found this on our last day as I would have loved to come back. I did quite a bit of damage in Sephora here!

STAY

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We stayed at the Hyatt Place Hotel and had a bit of a mixed experience. The hotel itself was amazing; probably the best we stayed in during our two weeks away. The room was modern and had a cool lounge area, the staff were ridiculously helpful and there was a really tasty free breakfast option which we took advantage of. If I could pick the hotel up and drop it in a slightly more central location, it would have been perfect. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the nicest area, especially after dark, which just took the shine off our stay.

TIPS

Watch House of Cards before you go!

This brilliant political drama on Netflix gives a great insight into the inner workings of Washington DC and meant we knew quite a few of the famous landmarks before we went.

Travel Guide: Philadelphia

I want to start today’s blog by wishing my lovely husband a Happy 31st Birthday!

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I like to think of Philadelphia as New York’s friendlier, leafier and artier little sister. It is rich in history and was actually Ian’s favourite stop on our East Coast road trip this summer. We both loved our three days here and managed to pack a lot in! Here are my recommendations for a long weekend in this beautiful city.

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EAT

Chifa Food Truck

Found at the Spruce Street Harbor Park, this Peruvian-Japanese fusion may sound like a strange combination but it works brilliantly! We had ribs, chicken wings and fish tacos (pretty much my three favourite foods!) and they were all delicious.

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Franklin Ice Cream

Something of a Philadelphia institution, the ice cream selection was amazing and scoops are served in these cool cardboard boxes too.

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Reading Terminal Market

One of my favourite places in the city, this huge market houses so many different food shops and restaurants, you can get a great meal here. We stopped off for breakfast where I had a hot, buttery pretzel, followed by a doughnut!

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Campo’s

You cannot go to Philadelphia and not have a Philly cheesesteak and my tour guide assures me Campo’s does one of the best! I cannot claim to be an expert but it was pretty damn good.

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The Foodery

Like beer? If so, then you will love this place. Ian and I worked our way through several craft ales and I know we would be here on a weekly basis if we lived nearer! We ate here too which was tasty but the fridges full of beers are the real stars.

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DO

A Bus Tour

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Yes, you will look like a total tourist but we felt that there was so much history in this city and we wanted to find out as much as possible without having to walk around with our heads in a guidebook. We saw things we probably wouldn’t have seen had we just explored the city by foot and our tour guides were all local so we got some good bar and restaurant recommendations from them!

Swing in a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park

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My favourite place in the city! We walked here on our first night and it was amazing to sit by the river as the sun set with cocktails and a selection of food trucks to eat at. You get a fantastic view of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and if you’re lucky, you will find a free hammock to relax in.

Visit the Eastern State Penitentiary

If you fancy a slightly alternative museum then you will love this derelict prison. It was quite spooky in places but I loved wandering around with my audio tour, finding out a bit more about this fascinating site.

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Run up the ‘Rocky Steps’

It’s just got to be done!

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STAY

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We stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton which I would highly recommend. It was very central, had amazing views from the corner windows and you also get warm chocolate chip cookies when you arrive!

Travel Guide: Atlantic City

Next up in my mini-series of Travel Guides is Atlantic City. When people ask me which was my favourite destination from our recent America trip, I have said Atlantic City simply because I love the beach and being by the sea. I think ‘glitz and kitsch’ sums up this place pretty well and it has been known as ‘Vegas by the Sea’. I don’t imagine that you would fly from the UK solely to visit Atlantic City but if you are in New York then I would definitely recommend adding a few days by the beach onto your trip.

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EAT

Wingcraft

Possibly Ian’s favourite restaurant from the entire two week trip, specialising in chicken wings and craft beer. We ate here several times and every meal was great.

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Boardwalk Cupcakes

If you fancy something sweet then this bakery has an amazing selection of cupcakes – I had a red velvet cupcake which was delicious.

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Cuba Libre

Located in the Tropicana Hotel, this Cuban restaurant does a mean rum cocktail and if you are feeling adventurous then I recommend the 15-course tasting menu which takes you on a culinary journey of Cuba…just make sure you are wearing your loosest jeans!

