Category Archives: PR
A luxury hotel, lashings of fine dining and a whirlwind of contemporary art? Chez Epicurienne, that’s what I call a killer combination that I’d be happy to dive into on any day of the week. Courtesy of the Le Méridien hotel group, I was recently invited to partake of just such a tantalising synthesis of sensory stimulants during an arts-focussed stay-cation, based at their landmark hotel in London’s Piccadilly. I’m still recovering, in a good way.
A top hotel’s relationship to food is a no-brainer; the two go hand-in-hand, but where does art enter the equation? In this case, Le Méridien, the forty-year old international hotel chain, has incorporated art into its properties so that wherever guests look, art will meet their eyes – be it on arrival, on relaxing, even on using their key card. Steering Le Méridien’s artistic intentions is Jérôme Sans, the French art curator and critic, in his capacity as the LM Cultural Curator. What’s more, for the past five years Le Méridien has been a principle partner and supporter of an arts initiative called OFT – the Outset/ Frieze Art Fair Fund to Benefit the Tate Collection. Through OFT, the Tate is able to bypass purchasing bureaucracy to acquire work by emerging artists featured at the annual London fair for contemporary art: Frieze.
Over two days, our small group of bloggers along with various members of hotel management and Le Meridien’s PR company, Fleishman Hillard, managed to experience one art discussion panel, several types of unforgettable hors d’oeuvre, one unusual afternoon tea, six delicious meals, one international art fair, three world-famous art galleries, exhibitions various, two nights of sumptuous sleep, meetings with key art experts and personalities, a lesson in Le Méridien’s history and brand and various forms of London transport – including the water kind. For obvious reasons, I will not attempt to squeeze everything listed above into one post, lest it resemble a hefty artistic monograph. Instead, I invite you to join me on a multi-post tour of Le Méridien’s London art-u-cation. It’ll be an inspiration – for locals and visitors alike.
Photo above courtesy of the Le Meridien website, http://www.lemeridienpiccadilly.co.uk
Among my vices various, those who know me will tell you that I am a self-confessed, bona fide bag lady. It would be perfectly accurate to call me a bagophile or loverrrrr of all things bag. Ever since I was given my first small cane handbag with chocolate leather closure and handles and chocolate cotton lining at the grand old age of four, I’ve been hooked on handbags, mainly because of an irrational fear that I might get bored without some portable entertainment in my possession at all times. So my handbags generally have to be large enough to accommodate 1 x book to read, 1 x Moleskine journal, digital camera and pens plural (in case one runs out), on top of the regular paraphernalia of phone, keys, money, lip gloss and travel pass.
To be absolutely clear, I love bags of all shapes and sizes – suitcases, duffel bags, totes, evening purses, shoppers, and I even admit to having a vague interest in airline sick bags of the empty and never-used variety. (Please do note, however, that I draw the line at squeaky vinyl or Judith Leiber.) Much to the annoyance of crowded-out golf bags, shoes and evening dresses, the majority of one large cupboard at home is given over to this particular passion for bags, the collection of which was recently augmented by the addition of one large example from a London-based company called ‘Clippy’.
Monsieur will tell you that when I’m not growing my bag family, I love collecting bits and pieces from our trips – ready to stick into my journal, which is always with me (in a bag). He’s so accustomed to this now that before he bins detritus from his pockets, he’ll turn to me and say “do you want to keep this ticket/ card/ receipt/ brochure?” (delete where applicable); rolling his eyes with amused indulgence when I reply “yes, please.” (At least I’m predictable). What doesn’t find its way into my Moleskine will end up in albums various or treasure boxes filled with souvenirs. I’m a proper little squirrel with sentimentality issues; that much is certain.
So when you take one bag-lover-stroke-memento-hoarder and offer her the opportunity to review a clear plastic Clippy bag covered in clear plastic pockets just begging to be filled with bespoke decoration, including souvenirs, you are single-handedly responsible for making the Universe a much happier place for one particular bag lady.
The new bag was not a done deal. Yet. I had to order it online for starters. Here’s how it went:
First, I visited the Clippy site and found that there are two ways to order a Clippy bag:
- You can order the bag with empty pockets and fill them yourself at home, or
- You can upload your own photos and/or use the Clippy site’s stock images to fill the virtual pockets of your chosen bag, so that you can see how the finished bag will look and leave the hard graft to all those clever Clippy folk.
