10 July 2014

My 21st Birthday: Part 1- Full of surprises & one very lovely boyfriend

On the 22nd June I turned the ripe old age of 21. I at least now have to act like an adult, even if I feel like a kid inside who thinks about chocolate cake just a little too much. For the past few months I have been having a quarter life crisis dissecting every part of my life, questioning everything including whether I need yet another pair of heels to add to my shoe collection. I was being continuously asked by my family what I wanted for my birthday and how I wanted to celebrate getting older. Apparently a box set of The Darling Buds of May and a big bar of Dairy Milk wasn't quite enough.
All I knew was that I wanted to do something that I would remember for years to come, that I could tell my future cats and ducks all about. Every week I was asking Mr. Boyfriend what he was planning/ giving me for my birthday and every time I would get a very short response hiding any hint of what he was up to. Even depriving him of an extra chocolate eclair one time didn't make him crack. He was so evasive about it all and what he said kept changing and contradicting itself. One minute we were doing something the week before my birthday, then it was the week after and then the same weekend. It didn't take Miss Marple to work out that he hadn't exactly figured it out yet or organised everything, or so I thought.
As the weeks went on I became more rattled and started resigning myself to the fact that my man was not the type that would whisk me away somewhere and I was preparing myself to a life of restaurant coupon vouchers and predictably. He would just say to me "you never know, I might be", let's just say organisation isn't exactly his strong point, it's taken me over three years to get him to start writing lists so I wasn't expecting much. Don't get me wrong I wasn't hoping for anything big and it wasn't about the cost or the extravagance at all. It was more about the sentimentality and the thought involved, but having to tell our future children that he gave me a book token for my 21st just didn't quite cut it.
The week before my birthday I tried to probe him once more and received no information or clues. I may have told him more then once that he was really disorganised and I bet Bradley Cooper would have had it all figured out by now. An hour later I received a text from him that said 'Keep Saturday & Sunday free and make sure you pack an overnight bag.' So like any other normal woman I sent him a barrage of questions wanting every last detail but I just got 'I said...' and then the same text.
All week I tried to squeeze some more detail out of him and all I was told was that there were two locations and he was picking me up early Saturday afternoon and I needed to bring something nice to wear. So I spent the rest of the week on ASOS trying to find a perfect outfit whilst wracking up a pretty impressive bill in the process. Thank god for free returns.
I told my family about it and they all shared in my excitement and inquisitiveness about my weekend and came to the conclusion that he'd just gone on lastminute.com the night he text me. When I told my Grandma her face lit up, I think I got the soppy old romantic gene from her. Her first thought was that he was taking me to Gretnor Green.
For several months I had been trying to convince her that it was incredibly unlikely that he would propose on my 21st. Her reasoning was that because she got engaged on her 21st that meant I would too. I tried to explain to her that a) this is not the 1950s when people had a life expectancy of around 65 and b) has she seen the price of weddings recently? The days of spam sandwiches and cheese and pineapple hedgehogs at wedding receptions are long gone.
So on Saturday 14th June I painted my nails, tweezed my eyebrows and packed my case, which was then repacked with a few more extra pairs of shoes and waited to be picked up by my very own Casanova. All the way to our secret destination I wasn't allowed to look at the sat nav or ask any questions about where we were going. After many anxious Google maps tracking minutes later we arrived in beautiful Brighton.
The sound of the seagulls was so cathartic and the smell of the sea was intoxicating. My curiousness grew and after trying to find a parking spot among all the millions of one way streets we arrived at The Amsterdam Hotel. Mr Boyfriend even wheeled my bright pink flowery bag for me, such a charmer. The hotel was beautiful and we had an amazing room and a great view of the sea and the pier. The hotel was right on the seafront and you only had to walk across the road to reach the pier. I was then quickly told to get ready and constantly asked the time every few minutes by a very nervous and fidgety Mr Boyfriend.
After I'd applied a couple of extra coats of mascara, applied my new MAC Ruby Woo lipstick and changed my shoes about six times, I was ushered into a taxi. We arrived at the glorious Havana restaurant which was beautiful from the outside and even more so on the inside. You can assume pretty much in life that any restaurant that has a fountain will not be serving up the usual bacteria on toast. As we were eating at an early bird special time we had some spicy nuts and hundreds of olives, washed down by a few cocktails in the bar first.
What can I say, we are old gits who want to be home in time for our mugs of cocoa. Mr Boyfriend treated himself to several cocktails mainly because of the names such as the 'Zombie', he's a pretty big 'The Walking Dead' fan and has made me watch some horrific movies in the past three and a half years. Because of him Zombie sheep have occupied my nightmares for far too long.

