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Get Ready to Check off Your Very Nice List
The holiday season, well it is here! Do you know what else is here? The search. The search for the ideal gifts for the very important people in your life, is in full swing. But know that if you're feeling stuck or in dire need of inspiration, that I am here! I've curated a selection of extraordinary gifts from Farm Rio, MSC Cruises, Harber London, Hedoine, Plum Guide and German Kabirski. Gifts to cement your deep love and affection. Gifts that say, ' I see us, long into the future '. Gifts that'll have very long and lasting memories. These are the types of gifts I refer to, the ones you'll want to gift to the persons on your very nice list . A gift guide will save you time and disappointed faces. Have a read of this gift guide and be on your way to checking off your very nice list. From the outfit for the occasion, to the weekend bag to pack it in, to a set-jetting weekend away, plus some everyday luxuries. It is a gift guide to save you time and disappointed faces. Full disclosure: This curated selection featuring Farm Rio, MSC Cruises, Harber London, Hedoine, Plum Guide and German Kabirski includes products I chose. Buying through the links may earn me an affiliate commission but at no extra cost to you.
Farm Rio: Fashion that Speaks Volumes Farm Rio, renowned for its vibrant and sustainable fashion, brings a kaleidoscope of joy to any wardrobe. Surf their collection of stunning dresses, accessories, and more, each piece telling a story of Brazilian craftsmanship and eco-conscious style. What's some of their favourite colours to wear, take on holiday? Shop Farm Rio's lush summer yellows, shop pink floaty florals. And by shopping Farm Rio, you'll contribute to slower and greener fashion. Spending with an ethical business, a responsible fashion house. One that thoroughly assessed its impact on its clients, employees, community and environs - a B Corporation . Gift Idea: With shorts, high-waist trousers, metallics, crafts and whites set to be key spring/summer 2024 trends . Show your dearest you share a mutual interest in their fashion and trends. Gift a Farm Rio's white maxi dress – a stunning blend of comfort and style, perfect for any occasion. Shop your all-white and off-white , too. MSC Cruises: Unforgettable Sunsets and Bucket List Islands Ever received a gift 'so you' it left you feeling overwhelmed? With happiness? Yep, that was me receiving a Cruise for a birthday. I was moved to tears. I say this to say, if you are searching for a moving gift for the wanderluster in your life, consider the gift of a cruise with MSC Cruises. MSC Cruises offers a range of unforgettable journeys, from their Caribbean Islands escape to the mysteries of the Nordics and Greenland . And as well as departing from well known ports such as Miami, Genoa and Dubai, they depart from not-so-well-known ports as New York and Martinique . One of MSC Cruises' most exciting developments is that of its LNG-powered ships. Leading the way in sustainable practices such as LED lighting, energy-efficient systems, and advanced wastewater treatment to minimize their environmental impact. Offering luxury and exploration, gifting a cruise allows both you and your special someone or maybe too, the entire family to embark on an adventure that none of you will ever forget. If you want to check those Greek Islands off your list, go island-hopping cruise-style with MSC Cruises . But if the thought of an entire seven-night cruise seems daunting, test your sea legs with a two or three-night cruise out of Southampton or Miami . An MSC cruise is a harmonious blend of luxury, cultural exploration and family-friendly offerings, making this gift one the entire family can enjoy. Gift Idea : Show those on your very nice list, you've been thinking way into your futures with a gift that says ultra long-term planning . Gift a Caribbean cruise on MSC's brand new LNG powered ship, MSC World America setting sail in 2025. Harber London: Timeless and Personalised Leather Goods Harber London brings exemplary fusion of elegance and functionality to the everyday accessories. From impeccably crafted leather goods to personalized tech accessories, discover timeless gifts that add a touch of sophistication to daily life. Offering products that are elegant and functional, their product line-up includes Leather Tech Accessories (premium leather laptop sleeves and cases), Organizational Accessories (thoughtfully designed organizers and wallets), Travel Accessories (passport holders, luggage tags, and cable organizers), Bags and Backpacks (ideal for both casual and professional settings) and Phone Cases. Is there a classier travel bag than Harber London's Leather Shopper Bag ? If there is, I'd like to know. Made with Harber London's Signature Premium Full Grain Leather, its beautiful craftsmanship shines through. Wrap up some Christmas joy they can cherish time and time again. Gift Idea : Show your deep love and affection with a Personalised leather laptop sleeve – a stylish and practical gift for the modern professional. Or gift their gift cards and let them choose. Hēdoïnes: Empowerment Through Hosiery Hēdoïnes is a brand that has revolutionized the world of hosiery with its exclusive and innovative designs. If you want to surprise your loved one with a unique gift, consider gifting them a pair of stockings or tights from Hēdoïne's exquisite collection. The brand's hosiery not only looks luxurious but also offers unparalleled comfort. With Hēdoïne's refined style, you can add a touch of sophistication to your loved one's daily essentials. The brand's attention to detail and commitment to quality craftsmanship make their hosiery an exceptional choice that will surely impress. These tights ( PR Gift - Spicy Praline, Ladder Resistant and Shaping ), because they are sag free, and gusset free, feels like a second skin! And something else, they're incredibly durable. I've had mine for eleven months. Washing in a delicates laundry bag and storing in the Hedoine satin pouch (sold separate) has helped in keeping them looking brand new. Do tap this link , add my code AWTGIRL for your discount and the Hēdoïne in you, and gift some legwear this Christmas. Gift Idea : Show them you share in their everyday challenges . Gift Hedoine gift cards for them to choose or The Infinity Sheer Tights – a wardrobe staple that is durable and adds a touch of glam to any legs. Plum Guide: A Very Nice List Imagine your loved one's face when you give them this extraordinary gift. A stay in a holiday home from the unparalleled luxury holiday rental company - Plum Guide . Their curated selection of ' exceptional homes ' promises an unforgettable experience. Expertly-vetted homes ensure travellers find unique and memorable stays tailored to their preferences. From stylish city apartments, to a breath-taking beachfront villa, or a cosy countryside retreat, there's a rental on Plum Guide to help you tick off that very nice list. 'With peace of mind guaranteed with every booking', your gift of a Plum Guide vacation rental will never fall flat. Gift Idea: Turn their wanderlust into a visual feast , as you Set-Jet (the filming locations of your favourite movies and TV series) with Plum Guide's vacation rentals. Your 'Tons' that's Bridgerton fans can opt for a two-bedroom Georgian house, ' Through The Ages ', and make the most of their central location on the Royal Crescent, Bath. The three-bedroom ' Bright & Beachy ' two minutes away from #VeniceBeach California will hold appeal for the Barbie movie fans. And as 'Paris is always a good idea' how about an apartment in the 5th Arrondissement? Location, location, location for Emily in Paris. But if the White Lotus was more their show, the two-bed, two-bathroom ' Mediterranean Sundae ' overlooking Isola Bella Bay in Taormina is better suited. German Kabirski: Artistry in Sparkles Looking for a unique and meaningful way to express individuality? Take a look at German Kabirski's stunning avant-garde jewellery pieces. Works of art showcasing Kabirski's innovative design and unparalleled craftsmanship. Looking to remind that someone special, just how much they mean to you? Or simply treat yourself (you can put yourself on the 'very nice list' too)? Stand out from the crowd and say it with a one-of-a-kind piece from the collection. As well as statement rings, avant-garde necklaces and artisanal earrings, German Kabirski offers custom-designed jewellery. Refrain from settling for the ordinary because you can gift the extraordinary. Give a gift that keeps its sparkle. Enjoy 15% off German Kabirski's full-priced items with discount code girlwelltravelled15 at checkout. Now proceed as you wish but you may well find yourself returning to this site, time and time again. Gift Idea: Express your sentiments of love with bold and distinctive statement jewellery. Have You Wrapped Up Your Very Nice List? The joy of giving extends beyond the mere exchange of physical tokens. In every carefully wrapped package, there's a story—a story of shared laughter, shared dreams, and shared moments. The thoughtfulness, the sentiment, and the heartfelt intention behind each carefully chosen item. May your gifts resonate, inspire, and above all, bring smiles and long lasting memories to the faces and hearts of those who matter most. I hope this guide has helped you in some way in checking off your very nice list. Happy gifting, and may the magic linger in every carefully chosen present. PS - If you have any specific requests or need further information or recommendations, feel free to contact me.