***Either way, you’ll be faced with a dilemma: pink handles or black handles? Now, THAT is the question.
I followed the instructions for option 2, doing everything possible online, and was quite unprepared for how much fun this would be.
The first part of the process is registering your details on the site (easy peasy) before choosing your bag. There are various styles – from pencil cases and washbags to totes and shoppers. Was this part difficult? Only for the bag-o-phile who has a hard time making decisions. In the end I tore myself away from the darling metallic ringbinders which would be oh-so-perfect for random travel jottings, to choose an eighteen pocket shopper (nine pockets on each side) just begging to be stuffed with excesses of sentimentality.
Bag chosen, I moved on to the next stage: uploading photos to the site. This was the hardest part of the process, only because I am that abovementioned indecisive bagophile. Which to choose? Should there be a theme? What about balancing colours? Should I go garish and clashing or keep it sleek in black and white?
In the end I uploaded a selection of photos (colour, in case you were wondering) representing two of my other passions: travel and food. The site allows you to move the photos around from pocket to pocket so you can see how they’ll look once inserted in the bag. Once you’re happy with the overall effect, you save and send your finished virtual bag via the Clippy site links to the Clippy people (who, for some reason, I imagine are adorable little pink oompa loompas – apologies if that’s not the case.).
This was the only time I had a problem. I’d save and send my bag, as per the on-site instructions, but the shopper repeatedly disappeared somewhere between my computer and the other end. Luckily, the brainchild behind Clippy, an accidental entrepreneur called Calypso, was there to talk me through the process. Neither of us could see why my bag design hadn’t reached her, but with some perseverance the system finally worked and my bag was despatched the following day. Hooray! NB I have to say that it would seem I’m the exception to the rule here. Everyone else’s online bag creations were behaving; just not mine.
And so, it was with calorie-busting excitement that I opened the grey plastic packaging to find my first Clippy bag. There were my images, all staring out at me from their designated pockets. A pretty gingham bow was tied around one handle and a Clippy badge sat in one of the central pockets – encouraging more multi-media insertions of my own. I took the bag for a spin around the office. The feedback from the girls was favourable, although progress was slow thanks to everyone wanting to know the story behind each photo.
Then it was time to get serious. How did my first Clippy stack up on the bagophilia barometer? Firstly, I checked out the quality of the photos in the pockets. Sadly, it wasn’t great. The whole concept is so eye-catching that quality photographic paper would definitely help make the images stand out more. As it is, the photos are on heavy stock paper such as I might use for a presentation document at work, with the result that they’re a bit flatter than they might be. In future, I’d probably opt for getting the photos printed myself and doing the DIY bag decoration at home. That way you have more control over paper weights and finishes.
Other than the image quality, I’m very happy with my Clippy. It’s sturdy, waterproof and versatile – equally suited for the likes of trips to the deli at the weekend or to the swimming pool after work. It would also be a clever carry-on bag for any holiday involving airports and uptight security guards, simply because it’s clear plastic. There are no secrets with a Clippy bag.
Having said that, on further exploring the Clippy site I found that there are optional bag-liners in case you’re a bit more private about the contents of your bag. If you really want to push out the bespoke boat, there are Clippy sticker packs and pocket liners to get you started, although personally, I wasn’t tempted. I’m good to go with a handful of metro tickets, postcards and restaurant cards, tokens, a good luck charm and a beer mat or two. And the best thing about my Clippy bag is that whenever someone notices it, there are automatically eighteen stories to tell. So, if an image is worth a thousand words, then I estimate that my eighteen Clippy bag photos and a couple of handfuls of mementos would fill a book.
Here’s what my bag looks like:
If you would like to try Clippy’s products for yourself, log onto the Clippy site here.
This is a review post. I was provided with the product free of charge for the purpose of honestly reviewing it. I have not been instructed what to write and my opinions are honest and my own.