We then had a delicious meal starting with a mezzanine platter of flatbread, humous, sour cream, a breaded humous parcel and more yummy olives. I then had an incredibly yummy Mushroom Risotto while Mr Boyfriend stuffed his face with chicken. During the meal the waiter offered us some bread using a fork and spoon and beforehand he pulled my chair out and lay my napkin on my lap. Now I bet they don't do that in Burger King.
We were both pretty stuffed after all our thousands of olives and gorgeous food, so decided not to have a pudding. In the restaurant there was also a grand piano and a saxophonist. We slowly walked back to the hotel and had a lovely walk along the seafront.
It was beautiful walking along the seafront even though I did underestimate how many streets we had to walk. Mr Boyfriend kept insisting we get a taxi and even offered to carry me at one point. But I didn't fancy a trip to A&E with his broken back being part of our weekend away. It was like being in a different world. The air smelt and felt different and it was lovely being so close to the sea and having several fish and chip shops within a mile radius.
The next day we stopped at a pub called The Plough Inn in Pyecome on the way back home. Even though it was Father's Day there was luckily a table spare for us. Before I went away my Grandma gave me some money to spend on the weekend, so we had a lovely meal using that. I had some delicious vegetable Fajitas that my dining companion was continuously eyeing up and ended up stealing some of in the end, he's a right greedy gannet.
I had a wonderful weekend and it was lovely exploring Brighton and spending time with my Mr Loverman.
I was filled with a lot of happiness and my positivity had been revived. So what if I'm not a perfect size 8 and my life hasn't quite gone exactly to plan? I have a best friend, boyfriend and true love who very luckily are all the same person and that's good enough for me.
Plus he looks pretty hot all dressed up too.
Second Hand Rose

14 April 2014

Fashion & Flowers

For many years flowers and gardens in general have been a great inspiration for fashion designers. Every year on the catwalk there are enough flowers on show to create a frenzy in the bee world.
Zuhair Murad created an enchanted garden with a floral painted background for his Spring/Summer Couture show. Camellias, roses and peonies amongst many other flowers were featured on garments and a wedding dress in the collection had over 25,000 flowers appliquéd onto it. Now that's an awful lot of needle threading.

Dior are also great lovers of what Mother Nature has created. Who can forget John Galliano's Couture Fall/Winter 2010 collection, that was full of horticultural brilliance? There were corseted ball gowns that were hand painted with bright and majestic colours, with layers upon layers of chiffon and silk-tulle. The collection was simply mesmerising, it's like a chic floral paint by numbers.

