UK Fashion and Lifestyle Blog.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Nutcracker Ballet

Today marks just one week until Christmas Day and I can't express just how much I'm enjoying this festive season!  Although we're all busy counting down the days until the 'big day', the build up proves to be just as exciting with all of the treats and traditions that take place this month!  In my case, along with many longstanding traditions, an old one was revisited this year by viewing The Nutcracker Ballet with my parents.  We selected the Birmingham Hippodrome as our venue of choice  and it certainly didn't disappoint!  With an appealing contemporary glass exterior and modern lobby, walking into the contrasting auditorium made for an overwhelmingly pleasant surprise, because after all, if you've booked tickets to experience arguably the most festive ballet around, you're hoping to enjoy it in flamboyant elegance.


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Treats and Traditions: Bath at Christmas

Last week, I spoke briefly of traditions whilst documenting my experience of Portsmouth's Victorian Festival of Christmas and since then I've been noticing just how many traditions I've continued over the years and equally, how many have unknowingly come to an end.  Thankfully, one that seems to be here to stay, is travelling to Bath at the beginning of December each year.  Shopping, visiting the Christmas markets and admiring the architecture has been a constant, but a new addition to the tradition has been staying at the Abbey Hotel overnight.    

The independently owned Abbey Hotel enjoys the perfect city centre location, allowing for easy access to most of the things that you'd travel to Bath for at this time of year.  With a stylish and at times contemporary design, the hotel offers both comfort and luxury, with interesting features and pops of colour at every turn.  The hotel room that I had the pleasure of staying in this year at the hotel featured a particularly unique patchwork armchair positioned just off the stone feature wall, which can be to blame for the removal of my camera from it's case before I'd even opened my suitcase to start unpacking!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Portsmouth: The Victorian Festival of Christmas

As refreshing as it is to create new traditions, it can be just as lovely to keep some past ones.  For three consecutive years now, I have been making my way to The Victorian Festival of Christmas at Portsmouth Dockyards - an event running this year from Friday 28th November to Sunday 30th November, 10am - 6pm.  So, if you're anywhere near the area, tomorrow is the last day of admission.. although there's always next year!

Although I've gone most of my life with a camera glued to my side, this was the first year that I have approached Christmas with a DSLR camera, which so far I've found makes each experience all the greater!  Upon arrival, we made our way towards the smell of fish and chips, however by the time we'd finished eating and adjusting to our surroundings, we walked out of the cafe/restaurant to see one of the most beautiful skies imaginable.  The burning, warm colours of the sky seemed to contrast perfectly with the cold, steely colours and materials of the marine setting below.

The obvious thing to do when visiting the Victorian Festival of Christmas at Portsmouth, is to take a boat trip.  The second most obvious thing to do is to wrap up very, very warm!  The boat trip was both entertaining and informative, as the narration blaring from the speakers on the boat was pretty funny.  Humour aside, I learned a huge amount more than I thought I would as we glided past numerous ships with facts filtering their way through the speaker - for example, did you know the UK alone eats four million bananas every three days?  Because I sure didn't!  Knowing that the wind chill factor in Portsmouth is greater than surrounding areas from my own experiences, I opted to wrap myself in multiple layers - as briefly shown on my Instagram.  We're talking thermal vest followed by a lace vest, covered by a GAP sweater and all of that heat sealed in with a Ralph Lauren puffa jacket.  I bought my Ralph Lauren fur-hooded jacket last year and I can't see myself investing in any other jacket purely for warming purposes now, as nothing could compare to the warmth of this feather-filled jacket!  The grey jodhpurs are a past season style by Zara and the knee-high boots are by Carvela, as shown in a previous outfit post.  Finally, the red cashmere gloves offer a much needed pop of colour to an otherwise dark look, and were purchased last winter in Germany.  

HMS Warrior, Portsmouth Dockyards
There was such a lot to look at and learn about at Portsmouth's Victorian Festival of Christmas and so you can't help but return home with facts spinning around your mind.  The dockyards at this event take on a strong sense of historic pride, which can only be a good thing.  There is nothing greater than visiting somewhere and being presented with not only great sights, but also some information to back up those sights.  A photo of a ship becomes much more and a simple line of sight through the lens of a camera is no longer 2D.   

Needless to say, it was very cold.  I mean, really cold.  I'm probably not the best person to ask to assess the weather considering I'll declare it freezing until the temperature is over 20oC (causing obvious problems living in the UK at the best of times)!  Nevertheless, as we glided along on the boat and my hood was nestled around my head, everyone was excitably taking photos of the surrounding views and warm drinks were taken around on a tray available for sale, I couldn't help but tell myself off a bit for having initially moaned about the cold weather.

