Thursday, 28 April 2011

My Royal Wedding Fever

Don't they just seem so lovely?
Oh yes, folks, I'm one of those people. The people who absolutely love any festivity, party or occasion. I love being the hostess, and my ridiculous enthusiasm for general life means I get reeeaally into any event. So needless to say, I am just a smidgen excited about tomorrow's Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton (personally, I prefer to call her Kate... can't help but feel like we're chums.) That's the thing about Wills and Kate, they kinda seem like normal people - though what normal people are constantly utterly composed and charming I don't know. They're the new generation of royals and are doing things their way. Keeping the monarchy cool. I like that. For example, I'm totally digging how they're embracing social media and Youtube for tomorrow's festivities.

Personally, I think the Royal Family are awesome - I'm not like a hardcore royalist, but think what they do for our country is pretty darn amazing. When foreigners think of Britain, the first three things that spring to their minds are usually cups of tea, rain and The Queen, and I'm proud that we have such noble, seemingly lovely people leading the way and doing general good on behalf of all us less perfect Britons.
Outside Buckingham Palace a couple of weeks ago.
Having spent a couple of weeks doing my work experience just a few minutes from Buckingham Palace last week, I can safely say I've caught Royal Wedding fever. I can't wait! It's hard to explain why, but I just can't. I've got my bunting ready, we've made Victoria Sponge cake, trifle and chocolate biscuit cake (among many other yummy treats) for tomorrow's tea party, and my alarm set for tuning into BBC1 all day. Also, I'm sporting some rather cool Royal Wedding nail wraps - you have to look closely, but they feature tiny versions of Mario Testino's official engagement picture of Kate and Wills. Awesome much?

My nails have been Royal Wedding-ified!
I've also been to good ole Topshop and got me some rather British socks! Because, well, why not? Sure, it's buying things (some may say souvenir "junk") I don't need, but I just can't help but get into the spirit of the event!
Just £3.50 - less 35p with your student disount!
For some people, they couldn't give a fig about the wedding, and are fed up with all the media hype, which (naturally) I love - the speculation about who will design Kate's dress is killing me. (Please be Alexander McQueen!) So they can just enjoy a nice day off... everyone wins.
Yummy and cute!
But c'mon, haters - this is a blimmin' big deal. We're talking the wedding of out future King and Queen... and they just seem so nice! It blows my mind if I try to think about how the happy couple must be feeling right now... I imagine the day before a normal bride and groom's wedding must be stressful enough, let alone one that'll be watched by two billion people worldwide. I love the community patriotic spirit that's sprung up around the UK too - all the themed store windows, bunting and flags lining people's houses, and street parties, which I think really show off Britain in a good light. Sure, some people will say that the high street has just commercialised the whole thing with their Royal Wedding memorabilia, but I say "poo-poo" to them. I genuinely don't have a better response... they should stop raining on the country's parade (that may happen literally tomorrow, but you can bet that it won't dampen people's spirits - see what I did there? Ahh wordplay.)

So I'd like to publicly wish William and Kate all the best for tomorrow, and a lifetime of happiness. You guys rock! Who agrees with me? Happy Royal Wedding Bank Holiday, everyone!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

My Work Experience in The Daily Telegraph Fashion Department!

I know. I can hardly believe that title either. But yes, folks, I am not making this up - over my Easter holiday, I did a couple of week's work experience alongside the legendary Hilary Alexander and her fashion team at The Daily Telegraph ("Britain's Best-Selling Quality Daily", don'tcha know!) And of course, I thought I would share my experience with you all:

Hilary Alexander:

When I saw her on that first morning, I was embarrassingly star-struck. This lady is incredible, and SUCH a household name int he fashion industry. As she's retiring in June, I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity not only to meet her and see her doing her thang, but to work alongside her. One of my first tasks was to sort through the post for the fashion team, but I managed to make a right royal mess of it - I put Hilary's post on her desk. Dun dun DUUUN!!! Apparently Hilary's post goes to her assistant, Alicia, and I'd messed it up. Smooth way to start off my work experience, eh? Hilary was on the phone at the time, and gave me a look as if to ask "What are you doing?", before Alicia swiftly intervened and took the post. Phew. It all turned out OK.