Brewed Wisdom and the Savoured Aroma of Inspiring Coffee Quotes
Not just a drink that wakes you up in the morning; coffee is so much more than that. A cultural phenomenon that has inspired countless of us to express our thoughts, share our musings. Even imparting that wisdom through quotes. And so, fellow coffee lovers! I'm here to share some of this brewed wisdom and inspired coffee quotes with you. The absolute best in coffee quotes that I've come across. Be inspired and energized by these caffeine-fuelled words of wisdom. According to Jackie Chan , coffee is like a language . Communicating comfort, warmth and shared experiences. One that brings people together, sparks conversations. Cassandra Clare believes that as long as there's coffee in the world, things can't be all that bad . Coffee brings a sense of reassurance and comfort during uncertain times. Think of your gloomiest day; doesn't a cup of coffee make things that much more cheerful. Justina Chen humorously contrasts life's adventures with the reliability of a good cup of coffee . Signifying the comforting constant coffee is during difficult times. Coffee and cake, even better. For some people, like the unknown author of "Coffee first. Adulting second." , coffee is a priority. I mean, is it even possible to adult without a cup of coffee? Certainly not. This is one of my favourite coffee quotes and is, for certain, my motto. Lewis Black, he acknowledges the caffeine-induced perception of wakefulness that many of us coffee lovers experience. That illusion that you might be awake . It's a playful nod to the transformative power of coffee in shaking off the grogginess of early mornings. And I agree, coffee is my morning's superpower. With just one cup, my day can start, and I can go out and conquer my world. These coffee quotes are such delightful reminders of this humble beverage's profound impact on our lives. From fostering connections and conversations to providing a sense of consistency and comfort, coffee transcends its role as more than just a beverage. A source of reflection and inspiration. I should know, it has fuelled chapters upon chapters of my pending contemporary romance novel . So, the next time you're sipping on a cup of coffee, take a moment to appreciate the wisdom encapsulated in the delightful world of these coffee quotes. What are some other coffee quotes you know and love? Feel free to share in the comments below!
Unless You're Wearing Stylish Sleepwear by Fable & Eve
When I was nine years old, my great-grandmother passed, and apart from her sunlit smile, one thing that stuck were these words of hers. Never you leave the house unless you look ' prensable '. That's ' presentable ' for you and me. And not just that, I'd be put through a military inspection. My mother took over the inspection after that. Hair always combed, seams had to line up with seams, shoes clean. I can bet we surpassed any military inspection but I digress. So imagine the look my great grand-mother would have given me, were she told, I've just seen your great granddaughter on social media in her nightie. Phwoar! Well she'd probably have said, not my great granddaughter . But picture the perfect pyjamas... Hmm. I couldn't, but then I saw these black and cream tone, pebble print PJs. Easy on the eye, I made a hot date with it which also caught your attention in my stories last week. And now you know it is a Fable & Eve London cami and shorts set from their Carnaby Collection . The cut is flattering, but it was the pockets that got me the most excited. Lightweight, roomy, the cami fits true to size, though the shorts remind me that middle age is granting me the derriere it never blessed my youth with. Sizing up may be required next time. Yes, I have eyes on another cami set. This time, the Hampstead , in pure white. Its contrasting blue piping adding a touch of sophistication. This cami and shorts set say beach villa holidays, weekend breaks and Caribbean cruise too. And with the seasons shortly to change, maybe also the matching Carnaby pebble print long dressing gown or the Brixton floral pyjama set. Cotton and Modal Comfort Threads from nature make this fabric crafted from soft, breathable cotton and innovative modal, easy on the skin. Elasticated back, flat front with ribbon draw strings, it slips on easily and leaves no skin crease. It fully embraces what your sleep time requires; you lying down to rest and sleep. And because you're wearing Fable & Eve , you can stay comfortable, confident and chic taking out the bins or answering the door to the mail carrier when the bell rings. Nightshirts and Pyjama sets that are quite frankly, shmexy, won't see you hang your head in shame should you switch on the work teams' camera accidentally. All because you're wearing Fable & Eve. Relaxed and stylish, they move from sleepwear to loungewear to play wear with a coffee and book and a rock to Beres Hammond on a Saturday morning and back again. Long lazy weekends? Fable & Eve's grown-up nightshirts are what you'd be wearing. Choose prints drawing inspiration from the London neighbourhoods each collection is named for. Shop from the Collection here . Plus anyone who has ordered from Fable & Eve London will attest to their speedy delivery and great customer service . Available to shop in store too, at Fenwicks, Naughty Nickers, Bentalls and other fine stockists. Add some flair to your nightwear unless you're already wearing Fable & Eve, in which case add some more. Or, too, gift the gift of wearing Fable and Eve; they do a beautiful gift box, too. Psst. There's a sale on you'll want to take advantage of. And I think even granny would have approved of me wearing these stylish sleepwear from Fable and Eve on social media. Don't you? Because when wearing PJ's looks and feels this good why not?
Lympstone Manor, I've Got A Crush On You
There's a treasure trove of places I want to lose myself in to escape the noise, escape the humdrum. And if an escape to the breezy coast, a vineyard's vintages to sip on, and an exquisite culinary journey to dine out on are what your tired soul seeks, then I know a place that has this written all over it. I've got myself on the guest list and will, too, join in the 'write-home' about it. I say guest list, as it feels like a private members club with coveted membership. Whose location is a twenty-eight-acre exclusive helping of the gentle slopes above the Exe estuary . You certainly don't want for peace or privacy here. Like a lady, Lympstone Manor country house hotel, sits aside its stately mount with an eye-widening view of the Exe Estuary. This lady, once a stately home, now an exciting country manor, has had less than the stately beginning. One that should it have been mentioned in certain circles would have been the ultimate scandal. But Lympstone Manor's centuries-old cradle, a paltry farmhouse (scandalous), has long been buried under plush carpets, dimmed out by sparkly chandeliers, flushed with warm hospitality and accepted by Relais & Chateaux . Now graciously restored, its simplicity is its ultimate sophistication. In the courtyard, feet crunch the gravel underfoot, but inside, RLLs give way to quiet taps on the parquet floors indoors. There's nothing loud or brash. Instead, illuminating off low lights, soft shades of grey (not as much as fifty) echo off plush carpets, plump cushions and the ceiling height upholstery lining the windows. The air is a little perfumed, and some lounge music, beautifully pitched, adds to the otherwise hushed atmosphere. Decidedly unpretentious - puts a smile on. I am so excited; I am buzzing. You probably would too if you booked to dine or stay here. The type you experience when you meet your crush for the first time. Because Lympstone Manor has been hanging out in my little book of secret crushes. And since being hit by this stroke of luck, I'd scarce been able to contain myself. A top-of-the-wishlist place I'd go for that big 'O'. Where you'd mark that special anniversary or extend the honeymoon with a pre-honeymoon . Today, however, there's no such marker, simply living out a dream. And so far, this one is all sweet. Bed and Bath Any of Lympstone Manor's twenty-one rooms and suites is a prize. But I'd stolen serious glances at the suite with its twin double-ended copper baths, entertained doing away with the shrinking siren for a ground floor room. Outdoor hot tub and fire pit as standard, a glass of something bubbly and some Freddie McGregor to fix a mood . Though the base coming out of my Bose and the unknown level of my wild abandon may be better suited to the Romany way in one of their six sensational shepherd huts in the woods. Dancing hurricane lamps come to mind. Nearing the suite, I got quick heartbeats, and when we stopped in front of the door, opened it... gasped. Times two. Both from yours truly. Mr Check-in-come-personal-concierge looks back at me. He's satisfied I'm in no way dissatisfied. That he has no need to call the paramedics and ushers me in. I'm drawn in, down the hallway, then out again to a private balcony at the other end. Ohh. Myy. Gawww. Pinch. Pinch. Pinch. Out there, this is the view. An unfurling widescreen to the vineyard below, the Exe Estuary and village beyond. There's a dark cloud threatening, but mentally, I've reserved my seat on this balcony with a Nespresso from the in-suite machine in my brand-new mug picked up from the Seaglass Gallery on my way here. I go back indoors to where I left Mr standing. There's something vanilla-esque on the nose, whisking my being off to Seychelles' exotic powder blue shores. Mr points to the diffuser in the living area. I give it the attention it requires and