The new head of design Raf Simmons seems to be more then happy to carry on the pollen infested trend as well. The Spring/Summer Couture 2013 show was set out like an enchanted garden with bushes and hundreds of flowers. The clothes were made up of lots of tulle with hundreds of flowers, petals, blossoms and lilypads appliquéd. The 2014 Couture show was set out like a hanging garden with bright coloured flowers, orchids and wisteria hanging from the ceiling. That man must watch an awful lot of Garderners World.
Dior Spring/Summer 2013
This is not just a recent trend that has started in the past few decades though. There is now an exhibition at the Garden Museum in London until the 27th April, that is looking into the world of how gardens have inspired fashion for centuries.
As far back as the Jacobean era women were entranced by the beautiful colours of flowers. Dresses worn at the royal court were embroidered with images of flowers from overseas. The exhibition also looks at when and why some flowers were popular at different times such as camellias in the 1840s, sunflowers in the 1890s and not forgetting the flower power craze of the 60s and 70s.
There are some rare pieces of artwork, collages, neddlework and garments on show for many centuries. Designers including Christopher Bailey, Alexander McQueen and Phillip Treacy with his glorious hats, show how what we grow in our gardens can be a lot more chic then just compost and worms.
There are examples and images of floral couture, including Yves Saint Laurent featured jackets with embroidered Sunflowers and Iris's that were in his Couture 1988 show. Valentino's Spring/Summer Couture 2013 show had a garden theme with wrought iron park gates being a main inspiration. There was lots of organza and fabric that was embroidered with flowers, butterflies and birds.
There is also a feature on how people over the centuries have dressed to tend to their much loves gardens. While unfortunately you can't really wear a Dior ball gown to tend to your roses in, you can still look fashionable and chic. Now beat that Monty Don.
There are some great floral and garden themed pieces on the high street too, so you can incorporate the look into your outfit. Either go full blown with a floral dress or tone it down by just incorporating the theme into your accessories. Think more garden party chic and less Mrs Doubtfire, even though she is a pretty cool chick.
Floral Frenzy