But Hilary isn't anything like the editor in The Devil Wears Prada, she's really very lovely - I have to say that when I came in on my second morning and she said "Good morning, Rachel", I could've squealed with delight: "Hilary Alexander knows who I am!" Luckily I managed to keep that in. There were the odd occasions when I did feel like Andie in The Devil Wears Prada though: we had to ALWAYS man the phones - luckily I wasn't quite so inept to ask "Could you please spell Gabbana" - (and answer with "Hello, fashion"), and I was on occasion sent off to get the team drinks or food. Hilary, should you care, is rather partial to a tuna sandwich and a slice of millionaire shortbread. Boy, was I nervous that she wouldn't like the sandwich I got her though!
Hilary and I share a love of these!
Hilary is absolutely brilliant at what she does, and is so well respected not only among everyone at The Daily Telegraph, but everyone in the fashion world. We organised a fashion sale of all the gifts Hilary gets sent from fashion PRs and designers that she doesn't want - believe me, there were LOADS, and most of them I would've jumped for joy to receive (including a current season Anya Hindmarch bag worth £695!) I suppose that's the difference between Hilary and myself (well, one of many): she's been there, done that, and seen it all before. She's used to all the designer perks, whereas I'm an enthusiastic and naive newbie. I think my over-excitement at all the incredible things Hilary and the team were doing probably started to get annoying, so tried to reign it in a bit. But I can't help it! It's my positive, excitable nature!

So yes, Hilary does seem to lead a rather fantastical life. Just while I was there she had drinks with Tom Ford (meaning she couldn't be interviewed for ABC News), private fittings with Mary Katrantzou, and filmings for The One Show. The awesomeness blows my mind.

So what else did I do?
Naturally, I was doing lots of menial office tasks, but hey - I'm not complaining! I just felt incredibly lucky to be there and see what was going on. There were three of us work experience girls there at the same time (a 20 year old London College of Fashion student, and a 24 year old Central St Martins student), and so I imagine I was just one of a constant stream of work experience people who come and go all the time, and are all the same to the fashion department, but obviously to me, it was a really big deal.

I did loads of packing up and organising fashion returns of samples that'd been sent in for a big shoot in Morocco that Hilary'd just returned from, completed press send-outs (letting PRs know when their products had been featured in Hilary's articles), did background research, ran errands (such as running round London picking up hats!), organised the fashion sale - which ended up raising over £1,300 for charity! - and one of my favourite tasks was contacting designers and fashion PRs, trying to get contact details to compile into a spreadsheet. I loved it because I got to talk to people from fashion houses all round the world, and even managed to use some of my French skills when calling up the Parisiens! It really takes confidence to call and email people that you don't know when you're not used to it, and try to answer their queries when realistically, you're just an intern and haven't the foggiest! When Hilary said I was doing well, I may have actually let out a little squeal.


The Daily Telegraph is an amazing place to work - it's absolutely massive, and basically one ginormous, open-plan office. Yes, I felt ridiculously insignificant, but it was kinda awesome feeling part of something so huge. Also, the whole office was decorated with bunting, flags, and pictures of Royals and Corgis to get everyone in the spirit for the Royal Wedding, which I loved!

I learnt a lot while I was there (not the least that a big cup of tea at 4.30pm on a working day is a Godsend!), and feel so privileged to have had the opportunity. I blimmin' LOVE work experience, and yes, am super duper keen, but why not? It's interesting, fun (most of the time!), you develop as a person and enhance your CV - and let's face it, in this economic climate (blah de blah de blah), we need all the help we can get.

