Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Designer bargains galore at the Style Sequel Open House

If Miu Miu dresses for £125 and Christian Dior jackets for £250 sound like your kind of thing then there is only one place you need to be this weekend: Style Sequel's Open House event. 

The Style Sequel team are giving you the chance to explore their fabulous stock room packed with over 1,000 stunning designer pieces. With savings of up to 75% it will be the perfect opportunity to grab a designer bargain.

Attendees will be able to try things on, have a glass of bubbly (or two) and buy amazing items that are not listed on the website.

There will also be a 'pay what you want' designer bargains charity trunk in aid of The Alzheimer's Society; so people can do good while they snag their dream designer piece.

The Open House event is taking place at The Powerhouse in Kennington. It is running 6pm-9pm on Thursday and Friday and 10am-6pm on Saturday. RSVP the Style Sequel team at info@stylesequel.com to confirm your attendance.

Friday, 14 November 2014

My favourite places in Cardiff: Chapter Arts Centre

When I was asked to blog about my favourite place in Cardiff for the Millennium Hotels Guide to Cardiff, one place sprang to mind straight away: Chapter Arts Centre in Canton.

I first visited the centre when I was doing my A-Levels and we went on a school trip to watch a film about the Spanish Civil War. At the time the venue was still in in its old guise of the original converted school building, but I still loved visiting there for the really varied mix of films that it showed, that you would otherwise never have got to see in Cardiff.

A few years after I moved back to Cardiff from university my friend and I lived about 10 minutes away from Chapter and really enjoyed paying a visit there for the films and the great food that they served. However I think it is probably in the last five years that I have spent the most time in Chapter. This is quite ironic that I live further away now than I did in the five years prior to that.

What I love about Chapter is the sheer variety of events going on there, from arthouse cinema to experimental theatre; art exhibitions to photography workshops.

My most recent trip there was a perfect example of why I love the venue so much. Chapter was hosting a screening of the National Theatre’s production of Frankenstein featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller. I love the concept of screenings like this that give people the opportunity to experience cultural events which otherwise they would miss out on, e.g. I got to see the David Bowie V & A exhibition even though I hadn’t been able to get a ticket for the exhibition itself.

After collecting the tickets at the Box Office I spent a few minutes browsing the quirky selection of gifts that they had on display in their ‘shop’, from greetings cards to jewellery. There were some really individual pieces that would make great gifts, whether that be something for your nearest and dearest or a treat for yourself!

Whilst I was waiting for my friend to arrive I had a drink in the cafe bar area. I love this space as it is really open and vibrant and you get a real variety of people, from people sat on their own working on their laptops, to groups of friends chatting on an evening out. The bar offers a great selection of drinks (and incidentally holds a great beer festival!). If you are feeling peckish then you can grab a delicious bite to eat from the varied menu on offer.

Even if you haven’t got time to watch a film or theatre performance then I would definitely recommend that you pay a visit to Chapter. It is the perfect chilled out spot to grab a drink and a bite to eat and to pass some time. And I love that you can bump into such a variety of interesting people while you there.

The screening of Frankenstein was brilliant. I had never read the book, so it gave me a real insight into the darker story beyond the “man with nuts and bolts in his neck” which is the clichéd portrayal of the character that we are all used to seeing in films. Johnny Lee Miller’s performance was amazing. He really conveyed the physical aspects of the creature as it came to life, and made you empathise with the character right to the end, despite everything he had done. 

If you get a chance to catch the next screening on 1st December then I would really recommend it. One of the things that I love about this production is that Danny Boyle got the actors playing the creature and the creator to swap places every day. I am really intrigued to see how Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role of the creature.

Hopefully I will see you in Chapter soon. Don't forget to say hi if I do!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Life List: Photography and the Northern Lights

When Transun invited me to their recent #ExperienceTransun blogger event I jumped at the chance to attend, as it featured two things which feature on my life list: photography and the Northern Lights. Sadly the event didn't involve a trip to see the Northern Lights, but on the plus side it was in one of my favourite local venues, Chapter Arts Centre in Canton.

Transun offers numerous Northern Lights experience trips to the Arctic Circle of Northern Finland and Sweden. I thought that the night-time photography workshop was a really interesting way to engage bloggers and to get us all involved.

As I only have a compact camera and iphone to take photos, I arranged to borrow a camera to make sure that I could make the most of the session.