note its roots are in the nearby Dartmoor Soap Company . A little more Devon than I'd imagined. The patio doors bestow free natural light on the living area, where a coffee table sits, basking in it. Three church-sized candles fill a fireplace at one end, and a sofa covered in a light throw looks out the doors to a portraited view of the bay. If the British weather stays British, this is where I'll put my feet up. At fifty square meters, this suite is the size of a one-bed apartment, where a balcony trumps a scullery. And with the living area separate from the sleeping area and separate from the bathroom , its the business. It's the space where the argument on the drive down about who went left instead right, or who read the satnav incorrectly can dissipate. The Gin and Tonic tray is on the house. He points out. As you do. I respond. Or even if you don't. Tapping the side of my nose. And he laughs. A nook in the wall separating the living and sleeping areas in turn bestows some of that daylight into the bedroom. There's a party of pillows and cushions across the twin beds, enough for two five-a-side teams. And two of those are near mattress-sized. Ran my hands over the bed and linen, they said come to bed. Okay, but first... At the opposite end, a wardrobe with Relais & Chateau slippers and a Lympstone Manor beach bag hangs for added convenience. In the bathroom, an 'Amazon-Esque' rain shower head stands seductively tall next to a hand held one, inside a borderless walk-in shower. And I am seduced. Long, long, Amazon hot shower, here I come . But it ( Reminds me of the one in this chapter, where Lemara was in ultimate despair ). But this one, blissfully removed from any of that. A stand-alone bathtub sits proud and twin white sinks lie felicitous within black marble. Aged brass taps everywhere , add a touch more glam to an almost all black and white marble bathroom. The sinks, bathtub and shower each treated to their luxury toiletries are extra touches of convenience. I spot fluffy bathrobes and agree we want for nothing, leaving Mr to see to his next guests. Just inside the door, two coat hooks, another nice touch. It's not the suite with double copper baths, or outdoor hot tub but the crush is still on. To Dine For Food is celebrated here in both restaurants with differing offerings. Where the main restaurant, named for the hotel, plays the leading role, and the Signature and Taste of the Estuary menus are the crowd pleasers. Both eight-course journeys. The gourmands are here for this. And had we been dining here, would have gone for the exciting seafood culinary experience of The Taste of The Estuary. So happy were Relais & Chateau of their visit; they gave their approval stamp, and Michelin , too, left a starry token. On our way to dinner, we glimpse the Chef supremo himself, Mr Michael Caines doing cheffy things in that kitchen. I waved, hoping to catch his attention and make pretend I was my sister from a few weeks back. But I can report he gave his one hundred per cent cheffy attention to the plates in front of him. But if Chef Caines is at the main restaurant, who is overseeing the Pool House Restaurant? No thunder stolen there. Dress hem flirty and heels an inch too high for that meander, we cross to the Pool House. Glass doors open, letting in the evening air and me smelling like a Jo Malone boutique—the one at Heathrow Terminal three. Billie had come to greet us, not at our table, but outside, as we walked along the pool with one of the hotel's iconic umbrellas . I'll tell you now; she's not losing that job anytime soon - so personable she is. Seats us at a table inside/outside the restaurant with a menu. And a view similar to our suite. And as I'd been eyeing all of Lympstone Manor for a little, I'd known exactly what I'd order. Except eyes strayed when I read that line-up of produce from the surrounding Devon farms and waters, once more. The duck confit caught eyes this time, and that was that. Mushroom tagliatelle and truffle fries completed the order for the teenager. Uncomplicated. That's the two page Pool House Restaurant's menu and the wine selection is one half of that. Bottles are in buckets or on tables nearly everywhere because wine is taken very seriously in the Pool House Restaurant too. Paired back, spartan, the interior of the pool house redirects conversations outdoors, where the British weather is being salty. And we watched as the rain charged across the bay like a band of white horses. Inside/outside is now inside for certain. But I can imagine this space opening up all bright and breezy to the rafters in the warmer, balmier evenings . The atmosphere is chilled, as I suspect, all day, every day, from 11:30 on. From brunch to lunch, dinner and drinks beyond. You step from a dip in the pool to a sip at a table, between smashed avocado on toasted campagne bread and octopus carpaccio off the menu. Billie is back, plates in hand to accompany our fruity drinks. I'm straight in with a fork-full. Didn't speak. Actually, no one spoke, just in case the act of speaking tarnished the meal. And I'd been halfway through that plate of crispy duck and cassoulet before breaking the silence. A wholesome dish, packing bags of flavour and chunks of meat into a tummy-filling cassoulet. And when I did speak, it was to share, but only so I could try the tagliatelle and truffle fries, I didn't order. All three gluten-free but such eye-openers on the taste buds—the uncompromised truffled fries, the seriously good tagliatelle. And having finish my dish and help to finish the remaining two, the temptation was there to try the fish which was my original choice. You know, the only real concern with the food here is overeating. Overeating because I want to try it all. I return my gaze across the bay, where the white horses have sufficiently disbanded to see a train making its way along the coast to Cornwall. If after dinner, the plan is to retire but not to bed, Barings Bar with its curved copper Bar and caramel hues is where you up the ante. On The Door Step Rain-filled skies followed us to the Devonshire coast. The sun did its best to cut a window but failed, so we made no plans 'to-do'. Not for a splash in the outdoor heated pool, a ride around the village on the hotel's bikes, a fresh face from a paddleboard or a thwock of a ball or two on the tennis court . Though a walk around the manor will satisfy an art fix. Dramatic coastal paintings hang from the walls throughout the property. So too are paintings of the birds in the estuary. All by local artists. The rooms themselves are named and decorated for the birds. Ever been interested in Ornithology? This is a most pleasing entry into it. Thinking of it, the colours of the pillows on our beds were representations of both the male and female Bullfinch. Along the hallway to the rooms, the chandeliers remind me of sea corals. Throughout the property, you'll note the hotel's championing of its Devonshire area, from the menu, to the bath products, gin and bottled water. And for a sheer unadulterated wine indulgence, there's a wine room for private wine tasting sessions. Here the wine list runs into the hundreds. But with all this peace, space, tranquillity, you're free to do as little or as much as. The sun showing no sign of winning the weather battle, I put the Nespresso machine to work and return to my position on the sofa. Indulging in another of my new reads while nursing my intense, dark, smooth South American. Plus, you'll never guess the protagonist's name in this read. Yes, he, too, is called Joshua, and much unlike our very lovable 747 captain , it is he who is in violation of his relationship. Chapters in, some summer sun cuts a little opening, and I part ways with that indulgence. Like the landed gentry we weren't; we donned hoodies instead of tweed, picked up the hotel's brollies, borrowed their wellies and conquered another path along the vineyard and down to the estuary with speed. Down by the river , we take a pace more slowly. Now, I feel a Morgan Heritage coming on. Has The Fancy Passed? When check-out loomed, it was difficult to accept. I toyed with writing this beautiful country manor into a contemporary romance . But having sat long enough with the view out to the bay and the fresh coastal air, a personal account best suited. In this peaceful pocket of Devon on the South West coast of England, Chef Caines and his slick in-house team have a good thing going on. Lympstone Manor feels like a sanctuary, a place to escape and readily lose yourself or find it. Where, if you choose your spot carefully, digitally detox too. I felt wholly spoilt as if it was a birthday or some special celebration. Everything at the Manor swirls with R+R, enticing you to stay longer, steal a few more moments. Actually, I'd encourage it. Not simply a hotel stay but a space for reprieve, indulgence in seriously good food, and an experience. Celebrating a milestone or, maybe too, need perspective on that relationship heading for the rocks? Lympstone Manor is where you go. A place where even the tainted British weather is a charm. This stay has not simply materialised from the crush on my little list but has launched itself straight to a covetous position in my bucket of best bucket list experiences. Lympstone Manor, the crush hasn't passed. I'll come again, and do it just the same. Actually, I'd try staying longer. Would I change anything here? Not readily, though I recommend Lympstone Manor mugs branded with their symbolic heron . But that's solely so I could indulge in my unintentional souvenir collection . What about you? Is Lympstone Manor now on your wishlist, bucket list and list of crushes?