Second Hand Rose

06 April 2014

Mother's Day: A piece of cupcake

Jasper looking suave for Mother's Day
Last Sunday the whole Second Hand Rose family got together to celebrate the beautiful lady of the house, our dear Mummy. Even Jasper straightened his bow tie and demanded an extra groom.
My brother and sister came home to appreciate all she does for us and I'm sure all the yummy food available was a pretty big incentive too.
The four of us including Jasper clubbed together and bought her some lovely flowers, including pink roses, gerberas and lillies. It was a made up bouquet which my Dad helped us put together from separate ones, so we didn't have to pay for loads of unwanted greenery, Alan Sugar would have been proud.
We also bought her some lovely fabrics, as she is a quilting demon.
Now to the most important part, the food. My Mum made a lovely meal and some homemade bread for sandwiches as part of our afternoon tea, my family couldn't get anymore English. My contribution included several kilos of buttercream and cake mixture all magiced into some cupcakes.
For Christmas I received several recipe books from my family and friends. I didn't just get the books that were on my list, I also received some from lovely people who I have forced my creations on in the past. Getting recipe books is a bit like getting smelly stuff as presents. You don't know whether they are saying please make something that is actually edible or we already love what you make, here are some more recipes to make us some more delicious creations, fingers crossed for the latter.
I'm afraid to say that these are the first cakes I have made this year and the first time I have used one of my new recipe books. I decided after much cake drooling to use the book Home Sweet Home from the very popular Hummingbird bakery. Recipes in the book include Custard Cream cupcakes and Chocolate truffle cookies amongst many other mouthwatering ideas.
For Mother's Day I decided to ask the two mothers in my families lives, my beautiful Mum and my 83 year old Grandma who acts like a teenager. My Mum fancied Ginger Chocolate cupcakes and my Grandma asked for White Chocolate and Raspberry cupcakes. With this one the recipe had cranberries in, but I changed it to raspberries and added chunks of white chocolate into the batter, what can I say I'm a bit of a cake making rebel.
Normally when I make cupcakes I use the same recipe I use to make a cake. If I want to make 12-18 cupcakes I will think of it as a making a 6 inch cake. The recipe I use is incredibly simple which I have learnt from my Mum the cake pioneer, which Mary Berry has copied. For a 6 inch cake I would use 6oz of self raising flour, butter, sugar and 3 eggs, with 1tsp of baking powder. I would just bung it all in the food mixer and get back to raiding the biscuit tin and dreaming of Bradley Cooper.
But with these recipes which included plain flour, a mahoosive 1tbsp of baking powder and some salt thrown in, it was a completly different process. The measurements for all of the ingredients were different and you mixed the dry ingredients together separately while the wet ingredients had a party of their own.
After making breadcrumbs in the food processor out of the butter, sugar and flour, I then had to gradually mix half the mixture of egg and milk into the breadcrumbs. I then had to leave it to beat fast for a few minutes and then put the rest of the egg and milk mixture in, along with any added flavourings. It was a bit of a laborious process and did hinder my biscuit eating somewhat, but the mixture was made into more like a batter then the thick mixture I'm used to. I used an ice cream scoop to put the batter into the cases like the book suggested. This helped to have equal cupcakes and stop it all going over the floor and my amazing Del Boy apron.
I baked them for around 25 minutes and acted like I was on the Bake Off and sat next to the oven staring into it praying to the cake gods, while listening to my 1940s CD. Both batches of cakes baked well, so I got my icing sugar ready and made enough buttercream to satisfy even Jasper for a good few days.
For the ginger chocolate cakes, I made chocolate buttercream and added some finely stopped stem ginger. For the white chocolate and raspberry ones, I added melted white chocolate (what was left of it) and made 1 and a half times the recipe. I was concerned that because of the design I was doing on the cakes, I wouldn't have enough. Plus I am pretty fond of licking the bowl out too.
I coloured just over a third of the white chocolate buttercream purple and put it in a piping bag with a Wilton 2D tip, along with the rest of the white and piped it into roses. The tip wouldn't work properly at first and I nearly had a meltdown, but my Mum saved the day and found that there was a piece of plastic in the tip so it wouldn't work properly. I know it sounds pretty pathetic to get so upset over decorating cakes, but it makes you want to cry into a bowl of icing and watch Bridget Jones if it doesn't work out properly.
The cakes were meant to be two toned, but it's pretty difficult to get it completly two toned to start with, so one or two turned out more purple then others. I actually had a lot of buttercream left over, which was quickly put in the freezer by Mummy Second Hand Rose, as she could see that I was making a bee line for the bowl. I added some glitter on the top of them to make them sparkle and it's also pretty amusing to see your family sitting there with glittery lips.
For the Chocolate Ginger ones I used one of my bigger pipes, as I was worried about the ginger getting stuck in the bag and it exploding everywhere. I don't think my mum would be too happy if her kitchen was covered with chocolate buttercream. I made swirls with it and added some silver balls. I put them on the vintage cake stand that I sourced for my mum for Christmas. We found the plates a few years a go at a Vintage Fair which you can read about here and she loved them so much I set about sourcing the cake stand and some other pieces. They were hard to find, especially good condition ones, but luckily there was someone that lived less then half an hour away from me who wanted to sell a lot of her set.
It's safe to say that everyone enjoyed the cupcakes and they didn't last for long. My furry critic Jasper also loved them and rather enjoyed having glittery whiskas.
I recently introduced my Mum to Pinterest and she now keeps blaming me for her spending so much time on there. She loves looking at quilts and embroidery to find inspiration for her own. Plus the fact that there are hundreds of photos of Daniel Craig on there that seem to fuel her addiction too.
She is currently making me a very unique quilt, some cushions and some curtains for my bedroom. I will definitely blog about these to embarrass her as much as she embarrasses me every time an issue of Vintage Life comes out and she insits on telling the whole world about me writing for it. For Christmas I framed the first article I did for them way back in November 2012 with the front cover, my profile photo and my advert, which quickly got her all teary.
We hope you had a lovely Mother's Day, Mummy Second Hand Rose. We all love you so much and are incredibly grateful for all your love, kindness and of course your brilliant cooking. Now go back to Pinterest and oogle at Daniel Craig for another hour.
Second Hand Rose