Simon the photographer who was leading the workshop has travelled around the world taking photos, including to the Northern Lights (the lucky thing!). He was fantastic (and very patient!) at handling a room full of enthusiastic but chatty bloggers!

I learned a lot during the workshop and finally understood terms like shutter speed; aperture and ISO and how you can manipulate each of these to take the best photos for the conditions and/or type of photo you want.

Here are some of the images that I took on the night. They aren't great (major understatement!). But I wasn't too disappointed given that I had never used a DSLR camera before or had much experience of taking night-time photographs. Usually any artistic-looking blurry lights are more down to luck than any creative thought process!

In addition to talking us through all of the technical settings on our cameras, Simon also gave us some top tips for taking photos if ever we do make a trip to the Northern Lights:
  • Be prepared. Apparently the freezing cold temperatures in the Arctic Circle can drain your camera batteries really quickly, so make sure that you pack a few spare batteries for your camera. Can you imagine how disappointed you would be if you were there and then your battery died before you could get some good shots?!
  • Whilst we are on the subject of what to pack for a Northern Lights trip (apart from your thermals obviously!), be sure to pack a tripod. In order to get great shots of the movement of the Northern Lights you will need a slower shutter speed which can be tricky if your hands start shaking! In the absence of a tripod I resorted to using traffic bollards when we went on our photography hunt outside Chapter.
  • Don't just take the obvious photos when you go on holiday. Think about taking photos of your journey there and where you are staying to avoid looking like you have just lifted your photos from a travel brochure! Simon also noted that often hotels and travel companies organising the trip might be interested in purchasing the images.
Although my photos weren't great on the night I am determined to keep trying the techniques out so that I can finally take some decent night-time photographs. And hopefully one day (*crosses fingers*) I will be able to put my skills to the test in the surroundings of the Northern Lights. Thereby ticking two items off my life list at once! I am even thinking of signing up for a photography course.

You can find out more about the workshop over on the Transun blog.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

How to get your wish-list for 'free'

For many years I was guilty of spending my money on lots of cheap 'fast-fashion' items as opposed to investing in pieces that would last for years to come. However over the last year or so I have been making an effort to reduce the quantity of pieces that I buy and rather invest in a few key pieces each season.

Here are some of my top tips:

1. Adopt a 'One in-One out' policy
Every time I purchase an item I now make sure that I get rid of at least one item from my closet. To me this is a win-win situation - I get more space in my closet so that I can actually see what I have in there (!) and my local Tenovus charity shop gets a donation. One of the unexpected benefits of this is that rediscovering pieces at the back of my closet can feel a bit like getting new clothes. 'New' clothes for free - what's not to love?!

2. Take a look at your closet
No, I am not suggesting that you study the construction and fixtures and fittings of your wardrobe, but rather take a long hard look at the items that you already own. Are there any 'gaps' in your wardrobe, i.e. do you have an excess of casual skirts, but are missing a high-quality smart winter coat? This works on two levels. Identify which missing pieces would really help to 'pull together' your closet. Equally, if you find that you have an excess amount of a particular item *, consider donating some of them to your local charity shop or selling them via one of the designer resale sites like Style Sequel.

* In my book numerous breton stripe tops don't count. They are a classic, and perhaps more importantly really versatile piece. If they were good enough for Coco Chanel...

Cue superfluous image of a breton top!

Image: Damsel in Dior

3. Use cashback sites where possible
Once you have identified the pieces that your wardrobe needs then why not use a cashback site such as Quidco to purchase your items. For those that don't know, Quidco is a site which gives you a percentage of your spend back. The website does this by getting an affiliate commission from the retailer. If you are going to buy an item anyway then to me it is a no-brainer to go via a site like this and get cashback on your purchase. Sometimes the sites also offer exclusive voucher codes which can help you save on your purchases.

4. Save to spend
OK I realise  that if I was very sensible then the above headline would read 'Save to save', but hey ho! I currently have my eye on a few investment pieces which are out of my budget. Therefore in my version of being frugal I am going to make sure that any earnings from putting points 2 and 3 into action are put directly into a dedicated savings account. Only once I have saved enough via this means will I invest in the pieces I want and which more importantly will last for years to come. Below is one of the items which is top of my wish-list.

Mansur Gavriel tote

Of course the ultimate wish-list item item for me would have to be this beauty - a girl can dream!

Image: Pinterest

I would love to know what your approach to purchasing the higher-priced items on your wish-list is. Are you a 'buy now, worry later' kind of girl or a 'save to spend' lady?


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