Essential Leather Goods and New Favourite Gift Items
Based on the opinion of a few women in my circle, it seems that finding the perfect gift for men is more challenging compared to finding gifts for women. But I find men to be creatures of habit and very often prefer the same things. They usually appreciate useful items such as a new pair of socks, stylish cufflinks, electronic gadgets, and home and garden tools. If you want to give them a hint, the latter items will very often do the trick. AD: All highlights individually selected by myself. Buying through the links may earn me an affiliate commission but at no extra cost to you. It does not, however, take away from these women's experiences. That being the case, Valentine's Day, Father's Day, Christmas or birthdays, you would be hard-pressed to look much further than this leather goods collection I've curated from Harber London —a gift guide just for the men in your life. Harber London came to be ten years ago in the city from which it inherited its name. The challenge—to find good quality and contemporary laptop sleeves. Inspired by this challenge, those conversations turned to actions and the creation of premium leather goods brand, Harber London. Today, Harber London continues its mission to get you excited about the everyday essentials and those that will become forever favourites. Still rooted in the brand's ten-year milestone is its reimagining and evolution of beautifully crafted leather products. Their timeless style and unsurpassed quality products are crafted in Spain with utmost love and attention by expert artisans with the know-how. And with age, the certified full-grain leather used will acquire a beautiful patina. But be it a birthday or Father's Day, I have curated this gift guide centred around Harber London's leather products for you—items to be gifted irrespective of the occasion or time. Everyday staples the everyday men in your life—the full of adventure, the stylish, the bold, the introvert, the laid back—will make firm favourites. Not all men sit behind a desk, but for those who do, the Harber London Leather Desk Mat , cut from Signature Premium Full Grain Leather, is a beautiful and functional finishing touch. The cut-through hole for cords and cables keeps the cables tidy and the desk neat. Discover a combination of padded base finishes to protect your desk surface and mat sizes to accommodate the keyboard and mouse. It makes a fabulous desk accessory. He'll look professional at work and stylish everywhere with his Harber London Everyday Leather Briefcase . Two briefcase sizes (medium or large) and space for a laptop up to 16' makes it practical. He'll have slots for the cords, loops for his pens and room to fit much more. Slim and compact, this briefcase will keep the essentials organised and him looking sleek. Though mobile payments are fast becoming the payment option for everyday purchases, the gent's wallet remains an essential mainstay. A key accessory. Gift him this keepsake—the Harber London Card Wallet with RFID protection . The styling is minimalist, with the brand's logo subtlely embossed on the front—an everyday accessory he can take anywhere. It fits at least six cards plus folded cash. Choose from a burst of colours or the familiar staples of black or tan. Personalise it too, and make it a gift more memorable. And because I like to experience a product or service before asking you to part with your silver, I, too, have personalised and gifted this wallet ahead of Father's Day. The leather has a premium feel—the gift received with much appreciation. Finding a decent laptop sleeve was the inspiration for Harber London. And with the Classic Leather MacBook Sleeve remaining one of its bestsellers, Harber London continues to inspire. One of their key brand pieces, it remains sleek and super stylish in colours suited for everyday use. And as with so many of Harber London's other products, you can personalise this too. Is there a travel bag more classy than Harber London's Leather Shopper Bag ? If there is, I'd like to know. Elevate his weekend-getaway-look with one of these. Made with Harber London's Signature Premium Full Grain Leather; beautiful craftsmanship shines through. Gifting this may shock the bank account. But their reaction to receiving it will be worth the pain the shock caused. Ample space and inner pockets, it packs with ease. Dimensions of 11 x 9.8 x 17.7" says it fits most cabin size requirements. He'd be himself planning those weekend getaways to get this one out. Timeless and classy, this travel bag will look the part sitting at a private country manor or boarding a private jet. It is that gift that will keep on giving. You may have previously made one or two regrettable gift choices, but these leather gifts come with my stamp of approval. Make Harber London your first word in premium leather goods and save yourself that heartache. I know you know one or two persons for whom any of these would be the ultimate gift. Delivered beautifully gift wrapped, start your gift shopping now. And, if you are a guy reading this, feel free to shop these gift ideas for yourself. What's taken your fancy?
Aspen - Chapter 1
Unfortunately (for the students of Aspen school, that is), it was the last day of their Year 11 summer. A summer every Year 11 in the UK wished would last forever. Alana and Romeo stood outside a terraced house on a street in Highgate, London. Loud music and drunken laughter from the party spilt through the owner Beatrice Astorn’s wide-open front door. Alana shook her head. “Of course, she’s forgotten to shut her front door… Again.” “Are we even surprised at this point? She does this every party.” Romeo replied. “She must be gone already.” “Definitely on the rum and cokes.” “Yep, definitely on the rum and cokes,” Romeo echoed. The pair entered the house, Alana shutting the front door behind them. The first floor was empty for a place that should be packed full of teenagers. The two best friends stood on the empty landing, looked at each other and shrugged. The Smirnoff vodka bottle came out from inside her North Face puffer and she took a swig. Gagged at the taste. Romeo glanced over at her. “Hey! Gimme some!” Snatching the bottle out of her hand and downing some of the content before getting a response. “Wha- I wasn’t finished with that!” He smirked and handed her back the bottle. She rolled her eyes as she took it back, turned on her heels and entered the living room to their left, leaving Romeo to trail behind her. The living room and three white sofas were the dumping ground for the coats and bags. The owners of these belongings were on the floor beneath them without a care in the world. Drunk. Teenagers. Don’t. Care. Two sofas faced each other. The third is in front of a large glass window. Romeo looked at her. “Question, why did you bring your North Face? It’s twenty-something degrees. Hottest September in five years, or whatever the weather app said this morning.” Alana threw her coat onto the sofa before the window, “it’s for when the temperature drops later.” “Oh, shit. Good thinking. Probably should’ve brought mine.” Alana took another swig of vodka before she handed it to Romeo. “Ready to go downstairs?” “Yup.” Taking a mouthful. She’d reached the living room door when she noticed Romeo wasn’t behind her. He instead was looking down at a pile of jackets. “Romes? What you doing?” He threw back his head in laughter. “Come look at this.” Curious, Alana walked over to where Romeo stood. An Indian boy was passed out under a heap of coats. “No way.” She burst into a fit of laughter. “Is…is that…Dyl?” She got out in between laughs. This probably wasn’t as funny as the two were making it out to be, but the alcohol had already started to hit them. “Whoever would’ve thought?” “Not the Dylan we knew last year, that’s for sure.” Alana was right. This time last year, the straight-nines teacher’s pet wouldn’t have been caught within a five-meter radius of a party, let alone blackout drunk. At the beginning of the summer, Dylan declared to the group that he wanted to start ‘living the teenage dream’, or however he put it. Although he partied over the summer, seeing him in this state was still shocking. But, at least he’d stuck to his word. Dylan jolted upright. His sudden movement caused both of them to jump back in fright. Alana’s long black braids whipped forward as they folded over in hysterics. “Larns?” Dylan said, blinking himself awake. “Romes! You made it!” Dylan raised an eyebrow. “Why are you guys so late?” “We are late because he (pointing at Romeo) spent an hour admiring his blue/green eyes and fluffy blonde hair in the bathroom.” Romeo shot her a look of annoyance. “What? It’s true.” She replied. Dylan grinned, amused at the pair’s usual antics. “Let’s go find Constance and Beatrice; let them know you’re here. Follow me.” “No Kai? He not here yet?” Alana asked, following Dylan. “Now, what do you think?” Romeo sighed. “Course, I don’t think Kai’s be on time for anything in his life.” Dylan stumbled down the stairs to the kitchen, Alana and Romeo behind him. Dylan out of earshot, she asked. “So, where’s John?” “Down south visiting his mum.” “That’s good…means you get a break.” She hesitated before she continued, “I still think you should tell your mum about what’s happening between you, though.” Romeo pointed to his ear, “Music’s too loud,” he shouted. “Can’t hear you!” She narrowed her eyes. He could hear her loud and clear. She knew Romeo would avoid the conversation. He always did. Although, maybe now wasn’t the best time to bring it up. “Larni!” Beatrice squealed, walking over to them. “Dude, when did you get here?” She asked, throwing her arms and waist-long dirty blonde hair around her. “Couple of minutes ago. How was South of France?” Beatrice released her from her grip. “Gooddd. And the parentals are already away on business again, hence….” Beatrice indicated to the party going on around her. “Ooh, I like your new braids. What style is that?” “Goddess.” “Ahhh.” Romeo butted in, “Don’t I get a hello?” “Romie! What?! I did not see you there.” “Uhh…thanks?” Beatrice pulled him in for a hug. “Where’s Stance?” “Right here.” The answer came from behind her. Alana turned. “Stance! I haven’t seen you in ages! How was China? Your Grandma okay?” “Yeah, she’s fine. She just kept asking when can she go back to the house in Paris, so she could have fresh macarons.” The group laughed, exchanged more hugs. “Have you had anything to drin-” Some girl and boy tapped Romeo’s shoulder, interrupting Beatrice’s question. “Heyyy,” the girl slurred. “We think you’re really cute.” “Thanks,” Romeo smirked. Ah, the notorious smirks first appearance of the night - Alana thought. “Here we go,” Beatrice remarked. “Another night of Ro getting with half the party”, Constance whispered. “How has he pulled already?! He just got here.” Dylan whispered back. The same boy and girl whispered something into Romeo’s ear. He responded with a nod. She then took his hand, led him away from the group. “Hey, where you going?!” Beatrice yelled to the back of Romeo’s head as he disappeared into the crowd. He turned around and shrugged, “I don’t know, where ever they are taking me, I guess!” Beatrice sighed, “Anyways, back to what I was saying, have you had anything to drink?” “I took some shots of vodka upstairs.” She shook her head. “Not good enough,” and she dragged Alana to the drinks table in the garden. Constance and Dylan follow until a boy with dreads greets Dylan. They have a brief exchange before they turn around and return to the house. “What do you want?” “Err…can I have a vodka lemonade, please?” “Yes, you may.” She handed Alana the drink and she took a sip, choked. “Bea, did you even add lemonade to this?” Beatrice looked at her, puzzled, “yeah?” “Then why does it-” “Because it’s the last day of summer, Larni!” Cutting her off. “Okay, but don’t drink too much,” Constance warned. “We’ve got school tomorrow…remember?” “Ugh, don’t remind me.” “Drink up then! You’ll forget all over again.” Beatrice grinned. “Still sober, Stance?” “When have you ever known me to drink alcohol?” “Never, I was jus- never mind. Forget I said anything.” She’s drunk. She’s drunk - Constance reminded herself. It was all she could think to stop herself from screaming at Beatrice. She was sure she hadn’t said it to make her feel bad. The group accepted that Constance wasn’t into drinking or partying, for that matter. But there were instances like this that made her question whether her friends resented her for not wanting to join in. But Constance knew this was all in her head…or was it? No. No, it was. It was all in her head. "Turn it up!” Someone yelled from inside the house. Earthquake by Labrinth ft Tinie Tempah blasted through the speakers in the kitchen. Cheers went up with the volume increase. “I love this song!” Alana shrieked. Beatrice’s mostly vodka lemonade, and the swigs she’d taken earlier now definitely kicking in. Alana grabbed her two best friends by the hand, dragging them towards the sliding glass kitchen doors. “Umm…I don’t think so,” Constance said as she tried to pull out of Alana’s tight grasp. “Oh, shut up, Stance. We know you love dancing to this song.”
