Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Added Extras #43

Weekly round-up from London lifestyle blogger

This last week I've been living the quintessential London yuppie lifestyle. Sushi and brunch and shopping and theatre - I'm basically a Kardashian. Except, all that frivolity means I'm now poor and tired but it was all worth it. I was dreading my birthday this year but my fabulous friends made sure that being away from my family wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. I'm a lucky gal.

Here's this week's Added Extras:

1) Rather than a sad sandwich at my desk, my friend Simon took me for birthday lunch at Sticks and Sushi in Covent Garden. It's somewhere that's been on my to-eat list for a long time and it was SO delicious. We had a huge variety of dishes and I left feeling suitably stuffed and ill-equipped for an afternoon back in the office.

2) Carrying on the celebrations on my birthday, Katy invited me to go and see Wicked with her. I've never seen it before despite being a HUGE Wizard of Oz fan so I was very excited. We sank a bottle of red whilst I asked numerous questions about the plot, and although there were a few points I didn't really agree with, overall I loved it and would totally see it again.

Wicked musical, London
Image source

3) Along the theme of stuffing my face to forget my getting older, I hit Honest Burger with a couple of girlfriends and fell face first into a plate of their amazing rosemary fries.

4) I got a healthy amount of Zara vouchers for my birthday and hit the Westfield White City store with gusto. Metallic A-line mini skirt and velvet crossover body, be mine!

5) Katy and I spent Friday evening at the Jamie Oliver Cookery School where we learnt how to rustle up a Japanese feast. Teriyaki and miso and gyoza goodness to stuff our faces with. So much fun and good prep for our trip to Japan next year!

Teriyaki chicken and pork gyoza from Jamie Oliver's Cookery School

6) As is now tradition, around my birthday I gather with some of my favourite people to indulge in bottomless brunch. This year we went to Made Kitchen in Camden which sadly didn't live up to the promising reviews I'd read online. However, after a few complaints I finally managed to get my monies worth and we moved on to the pub afterwards anyway!

Peach bellini at Made Kitchen, Camden, London

Toast, waffles, croissants, pastries

Lock Tavern beer garden, Camden

7) I managed to get to the gym on Sunday for the first time in ages and despite being unable to walk yesterday, I was glad to go and felt much better for it!

8) I've been spoilt with some beautiful presents this year, but two of my besties encouraged my Tatty Devine obsession with these gorgeous pieces. You might recognise the sewing machine one from my post on the Tatty AW16 collections, and my clever friend in Hong Kong ordered it for me as a surprise after stalking my Instagram account. What a legend.

Red lipstick necklace from Tatty Devine

Sewing machine necklace from Tatty Devine

This week I have very few plans as there's a load of deadlines at work, but on Saturday me, Katy, Emma and Emma are heading up to Leeds for the Bloggers Blog Awards. I'm up for Best Travel Blog so keep everything crossed for me!

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Sunday, 25 September 2016

Lumos Charity Gala at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Lumos Charity Ambassadors with Evanna Lynch

Sometimes, something amazing will drop into my inbox. Over and above the 15% ASOS discount for my birthday (although let's not lie, I totally used that) and the general newsletter nonsense that I forget I've subscribed to, there is an email to stop me in my tracks, throw down my phone and do a happy dance in my chair. And that's how I began my journey with Lumos.

You probably know Lumos as the light-giving spell in Harry Potter and that is exactly what the charity of the same name does for orphans across the world. J.K. Rowling's foundation was set up to help kids out there who live in appalling conditions, away from their families, and give their lives some light by placing them into loving, caring homes.

Continental breakfast

I was invited to a breakfast presentation at The Hospital Club to hear more and was horrified to find out that there are 8 million children in orphanages. That's basically the population of London (and it's pretty damn busy here). When I hear the word 'orphanage' I think of Tracy Beaker and the Dumping Ground; a place where children are taken away from a home that is unsafe, potentially where they've suffered emotional and/or physical abuse from their 'carers'. Around the world it could not be more different. A staggering 80% of children are in orphanages because their parents simply cannot afford to keep them at home, through poverty or disability. They genuinely think that they are giving their children a better life.

Lumos charity foundation for orphanages

We were lucky enough to hear the on-the-ground experiences from Harry Potter stars Evanna Lynch, Warwick Davies and Jason Isaacs, as well as Georgette Mulheir and Billy DiMichele who chair Lumos in the UK and the US respectively. They spoke of a disabled man in his 40s, still living in an orphanage in Moldova because he simply cannot get care or housing elsewhere. The story of children in Haiti who have been taken from their families as a money-making opportunity for crooks riding on the misfortune of earthquake victims. They know that the international community will give them aid, but that money so rarely goes to the children - instead it lines the pockets of monsters. And let's be honest, that's not a word to use lightly.

Lumos charity ambassadors

Harry Potter stars at Lumos charity gala

Lumos are going to these places and either reconnecting children with their families or placing them with loving, caring guardians. They are even helping to retrain and re-place the staff at these orphanages; fully aware that they need jobs and most of the time they really are doing their best for the children in their care.