Returning to the Christmas theme, after we had filed out and off the boat and reached our starting point once more, the Christmas theme was evident from the very beginning.  From Victorian-themed dressing to Christmas carollers, if I wasn't already feeling festive, I certainly was after spending a few moments at the dockyards!  I can't remember the last time we had a white Christmas here in the UK, meaning it must have been at least a good few years ago.  Thankfully, the snow machine shooting out realistic snow (helped along by a natural Portsmouth wind), helped me to imagine how lovely it would be to have a white Christmas once more.  It was certainly a lovely touch..  


Obligatory photo by a point of interest!  When you see historic sights, it's so easy to run your eyes over them with little assessment and quickly return to modern living.  It's only when you stare long and hard at something for a considerable length of time and imagine how many lifetimes those historic items/settings must have seen, that you truly appreciate them for what they are.  My blog focusses predominantly on the 'bright and beautiful' and so before you view some of these photos as an unusual fit for A Glass Of Ice, I've love you to open your mind to how they may also be bright and beautiful in an admittedly less conventional way.

HMS Victory, Portsmouth Dockyards


There are so many separate spaces to The Victorian Festival of Christmas, that it could be easy enough to miss out on some features.  It was only towards the very end of the day that we stumbled across the beautiful ferris wheel, as shown above, and a series of more Christmas market stalls selling interesting items such as festive wooden ducks wearing hats, knitted Christmas pudding tea cosies and intricate decorations to hang on the tree.  Just as the announcement came through the speakers that the event was closing for the day, we had also discovered a food van selling delicious sugared donuts, which we ate straight from the paper bag.  There really is so much to explore and discover at the dockyards, and one final surprise even came at the end for us as we were leaving, that was delivered in the form of a beautifully illuminated HMS Warrior.  Christmas is here! 

HMS Warrior, Portsmouth Dockyards

With love,

Gabrielle x


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Clinique's Perfectly Real Foundation

So, I guess you could call this my first beauty review on A Glass Of Ice and so of course, in true festive, celebratory style.. candy canes had to be involved.  Christmas has already started to work it's way into my life through festive cupcakes, Destiny's Child belting out 8 Days Of Christmas and the annual 'turning on of the lights' at more places than I can count on my hands.  With this in mind, it made sense for a touch of the festive season to creep into this post..

''I thought maybe we could make gingerbread houses and eat cookie dough and go ice skating and maybe even hold hands!'' - Buddy the Elf

Before I go off on a tangent and start discussing Christmas decorations, chocolate yule logs and carol singing, I'll get down to business.  I only started experimenting with foundation a few years ago, however up until quite recently I had been using mineral powder foundations.  In my opinion, the wall of disapproval I was met with for using a powder foundation was warranted.  I have naturally dry skin and so the powder highlighted this and aged my skin cosmetically in appearance pretty badly.  This isn't to say that powder foundations aren't just as good, if not better, than liquid foundations and instead it's purely to say that they simply do not suit my skin.  A couple of casual skin consultations later and i'm introduced to Clinique's Perfectly Real Makeup Foundation..

Once I had managed to overcome my excitement at having found a foundation that was light enough to match my skin tone, I was able to form a first impression.  The packaging itself is fresh, appealing and accompanies the brand's concept of keeping appearances natural with an understated beauty - one that doesn't wave it's arms around to be noticed.  Upon trying Clinique's foundation for the very first time over a year ago, I was worried at how dark the bottle seemed and wondered how the hell I wasn't going to look like an orange-flavoured lollipop.  Thankfully, there was no need to be alarmed as the pale shade of foundation that had been recommended to me was perfectly suited to my skin tone, which is just as well considering the brand propose this foundation makes 'skin look real but better' and 'more even, perfected, healthy'!      

Only a very small amount is needed for considerable coverage and the liquid effortlessly covers blemishes and undesirable marks/bumps.  Clinique claims their Perfectly Real Makeup Foundation is a 'weightless foundation that provides the perfect match and a natural finish' and I can quite happily confirm this!  Another positive of this foundation in comparison to other liquid foundations I've tried samples of, is the smooth touch to the skin even after application - there is a definite 'second skin' appeal.    

The foundation shade shown here is 01, their lightest shade.  Overall, I've been hugely impressed with this foundation and so much so, that since trying it for the first time over a year ago, I've not looked at another foundation.  If I had to rate the product, I'd be giving it a solid 10/10 and ten golden stars to hang on Clinique's Christmas tree!