11 March 2014

Women who changed our lives: From make up to spying

Women all over the world celebrated International Women's Day on Saturday, where they united to celebrate the empowerment of us feminine beauties. We can have babies, go to war, run businesses and even make men do the washing up sometimes, now that definitely deserves a celebration.
There are so many women in history who deserve so much recognition for there determination, their spirit and quest for change for the better.
Here are just a small amount of the women who we should have a piece of cake for, any excuse for sponges goodness.
Coco Chanel
This lovely lady was the founder of one of the most luxurious and iconic brands. She liberated women from having to wear a corset, that would squeeze everything and stop them being able to eat thirds of pudding, which is a complete travesty. She began the androgynous casual chic look with long trousers and comfortable shirts, that had never been seen before.
Coco also created the Chanel No.5 fragrance, which is adored by many women across the world, along with the famous Chanel suit, bag and the idea of the little black dress. Thank you Coco for improving our smell, our wardrobe and most of all being able to have as many biscuits as we like, the woman is an empress.
Amelia Earhart
Amelia was the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean on her lonesome. She had a spirit for adventure and set many world records and became the 16th woman to be issued a pilot's licence. In 1935, she became the first person to fly from Hawaii to the American mainland. This resulted in her becoming the first person to fly solo anywhere in the Pacific and also the first person to solo both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.
She also developed clothes for women pilots, with her first creation being a fashionable flying suit. It had loose trousers, a zipper top and big pockets. So not only was she the Queen of the skies, she was fashionable in doing so.

Margaret Thatcher
Love her or loath her, dear old Maggie was a pioneer. She was the first female prime minister the UK had ever had. In the late 1970s the country was at the brink with strikes, power cuts and a failing economy. She turned the country around with much opposition and wore some amazing outfits in doing so, with some great power suits and pussy bow blouses. She had pretty good taste in handbags too.
Marie Curie
Marie Curie was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903, with her husband Pierre, for their work on radiation. She also won it again in 1911 by herself, after her husband was killed. Not only did she discover new elements, but her and Pierre's work was crucial in the development of x-rays in surgery. Marie faced great opposition from male scientists and did not get the respect from them that she so greatly deserved.
Her work in WW1 saved many lives, equipping ambulances with x-ray equipment and she also held training courses for medical staff and taught them vital new techniques. Marie paid the ultimate price for her work by dying from Leukeamia that was bought on by the exposure to high-energy radiation. She helped save countless lives and still continues to do so.
Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn was a film star for more then 60 years and was a great inspiration to women.
In the era of glamour, Katharine went against the grade and wore casual clothes. She was very much a tomboy and was very athletic. Her signature look was high-waisted trousers and button-down shirts, making her an early style icon of the androgynous look. Katharine made it acceptable for women to wear trousers on a daily basis.

She appeared on film, stage and television with many varied roles, playing strong-willed woman. Katharine received four Academy Awards for best actress, which is the most an actress has ever won. In 1999 she was named by the American Film Institute as the greatest female star in Hollywood.
I've written about her sassy style in more detail, which you can take a nosey at here.

Helena Rubinstein
Helena Rubinstein was the queen of beauty and advised women on what make up to wear to enhance their look. She opened a beauty salon in Mayfair and launched her own make-up range in 1909. Helena showed women how to use pigments to highlight their features. Word spread and women of all classes flocked to her shop.
She created the first tinted matte face powder and the first blusher. By 1923, Helena was producing more then 70 popular lines of cosmetics, one of them being her famous body slimming creams and had competition from Elizabeth Arden, when the business expanded to America.

She created the world's first waterproof mascara in 1939, her Contour Lift Firming product and her first oil in water emulsion, Lanolin Vitamin Formula. Helena's empire is now owned by L'Oreal and is still loved by many women worldwide.
Rosa Sparks
Rosa was an African- American civil rights activist who was known as "the First Lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement". In 1995 Rosa refused to give up her seat in the 'coloured section' for a white person, because the white section was full. She was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance. Her defiance became known as the Montogomery Bus Boycott and she became an international icon against racial segregation.
She was an inspiration to people who wanted freedom and gave them hope. Her work contributed to the end of legal segregation, that laced the way for equality.

