Monday 28 July 2014

The Big Fat Santorini Wedding

My final post from Santorini is all about the reason we went there in the first place - the wedding of our friends, Eleni and George.

Santorini is a hugely popular destination for weddings and couples from all over the world go there to tie the knot. In fact, some even get married at home and then fly to Santorini with wedding dress in tow, just to have photographs taken in its beautiful (and very romantic) surroundings. After spending a day exploring the delights of the island for ourselves, and meeting the other guests at a very big and very noisy dinner the night before, Mike and I couldn't wait for the festivities to get underway.

Everybody met at the church of Agios Georgios in Oia at 6.30 pm.

It was a warm and sunny, bright and breezy sort of evening. The groom was there to welcome all the guests, and as more and more of us arrived, the excitement began to build. Finally, the woman we had all been waiting for made her appearance.

After posing for a few windswept photographs, it was time to enter the church for the ceremony.

The bride and groom walked three times around the altar, wearing the stefano crowns to symbolize becoming husband and wife, and king and queen of their future family.

Back outside, more photographs were taken, and the guests chatted about the ceremony as we waited for the coach that would take us to the reception. The perfect opportunity to take a quick outfit shot! (More later.)

Eventually the coach arrived, and took us on a long and winding (and slightly scary) road up to the town of Pyrgos and a fancy looking restaurant of the same name. It is the highest point on the island  and the ever-present breeze (read: gale-force wind) was pretty fresh up there. However, some cleverly arranged glass panelling allowed us to sip champagne and nibble sugar-coated strawberries in comfort as we admired our surroundings and the spectacular sunset.

Just as we were beginning to wonder where the bride and groom were, we heard the whir of a helicopter overhead.

Surely that wasn't them?


As a complete surprise to everyone, including the bride, George had organised for them to arrive in style. The delighted excitement among the guests as we watched the helicopter landing just meters from us was very special. And it turned out that this wasn't the only trick up George's sleeve, as he proceeded to escort his new wife out of the helicopter and onto...

That's right. A donkey. Quite the contrast!

As the bride and groom made their way to join us in this very traditional Greek manner, silhouetted against the setting sun, U2's "Beautiful Day" blasted through the loudspeakers. It was an emotionally charged moment, and I'm sure I would have had a tear in my eye even without the two glasses of champagne I'd guzzled by then. ;-)

After all that spectacle, we were starting to feel slightly chilly and very hungry, so we were pleased when the time came to go inside. We ate, drank, danced and generally made merry until the early hours of the next morning.

If you'll forgive the less than amazing quality of the following shot, here's a closer look at my dress.

Dress - Little Mistress, Shoes and bag - Zara, Blazer - Topshop, Earrings - Accessorize

I wanted to keep my makeup soft, so I recreated the smoky plum look which you can see here. For my hair, I attempted a few curls with my exhausted GHD's, which are long past retirement age, and then blitzed it with half a can of hairspray. (I also did quite a full-on makeup routine on my legs which I might tell you about in my next post - if you're very lucky!)

Fancy a closer look at my accessories?

You may notice that this is not the bag I ended up carrying. Obviously the sequined one looks prettier with the outfit, but practicality won out in the end and I opted for one that would accommodate a pair of flip flops. It was a long night, with a lot of standing around and a lot of dancing, and I wasn't sure how long I'd last in heels.

I have to say, though, that I was very impressed with Zara's nude strappy heels and how sturdy they felt to wear, and I ended up lasting the whole night in them. I'm not generally very good in heels so I can't recommend these enough. If you see a pair in the Zara sale, snap them up!

The wedding was without a doubt one of the loveliest I have ever been to and the highlight of an amazing week on Santorini.

Definitely a beautiful day.

Kate x

Wednesday 16 July 2014

The White Dress

Today I bring you a post that's connected to my holiday in Santorini, in the sense that this is one of the outfits I wore while I was there. I had big ideas - I often have big ideas - of taking these photos "in situ" against some of the stunning backdrops I showed you last Thursday, but unfortunately it just didn't work out like that. Life is not like the movies, (although, as Katy Perry sings, maybe it should be), and the blogging stars don't always align the way you want them to at exactly the right moment. This is something I'm learning! So here I am in my back garden instead.

I have been loving the white trend that seems to be so popular this summer. While in Greece, I couldn't get enough of the little white smock dress I had on in my previous post or the dress I'm wearing here. The smock dress was my favourite daytime look, and this was my go-to for the evening. It's from Topshop. I didn't get it that long ago, but I can't seem to find it on their website. Perhaps it is still available in store? In any case, the website has quite a few similar dresses, so I have linked to some of my favourites below. In the meantime, here's mine.