Tonight is Burns Night, the celebration of the birthday of Scotland’s favourite poet, Robert Burns. (To learn more about Burns Night, see my previous post, here.) To prepare us for this important event, Qype arranged a wonderful evening for Qypers, at Salt Bar in London’s Marble Arch. There, we were to taste three single malt whiskies, courtesy of Talisker, one of the proud single malt whisky labels owned by drinks giant, Diageo.
Needless to say, what with escaping the demands of work and dealing with slow public transport, I was late. I missed the piper who piped beautiful Scottish sounds into this Edgware Road bar. I missed the Address to a Haggis, with sharpened dirk ready to slice into the swollen ball that is a haggis. I missed the smoked salmon blinis that accompanied the Talisker 10 Year Old. But that was all. In true Epicurienne style, and knowing already a thing or two about Burns Night, I caught up quickly once I arrived.
As I entered the ground floor space at Salt Bar I noticed that it was filled with a great many pairs of eyes fixed on a man called Colin. Ah, my fellow Qypers. What a gluttonous bunch we are. Mention food, whisky, cocktails or something else worthy of placing in one’s mouth and you have our full attention. I knew I was in the right place.
Jo from Grayling sped the second whisky of three across to me as I tentatively encroached on the otherwise full bar. You see, Colin was in full swing. Our whisky coach for the evening, he was expounding on the virtues of Talisker. Right now we were sipping on drams of Talisker Distiller’s Edition – a delightful mouthful of deep sm0kiness. Colin told us that it had tones of Muscatel, dates and stewed fruits. All I could taste was a whisky-imbued smokehouse. As I like smoked fish, smoked cheese, smoked ham – this was a very good way to start the evening for this particular latecomer, but I obviously need to work on my whisky palate.
As my fellow Qypers tucked into beautifully-presented rounds of haggis layered with neeps and tatties, I headed once more for Grayling P.R.’s Jo Seymour-Taylor.
“I was late, I know. I’m sorry about that. But do you think I could try the first Talisker? Just so that I can compare.” I asked.
Jo was charm personified, whizzing off to the bar to find me a dram of the whisky I’d missed. When she returned, I sipped on the Talisker Ten Year Old, and sighed.
“It’s very good, a bit salty, still smoky…” I told her, “but the Distiller’s Edition has spoilt me. I enjoyed it so much that this now doesn’t seem half as wonderful as it would without comparison.” Impractical though it may be, I’ve always had expensive tastes.
Jo smiled at my honesty, turning to introduce me to a surprise – the calligrapher named Paul. There he sat, patient with pen and ink as he inscribed hardback notebook after notebook for every guest.
“What’s your name?” he asked, and so I told him, and a few minutes later, my notebook lay amongst the others left to dry. What a superb touch, I thought. To invite people who like to write to an event and then to give them something in which to write! That’s what I call consideration of your audience.
Next, I was introduced to Colin, our expert for the evening. I explained I’d arrived late as I’d had to cross town and he simply replied “shall I teach you how to taste whisky, then?”
I held my glass of the third and final Talisker for the evening - Talisker 57 degrees North, named for the location of the distillery and also its alcohol content (ouch), and followed Colin’s instructions. I placed my hand over the glass and swilled it in circles. Lifting my hand I sniffed and oh my sainted trousers, what an aroma there was now, thanks to all that swilling releasing fumes enough to entice a pack of single-malt – loving hounds from across the nearest three neighbourhoods.
“Now sip, but do not swallow.” Colin was a firm tasting master.
“Move the whisky around your mouth for fourteen seconds.” We counted. Obviously my counting was done in my head, lest I spurt good single malt across my new friends.
“When you get close to fourteen, the flavours will explode in your mouth,” Colin told me. And so they did. It was veritably difficult to hold it in without becoming a human fountain of whisky, but the increase in flavours was worth the heat now pervading my mouth.
“I taste everything like this,” Colin admitted, “Whisky, wine, spirits. This is how you find the true taste of a drink.” Well, I’m a convert. That Talisker 57 Degrees North was something else. It wasn’t exactly sweet, nor was it as robust as the first Talisker of the evening, nor as smoky as the second. Yet there remained hints of smokiness with a touch of peat and citrus. Ah, the citrus was what paired it so well with the final solids of the evening: chocolate mousse, elegantly served in flutes.
Colin was not done with me yet, though.
