Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Winner Gathers Her Loot

Hey guys, remember earlier this month when Cat of Rock and Roll Pussycat was declared the winner of the Kaleidoscope Complete the Look Competition? Well, I have just heard that her loot has arrived. You can read all about it on her lovely blog, here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Best Walking Tours In Britain

Having just disembarked our cruise ship today, I have all things vacation very much on the brain. Having stood in line at the immigration disembarkation checkpoint in Tampa for a soul-destroyingly long time, Hubby and I had plenty of time to chat with our fellow passengers (we Americans are a friendly lot, aren't we?) As it turns out, everyone wants to make their next trip a visit to the UK. So when I opened my email for the first time in seven days (I know, right!? I highly recommend it) and saw a request from Catherine from Very to do a collaboration on some of the best walking tours in the UK (and the perfect outerwear pairings for said tours), the timing seemed right. I was particularly taken with the Intelligence Trail tour; a spy tour complete with your own "Agent" acting as a guide. I am a total sucker for any kind of spy stuff. When my husband and I were dating, I got so swept away with the interactive nature of the U.S. Intelligence Museum in Washington D.C., it's a miracle he didn't just leave me there.

Anyway, prospective visitors and UK-dwellers alike, these walking tours look like a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Museums and galleries can be great, but who really wants to spend their precious time away from the office stuck inside? Luckily for those who want to get a bit of fresh air, some of the most enjoyable and enlightening experiences can be found outdoors. The best walking tours marry fascinating topics with knowledgeable and often eccentric guides. Check out the best around the country this autumn. 
London Street Art Tours
This is great for those seeking an edgier snapshot of the capital than Beefeaters and Buckingham Palace. In Griff you have a passionate, engaging guide with an encyclopaedic grasp of street artists and their work - he knows several of them personally. It’s a fittingly multicultural experience, with highlights including the vibrant, cartoonish work of Barcelona dauber Malarky and Belgian-born Roa’s intricate depictions of animals. The tour starts at Old Street Tube station so be sure to tag along.  
The York Ghost Walk
Find spooky thrills in what is supposedly one of the most haunted cities in the world. Frock-coated tour guides usher you down the narrow streets and alleys of medieval York, enthusiastically bringing ghost stories to life with historical re-enactments thrown in along the way. Particularly grisly is the tale of the Grey Lady, an unfortunate nun who was walled up alive, but there are plenty more ghouls to discover. Book your place in advance and keep out the weather-related chills in a Superdry Windcheater Jacket.

The Intelligence Trail
Mysterious guide Agent X leads you through London's streets, regaling you with facts and anecdotes about the gritty truth that lies behind glamorous spy fiction. With different routes covering World War II, the Cold War and a special tour focussing on the raunchy side of spying, this will engage Bond fans, history buffs and thrill-seekers. Check out their home page for more details and to choose your trail.
The Footprint Walking Tour
The free Footprint Walking Tour of Oxford has earned itself a reputation as a wryly humorous insider’s guide to the town’s two thousand year history and its 900-year-old university. Tours are conducted by Oxford students or graduates, meaning you get warts-and-all insight rather than the University-sanctioned info you might find elsewhere.
Whichever tour you go for, wrap up and enjoy a new way to relax.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Inspiration: Lowry Park Zoo

Those of you that have been around the blog a while will already know that I am a sucker for bold colors, prints, and just about anything that references animals in any way (excepting of course the actual wearing of fur. I don't. Both my conscience and my wallet prefer the fake stuff).

You will not be surprised then, to hear that a recent trip to Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo exacerbated the animal obsession that is always lurking just below the surface of my conscious mind.  These Instagram snaps are a true reminder that there is nothing that we humans can create that nature can't do better….I mean, how chic are these animals!? If my natural state were such a stunning mix of black and white, or perhaps that sleek mahogany coat paired with a zebra-striped bum, I would never, ever wear another pair or trousers ever again.

But alas, we Homo sapiens have to make due with what we can put together from our wardrobes. Here are some of my inspired choices.

Make it Happen

Monday, November 18, 2013

Going Nude is the Answer


A great number of sartorial conundrums can be solved by the simple application of a pair of nude pumps. I happened upon this pair while out and about at an outlet mall last week, and fell instantly in love. They have everything I like in a pump: A classic pointed-toe shape, a heel height that is practical but not stumpy, and a shade of leather just sort of works, you know?