Your Summer Capsule Wardrobe In Bright Colours and Bold Prints
The thermostat needle is flirting with the twenty-degree marker and bare legs, arms and torsos are readying themselves to dance out from under the grey hues of heavy wools. This is the time of year, when you look to your wardrobe for the bold prints and dopamine-injecting items of clothing hanging in it. And you should remedy that if you've just walked over to your wardrobe and not found something to make the case. Let us fix it with a visit to the fashion label Farm Rio and their spring-summer collection. Let us get you that summer capsule wardrobe in bold prints and bright colours. AD: All highlights individually selected by myself. Booking through the links may earn me an affiliate commission but at no extra cost to you . Like Rio de Janeiro, where their story started, the label channels unapologetic mood-exalting exotic colours. Wearable prints in vivid blue macaws, yellow summer gardens and tropical dreams. Because after twenty-five-plus years of passion and perfection, the label has become a colourful force in fashion. Farm Rio's natural surroundings lends itself to their fun prints and textures. Feeling free to stand out, the brand's feature in international magazines like Grazia, Forbes and Vogue (no less) has aided in its global status. Along the way, accumulating an eight-hundred-strong following on the Gram and collaborations with renowned labels. Most recently, Adidas. With summer about to summer, it is time to pop out the bright yellow golds and popping pinks. Dance out in Farm Rio's kaleidoscope of colours, beautiful textures and bold prints. Like this daring V-neck flirty ' Good Vibes ' number pulled from their 2022 summer runway. I felt fabulous in it and looked fabulous from Paddington to Portofino and back. And as if the v-neck ending on an empire waistline under bow-tied shoulders wasn't already an attention-getter, it came in an gorgeous red . A plethora of exciting prints of bananas, palm trees, and 'good vibes print' emblazoned across it. This mini dress slayed in the Portofino sun. I went all out with this one but with a simple pairing of an oversized sun hat and skin-tone sandals. Little else was needed. Like many in the collection, this dress is one hundred per cent cotton (it is light) and wore well in the summer heat. The lining ensured no see-through. It also washed well on a delicate cycle and required no ironing when hung out to dry on a hanger. This was 2022, but as bold prints and vibrant colours are everywhere this summer, this dress, still full of life, will return in 2023. And because I love it and it is so well made, there will be more summer seasons and tropical getaways of wearing it. But what is in Farm Rio's collection for this summer? Undoubtedly, they'll be cool cotton, casual linens, vibrant hues and tropical patterns. After all, Farm Rio is leading the way in colour and style for summer 2023. Go tap this link and check out the Farm Rio's minis, midis, summer maxis, rompers and jumpsuits collection, all summer wardrobe approved. Pink is This Summer's Mood We are far from the days of Madame Pompadour but pink, hot pink, shocking pink is the colour du jour. It flowed through the catwalks of spring-summer fashion in 2022, but now in 2023, this colour remains on the clothing rails and shows no sign of subsiding soon. And as it shows no sign of subsiding, the pink macaw forest maxi dress with its voluminous skirt, sleek v-neck, flattering waist and balloon sleeves, makes for a trans-seasonal piece. Add strappy sandals and a tote bag for summer, or chunky gold heels and clutch under arm in autumn. Channel your inner Barbie this summer and shop pink floaty florals and monstera sandals. Wear The Summer Sun's Yellow I cannot promise the sun will grace us with its precious light each day this summer, but I can promise this. Blouson sleeves or sweeping skirts, whether on brunch dates or out for fetes, you will always bring the summer's rays in one of these. Be the summer rays in Farm Rio's lush yellow summer-tiered maxi or a simple t-shirt. Cool Spring in Green, Hot Summer in Blue Whichever the season, it won't be what colour to wear or when to wear it, but how to accessorize it. Do you add more jewel box colours , leather sandals on foot, or a just-out-of-bed updo? Some noisy gold bangles and a bit of sassiness too? Go from the beach in their 'Tropical Groove One Piece Swimsuit' to dinner with it layered under a pair of their lime green pants. Summer Get-Aways in White Can any summer get away without something white ? Did summer even happen if at least one item of white didn't cross out of your wardrobes' doors? For weekend getaways, Caribbean cruise s and sundowners beside infinity pools, you couldn't do much better than something white in any of its varying hues. Or something white with added colour. Shop your all-white and off-white . I can see myself rocking that floor-skimming white monstera maxi dress on a pleasingly long evening, glass of rose in hand, on an alfresco rooftop terrace. It is so summer and feminine. But if you are still admiring my dress from 2022, you can now shop it for 2023 in their Off-White Macaw Bloom print. Are you following Farm Rio's vibrant colours and bold prints via the Gram? Or have you now been introduced? You'll realise Farm Rio has everything to satisfy your summer capsule wardrobe of bold patterns and bright colours. Everything from sexy one-shouldered mini dresses to long glamorous flared trousers and basic t's. The clock is ticking on towards summery days. So which one of Farm Rio's kaleidoscope of colourful attire do you have your eyes on and will you wear throughout this summer? Go check them out. I know which dress I have my eyes on. Hint: It has got some blue and yellow and red in it!
MSC Cruises: Their 6 Departure Ports To The Caribbean
If there is a destination that shows no sign of going out of fashion, it is for sure the Caribbean. Like a 'little black dress', its seven hundred island chain (north and east of the sea it is named for), continues to lure us back. Blazed year round in sunshine, the islands are a masquerade of colour and sometimes costume, a carnival of cultures, languages and stirring rhythms. The line up of beaches, untamed, lapis lazuli, pink, black, calm, white, soft or wild is enviable. Where beach shack bars rewards your nose with the mouth-watering smell of BBQ from one morning to the next. AD: All highlights individually selected by myself. Though booking through the links may see me earn an affiliate commission, there is no extra cost to you.