I love everything about it. The scalloped detailing, the sheer panels, and of course, the colour. White in the summer is just so crisp and fresh-looking.

My initial ideas when I first bought this dress involved dressing it up to the nines. I've worn it with nude strappy heels and my favourite red wedges, and both of these shoe choices lead to a much dressier result. That's how I was planning to wear it on holiday, but the roads on Santorini were not particularly heel friendly, so I tried to stick to flat sandals whenever I could. To be honest, I wasn't sure that they would work with this dress, but I tried these sparkly ones from Accessorize and really liked the combination. So the dress has turned out to be a lot more versatile than I thought it would be, and that makes me love it even more. :-)

There's only one drawback with the white trend as far as I'm concerned and that's the impracticality of it. If you're like me and tend to wear fake tan and/or leg makeup in the summer you just can't avoid the dreaded dirty hem. Even plain old sun cream seems to leave a mark and the stain removal is a bit of a pig. Still, I reckon it's worth it!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Santorini gets pretty breezy in the evenings and it can feel positively cold at times, so a cover up is a must, especially for wimps like me. I kept the casual theme going by adding my trusty denim jacket. I also took along this yellow clutch that I picked up in the Zara sale about a week before I went away. In fact, I used this bag every day on holiday. It holds all the essentials, you can carry it hands-free and it goes with just about everything.

 Dress - Topshop (similar styles herehere and here), Jacket - Topshop (I bought mine a couple of years ago, but this one is pretty much identical), Sandals - Accessorize (these are very similar), Bag - Zara (similar here) 

This is the makeup I wore - a classic red lip paired with a clean sweep of black eyeliner.

On my face:

Skin - Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation in Cool Bone, Collection Lasting Perfection concealer in Fair, Rimmel Stay Matte powder in Peach Glow, Benefit Dallas bronzing powder (love this!)

Eyebrows - Benefit Brow Zings brow shaping kit.

Eyes - A wash of the palest pink shade from L'Oreal's Color Riche Quad in Eau de Rose all over the lid, Collection Extreme 24 Hour felt tip liner, Lancôme Hypnose Star mascara - a recent purchase which I badly wanted to love because it is supposed to curl your lashes, has glitter on the packaging and is by Lancôme, but I'm not sure it's any better than L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes, and it's a lot more expensive.

Lips - YSL Rouge Pur Couture lipstick in 13 Le Orange.

What do you think of the white trend? Would you wear this dress? If so, let me know how you would style it!

Kate x

Thursday 10 July 2014

Oia, Santorini

My husband and I have just got back from a hectic but amazing week on the Greek island of Santorini. We went for the wedding of some friends of ours, and I was really excited, not just about the festivities, but also about getting the chance to experience this beautiful island. I must admit, I've been a little obsessed with the place ever since the Kardashians went there for their "family vacay". The footage made it look amazing, and I couldn't wait to see it for myself. I've got so much to say about our time there that it's difficult to know where to start, so I'm just going to dive in. Here goes!

Our hotel was called Finikia's Place, and it's about a fifteen to twenty minute walk from the town of Oia. The facilities in the room were pretty basic (just in case you were wondering, this is NOT where the Kardashians stayed) but it was spotlessly clean and reasonably priced.

There was a nice pool area with sun loungers and shady umbrellas, although unfortunately not enough to accommodate all the hotel's guests, so you couldn't always guarantee a spot if you wanted one.

We found the staff very friendly and welcoming, including Paris and Crest, the hotel dogs. Who doesn't love a hotel dog? Here's Paris guarding the pool.

We settled in very quickly, and one of the first things we wanted to do was walk into Oia and explore. Santorini is famous for its coastal views and amazing sunsets, and Oia in particular attracts tourists from all over the world for precisely this reason, so my expectations were pretty high. Like anywhere else, not every inch of the place is a perfect picture postcard, and the surroundings as we first walked out of the hotel were nice, but not spectacular.

But then we started to approach Oia, and we were faced with this.

Definitely well worth the hike! We found a couple of cafes where I could quite happily have sat gazing at the view for hours. These shots were taken at Kastro.

Kastro is apparently a popular spot to watch the sunset. We didn't get to see it though, as we hadn't booked a table, and had to vacate our spot for those who had.