“Pour a little of the whisky onto the mousse,” he suggested, and I did so obediently. The next mouthful of smooth chocolate had a heady enhancement of whisky. And why not? My mother makes fabulous chocolate mousse laced with Cointreau. Single malt fabulosity drizzled on chocolate mousse was not something I’d tried before, yet it tasted oh so very right. Thank you, Colin. I’m now hooked on chocolate mousse with whisky. How’s that for a new vice?
The next person with whom I chatted was the manager of Salt Bar, an amiable chap called Vansi Putta. We marvelled together at the display of whisky bottles around the bar. Some names were familiar: Glenmorangie, Glenfiddich, Laphroaig, Cragganmore and Dalwhinnie. Others, made me smile with their funny Scottish names, especially Knockando!!
Vansi explained that Salt Bar has a whisky specialism, and they even provide Whisky Tours. For instance, for £25.00 you can go from the Highlands (Clynelish 14 yrs) to the Lowlands (Auchentoshan 10 yrs) to Campbelltown (Springbank 10 yrs) and Islay (Caol Ila 12 yrs) via none other than Speyside (Macallan 10 yrs fine oak).
If you want to go international, you can try Glenfiddich Solaro Reserve from Scotland, Bushmills 3 Wood 16 years from Ireland, Suntory Yamazaki 18 years from Japan, Monkey Shoulder vatted malt and a good ol’ Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel from the States. That will set you back a cool £35.00 a head, but oh, what a journey.
By now I just had time for one of the Talisker cocktails on offer, so chose the Cool Walker. The recipe goes like this:
40 ml Talisker 10 yrs old
15 ml Drambuie
10 ml Lime Juice
10 ml Gomme
Add ingredients to Boston Glass, shake and strain into highball glass filled with ice. Top with ginger ale.
My, if I’d enjoyed the Talisker drams of earlier, this was a very pleasant surprise. I’d just been telling Colin how my parents have always recommended taking single malt neat, to get the true flavour. But here was a cocktail made with a single malt and it was refreshing enough to drink in summer. So perhaps from now on I won’t view whisky as a drink for the snow days.
On the way out, the guests all received a goodie bag, filled with Talisker treats. There was a small bottle of Talisker 10 Year Old, a Talisker tumbler in which to drink our Talisker, the beautifully inscribed notebook and…
a book to help us celebrate Burns Night in true Scottish style by Burns Night expert, Clark McGinn, who’d earlier read the Address to A Haggis and proffered his dirk:
So, with at least fifty per cent of me coming from The Land of Wee Kilties, tonight I’ll have me a wee haggis, a wee tumbler filled wi’ a wee dram o’ Talisker, and a few mouthfuls of neeps and tatties. But in the interests of keeping my waistline, I might pass on the choccy mousse and save it for special occasions.
Happy Burns Night to you ALL!!!
**Portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787: 2 years before the French Revolution and 11 years after the United States of America won its independence from England. This is one of the best known likenesses of Rabbie Burns and hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Burns Night is a timely evening to beat the Northern Hemisphere January blues, when every UK day starts as dark as night and the sun sets at a depressing 4.30pm. Celebrated on 25 January, Burns Night is a particularly special time for Scots, when they remember the birthday of their esteemed poet and fellow countryman, Robert or ‘Rabbie’ Burns (1759-1796).
A traditional Burns Night event will kick off with a few wee drams (small measures) of something toasty like a good single malt whisky, which serves both to warm the extremities and to lubricate the tonsils of those bold enough to recite some lines of fine Scottish literature for their friends, often from the works of Burns himself. Then, moving to the table, the Selkirk Grace may be said before the starter is served.
“Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thankit.”
“Some have meat and cannot eat, Some cannot eat that want it; But we have meat and we can eat, So let the Lord be thankit.”
Next, if you happen to know someone who deafened the neighbourhood with bagpipe practice sessions whilst growing up, you would hopefully forget past pain and ask them nicely to attend your Burns Night Supper to pipe in the haggis to one of those famed kilt-swinging tunes, like Brose and Butter. If you don’t happen to have such a friend, you can always book a piper for the night (although I’d recommend doing so well in advance as this is one of the busiest nights of a pro-piper’s year). Where a piper is either unavailable or unattainable, you could always play a CD of a good solo piper. If you choose the latter, I would definitely advise avoiding recordings where guitars and/or brass bands are involved. It won’t provide the same sort of atmosphere.