There is a way to check these islands off your list. And that is, island hopping cruise style with MSC Cruises . They have got the Caribbean covered. And in possibly two or three or five or more cruises aboard one of their ships, following a process of eat, sleep, drink rum and repeat, you too will have the Caribbean covered. Like a multi-destination holiday but on a cruise. That is, without the repeated work of packing, unpacking, airport queues, or the misadventures of delayed flights and lost luggage. On an MSC cruise, you sail from island port to island port with renewed wanderlust. Sipping on Martinis and strawberry daiquiris from dusk 'til dusk. Steak at dinner, lunch, or is it breakfast? Because no one cares. Days, times, they all roll into one. But whichever it is, it's always with a side helping of sea views. And your next Caribbean getaway is only a cruise ship away from one of these ports. New York, NEW YORK You've always known you can cruise to the Caribbean from Miami. But did you know you could do that from New York too? Bermuda, Bahamas , some of the pretty islands you'd visit on a seven or fourteen-night cruise from here. As New York is one of six ports MSC Cruises has adopted for your getaway to the Caribbean. With New York's world fame as 'the city that never sleeps', this metropolis will wink at you as your ship sails in or out of its port. Drawing your attention to its dazzling sky scrapers, art galleries and museums. New Yorkers, you'd be smart to choose this port for embarking or disembarking on your next Caribbean cruise. It's in your back yard, plumb in the city of Manhattan. And for visitors to the Big Apple, Times Square and Central Park, a leisurely stroll away. MSC's Meraviglia is the megaship, your equivalent of a city at sea with accommodations for over five-thousand passengers taking you there. And from April 2023, MSC Meraviglia sails year-round from New York to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. A Formula One fan? Or ever dreamed of visiting a private island? Then race to your hearts' content onboard one of two Formula One virtual reality racing simulators. And, too, visit MSC's private island, Ocean Cay . A cruise on any of these itineraries ticks both boxes. New Yorkers do yourself a 'no-fly' cruise to the Caribbean? Search MSC cruises from New York . Fort de France, MARTINIQUE Martinique has got that French Island mystique. And MSC Cruises wants you to uncover their secrets sailing on one of their seven-night itineraries out of this Caribbean French Isle. On Martinique, their rum distilleries are almost headline acts. With at least eleven distilleries on the island, this is your chance to discover the process of making your favourite tipple. Start your visit on Martinique with an MSC cruise distillery tour. At the end reward your palate with a sample and your home bar with a purchase. Do not over look other local highlights of Biere Lorraine a light beer found island-wide or tablette coco (mounds of grated coconut and sugar), that packs a sugar rush. Catch a 'Quadrille dance' if you can or relax at a beach bar to some zouk music. Being French, these islands look to Europe but have that Caribbean flair. MSC Seaside , one of MSC's top ten ranked cruise ships with its Venchi 1878 Chocolate Bar, award-winning pan-Asian venues by chef Roy Yamaguchi and 2 full-sized bowling alleys, is the ship you'll be cruising on. Pull up anchor on an MSC Cruise from Martinique Bridgetown, BARBADOS Cruised out of an American port? Try starting your MSC cruise bang in the Caribbean. Doing so equates to more island hopping and fewer sea days. Barbados is where you'll want to go for the ultimate in Caribbean Island hopping. There's no ticking off of islands in The Beach Boys', Kokomo song , but this fourteen-night itinerary will see you sun yourself on at least ten Caribbean islands. St Lucia, St. Kitts, St Maarten. Dominica, Antigua, Grenada, just some of the islands you'll go. Some more renowned, some less so. And though Barbados is an island famed for beautiful beaches, it is Crane Beach, with its pink sands that will beckon. Harrison's Cave, another top island attraction. You'll hit all your adventurous notes with this one. And if, in between the island hopping, you want to kick back, take it really slow, there's one of two bowling alleys, Broadway-style shows, or, indeed, take in the smell of a fresh pot of coffee from your sea view-fronted balcony onboard MSC Seaside cruise ship . Get more of your Caribbean Island cruise, with a Cruise from Barbados on MSC's 14-Night Caribbean itinerary. Miami, FLORIDA Said to handle some four million passengers a year, PortMiami is a byword for cruise travel. Everyone has their favourite cruise port and this port sits firmly as a cruise passenger favourite. Its fame worldly as the 'cruise capital of the world', with terminals forever transiting passengers, its berths home to many a cruise line. Less than ten miles east of Miami International Airport, this cruise terminal's location has a view of the high rises of Bayside Market Place. Stroll this lively marina's many shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. The latter three provide the addition of open-air dining to enjoy the bright blue skies and Miami sunshine. Museum lovers should seek out Perez Art Museum nearby. From PortMiami, three of MSC's ships - Divina, Magnifica and Seascape set sail for the Caribbean. Onboard the family friendly MSC Divina , a 4-D theatre and a 22,500 square foot Aqua Park makes for great entertainment. MSC Seascape is the newest MSC megaship in the Caribbean. And as a megaship it does multi-storey water parks, VR motorbikes and a Robotron rollercoaster ride . Just don't try taking it on after a meal in one of the ship's eleven eateries. Not in the habit of cruising with the megaship crowds, MSC Magnifica , the fourth and largest ship in the MSC Musica class is the one. If you are not going to miss mega amusement parks, a plethora of eateries to choose from and the sometimes forever queues, Magnifica with its just over three thousand passenger capacity has an itinerary you can choose from. Go on, choose an itinerary, choose a ship from the award winning PortMiami . For cruises departing to the Caribbean, MSC offers a choice of six ports. The other two being Pont a Pitre, Guadeloupe and Port Canaveral, Florida but all are strategic in their location and world class in their service. Have I left you wide-eyed at a list of Caribbean Islands you can now check off? Or intrigued at all the ports you can now start your Caribbean cruise from? Miami looks set to remain a firm favourite but which of these six departure ports would you be willing to give a try for your next top up of a Caribbean tan? Choose your port, decide your itinerary, let MSC Cruises cruise you to the Caribbean in 2023 and 2024. And from now until the end of June, free balcon y upgrades on selected sailings!
28 - What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise
File This Under She kept walking, each step determined, yet with no destination programmed. Her brain doing its best to triangulate one but rage; her rage and that all-consuming blackened guilt delayed the programming. Regardless, her feet kept moving, footstep after footstep, intent on getting away from the muck she'd smeared on their relationship's bed until she stood outside the door. Her unconscious memory brought her here. Deep breaths. The key card shoved firmly into the lock, except the lock didn't budge. Tried it again, this time, the door light went red. Did the key no longer work? A glance at the card, another at the door number, and both matched. Frustrated, the door bore the brunt of an assault before trying again. Though the pain pinging off her hand made her soon regret doing that. This time the light went green, and the door clicked open. Inside the room, she slumped down behind the door. The non-pinging fingers making long-drawn-out circles on her forehead. What had she done? It was always Joshua. Joshua, who came running after her. Joshua, who kept up the chase when they'd first met, and she played the long game. When she moved out of their place. And now when he couldn't find her for some two days, he was the one that came running. He always wanted her, bent over backwards for her. And he said he always would, but realising now she'd just thrown him and their relationship out like garbage. There was no way he'd come calling after this mess. The realisation triggered and it broke her. Her head collapsed between bent knees. Hands did what they could to stifle the sobs that heaved. The sobs that fast became rivers, rivers of pain. Swollen, blackened and muddy, broke their banks. And it poured out. The heartache, hurt, stupidity masked under floods of tears. How had she fucked this up so badly? Feeking idiot, lunatic, asshole, idiot. Is exactly where she'd need to file her actions. She fist punched the air. Frustration taking over. She couldn't blame it on Josh turning up. It was her own bloody silence that did that. Left him worried about her. Left him thinking she'd gone and buried herself in her grief when she'd only gone gotten herself blown side ways by another man. That, a step too far. She knew now that of all the decisions she needed to make, the things she needed to do, what happened should never have been one of them. Not another man, not pastures new. Nothing she needed from Josh, she didn't already have. Nothing she'd wanted from him, of him, that he wouldn't give. So, where had she lost sight of this and their relationship? Except, of course... And it was here she'd started with the blinkers, became hostage to an absent wedding ring. Coming out on the cruise was one thing, but her getting tangled with Harry... Oh Gawd. It never should have gone that far. And then to walk out on Josh just now as if... Oh Gawd. The realisation smacked and it smacked hard because this was all her fault, her stupidity, her short-sightedness. Without Eleanor knowing it, and Eleanor can never know it because Lemara had just handed live ammunition to her words. 'Josh, you can do better than that. She's no good for you.' Eleanor said the second she'd got Joshua in the kitchen and away from Lemara, as if she wasn't sitting in the room next door. Julia's most welcomed but untimely presence through the front door, silenced anything Joshua may have said in response to his mother. Or maybe she was just too fuming mad to hear it. Because if he did. She hadn't heard it. Those words left her hot for a long time, speechless too, if only for the remainder of the visit. Eleanor, holier than thou inside the church's doors, but inside her house, behind her kitchen door, Lemara knew differently. She'd double back if she could, erase the past few days. Because how could she come back from this? How could she come back from this fling? Her sister would know, have an answer. The back of her hands wiped a snotty nose. Sat upright, rummaged through her bag for the phone she'd tossed in it earlier. And in the search for her sister's name, realised her mind played games. Her name was still there, Lia and her profile photo too but that was it. Just like the day Lemara received the news, a cold, crushing blow hit her. Her stomach came up for another taste. Both hands clasped her mouth, binding the fresh grief that sought to escape. There was no sister to call, only this dark, empty, bottomless abyss of countless unanswered questions. They'd shared everything. Lipsticks to interview tips. Lemara's go-to for hugs, her diary, her plus one, her therapy until she'd trusted Joshua enough to be those things for her. She a pragmatist. Lemara the spontaneous. They'd near talk this cruise into existence. Where they'd cruise, which cruise line, islands they'd be visiting, and too how many bikinis they'd take. Lia planning for one per day. Lemara recalling she'd said she'd only need bikinis on a Caribbean cruise and Joshua giving her his 'what-a-surprise' side-eye. She smiled at the memory momentarily. But that memory blade jabbed, brought on fresh grief, buried the smile. She cried her name. Cried for all their missed adventures, planned trips, pillow talks and just them being together. Lia would have known what to do. And because she'd know what to do, new brooks made their way down her cheeks—the pain, even more unforgiving. Numb, she got to her feet, walked and slumped onto the bed. The one she slept in the first night. She couldn't rewrite this episode, but how could she fix it if she couldn't rewrite it? But for the hangers, the wardrobe stood bare. The room, empty just like she felt. Offered no consolation. Neither did the pillow offer an answer, only a cushion for her sore head and a towel for her tears. Curled up, her head whirled with what she'd say to Joshua because she knew now she didn't want to lose him. She cried her Lia's name. Cried for all their never to be had adventures, for this cruise they should have been taken together. And the tears kept coming for the words she could not put together for Joshua. Lia, I wish you were here. That I could bring you back. Those cries took over the eerie silence of the room.