Of course interning and work experience is very topical at the moment, what with this issue of using your contacts to get a "leg-up", but I can honestly say that I just called The Daily Telegraph, got an email address, sent off my CV and a covering letter, and a few weeks late - boom! And then there's the matter of companies using work experience students as unpaid labour who can do the menial jobs for them, which is all very controversial. I know I'm very lucky that I have the means to pay for my train tickets to London and friends to stay with down there, but for some people, they don't have that, and so unpaid work is out of the question. I hope I won't be doing unpaid internships forever, but at the moment, it would seem you can't get a job without experience (and it's hard to even get work experience without some prior experience!)

At the moment I'm grateful for the work experience I've had and the ones I've got lined up for my Summer - who needs to go on holiday when you can work, eh? But please, I'm dying to know anyone else's views on issues surrounding work experience, so please, comment away or get in touch with me.

My advice to fellow youths would be to follow my lead - let's go forth and get tuna sandwiches!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Daily Micropleasures of 2011 - the 7th lot

 For those of you who haven't seen any of my previous installments, as a sort of New Year's resolution, this year I'm noting down one little thing that makes me happy everyday - the teensy pleasures that we often forget, and so I've been sharing them with you as I go. (Here's the link to my last post)

24th March - Not feeling cold outside.
25th March - Turning straight out of your driveway without having to wait for a gap in the traffic. Go! Go! Go!
Pretty much moi. -
26th March - Picking wild flowers.
27th March - When sticky labels on the bottom of your shoes come off easily. So satisying, no?
28th March - The rush of performing.
29th March - The sun shining through the gaps in your curtains when you wake up. Almost makes you not want to curl up like a foetus and hibernate to avoid getting up. Almost.
30th March - Starting a new planner, journal or notebook. Oooh the possibilities!
31st March - Helping someone with their schoolwork or a project.
1st April - Scraping out (and eating!) the remains in a mixture bowl. I am so good at this I should get paid.
2nd April - Sitting down after you've been standing for hours.
3rd April - When someone loves a present you worked hard on.
4th April - Improvising or inventing a new recipe. Usually involving chocolate, and, err more chocolate.
5th April - When a made-up recipe turns out well. And chocolatey...
6th April - Finding a lost earring.
7th April - When you can breathe again after having had a blocked-up nose. Sweet relief!
8th April - The feeling after stretching.
9th April - The feel of your teeth after you've just brushed them.
Work it, girlfriend -
10th April - Wearing sunglasses for the first time each year. And looking dayum cool doing so.
11th April - The feel of just-moisturised skin.
12th April - When your freckles start to come out from the sunshine.
13th April - Learning to pronounce new foreign words. But my Dad will never learn that it's "grath-ee-ass".
14th April - Getting the courage to talk to someone.
15th April - Meeting someone you admire.
16th April - When conversation flows so easily you don't even have to think about it.
17th April - Catching the sun and getting slight strapmarks.
18th April - Stumbling upon somewhere cool that you hadn't planned on going to. Even for a compulsive planner like myself!
19th April - Giving "thank you" cards.
20th April - The smell of a takeaway on your journey home with it. Nom nom nom.
21st April - When the person across the train table leaves and you can stretch your legs out.
22nd April - Praise from someone senior.
What a happy and colour co-ordinated family -
23rd April - Picnics in the sunshine.

Woah, that was a lot - didn't realised I hadn't updated y'all for so long. Anyone else got any micropleasures they'd like to add to cheer up everyone's day? And Happy Easter, lovely blog readers! Hope your day is as deliciously chocolate-filled as mine :)