As the piper plays, the chef will carry the haggis with great reverence to the table, where it is set before the host/ess on a plate called The Groaning Trencher. Then the guest with the greatest penchant for dramatics and vocal cords loosened by a quick few drams will speak to the haggis with Burns’ poem, aptly named ‘Address To A Haggis’.
The mere mention of haggis is enough to make many a grown man squirm, once they understand that it consists of a sheep’s stomach bag, stuffed with the sheep’s liver, lungs and heart, which have been blended with onions, suet, oatmeal and stock. In spite of sounding like a murder scene, it’s really rather tasty, although there is a growing demand for vegetarian versions containing kidney beans, lentils, nuts and vegetables in place of the bodily remains of a former sheep and somehow, I don’t think it’s only vegetarians who might opt for the vege version; the thought of eating a literal stomach full of offal could be understandably off-putting, even to a hardy carnivore.
The usual way to serve a haggis is with neeps and tatties, which to all the non-Scots among my readers translates as mashed turnips or swede (the neeps) and mashed potatoes (the tatties).
Prior to serving, the haggis is ceremonially sliced open with a lethal-looking knife called a dirk, as the piper, chef and performer of the Address receive a thank you dram of good Scottish whisky. Some people pour a little whisky onto their serving of haggis to add to the flavour whilst purists steer clear of such practices, preferring to keep their haggis and whisky quite separate and unadulterated. Either way, the haggis forms the focus of the event that is Burns’ Night.
As whisky and ale flows and wallflowers find the (Dutch) courage to stand up and sing or recite a wee bit of Burns, the evening will progress in a warm haze, and perhaps some fun will be had as the group takes to the floor for some group dancing, known by those from north of Hadrian’s Wall as ‘reeling’ which, after a few exhausting rounds of the room, you will be. And so it is that Burns Night is celebrated to a greater or lesser degree in Scotland and wherever in the world the Scots have dispersed. To illustrate the importance of Burns Night, according to recent analysis of the Burns Economy, there are currently around 10,000 Burns Night Suppers held internationally, a statistic which I personally consider to be conservative. In any case that means that come Tuesday of next week, all over the world there will be many, many thousands of sore heads.
To prepare us for the possibilities of this year’s Burns Night, earlier this week a group of Qypers was invited to a Burns event at Salt Bar in London’s Marble Arch, courtesy of Talisker single malt whiskies. It was a fascinating evening, with excellent whiskies, food, experts and calligraphy. My next post will tell you how it all went, so tune in for more Burns Night fun, including how to get the most out of your dram and mouth-watering suggestions for matching whisky with food.
In the meantime:
- There are eight stanzas to Burns’ ‘Address To A Haggis’ and it takes some working out if you’re not accustomed to reading Scots, so here’s a link to a truly comprehensive Burns site, where the hard words have a multi-lingual glossary attached to them – just click on the troublesome word, which is highlighted, to find its meaning. http://www.robertburns.org/works/147.shtml)
- Did you know that Rabbie Burns wrote ‘Auld Lang Syne’, which so many of us, Scots and non-Scots alike, sing on New Year’s Eve?
- Did you know that Rabbie Burns died of a heart condition at the age of 37? His youngest son, Maxwell, was born that same day.
- In 2009 an STV survey of the public found Rabbie Burns to be The Greatest Scot. Well done, Rabbie! Now, that’s what I call cause for celebration.
October in London: it’s dark in the morning, a chill is in the air and at work the central heating isn’t working so we wear scarves all day long. It isn’t even Hallowe’en yet.
Cue a timely newsletter from the folk at Fuelmyblog asking for interested bloggers to review the snug boots made by Australian brand, Emu. I needed no prompting to reply. This sort of footwear is right up my street, having a reputation for being both warm and comfortable. I fired off an e-mail to say I would be more than happy to review a pair of tall, black, Bronte-style Emus.