NoMad's Weekend Brunch
Dining at NoMad Restaurant has been a conversation for some time now. So naturally, the yes came easy when my hands got tied up with a brunch request. NoMad Restaurant sits subterranean within its namesake The NoMad Hotel London —a five-star hotel opposite the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. And the hotel and restaurant have seen much chatter since it opened in 2021. And if those old walls could talk, they too would have newspaper reels of stories to retell of some of its more famous inmates—this building, formerly the residence of Bow Street Magistrates' Court and Police Station . It is therefore agreed that discussions regarding Oscar Wilde and Augusto Pinochet and the reasons for them being inside these said walls may be too heavy for the stomach lining, as we take our seats. Instead we talk Brunch, a portmanteau coined from the words breakfast and lunch, and the halfway house that it is between breakfast and lunch. Eleven o'clock is the earliest you can sit for brunch in NoMad. On a Saturday morning, I'm up just in time to get ready and get to the restaurant for then. It also means a single cup of coffee fuels me. Insufficient to get the 'all of me' going, take in what is happening around me. And although it is the earliest seating, brunch is packing out and conversations are more than a hush. Don't Londoners know how to lie-in? Our waiter realises we need help, so he unmasks our menu from under the napkins. I'm straight to it—something to fuel the breakfast I've missed and fuel me past lunch. It is still too early in the day to be taking decisions on Sides, Snacks and Starters, Raw Bar, Pastries and Mains, so we go direct to Eggs. The pork confit catches interest and so does the smoked salmon and that's what we ordered. First, the Breakfast Burrito and an Avocado Toast with smoked salmon. And because we were celebrating, an Adonis from the Classic Cocktail list and a Peter Piper from the Soft Cocktail menu. It was the passion fruit juice that called out on the latter. And by the time I'd had the first hit of the sip of my Peter Piper , the slight tartness of the passion fruit kicked a tap into my toes. Another sip and the black pepper untied me. Sufficiently untied I can do a little shimmy of the shoulders to LTD's ' Back In Love ' , funk house remix coming out of the speakers. Another sip and I was near having a full groove coming on. I pause the sipping, wanting to avoid ending up on the tables. Neither was it the time, place or conversation I'd like to be starting. On the Adonis , I had expectations of a very handsome presentation. Though reserved in its display, its taste was a full-on trip down memory lane to a rum liqueur made on Montserrat called Perks Punch. Its even got the same caramel colour. The vermouth di Torino and sherry give it a warm sweetness and chai and orange bitters just a little tap at the bottom of the belly. Sufficiently alive now, I take notice of the surroundings. Lots of green and greenery throughout, it is soothing. Miniature citrus trees flaunt their wares at eye level, (I am tempted to harvest a few) but recall the hotel retains a few cells . While I may want to see my name in lights, this isn't it. Instead I draw my eyes upwards to the hanging ferns and glass ceiling, where whatever there was of London's winter light poured in on all of us. Here too, the servers come on duty in dark blazers, black jeans and white trainers serving a mixed but primarily young crowd. It is an Instagram hot-spot and I think any seat running along the centre, especially those at either end of that central row is enviable. But here's a great photo tip , some of the best pics are taken from the ground floor above the restaurant. Our server Arush is back and with our plates. He's clearly not suffering from any hangover as he has done nothing but grace us with his smile and energy all morning. Whatever he has had for breakfast, I want it. And I am hoping it was a Breakfast Burrito because it is what I ordered. ' Too Much ' by Mark Ronson and Lucky Daye is oozing out of the speakers all the weekend vibes, filling my head with some smooth funk and I like it. I am straight into the pork confit. Rich and flavoursome, it melts in my mouth. Sufficient to put a smile on. Stuffed with eggs, potato, cheese, avocado and salsa made for a great breakfast alternative. Halfway through the other half of burrito, I am singing 'Too Much' for all the wrong reasons. And though I am feeling full, I finish it, leaving nothing but a few salad leaves decorating my white plate. Still, a bit more titillation from the salsa or anything else would have been just right. Over on Avocado Toast, a poached egg spews its runny middle over crushed avocado under smoked salmon . Do you know when you know it's good? It's when lips continue to move but the conversation pauses. Here again, another helping of chilli flakes would have made this perfect for me. Though it was not my dish, found it was delectable and filling. Towards, the end we're offered pastries and though a Pistachio Paris-Brest catches my attention, I decline. I'm offered coffee too, this I also decline. For that I get eyes questioning me. But we leave that there. Compared to my first brunch outing in 2021 ( you may read about it here ), this experience (exclusive of the other) was sedate. But we were here for the venue, for the space. The atmosphere of brunch inside NoMad Restaurant is a micro cluster of calm and leisure, contrasting with the busy and concrete that is its immediate location. The food, service and certainly the space is the attraction here. It being such a great way to spend a Saturday morning, I now know why NoMad's weekend brunch continues to garner interest and conversation. And if brunch rolls long you can always stay for dinner. And if after dinner, still fancy a bar and the night life without the crowd see Side Hustle and Common Decency another two restaurants and bars inside The NoMad Hotel. And if the all day soirée takes its toll, there are elegant rooms up the stairs to book yourself into. Has the NoMad chatter reached you? Would you consider their weekend brunch? Great for: Instagram hotspot, Groups of six, Brunch celebrations, Dates you want to impress Location: 8 Bow St, London WC2E 7AW
The Winter Coat Edition
In a country where winter and cold occupies around seventy-five per cent of the year, trapping warmth around your body when out, is essential. Doing so and remaining sensational and stylish, well, that does have its challenges. Because the two (warm and stylish) in a coat don't necessarily go together. How many times have you seen a coat, loved the threads off it, it'll cost you one of your arms and possibly a leg too but offers no warmth for the remaining limb or legs? How many times? Or you've got warmth, but the styling is more seventeen-year-old teenagers? A good winter coat for me centres around beautiful tailoring and shaping for sure. The functionality to keep me warm is essential, though I am finding this is becoming less and less so. Pockets are a definite godsend, fashionable an added bonus and compliments while wearing it, manna. Well, I don't promise to have the fix of fashion styling and warmth but I've curated a list of coats that keep me warm, keep me looking fashionable and continue to garner me compliments.