Doing a post about nude pumps comes quite easily at this particular moment, while I'm on holiday. I have a suitcase full of dresses to wear on our cruise (which will be steaming away from the pier just about the time this post will go live), exactly one for every night. And only one pair of pumps. Yep. One. Okay, I have a few pairs of sandals, but only one pair of pumps. 

How is this possible? Easy. Nudes and neutrals people. Nudes. And. Neutrals. 

This is one of my time-tested recipes for travelling chic without the bulk. If you have a dress that is making a statement, your feet are allowed to be quiet. Let your dress be the focal point. A nude (or muted metallic, also a neutral) will still give you that elongated elegance without any of that matchy-matchy clunkiness that sometimes creeps in when we are trying too hard. !it's the same concept we use in balancing our makeup or outfits: strong eye, neutral lip. Cleavage-baring shirt, long trousers. Statement dress, nude pumps. 

See? Easy.



                                                                Via Spiga shoes (via Marshalls), similar

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Highlands Wishlist

Alright, sure. I may be on holiday at the moment, but at some point in the not too distant future, I will have to face the reality of stepping off of that jumbo jet and back into the cold, blustery UK weather. So current conditions notwithstanding, when Michael, who represents official Barbour clothing supplier The Highlands contacted me, a collaboration was pretty much a no-brainer for the girl who lives in the actual Highlands.

With a London-based retail store and a gorgeous, well-designed website that is incredibly easy to navigate, The Highlands offers a well-curated shopping experience for the whole family that offers both classic offerings from Barbour clothing and accessories, as well as some of the line's newest styles. The Highlands offers a click and collect service from their London store, as well as free standard delivery on all UK orders, a service that I will definitely be testing-out in the very near future with one or more of the following items.

This moleskin-lined waxed jacket is perfect for sealing out the elements, and is a perfect companion to a casual everyday look. The wax coating means the only work you really have to put in is to sponge it clean from time to time, and the more you wear a jacket like this, the better it gets. Think of it as more than a jacket. It's an investment in your future. That's what I'm telling myself anyway. 

Even those of us who don't go bird shooting need a place to put our stuff that we gather along the trail of life. This louche bag maintains the sporty appearance of a hunting bag, while being practical enough to be put to use for everything from our laptops and smart phones to that really important thing that we need to mail but don't want to get all wet on the way to the postbox.

You can never have too many of these. Tartan scarves are basically unisex, they always look good with whatever you put them with, and they make great gifts. I buy tartan scarves by the bucketload at Christmastime. This particular specimen especially appeals to me, as it is a merino and cashmere blend…two of my very favorite wools to have next to my skin. What's not to like? 

Visit The Highlands retail store location at 73-77 Regent street in London, or stop by their website by clicking here.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's Not That I'm Lazy, It's That...

If you've noticed a slight disruption in the usual content of the blog, this is why. But fear not, fair readers. Content will continue to arrive in your inboxes. There will just be a brief hiatus from the tweedy, woolen, tall-boot-wearing, water and windproof outfit-of-the-day installments that one would expect from one who bases herself in Scotland.  There will still be content arriving…some of it even cold-weather appropriate. In the meantime, won't you join me for some escapism?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Ombré Nail Fail

Nail art has been around a while, but I haven't really taken part in the trend. I've always been a bit colour shy when it comes to my nails, preferring clear polish, neutral colours, a french manicure, or the occasional blast of vampire red or navy if the occasion suits. I have on occasion tried those nail art stickers, which are fabulous, but most of the time I leave the fancy stuff to the professionals. But the ombré nail trend kept popping up in magazines and on the internet, and I became intrigued. So one evening, armed with a little free time and the instant know-how of the internet,  I tried my hand at it.

Let's just say my ombré nail attempt fell about as flat as Wile E. Coyote splatting against the ubiquitous cliffside. As it turns out, I suck at nail art. A lot of it probably had to do with my colour story choice. I went with three colours (already biting off more than I could chew), when I really only should have used two. My three colours were amazing together (so I thought), a bright lemon yellow, a bright coral, and a deep vixen-like red.