My favourite place in Oia, though, was Cafe Flora, where I had the most delicious chocolate milkshake. (Yes, I have the tastes of a five year old. But my husband can vouch for the quality of the grown up drinks.) We sat on the shady upstairs terrace and it was pretty much perfect. I could have sat there all day.

Dress - Topshop, Hat - Accessorize, Sunglasses - H&M
The shops around Oia are also well worth a look, especially those selling art and handmade jewellery. I was pleasantly surprised to find so many places I wanted to explore amid all the usual shops selling flip-flops and novelty playing cards. It's a really picturesque little town, but it's also cramped and very busy, especially as the sun begins to go down. Every little nook and cranny is filled with people sporting impressive camera equipment, all trying to find the best spot to capture the amazing scenery.

This was where our hotel came into its own. Not only was the food in the restaurant there out of this world - we had grilled calamari, fresh barbequed sea bass, succulent lamb chops, tons of Greek salad and some of the tastiest chips/French fries I have ever eaten (not all in one meal, I hasten to add) - but the views from the rooftop area were also spectacular. While the world and his wife jostled for space in the centre of Oia, we enjoyed front row seats and a much more relaxed atmosphere.

First though, a view of the front of the restaurant. This was also lovely and the better place to sit if a chilly breeze got up, which happened quite a lot. Top tip - don't go to Santorini without some sort of cover-up. Even if you're not the sort of person who feels the cold much, you will probably need it at some point.

 One of our lunches - Greek salad, grilled calamari and chips.

But the rooftop was my favourite part of the restaurant, and we sat here whenever we could. As you can see, we had an uninterrupted view of the best show in town.

There's something addictive about sunsets. Every night they seemed somehow better than the night before, and like everyone else on the island, we just couldn't stop photographing them. I'm not sure that any picture can do the real thing justice, but here's a couple of ours.

I have plenty more to share from our trip, but I think this is enough for one day!

Has anyone else been to Santorini? I'd love to know what you thought of it.

Kate x

Saturday 5 July 2014

Benefit Brow Zings Review

When I was little my eyebrows were out of control. They were huge, had no shape to them whatsoever, and yes, they met in the middle. I basically looked like Bert from Sesame Street. That didn't really bother me until the nineties came along, and the pencil thin curve was suddenly the hottest eyebrow shape around. Like so many others, I wasted no time in plucking the living daylights out of my monster brows in order to achieve the look. It was probably a step up from channelling Bert, but even so, it wasn't long before it started to look dated and just plain weird.

Over the last six or seven years I've been trying to find a happy medium. My brows are pretty unruly and the individual hairs are long, so training them into a decent shape hasn't been easy. This is why I loved the Eylure shape and shade palette so much. As well as a great powder that matched the colour of my brows perfectly and a wax that kept my long hairs in place, it had stencils. Don't laugh. Some of us need extra help, OK? With the stencils, I was able to play about with the different shapes and, once I found one I liked, I could pencil it in and see where I needed to pluck and where I needed to leave well alone.

However, it would appear that I was the only person digging the whole stencil thing. The Boots website tells me that this palette is no longer available, so I am guessing it has been discontinued. Why does this always happen with products I really like?

Anyway, with the powder in my beloved shape and shade rapidly dwindling, I went on a mission a couple of weeks ago to find a replacement. I'd read some good things about Benefit Brow zings, so I decided to give it a try.

At £24.50 it's pretty expensive. I can't remember how much the Eylure palette was but I'm sure it was nowhere near that. (If I'm wrong please feel free to correct me!) Still, I'm hoping it will prove to be long-lasting, which the higher-end, higher-priced products often are. It comes in three shades - light, medium and dark - and I went for the dark. My natural brow colour is pretty much jet black and I do like a strong brow. Yes, even with my bleached hair. (Don't judge me.)

Benefit's packaging is always pretty cute in my opinion, and the brow zings palette is no exception. It's a sleek compact, perfect for travelling, with everything you need inside. You even get a little leaflet which shows you how to use it.

The darker product is waxy. You use the angled brush to apply it and it neatens and defines the shape. Then you use the lighter powder with the blending brush to fill in any gaps and set the brows in place. There's also a handy little pair of tweezers. I'm sure you know what those are for. ;-)

I'm really impressed with this product. The colour is good and I feel like my brows look strong and defined but still natural. It's definitely as good, if not better, than the Eylure. The only things missing are the stencils, but I guess I have a good shape now, so it's time to take those training wheels off! (Or else just get them threaded, like everybody else?!)

Look at the concentration on my face! Selfies can be so difficult.

How do you maintain your brows?

Kate x
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