It was asked: so, how can we help? Which is a fair question when I know people who have volunteered at orphanages in the past. They're already trying to help but is there something more that we could be doing?

The answer: spread the word about Lumos. Whether it's telling their story, donating money or buying one of the awesome t-shirts we're wearing in the pic below. 

Lumos charity ambassadors

I feel there are a lot of skepticism about charities, with donations paying for overheads and the little guys never getting a cut. However, J.K. Rowling told us at a gala preview of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, that she covers all costs for Lumos, meaning 100% of donations go towards the cause at hand. I read the other day that she is the first person to be demoted from a billionaire status because of her charitable contributions. If I wasn't emotional enough about going to see the play for the second time, this tipped it for me (you can see my spoiler-free thoughts on the play in my previous post here).

I'm already thankful enough to J.K. Rowling for bringing the light to my own childhood with the beautiful Harry Potter books, but knowing that I can help her do the same for millions of children across the world is something incredibly special.

Thank you to Lumos for asking me to be an ambassador for their charity. I have not been paid for this post, or any of the upcoming work I will be doing with them.

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Thursday, 22 September 2016

A Day in the French Concession, Shanghai

French Concession, Shanghai

The French Concession area of Shanghai is a bizarre contrast of traditional Chinese life within a setting that looks distinctly European. Aside from Macau, which used to be Portuguese, I haven't been anywhere in China that actually resembles anything western, so this totally threw me. Interspersed within the characteristic browns and greys I was becoming accustomed to, there were sudden pops of colour, and a whole day of exploring the area revealed so many hidden gems.

French Concession, Shanghai

French Concession, Shanghai

French Concession, Shanghai

Here's my must-visits for a day out in Shanghai's French Concession:

Xintiandi


There are plenty of super high end luxury shops in China, along with the little markets that sell bizarre trinkets that scream 'Asia'. But Xintaindi is like the Shoreditch of Shanghai. Full of quirky boutiques, mid-high range unique pieces and beautiful cafes parked within the narrow alleys that make up the area. I fell in a deep, passionate love with a wrap-around denim midi that I couldn't fit in my backpack and still dream about to this day.

Xintiandi, French Concession, Shanghai

Xintiandi, French Concession, Shanghai

Xitiandi, French Concession, Shanghai

Museum of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party


Nestled down an unassuming street in Xintiandi, the site where the Chinese Communist Party was first founded. The museum was actually closed when we were there, but it is still well worth going to take a peek. The area is covered with soldiers and there are always hoards of Chinese tourists taking patriotic pics outside.

Museum of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Shanghai

Fuxing Park


I love wondering around parks in China. They are the hub of all social life and Fuxing Park is no different. We spotted kite flyers, mah jong players and Tai Chi practisers, as well as the odd cheeky card game being hidden behind hushed tones and a wall of bodies. The blossom was out on the trees which made up for the famous rose garden being pretty barren because of the time of year and it was a nice way to break up the crazy to-ings and fro-ings of Shanghai.

Fuxing Park, Shanghai

Marx and Engels statue in Fuxing Park, Shanghai

Tree blossoms in Fuxing Park, Shanghai

Fuxing Park, Shanghai

Tianzifang


You will get lost here. Don't bother trying to use a map or follow signs, the winding tiny alleyways are packed to the rafters with curios and weird things. Built in the 1930s and slated for demolition a few years ago, local artists bought it up and a whole regeneration situation occurred. We spent HOURS there, weaving our way through all the different stores and bumping into anyone who tried to walk in the opposite direction to us.

Tianzifang, French Concession, Shanghai

Tianzizfang, French Concession, Shanghai

Tianzifang, French Concession, Shanghai

Kommune Cafe


And whilst you're in Tianzifang, head to Kommune, a cafe run by an American ex-pat and a local Shanghai resident, decked out in tongue-in-cheek communist chic. From soldiers in the fish tank and a whole revolution theme throughout, it's always busy but we managed to nab a seat inside and I had a Hot Chocolate Bomb which was a BALL of solid chocolate and a mug of hot milk. Such happiness!

Kommune, Tianzifang, Shanghai

Kommune, Tianzifang, Shanghai

Cathay Theatre


Along with the European architecture elsewhere in the French Concession, this cinema is the weirdest thing to find popping up in the middle of Shanghai. Totally art deco in design, it's still a working cinema and there's not much to see if you don't speak Mandarin, but it's such a pretty building and a huge contrast to everything else you'll see in China.

Cathay art deco theatre, French Concession, Shanghai

Di Shui Dong


When all is done and you are knackered and starving, head just down the road from the Cathay Theatre and go for dinner at Di Shui Dong - a restaurant serving up Hanan cuisine that will rock your world. I wrote a full review of it already, but just get yourself to their cumin ribs asap.

Di Shui Dong review, Shanghai

Check out my other Shanghai posts and keep an eye out for more coming up soon!

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