The boots arrived yesterday, which was perfect timing as it was a cool 18 degrees Celsius in the office. With blue lips I skipped back to my desk, box under one arm, to try them on. Opening the box I pulled out the Emus and smiled. In smart black suede with merino wool lining, they have a sensible rubber sole with the sort of traction that should help me to stay upright in the snow this winter, a feat not easily achieved. The boots certainly looked warm and comfortable from the outside, but how would they feel once on?
I pulled on the first boot and – what? – my foot would only go so far. I wriggled my toes and felt scrunching. Ah. This doofus had forgotten to remove the paper ball keeping the boot in shape. Paper ball jettisoned, I tried again, this time with success. The boot fitted perfectly and my right foot had found its cold weather heaven. Until that moment on an early winter’s morning I had not realised exactly how cold my feet had been.
For some time I kept just that one boot on. I didn’t think I could get away with wearing my Emus to meetings; at least not yet, but while I was at my desk I could at least get a feel for them. Eventually realising how odd I must have looked with loafer on left foot and Emu on right, I reluctantly removed the Emu, wishing the day away so I could take my Emus for a test drive after work.
On leaving the office it was suitably cold, grey and dull, but I was now happily wearing my Emus, every step taken a delight to my spoiled feet which adore comfort such as this. It’s like walking on a sheepskin, with full support, especially in the arches, and on sitting down I had to stamp my feet a couple of times to make sure they weren’t floating above ground.
The verdict? I love Emus and may well invest in a tan pair in one of their different styles. But this is not the end of this tale.
Earlier in the day French Colleague had noticed my Emus sitting under my desk.
“Aaah, you have EEEE-mus!” she enthused, “I have them too. I prefer them to UGGs.”
“Why’s that?” I asked,
“Because they have better traction. Actually, I have two pairs of Emus now.” Quite the menagerie.
That can only be a good thing for me as long ago I stopped wearing heels in the street due to a rather nasty accident. I caught a heel between cobbles, resulting in a broken front tooth, severely bruised knee, grazed forehand and grazed hands. No, I didn’t call a ‘trip-or-fall’ lawyer, although perhaps I should have, given the size of the dental bill. Overnight I changed from no-pain-no-gain perpetual-heel-wearer to flat-footwear-afficionado. There’d be no more heels caught in cobbles or tube station grates for me. Heels are now reserved for work or special occasions.
On the travel footwear front, Monsieur and I will be visiting Portugal in a few weeks. Breton-Crêpe-Lover was giving me advice on Lisbon this morning when suitable footwear came into the conversation.
“In the streets there are lots of… what you call… stones, errr…”
“Yes, cobblestones, so you shouldn’t wear heels. Just flat shoes.”
Looking at my feet she noticed the Emus.
“Yes, those are PER-fect.” she said with a nod. “Wear THOSE in Lisbon.”
So not only are my new Emus comfortable, toasty-warm and soft on the sole, they’re also going to keep me safe from broken teeth. What a relief.
Fitness Footwear UK stockist of Emus with FREE UK delivery
Their homepage is here.
On Tuesday night there was another of our Bloggers’ Meetups, this time at the Silk Route-inspired Shish bar and restaurant in trendy Hoxton. This meant quite a trek from one side of London to the other following a hard day’s work, but it helped that the sun was shining and the tubes were all working. For once. Hallelujah to The God of Small Things.
Before long Epic Brother and I were downstairs at Shish, being greeted by Fashion Targets Breast Cancer reps who gave us smart little target badges, a couple of little target drinks vouchers and credit card-sized USB cards. PR Krista, who later made a presentation about the launch of the charity’s first online campaign, encouraged us to enter the evening’s raffle for target tee shirts. In case you’re wondering why it’s target this and target that, the target is the FTBC charity emblem so we saw quite a few of them in the course of the evening.
It was great to catch up with Splendid Chris and Formerly-of-Splendid Rax, who’s now enjoying a solo venture in PR, in between bites of gherkins and marmite on toast. Lolly and I ranted about the high cost of utilities mid-Credit Crunch and we chatted with Florentine Barbara about wine tastings and Italy, Photographer Peter who was quintuply booked up so had to leave early to attend his other four engagements of the evening, but not before enjoying the fruits of his drink vouchers. We even discussed creativity with newer meetup member, Creativity Consultant, Gregg Fraley. You can buy his book on creativity here.