Friday, 22 April 2011

A Girl's Guide to Madrid

I recently was lucky enough to spend five days in the beautiful city that is Madrid. Having never learnt Spanish at school, I didn't know that much about Spanish culture, but sure have learnt a lot about the oh-so-laid-back Spaniard mode de vie (yes, I realise that's French, but as I said, "no parlo espagnola!") Here I some things I found out:
Fabulous Flamenco!
  1. Don't plan a shopping trip in the period after lunch (2-3pm ish) unless you're going to hit up the main high street stores - little boutiques will all close as the owners take their siestas!
  2. Spanish food = muy bien! You simply can't go to Madrid and not have: paella, gazpacho, tapas (I love the patatas bravas and potato croquetas in particular... and yeah, don't expect to lose weight either - most of what's on offer is carbs, carbs and more carbs, but insanely delish), churros con chocolate (see below), tortilla, and of course, sangria!
  3. Flamenco dancing is a must! Whether you're watching or dancing yourself, it certainly is amazing. Lots of restaurants put on free little showcases which is a great way to experience the flavour of this powerful dancing without having to shell out on expensive show tickets
  4. Eating habits tend to follow a different time scale - the Spanish will all siesta after lunch, have tapas at around 6pm, eat dinner at 10pm and hit the clubs at around midnight! At least on holiday you don't have to get up early in the morning!
  5. The Madrid metro is incredibly efficient, the easiest way to get around and super cheap too.
My must sees/dos/visits:

El Palacio Real
Boating in El Retiro Park
  • El Palacio Real - an absolutely beautiful palace. You can walk around the gardens for free, but you have to pay to actually go inside (I think it's totally worth it, and you can get a student discout if you have student ID! Kerching!) where you'll find incredibly ornate, lavish rooms.
  • El Retiro Park - basically a really lovely park. When I was there all the cherry blossom trees were in bloom which looked stunning. There are lovely cafes to pop into as you stroll around, and I seriously recommend going on the boats in the little lake there - so much fun and relaxing, particularly on a hot day. We just floated around soaking up the sun!
  • El Prado Museum - Okay, after you've seen a few nice paintings of some naked little cherubs, you've kinda seen 'em all, but it's worth going even if just for an hour or so (not gonna lie, I like art, but was bored by then!) because there are some really famous pieces in there.
  • The Reina Sofia Museum - I much preferred this art gallery! It's full of more modern pieces (think Picasso, Miro and the like) including really famous ones, and I loved looking at the intricacies and trying to work out what they mean. I'm no art buff, but it was fun all the same! An extra plus was that I saw (and had a picture with!) Curtis off Misfits there! Whoop whoop!
  • El Puerta del Sol - it's the centre of the centre of Spain. A beautiful bustling busy area. 

  • La Plaza Mayor - just down from Sol (as it's known by the locals), another stunning square lined with very expensive restaurants. There's always lots going on both during the day and night.
Plaza Mayor

  • El Rastro - the biggest flea market in the world, which happens every Sunday!

We <3 Bershka
Spain has lots of great high-street shops that we don't have here in England (except maybe on Oxford Street in London), and most of them are all really well priced, stylish and, quite frankly, everywhere! (Seriously, I saw so many different branches of the same shops, it was mental.) Oh, and if you don't have clown feet like me, I recommend buying shoes while in Spain... they just make them so well! Here are my fave fashion shops: Bershka, Pull and Bear, Lefties, (no that's not an extra comma, it's actually part of the name, which I love), Blanco, Fun and Basics, Oysho, and Stradivarius (who I sware had sprayed Abercrombie and Fitch cologne everywhere...) There's also the famous department store El Corte Ingles, but frankly, I found it pretty disappointing.
for one Euro!
Markets pop up everywhere across Madrid, which I absolutely love (we all know that's where you get the best one off pieces), and I managed to get a beautiful ring for a mere one Euro! The biggest and most famous flea market is El Rastro (mentioned above).
El Rastro

Eating places:

100 Montaditos (mini baguettes) - what's not to love?
  • Chocolateria San Gines - for their incredible churros con chocolate. Rich, but oh-so-heavenly.
Churros. Chocolate. Nuff said.