What I did not take into account was the effect of the order of the colours. I started with the yellow colour over the inner crescent and gradually moved on to the darker coral and then deep red as the colour gradient moved towards the fingertips. I thought the effect would look like a tequila sunrise. What it actually looked like was far more disturbing. Those blood red nail tips looked like I had just eaten a half-rack of ribs at the Walking Dead Buffet, and was just waiting for the finger bowl to come so that I could wash up.  Seriously, it was the full-on Lady Macbeth. My shoddy workmanship and inability to wait for any single coat of polish to dry also gave it a kind of speckled appearance…the kind of splatter pattern that anyone who has ever watched an episode of CSI would recognise as the result of blunt force trauma. Had I left the house with these nails, people would have started asking where I hid the bodies.

So. There it is. I suck at nail art. Anyone here had better luck with ombré nails?

Make it happen. If you dare. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

And the Winner Is...

The votes have been tallied, and the results are in for the Kaleidoscope Complete the Look Competition!  The winner of the entire "Everyday Luxe" look from Kaleidoscope is Cat Williams from North East England! 

A hearty congratulations to Cat for winning the competition, and many thanks to the good folks at Kaleidoscope for making the whole thing possible! 

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Friday, November 8, 2013

The Best Outerwear on TV


I consume television much in the same way as I imagine one would if she were in the grip of a full-blown eating disorder. I starve myself for months, existing on intermittent episodes of staples like Homeland and Downton Abbey, and then, when I have a little extra time, I succumb to an all-consuming media binge that pretty much sees me glued to the laptop, wearing the same yoga pants from start to finish, however long it takes. Yep. That's me. The people at iTunes love me.

I have just emerged from such a state, having binge-watched the entire first, second, and what's available (to date) of the third season of ABC's hit show Scandal.  To say that I am hooked is a gross understatement.

This is not going to be a post about the groundbreaking role the talented Kerry Washington is playing in the series, nor is it a manifesto about how very lucky she is to get to make out with both Tony Goldwyn and Scott Foley (well-played Shonda Rhimes).  I am also not going to dwell on the fact that this television version of the White House is a moderate Republican administration with an openly gay Chief of Staff (take that Senator Ted Cruz!), and has a cast that is so full of talent it is a joy to behold. This is not about how very Kennedy Tony Goldwyn's President Grant looks (That hair! Those suits!). And I am most certainly not going to spend a lot of time pointing-out the fact that this well-written show has about the best display of depth and layering to their female characters as you will find anywhere on television.


Not going to go there.

I am choosing instead to tackle this from another angle altogether. People, we have an outerwear situation.


Costume designer Lyn Paolo has really outdone herself in the outerwear department with Washington's character, providing a very on-trend display of light and pastel coats with sharp tailoring, outsized collars, and an overall luxe appeal that is also very believable. Washington looks both feminine and in charge, without so much as a whiff of the overly-sexified Hollywood touch that tends to leak into Hollywood portrayals of female characters. Conversely, there is also not the merest hint of the wardrobe masculinisation that sometimes happens when strong female characters are being portrayed; that whole dressing mannishly to convey a sense of strength thing. Nope, the balance here is spot-on, and very appropriate for a more style-conservative city like Washington D.C.   In fact, I would say that in her use of more tailored silhouettes and expensive fabrics to cover her leading lady, Paolo has actually amped-up the sexiness factor. I mean, look at those gloves. I am seriously thinking about selling a kidney on the internet for a pair of those gloves, which let's face it, look quite literally like a million bucks. I'm also now thinking pretty hard about a luxe, light-coloured wool coat (there goes my other kidney), although there is no way I would dare carry a latte (as she does in the photo) in a coat like that. Three seconds and it would be down my front. Seriously. Ask my husband. I spill.

What say you readers? Light coloured coats. And gloves. Are you in or are you out? Discuss.

Make it happen.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Goodbye, Phyllis Diller


In 2002, I was a saxophonist in The Air Force Band. We did a Bob Hope tribute concert at The National Museum of the Air Force (which is awesome, by the way), in which Phyllis Diller herself was the main attraction. I was giddy with anticipation for the gig, and Ms. Diller did not disappoint.

Well into the upper reaches of her 80s, she showed up for her set wearing a version of her iconic "Omar of Omaha" ensemble (complete with crazy hair and green stiletto booties). The announcer kicked-off the show by introducing her as "the Madonna of comedy", and she took the stage, reassuring the audience that though she may be the Madonna of comedy, they needn't worry, because the only circumstance in which she would grab her crotch was if it were falling off.