Perched on a poof in the dim bar with North African-style lanterns swaying from the ceiling, I nagged Post It Note Politico Chris into writing a new book; so much so that the next time he sees me he’ll probably hide under a bus, moving or otherwise. Chris’s girlfriend, Nina, is working on a website promoting tourism in Mozambique, adding yet more diverse flavour to the evening’s conversation. Checking out one of the many charity fliers dotted about the place, Nina and I decided we liked the target tee shirts. They don’t look like the sort of tops you’d buy in the knowledge that 30% of the sale revenue is headed directly for a charity. Made by fashion retailers such as Top Shop, Warehouse, Marks & Sparks and River Island, the styles are current and perfectly wearable. Little did I realise how important that was to be later.
PR Krista took to the floor with great aplomb, explaining the story behind Fashion Targets Breast Cancer. It was established in 1994 by Ralph Lauren, who had lost his friend, Washington Post columnist, Nina Hyde to the dreaded disease. Hyde’s dying wish had been that Lauren should use his influence in the world of fashion to raise money for breast cancer research, campaigning and education. He kept his promise and the charity reached the UK’s shores in 1996. We heard about the importance of online outreach for charities such as FTBC, and interactive attention-grabbers, such as FTBC’s Million Model Catwalk, a site where you can put yourself on a catwalk with your favourite model/s and check out the latest in FTBC’s fashionable merchandise.
Following further discussion on how the blogging community can raise charity awareness, PR Krista presented a prize to a blogger called Derry who’d stated in 100 words or less the answer to:
Why should charities use online communications to support their cause?
His winning reply employed a quote by cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Krista and the FTBC team, who’d deliberated over which entrant should win, says that this statement “can be applied to both charities and to online groups such as bloggers.”
Derry took home the prize of a £100.00 shopping voucher kindly donated by FTBC partner, Marks & Spencer. Hopefully he’ll spend it on target merchandise for all his friends!
Next, the raffle was drawn (cue drum roll) and much to Andy Bargery’s dismay, my name was the tenth and final one out of the hat so I subsequently went home with a snazzy FTBC target tee from Top Shop. Later, when Andy told me he couldn’t believe my luck with meetup competitions, I said “I don’t know what’s going on. I never used to win anything before I joined this meetup group. Now it seems like I’m on a winning streak!” Long may that last.
A press release from Fashion Targets Breast Cancer states the following:
- Nearly 46,000 women and around 300 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK.
- Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK and 1 in 9 women in the UK will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.
- More women than ever in the UK are surviving breast cancer thanks to better awareness, better screening and better treatments.
The last statement is particularly pertinent to me as I know two breast cancer survivors, one of whom has lovelier hair now than before she lost it through chemo, and for whom a subsequent breast reconstruction has been so successful that she is known to grab a hand and say “feel”, because she’s so proud of how natural she feels and looks following such a long and painful ordeal. I take my hat off to her, and to all such brave fighters of cancer, be it breast or otherwise. Their inner steel is awesome in the truest sense of the word.
For further information on how to support the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer cause, check out the relevant links below.
Ralph Lauren – this is one seriously gorgeous site. Even if you’re not a clothes horse, take a peek!
Million Model Catwalk - this is where you can buy FTBC merchandise and put yourself on the catwalk with your favourite models.
When I wrote about the St Patrick’s Day cocktail-fest for London Bloggers at Diageo, Australia-based Razzbuffnik liked the sound of the Bushmills apricot mule, so I asked Haran at Splendid Communications to send me the recipe. Here you go, Razz! A little taste of summer for you as the leaves start to turn in the land Downunder…
Bushmills Apricot Mule (Classic adapted by Duncan McRae)
This twist on a classic Moscow mule uses Bushmills ® as its base, and combines the subtle flavours of apricot and the spicy ginger to play upon some of the more exciting sherry cask induced notes found in Bushmills® Black Bush.
50ml Bushmills Black Bush
12.5ml Apricot Liquor
12.5ml Sugar Syrup
25ml Freshly squeezed Lime juice
Dash Orange Bitters
Topped up with Ginger Beer.
Served in a highball glass over ice.