With love,

Gabrielle x


Friday, 24 October 2014

For The Love Of Autumn!

Shoes, necklaces and coats; these three things are consistently the focus of my (many) shopping trips.  I know that I'm supposed to say that I have an abundance of jeans in my wardrobe that are ready to be showcased this season, however the cold truth is that I despise jeans/trouser shopping and can instead be found lurking by the rails of coats whilst dangling various necklaces from my fingers.  With this in mind, it goes without saying I entered Autumn with the mindset of 'new season, new coat'..

I found this gorgeous wool duffle coat with fur hood in a Zara store a few weeks ago, however at the time didn't do anything about it as I had a feeling my purse would be facing total annihilation on my upcoming city break in Barcelona. Little did I know that whilst shopping at Barcelona's La Rambla, I would encounter the buckled coat again whilst wandering around the gloriously massive Zara store there and so this time, welcomed the stylish coat to my collection without a moment's thought as to whether it would fit inside my suitcase (thankfully, it did)!  This wasn't the only coat I excitably purchased whilst exploring one of Barcelona's Zara stores, as I also fell in love with a grey fur coat that somehow managed to squeeze it's way into my suitcase - I'll be sure to share that with you as well sometime in the near future!

I have always seen Autumn as the opportunity to find the most interesting coats and jackets as I possibly can, for it would be far too easy to fall into the mistake of opting for 'plain' options that do little more than cover your clothing and suit the season's colour palette.  Buttons, buckles, fur, embellishment.. you name it, I search for it!  Although the wool duffle coat is available in black and oatmeal as well, I chose to invest in the khaki option as the brown and gold buckle detailing really stood out against the colour - and besides, I have enough black coats to clothe a small country by now!

As far as fur-trimmed hoods, this Zara example (that I've just noticed was featured in The Times magazine) is the cream of the crop.  Is there so much fur that it's near impossible to keep it up on your head without holding it?  Possibly.  Does this bother me?  Not in the slightest!  There's nothing more disappointing than a beautiful coat that is accompanied by a measly fur-trim that resembles a furry centipede wrapped around the circumference of the hood.. so thank you Zara, for constantly providing us coat-enthusiasts with a mass of beautiful fur to wrap around our heads and pretend we're in a Christmas music video's winter wonderland.  Whilst walking through this array of beautiful rust-coloured leaves and surrounded by the bright green tunnel of trees, I couldn't help but appreciate all that Autumn has to offer and wonder why I've spent so much time disliking the season in recent years!  Once you look past how it replaces Summer and drowns us in ten tons of rainwater, it's not all that bad - it'll be providing me with the opportunity to dress up like a cat whilst eating a tub of ghost-shaped jellies in a little over a week's time, after all!  Oh, and not forgetting the chance to buy more coats under the umbrella of 'new season, new coat'!


I hope that you're all enjoying Autumn as much as I am and from what I've been reading on your blogs, it certainly looks as though that's the case!  So, three cheers for Autumn.. and fingers crossed for an even more beautiful white winter (and Christmas)!

With love,

Gabrielle x


Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Chocolate Show, London's Olympia

Yesterday, I had the total pleasure of attending The Chocolate Show at the Olympia in London, with no preconceived ideas of what to expect as I had intentionally avoided all photos and accounts of the show online beforehand.  The public event that claims to be 'perfect for any chocoholic' is still in place at the Olympia West for one more day after being put in motion yesterday (17th - 19th October).  The show offers access to some of the UK's most loved brands as they showcase their indulgent treats at one of the many stalls there, along with various other forms of entertainment including the fashion show featuring couture outfits designed by chocolatiers/designers made out of - you guessed it - chocolate!

Chocolates brought home, Goufrais

My first impression upon arrival was that this was clearly a place for chocolate fanatics and therefore, I was well and truly at home.  Walking through Olympia West, enthusiastic conversations about 'bean to bar' chocolate and regional specialties could be heard at every turn, along with appreciative 'mmm's as ticket holders would place chocolate samples in their mouths.  Opening times on the first day of the show were from 10am until 7pm, meaning that our early arrival allowed for room to breathe, although by the time we left during the early hours of the afternoon, that had changed considerably.  I could never have anticipated how popular The Chocolate Show would be, however it doesn't at all come as a surprise considering the show boasts names such as Hotel Chocolat, Rococo and Lindt.