Billie Holiday
Billie was a beautiful Jazz singer and songwriter. Her mix of vocals and jazz instruments, started a trend for mixing them both and "changed the art of American pop vocals forever". She was known for her popular songs such as 'Lady in Satin' and 'Crazy He Calls Me'. Billy has been entered into the Grammy's Hall of Fame and has won several awards for her beautiful voice. Billy is known as the greatest ever female jazz singer.
Marie Stopes
In 1918 Marie wrote her first book 'Married Love', which was highly condemned due to its sensitive subject of a couples intimate relationship. It was very popular with the public though, it was the Fifty Shades of Grey of the time, expect without the whips and chains. She received hundreds of letters from women asking relationship and family planning advice and as a result, she opened the first family planning clinic in the UK in 1921. It offered a free service to married women that was never availble before and provided women with a choice.
She set up several more clinics around the country that still provide help for women today. The organisation also help women from Ireland to receive an abortion, as it is heavily restricted there. They believe women have a right to a choice and support them whatever decision they make.

Audrey Hepburn
With her iconic dainty features and talent, Audrey is one of the world's best known actresses. She is famous for the films Sabrina, Roman Holiday and who can forget Breakfast at Tiffany's. She became a UNICEF Ambassador and travelled to third world countries, and set a trend for other stars. So not only was she a beautiful actress, she was devoted to helping people, plus she looked amazing in a little black dress too
Florence Nightingale
With her main accessory being a lamp on her nightly rounds, she quickly became known as 'The Lady With the Lamp”. Florence nursed wounded soldiers during the Crimean War and saved many lives, with her insistence on clean conditions. So next time you go to the hospital and there's a hot male nurse for you to drool at, thank old Florence.

The Suffragettes
The Suffragettes were a group of women who believed in equal rights for women and campaigned relentlessly for women to be able to vote in elections and have their say. They were so dedicated to the cause they risked their lives and their freedom. After 15 years of campaigning, women over 30 were granted the right to vote and stand as candidates in the 1918 General Election. This was a huge turning point in the history of women becoming equal as men, so thank them next time when you have a vote at work, even if it is over who makes the tea.

Dame Elizabeth Taylor
With an impressive jewellery collection which you can see here and gorgeous gowns, Elizabeth is one of the most well known actresses and star icons. She was well known for her glamorous lifestyle, natural beauty and who can forget those violet eyes. With films like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Cleopatra making her famous, everyone was interested in her. She was married eight times and twice to Richard Burton who she appeared with her in 11 films, that girl must have really loved wedding cake.
Elizabeth campaigned for HIV and AIDS programmes after her beloved friend Rock Hudson died and set up her own foundation, raising $270 million for charity and providing much needed help to victims.

Special Operations Executive
During World War Two there was an organisation set up that was involved in top secret missions, such as espionage, sabotage and to gain vital information. There were 55 female agents, including Violette Szabo, Pearl Witherington, Eileen Nearne, Nancy Wake, Odette Hallowes and one of the longest serving British agents, Nancy Granville.
These women risked their lives on a daily basis and some were even killed when their cover was blown. These brave women did some great work and found out vital information to help us win the war. The Gestapo learned not to mess with these beauties, these ladies meant business.
The Queen
She has been the head of the country and the colonies for more then 87 years now. She has done some great work for charity and our little island. Everyone's favourite grandmother's style has evolved over the years and she has worn some amazing outfits which I've written about before, all worn with her trusty bag. Plus she has a pretty impressive collection of hats too.
Are there any ladies that you think can kick some arse and have made an impact to our lives in someway?
All of these women mentioned have impacted our lives in some way and we should all be grateful for the risks they took, the work they have done and the barriers they broke. Besides, who could live without waterproof mascara? The Panda look really isn't that great.
Second Hand Rose