Kaliko - A Winter's Staple If a good coat is essential, this coat is it. This Kaliko coat and I have been in a long-term relationship. Kaliko was an occasion wear brand, was because the company no longer exists. I cannot pinpoint how long I've had this coat, but it is nearly as old as my daughter. It's seen me to the office , after-work drinks with friends, the two-exes-ago distant cousin's wedding reception and walks on the coast. That it remains my go-to winter coat for when nothing else would do, says it all. A timeless coat that has survived the seasons, years, wear, tear and manages never to look outdated. Marries a simple design and beautiful tailoring with functionality. Unbuttoned, its relaxed styling serves as a wrap coat too, where the belt cinches it all together at the waist. It moves with me with ease. Now when they made clothing as good as, and long-lasting as, it is no wonder they went out of business. I am not yet ready to replace this coat, but Hobbs has something similar in their Gerrie Wrap Coat if I were to. Style: Wrap over lapels, single-breasted, removable belt, slanted pockets, Investment Ratings - Fit: 5 out of 5 / Quality: 5 out of 5 / Value for Money: 5 out of 5 / Style: 5 out of 5 / Material: 5 out of 5 Zara - Winter Classic It is the cut of this one for me, a tailored, slim feminine silhouette. The classic cream, worn with anything, to any engagement, night or day. For an effortless winter day look, unbelted and only two buttons down the front, it is often worn open on less cold winter days, layered over a contrasting colour block oversized scarf, that too from Zara. Sleek and stylish, the black buttoned sleeves offer a timeless look. This style too, is often seen on Zara's men's coats. With its ease of style and versatility, this Zara coat has also, become a wardrobe favourite. Style : Single-breasted, Regular length, contrasting collar Ratings - Fit: 5 out of 5 / Quality: 5 out of 5 / Value for Money: 5 out of 5 / Style: 5 out of 5 / Material: 5 out of 5 Next - Dopamine in a Coat Stylish and vibrant, that's this coat. Crafted from super comfortable fabric and ooh-so soft hand feel too. Nicely padded, it is warm. You feel the heat gathering immediately after putting it on. And with enough room to wear over a thick jumper, makes it ideal for buttoning into on those truly colder days. The colour, energy giving, this is all the fun in the fairground outerwear. It is certain to catch all the eyes. As well as it's hot pink, it's outsized revere collar pops too. This Next Single Breasted Button Coat With Quilted Lining runs big, but if you like it as much as I do, it is still available to purchase. Style: Button fastening cuff, Single breast, hip pockets, quilted lining Ratings - Fit: 5 out of 5 / Quality: 5 out of 5 / Value for Money: 5 out of 5 / Style: 5 out of 5 / Material: 5 out of 5 Karen Millen - Going Military Styled with a row of buttons stitched down its double breast, epaulettes and flaps. And while not the signature gold-tone embossed military buttons, this coat manages to throw attention to itself. It sits slim over the body, refusing to hug any curves I may have. And when buttoned up, cuts a little tight across the bust. And, I find the material not so much on the winter warm side. Looking for a slender silhouette? This KM coat gives that effect. Buttoned-up, you have that military look. ' Eyes right salute ' Style: Large patch pockets, Wool buckle belted, longline, epaulettes, hook and bar closure at the neck Ratings - Fit: 4 out of 5 / Quality: 4 out of 5 / Value for Money: 3 out of 5 / Style: 4 out of 5 / Material: 3 out of 5 Hobbs - Signature Pattern On I was forever stealing glances at this one. You know, like the hottie that recently started in the office? The one they put to sit immediately across from you? The one that has you considering breaking all your office rules? Yes, that one. Though, you can't justify it. Then they make it a little too easy to, and Oohhh! This is the Hobbs Peggy belted. A pattern and colour combination that makes what would have ordinarily been just another simple coat, exciting. Generous pockets and a collar you can wrap your neck in. Although this coat easily becomes a classic, it has one or two drawbacks. First, it is so long that I need to find a tailor to shorten it to a reasonable length. Second, it is not the warmest. I can probably wear it into spring as a trench, making it multi-seasonal. Despite those, this coat has garnered so many compliments. It'd pay for its tailoring if I put £1 in a jar for every compliment I have received thus far. I can see it hanging on for the long-term. Can I be in a relationship with two coats? Time will tell. Style: Double-breast, oversized collar, belted waist, slanted pockets, Full length, large lapel Ratings - Fit: 4 out of 5 / Quality: 5 out of 5 / Value for Money: 3 out of 5 / Style: 5 out of 5 / Material: 4 out of 5 Well, we are in the middle of March with the temperatures out, equating to the that of my fridge freezer. But spring can wait so I get maximum wearing out of these winter coats. But what are you wearing as outerwear now? Have you gone over to spring jackets yet?
I want to talk about anything but what I've written on this paper right now. Because maybe, just maybe, I can prolong this process in the church today. I can delay our advance to the next stage. Perhaps just perhaps, if we don't mention why we are all gathered here, it'll be all right! Because this feels surreal. Some three days after the news, I rang grandad's number. Maybe someone got the information mixed up. The wrong flight number called. Perhaps grandad didn't get on the plane; he's still in the hospital. My aunty will tell you I put her through a 'Spanish Inquisition' because no one was there. She says she's received his death certificate/boarding pass. Again no one was there. Who did they really print that pass for? Your call is important to us; please hold the line. The person you're calling knows you're waiting. BT's answer phone recording . Anyone who has ever called my grandad would be familiar with that recording, especially on a Sunday. He could poun' story . Not something I inherited from him. Okay, maybe in some ways, I did. And if you've ever had to listen to that message on repeat, don't feel any less; grandkids didn't get moved up the order chain. Nope, we had to wait too. I remember one Sunday afternoon in particular, no answer came until the next day. Hello, babycakes! (His pitch is always closer to a 'G') All was well with the world now. Grandad! Yeesss! I've been calling you since yesterday. Yeesss, I was catching up with some ole friends. We siddown, pound story. Poun' story , eh? The person you're calling knows you're waiting . Yesss, talk about ole times. It must have been good, I say. Yeesss, we had a good laugh. Good times... I see, so what you up to today? Well, had a funeral today for so and so. You won't know them. They left Montserrat long before you were born. I see. I say. And another funeral, somewhere in East London, tomorrow. Wait, are these the funerals you told me about last week or another set of funerals? Because grandad, by the time you're finished going to funerals, they'll be no one left to attend yours. But grandad, you should see the church—even with Covid restrictions in play. They've all come out to say and pay their ultimate regards to you today. The person you're calling knows you waiting. And I tell you what, BT must have sent an engineer around in the last few days to check that line is ok. I had since switched those Sunday calls to Thursdays; Thursdays have no queues. Hello, babycakes! You can't go far wrong with a greeting like that. Can you? Do you know what babycakes means? It means sweetheart. His endearing term for the lot of us. It didn't mean we got shoved to the front of the queue, though. I had to wait my turn like all else. While he chatted, laughed, poun' stories with all and sundry. But if you've ever met my grandad, and I suppose you all have hence the reason you are here. But just in case you hadn't, I've never known him to be disgruntled, annoyed, upset, or judgemental. He was easygoing. Traits I'm still waiting to fully inherit. The person you're calling knows you're waiting . Waiting for their turn to chat, laugh and poun' story . Stephanie, leave the child alone. She doesn't want the fish and chips. My grandad to my mother, a little while after we moved to the UK. You see my grandparents had just asked us if we wanted fish and chips. A resounding yes all around to be getting fish and chips. Except, when it turned up, it was different to how we did fish and chips back home. My eyes wouldn't communicate with my brain, with my stomach. I looked up from the fish and chips. Face speaking all the words I dare not let leave my mouth. My eyes to my mother's. Her mouth didn't move, but her face said everything. You're eating the fish and chips. Winced. Grandad walked out of the room, leaving me with the version that required me to eat what was in front of me. So I'm like, wait, grandad, come back. He must have guessed because he called back to my mother. 'Stephanie, leave the child alone.' Easy going. That was my grandad. And it was this cheerful, well-mannered, easy going demeanour that kept us all calling, whether it was the sun or the moon in the sky. But we weren't the only ones calling. Because not so long ago, we thought grandad's flight number had been called, except when we got to departure, we were refreshingly asked to turn back. The thing is, though, we've all got flight numbers, haven't we? We simply do not know what ours is, which date or time. Sadly, two Sundays ago, grandad's flight number was indeed called; his flight was ready. Cabin crew, doors to manual and cross-check.
In memory and love (my speech/eulogy) Mr E Allen, Grandad's funeral Summer 2021