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DO

Explore the Boardwalk

I think the first thing you need to do after you have checked into your hotel is walk the Boardwalk. This four-mile stretch is the heart of Atlantic City and you get beautiful sea views as well as seeing everything the city has to offer. There are nightly light shows, firework displays and performance art as well as a huge selection of shops and restaurants to choose from. The pink sunsets are beautiful too.

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Go to the beach

A huge stretch of white sands, you must spend an afternoon on the beach. The waves are huge so expect to get knocked over at least once!

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Gamble

There are several themed casinos along the Boardwalk so you really should pop inside and try your luck either on one of the roulette tables or with the high rollers playing blackjack. We weren’t very lucky this time around but you never know when you might win big!

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Enjoy the Fairground

Along the Boardwalk is the Steel Pier which has a great little fairground on it. Depending on how brave you are feeling, have a go on one of the rides.

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Shop

Atlantic City has the Tanger Outlet shops and we went a bit crazy! Here you will find your big-named brands like Nike, DKNY, Aldo and Forever 21 and all offer amazing discounts.

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STAY

We stayed at the Atlantic City Sheraton which was a couple of blocks back from the Boardwalk but right next to the Tanger Outlet shops which was fine with me! The rooms were really spacious, there was a Starbucks in the lobby and there was parking too. Whilst our stay here was fine, I think if we came again we would probably stay in one of the hotels along the Boardwalk simply because I love a sea view.

TIPS

One of the best days of our holiday was a day trip we took to Cape May, about  50 minutes away from Atlantic City. If you have a car, you must visit this town, voted the best beach on the Jersey Shore. The beach is stunning and we even spotted a pod of dolphins when we were swimming! My dream is to return here, rent one of the beautiful pastel-coloured houses overlooking the beach and spend the whole summer playing in the waves and exploring the area. We also paid a visit to the Cape May Brewery and worked our way through their various beers which was very fun!

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Travel Guide: New York

Another new feature I thought I would add to the blog following my recent travels was a little series of ‘Travel Guides’. I tend to write a really long, picture-heavy post after I have visited a new place and I thought these mini guides could be a quick read with my highlights including where to eat, what to do and where to stay.

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First up, New York, one of the most vibrant, exciting and fun places to visit. No matter what your interests, there is a never-ending amount of things to do including walking tours, sports, art galleries, shopping, sight-seeing and an amazing variety of places to eat. I have only been to this city twice so this is by no means an exhaustive list but just a few recommendations.

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EAT

Argo Tea

Dotted around the city, these tea shops offer delicious beverages with several free tasters in store!

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South Street Seaport

A very cool district full of great bars and restaurants. We happened upon the Smorgasburg food market when we were there and had some amazing lobster rolls and local beers.

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Tick Tock Diner

Standard, American diner serving great pancakes and other breakfast items.

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Gansevoort Market

A little foodie mecca with some amazing choices for lunch – it is a perfect stop once you have walked The High Line.

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Ellen’s Stardust Diner

Good for breakfast with singing Broadway-trained waiters – a really fun start to the day!

Iguana New York

This Mexican restaurant was next door to our hotel and did the best margaritas.

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Grand Central Station

Not only is the station itself a must-see in my opinion, but there is a great little food court on the lower level which includes Shake Shack, Magnolia Bakery and a lovely soup bar.

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Katz’s Deli

A New York institution, endure the queues as the pastrami and beef brisket sandwiches are worth it!

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DO

Visit Central Park

It’s huge so you can make several visits during your stay and see a different area each time. We went running here in the mornings, strolled in the afternoons and even came for a picnic but there are also outdoor concerts, play areas, a boating lake, sculptures and an outdoor swimming pool in the summer…a beautiful oasis amongst the skyscrapers.

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See a Broadway Show

There is a booth in Times Square where you can get discounted tickets for shows the same day and we took advantage of this to go and watch ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ for my 30th birthday. Times Square at night is a sight to behold too.