Along with household names that are known both by chocolate enthusiasts and complete novices, we stumbled across various brands that weren't as well-known.  Just as when blogging about other areas such as unearthing new beauty products or clothing labels, discovering a brand unknown to me before at The Chocolate Show proved to be thrilling at times.  An example of this was Bad Brownie, a brand that speaks to the side of us that craves something devilishly indulgent at half past one in the morning - never have I wanted to live in London so badly before!

Out of their extensive selection of jaw-dropping creations available at their food markets around London (see their website for more details on locations), ten million points go to the Peanut Caramel Balls, as also seen on my Instagram.  The presentation of their sweet treats was impeccable and if I didn't have so many irritating allergies, I would have needed a dozen burly guys to help me carry my brownie haul back home with me!  I hadn't realised it was possible, but the brand seem to have made brownies borderline edgy and before you think I've gone mad, check out the company's developing website for a background on their brownie revolution.  As a side note, Bad Brownie welcome ideas for new brownie flavours and so if you fancy yourself a brownie connoisseur, head over to their Twitter account to share your genius!

Anybody else envious of his dazzling white teeth?!

Once I'd managed to get over my newfound brand love, I continued on in the search of chocolatey goodness and soon found myself listening to an endlessly fascinating talk at the Chocolate Theatre by Maricel Presilla, author of The New Taste of Chocolate, on Latin American cacao and chocolat.  The informed talk packed full with information by Presilla drew in a considerable crowd and especially so when delicious samples of chocolate were passed around, with tips on how to recognise certain traits that distinguished one type of cacao from another.

My experience of The Chocolate Show introduced me to other interesting brands including Demarquette, a company founded by master chocolatier Marc Demarquette, a man who prides himself on creating 'timeless recipes and entire collections that inspire'.  Most certainly, inspiration is the first thing that springs to mind when being introduced to Demarquette's collections, including The Great British Orchard and The English Garden, a beautifully fragrant collection featuring hand painted chocolate flowers that conceal caramel within.  Another brand I familiarised myself with yesterday was The Brownie Bar, a company based in Newcastle upon Tyne and one of the brands I purchased from.  If there's one thing to know about me, it's that I adore salted caramel and so when the opportunity arose to indulge in a deliciously gooey salted caramel chocolate brownie, I welcomed it with open arms!    

As I mentioned earlier on, some very well known and loved brands were showcasing some of their latest additions at Olympia West, Hotel Chocolat included.  There are few things as wonderful as chocolate, besides Christmas.. and so combine the two and you've got an incredibly excitable blogger on your hands.  Hotel Chocolat's 2014 Christmas selection was on display from decorative wreaths to oversized crackers and I even managed to pick up a couple of sweet stocking fillers whilst admiring their festive collection!

Hotel Chocolat's Gingerbread Truffles
A highlight of The Chocolate Show is undoubtedly the fashion show as mentioned at the beginning of this post, however in a bid to make our journey home that little less hectic, we left before the show took place.  Thankfully, the awe-inspiring creations were on display for all to see throughout the day, allowing me to capture the most magnificent design to share with you here!  Surprisingly, Harvey Nichols also made an appearance at the event directly next to the Chocolate Theatre and were on hand to provide a fabulous selection of cookbooks as well as the opportunity to have your copy of Maricel Presilla's book signed by the lady herself!  After a Christmas-themed cookbook featuring a recipe for Speculoos spread had been purchased and gift wrapped, one last lap of the show was walked before stumbling across a low-key stand that was both modest and unobtrusive.  The stand belonged to the German brand 'Goufrais' and after sampling one of the chocolate treats on  offer, I was immediately hooked and proceeded to purchase a golden bag of Goufrais goodies of my very own to enjoy back at home!  For me, Goufrais ranks right up there with my appreciation of Green & Black's chocolate!     

Looking a little dishevelled by now!

Just seconds before leaving, I spotted a display of photos and bunting promoting the musical production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Needless to say, I've added the flamboyant musical to my theatrical wish list and will hopefully be blogging about it at some point in the near future!

I am so pleased to have attended The Chocolate Show at London's Olympia, as from beginning to end it was constantly enjoyable and informative.  The standout brands for me were the luxurious Goufrais and the self-confessed 'deliciously bad' Bad Brownie.  With regard to entertainment, I'm thrilled to have been reminded of booking my seat to see the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical and it was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to listen to Maricel Presilla.  Considering the event has just one day remaining, the short notice may not be ideal for you to check it out tomorrow.. however it's one date that I would recommend placing firmly on your 2015 calendar!

With love,

Gabrielle x

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