All winter long I’ve been complaining about dry skin, especially following a swim, when the chlorine from the pool leaves a nice, flaky beard on my face, in spite of slathering moisturiser all over it. It’s not just me, apparently; the Day Job office is so dry and full of static that we’ve all been experiencing unattractive skin this year, comparing dry patches with spots and red zones, all of which only flare up while we’re at work. In desperation, I’ve even tried wearing night cream during the day – unheard of! But, hey! It worked. For a while.
To coincide with the return of Flake Face, a package from Shiny Red PR arrived on my desk, as if by magic. Out of it spilled Aveeno skin products (bath salts, small tube of cream, large tube of daily lotion) and American Colleague was by my side in a flash. “Ohmigahd, you’ve got Aveeno!” she cried with what I consider to be excessive enthusiasm for body lotion in boring cream packaging with dull, hippy-green accents. “I always keep it in my drawer.” She pulled out a tube of Aveeno to prove it. “Do they sell it here now?” I, the Aveeno novice, shrugged. “I used to have to get friends to send it over from the States but it looks like it’s crossed the pond, so GREAT!” American Colleague is a super girl, always keen and bright as a button, so I was heartened to have this encouragement to try a product I had never once heard of.
The bad news is: the packaging; it looks like it walked out of a cream and green health food shop. In fact, it looks like it should smell vaguely of linseed oil and carob. The good news is, Aveeno is made by Johnson & Johnson so it should be safe. More bad news – the creams are marked ‘fragrance free’, something that I find off-putting because it’s one of those claims that don’t always turn out to be true and even if they do, ‘fragrance free’ makes me think of allergy sufferers. Then again, I suffer from stress-induced eczema at times, and having recently made the third round of redundancies at the Day Job, I was starting to believe that the Itchy & Scratchy Show referred exclusively to me. Anything was worth a try, especially if it was going to help my skin, but oh-oh, more bad news: the packaging uses the word ‘colloidal’. What on earth? Instead of sounding alluring and feminine, Aveeno was beginning to make me wonder if I’d just walked out of the local hospital’s dermatology clinic. Out came the trusty dictionary, to find out what ‘colloidal’ meant exactly (I was never that great at chemistry, but I can generally tell if a word related to that dreaded subject). The definition according to the Collins Paperback Dictionary is:
COLLOID n A mixture of particles of one substance suspended in a different substance. COLLOIDAL adj.
In this case the particles of one substance are oatmeal and the different substance seems to be a whole list of chem-lab ingredients, from allantoin and glycerine to Distearyldimonium Chloride. This wasn’t looking good, given that I prefer natural skin products made from things like olives.
Still, I promised to give the Aveeno range a test run and test it I have. Here are the results:
- 1. The Aveeno bath salts – unless you enjoy bathing in brown water, then I’d recommend passing on this product. Some of us still like sweet-smelling oils and bubbles. I got out of the bath feeling in need of a shower to wash off the good-for-you brown stuff.
- 2. The Aveeno Daily Moisturising Lotion – this has been showing some minor improvement on my elbows but remember that a little goes a long way and you need to give it a few minutes to soak in.
- 3. The Aveeno cream – looked and felt to me like the same product as the 24 hour cream (remember I’m not an expert), only in a smaller tube. Now, credit where it’s due – this is great stuff. In the three to four weeks that I’ve been using Aveeno cream as my daily moisturiser, it’s done wonders. My skin has returned to normal, smooth and flake-free. However, it does feel a bit gooey going on and the total lack of fragrance, even a no-fragrance fragrance is not a good thing in my book. I prefer things that smell nice, like olive oil face creams that smell fresh, not necessarily of flower beds or apricots, just fresh and that I do like very much.
So the result of my experiments with Aveeno is that I will be interested to continue using the cream to counteract post-winter facial flakiness but the jury’s out on whether or not to buy a replacement once I’ve finished the tube. The packaging puts me off a bit, as does the healthy look’s conflict with a rather off-putting list of extra chem.-lab ingredients on the reverse. If the packaging were a bit less oatmeal-y and the oatmeal particles could be suspended in a friendlier group of substances, you could probably count me in as a new customer. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if I miss Aveeno when I’ve used it all up. For the moment, however, not a flake in sight.