Yep. She went in with the crotch joke first.

Best. Gig. Ever.

Needless to say, that was not the standard fare for an Air Force gig, and I was practically levitating off of my seat with the joy of finally getting to play an Air Force show with a little edge to it; delivered in an 85 year-old package, no less. She was razor-sharp, lightning-fast, and thoroughly professional. She moved through her set seamlessly, and you knew that you were in the presence of someone who knew exactly what she was doing.

Raise a glass tonight to Phyllis Diller; feminist, pioneer, queen of the one-liners, and wearer of big, electrocuted hair. The world lost a unique comic talent this week, and we'll miss her.

"You know you're old when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes, and you're barefoot."

"A bachelor is a guy who never made the same mistake once."

"There's a medical crisis. Doctors are reporting that many men are having allergic reactions to latex condoms. They say they cause severe swelling. So what's the problem? "

"Whatever you may look like, marry a man your own age - as your beauty fades, so will his eyesight." 

"I do dinner in three phases: serve the food, clear the table, bury the dead."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Small Piece, Big Impact

I got this scarf last week after seeing it on a co-worker and loving it. It is oversized, cozy, and just the thing for the changing weather. I thought it really elevated my simple contrast sleeve trench. Scarves are having a bit of a moment right now, and it's no wonder; such a small piece can make such a big impact! So much so, that it made me scroll back through the archives for more evidence that for fall, there is no piece of outerwear that likely can't be made better by a well-chosen scarf.

Top: Next Tartan Scarf, similar / Roksanda Ilincic for Debenhams jacket (last season), similar 
Center:  H&M Scarf (past season), similar,  J. Crew merino cardigan (past season), similar
Bottom: ASOS Sweater and Tee (past season), similar sweater (splurge) & (save), similar tee, J. Crew skirt.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Wrapped in Tartan

When Rachel from Edinburgh-based MacDonald Sporrans wrote to me, asking if I would be interested in reviewing one of their tartan throw rug blankets, naturally the gal who calls her blog Highland Fashionista said yes. When my blanket arrived, I was so glad that I did.

This particular specimen is from their website buyakilt.com.  It is a dense, pure wool blanket with traditional fringed edges. This wool has a softer hand to it than the wool blankets we all probably remember from our childhood days, so it feels really nice against the skin. Perfect for cozying-up on a cool autumn or winter day, or if you you live here in Scotland, pretty much any day except for maybe a week or two in July.

This tartan I am wrapped up in for the picture is called Antique Buchanan, and I love it. It couldn't be a more perfect representation of the Scottish landscape in the fall.

Rachel has been kind enough to provide us with a very brief history of tartan in Scotland, and what the "rules" are about wearing it in modern times.

When choosing a tartan, many people opt to go for their clan tartan. This dates back to the 16th Century when different regions of Scotland would wear a distinguishing tartan. As clans were primarily based in a single region, the tartan soon became synonymous with a clan rather than region (in Ireland the tartans are still named by region rather than a clan). It was only in the early 19th century during the Romantic Revival that tartan became the national dress for the whole of Scotland.
Many people honour their family roots by wearing their clan tartan, however it’s not always easy to find a related tartan. The best place to start is the tartan finder at buyakilt.com. This is an extensive list of over 1,000 tartans. You’ll find clan tartans, as well as regional tartans, and generic tartans which have no affiliation.
Where a clan tartan can’t be found, it’s worth researching your family tree a little. Most people do this through their maternal line. Some family names are a sept of a clan, this means they are linked to that clan and would therefore wear the clan tartan.
It’s important to note that there aren’t rules to follow when wearing tartan. If you like the colours of a particular tartan, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear it. People of that clan will usually be honoured that you have chosen to wear it.
Tartan weaving is still a traditional craft with specific tartans being woven in batches. This can mean that occasionally you may have to wait a few weeks for rarer tartans to be woven. Click here to view a short video on how tartan is woven. There are often variations of the same tartan. For example you can get an ancient weave where the colours used to weave the tartan are similar to the colours traditionally used. The tartan will be the same pattern (sett).
Popularity with celebrities and royalty this year has led to tartan being a top trend this season. The most popular tartans in fashion are the Royal Stewart (primarily red) Black Watch (Blue and Green). These are very traditional and generic tartans that people enjoy wearing.

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