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Buy a CityPASS

If you plan on doing several of the major tourist attractions then it is worth looking into this ticket booklet to save some cash. My Mum bought me mine for a birthday present and we ended up visiting the Empire State Building (twice!), the Natural History Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and a ferry tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, all of which I would recommend.

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Walk The High Line

Once an abandoned railway track, this elevated walkway takes you through wild gardens, art installations and food vendors with great views of the local neighbourhoods.

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Go Kayaking on the Hudson River

The Manhattan Community Boathouse offers free half hour kayaking (which is about how long my arms could take!) in a couple of locations. We went at sunset and it was such a fun thing to do!

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STAY

If you want to be near to Central Park and the buzz of Broadway and Times Square, then I would recommend staying at The Ameritania. The staff are incredibly helpful if you need directions or a recommendation, the rooms are clean and modern and there is  a Starbucks over the road for chai tea and free wifi!

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TIPS

Buy a MetroCard for getting around the city. We bought a 7-day card for around $30 and definitely got our money’s worth using it several times a day. The carriages are also air-conditioned which is a godsend in the summer!

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Hand Luggage Beauty

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I feel like I really got it right with my carry-on make-up bag on our recent trip to the States. My skin suffers on a longer flight and rather than spend the first few days of my holiday battling with parched skin, I decided to try a few in-flight treatments that meant I landed feeling fresh and ready to go.

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I used my Birchbox clear plastic bag as it meant I could see everything, it was small (so I couldn’t overpack!) and it met the airport security requirements.

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First up, handcare. I always carry a little bottle of anti-bacterial hand gel and the scented ones from Bath and Body Works are my favourite. To give a little moisture, I am currently loving this Subtle Violet hand cream from L’Occitane.

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In terms of skincare, I didn’t bring any sort of cleanser as we had an early morning flight and I wasn’t wearing any foundation or base product. During the flight, I applied several layers of REN’s Instant Firming Beauty Shot, a great little serum and I had a few blemishes, so used Balance Me’s Congested Skin Serum too. This Vitamin E Face Mist from the Body Shop is a must-have holiday product for me as it is amazing at administering a cooling, refreshing blast in the heat and I like to spritz my face after a few hours on the plane when the air starts to feel a bit stale. I also popped in a travel-sized bottle of Benefit’s Dream Screen so I had some SPF to hand when we landed in the sunshine.

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Finally, some lip products. I applied the Body Shop Lip Butter constantly and brought two lip options for when we landed – a L’Oreal nude lip and a Bourjois statement lip depending on how I felt.

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Dismaland

This weekend, Ian and I braved the crowds and visited the latest ‘bemusement’ park in the South West, Banksy’s Dismaland.

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Hotly anticipated tickets meant the website crashed so for the opening weekend, you could just turn up and try your luck. Having missed his last exhibition in Bristol, Ian and I were determined to see this one down the road from us in Weston-Super-Mare so set our alarms and after a swift 3 and a half our wait (!!!) we were in!

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As soon as you stepped inside the once-derelict Tropicana building, the experience started with in-character staff giving you a very gloomy greeting. My first impressions were of a sad, tired, ageing seaside resort  with a dilapidated castle as a centre point and various attractions dotted around.

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We visited the art galleries first of all which were incredible. A mix of sculpture, art installations, paintings and a whole model village; the subversive art genre was very much alive. My favourites were the tattooed ornaments and the cross-stitched car.

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We spent the next few hours wandering around, watching some short films in deckchairs, riding the big wheel, eating pizza, visiting the exhibits and having a go on both the carousel and rotating caravan.

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Having grown up in a seaside town that is dependent on a holiday park, I loved the social commentary behind a lot of the exhibits here. It was great that there were a variety of artists’ work here and as I would say is normal, there were pieces I enjoyed and others I didn’t. It was refreshing to be able to see these works of art in an alternative setting and despite the rather lengthy queue, I felt once inside the organisers got the numbers just right and there was no queuing or having to wait to do anything.

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I believe that it will be ticketed entry from this week onwards and although I cannot say that anyone else will ‘love’ these pieces of art, I do recommend a visit here, simply to experience the originality of the whole concept and you can go for fish and chips afterwards on the sea front! x