  • Cerveceria 100 Montaditos - this has several branches across Madrid, and I wish so badly it would come to the UK! It's basically a cafe/restaurant where they make 100 different mini baguette combinations. Epic right? There are sweet and savoury options and they are sooooo yummy. I mean let's face it, sometimes you just can't choose just one sandwich filling when they all look so good, can you? So here you can have a few. And believe me, I did.
  • Mercado de San Miguel - a brilliant indoor food market just down from the Plaza Mayor, where you can find all sorts of Spanish delicacies, and there are places to eat inside too.
  • Salad and Co - Okay, it's not Spanish food or anything, but this place is amazing (right near El Corte Ingles too). For just 7.95 Euros, we got all we could eat of salad, pizzas, pastas, breads, tortilla, rice, drinks, ice creams, yoghurts, fruits, and sooo much more. It was summin else.
  • Any tapas bar - they mostly all look a bit seedy, but will all serve amazing tapas. What's also really cool is that all Spanish restaurants bring you something to eat pretty much straight away, whether it's a bit of tortilla, paella or crisps.
Patatas Bravas and Jamon tapas
So I think that's most of my highlights. It really is a fabulous place to go for a short city break, and all the architecture is gorgeous - think mini balconies on every window. Do you have any other places you can recommend? I'd love to hear them, because I'll definitely be going back to this fun-filled capital.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

RECIPE: Rocky Choccy Biccy Bites

Embracing my recently developed desire to become a culinary goddess before leaving for uni in a few months (well, realistically I want to learn how to stir-fry and make a bolognaise sauce so I don't live purely off ready meals and take-aways - seemingly unavoidable for most students), I've been experimenting in the kitchen. I know baking isn't really cooking, but it's SO much more fun. And hey, I've got a sweet tooth, don't judge me!

I've made my own creation: Rachel's Rocky Choccy Biccy Bites. Sure, the name's a bit of a mouthful, but then again so are these morcels of heavenly goodness. They're like orgasms for your mouth. I kid you not. This is my twist on a plain chocolate biscuit cake, with - as usual for me - a "more is more" approach. Prince William has asked for a chocolate biscuit cake made by McVities for the Royal Wedding, and I'm a bit miffed he didn't pick me and these. Well, his loss eh? They'll never know what they're missing. I want to spread the joy of these yummies to the world... so here's how you can make them for yourself - just in time for a last-minute Mothers' Day or Easter treat:

  • 100g butter
  • 300g chocolate, broken into squares (I used a mix of plain and milk chocolate - it depends on your tastes)
  • 3tbsp golden syrup
  • 100g digestive biscuits, broken up into smaller pieces but not crumbs (or you could use rich teas.. ooh or even try Hobnobs!)
  • 25g mini marshmallows (or large ones, but cut them into small pieces with wet scissors first)
  • 100g Malteasers (be inventive - how about substituting a Crunchie bar instead?)
  • 50g raisins (or you could try another dried fruit if you prefer... the possibilities are endless!)
  • 17g cornflakes (I know it seems a bit precise, but that's the size of the variety pack I used. Or try Rice Krispies)
  • 25g butterscotch chips
  • Mini Eggs (optional)

Method (so simple a monkey could do it):

Prepare your tin in advance: I used a square one of roughly 18cm x 18cm, and just over an inch deep. It doesn't really matter though - they'll taste divine regardless of the shape. Line your tin with foil.
    Melt the butter, syrup and chocolate together in a large bowl (which will eventually contain all the mixture) over a low heat, stirring frequently (and trying not to eat it all as you go) until it's really smooth.  Let the butter/choc/syrup mixture cool for about 5 minutes, and while you wait, prepare the rest by measuring out all the rest of your ingredients into a separate bowl.
    The syrup, chocolate and butter
    Melted choc/syrup/butter colling slightly before being mixed with the rest.
Add the bowlful of biscuits etc to the chocolate mix and stir until they're well combined. Then spoon it into your tin, spreading as evenly as you can. I then added Mini Eggs to mine as an Easter twist, but you could do whatever you want really. (This is where you get to scrape out the mixture bowl too - the best part!)
    Before chilling...
Leave to chill until set hard, then cut into chunks/fingers/bites/whatever shape you like. And feast!
    Et voila!
    So I hope you enjoy my Rocky Choccy Biccy Bites (try saying that with one in your mouth!) I'd love to hear from anyone who tries them out, and any variations you try. Go crazy and be inventive! It's so quick, easy and rewarding. Job done.
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