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Sneak Preview of 48 Hours of Fashion, Nottingham

Last night I was lucky enough to attend a sneak preview of 48 Hours of Fashion 2014.

The event is one that is close to my heart as it is organised by the Nottingham Business Improvement District, and I was involved in last year’s event before I went on maternity leave.

It is on today and tomorrow (29th-30th March), so if you have any spare time this weekend head down to Old Market Square and take a look.  You can’t miss the massive marquee!  Inside there will be fashion shows taking place hourly throughout the weekend, which are free to watch.

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The shows aren’t your standard catwalk shows with models strutting up and down.  They incorporate dancers, music, and large screen projections of Nottingham to turn it into a real performance.  You almost forget you are sat in the middle of the Square.  There are also going to be various master classes held on the catwalk throughout the weekend, so it will be worth stopping in a couple of times to see what’s on.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a very fashionable person, and tend to buy clothes that I like over what is deemed stylish.  My favourite thing about this event is that it doesn’t tell you how to dress, it shows you what Nottingham retailers have to offer.  I think we’re really lucky to have such an eceletic mix of shops for such a small city centre, it’s one of the reasons I love living here.

2014-03-28 20.35.15As a new addition to the event this year they have launched a 48 Hours of Fashion charity t-shirt.  It was designed by a local young designer, Charlie Taylor, as part of a competition, and all proceeds go to the Maggie’s Centre at Nottingham City Hospital.  The t-shirt features a beautiful drawing of the profile of a woman, and can be bought from Wild Clothing on Broad Street in Hockley, or at the Marquee.

As well as what is taking place in Old Market Square some retailers have put on special events for the weekend, or will be giving customers a glass of bubbly while they shop.  A full list of everything that is taking place can be found on the It’s In Nottingham website.

Shops and hairdressers across the city centre have also got involved by putting on some great special offers for the weekend. If you’re going to buy anything this weekend make sure you have one of the voucher leaflets first.  Plus there are more offers, including food and drink ones, on their website.

2014-03-29 09.10.57All in all, it just seems like the perfect reason to shop!



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Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair, Nottingham

Lou Lou's Vintage Fair, Nottingham

On Sunday I went to bag myself some vintage goodies at Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair, which was being held at The Albert Hall, Nottingham.

According to their website Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair is the leading vintage fair for the UK and winner of ‘Best Vintage Fair in the UK’. They currently organise fairs at 39 different locations around the UK, plus vintage wedding fairs in addition to this. All this expertise really had me raring to go, and I was quite excited by the time the fair came around.

You don’t have to be a fashion expert (which I most definitely am not!) or a cool kid (even more not me!) to know that vintage has been becoming more and more popular over the last few years. News articles back in 2012, like this one from the BBC and this one from the Guardian, were already questioning when the popularity bubble of the vintage scene was going to pop, but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere yet. In fact from what I have seen it is still going from strength to strength, with vintage style cafes and beauty-salons now popping up everywhere. Plus when it comes to clothes, more and more businesses are creating new pieces styled on classic vintage designs, often adding a new twist to make their items really unique.

Now it would seem that not all vintage is, well, vintage.

2014-02-09 14.51.51I was hoping to find some of these newly-made clothing retailers at the fair, as sometimes I find vintage fairs and shops a bit like a charity shop that has been a bit over-zealous with the pricing. You may criticise me in choosing style over substance – and this is one occasion you can actually say that about me – but I’m not one to buy any old piece of clothing in the name of buying something vintage. I want something a bit different, something that fits properly and most of all something that looks good. I am not too bothered about the age of it either way.

Unfortunately there weren’t any new clothing retailers, however, the second-hand retailers that were there did have some lovely bits so I didn’t stay disappointed for long. I had to put quite a few dresses back on the rack or my baby would have been without nappies for the month, but it was a close choice at times! There was a nice, wide selection of clothes, and it was good to see a big selection of things for men too.

2014-02-09 14.53.45As good as the dresses were, it was the jewellery that nearly undid me. There was a lot of jewellery and other trinkets, e.g. compacts. Some of it vintage in the traditional sense of the word and some vintage styled new pieces, but lots of really gorgeous bits. I could have spent a small fortune. One particularly good stall was Madame Cherry, which was full of beautiful, and some quite unusual, pieces of jewellery.

I was genuinely surprised by the high level of the majority of the stock, though that is not to say there were no questionable items there. I guess it is all a matter of taste.

In addition to the clothes and jewellery, there was also a lady doing fantastic things to people’s hair for a small fee. I wasn’t convinced you could have even got a brush through mine after getting caught in the wind earlier, so I steered clear, but from what I saw her do to other people she was a master of her art!

The location of the Albert Hall was perfect for the fair. It is in the city centre and close to all the transport links so was easy to get to. For those that had driven there was ample on-street parking around the venue, which on a Sunday (as long as you park in the right zone) is a £1 flat rate for the day.

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It is a beautiful building, and the architecture really lent itself to the atmosphere of the event. Plus with the high ceilings in the main room you didn’t feel boxed in at all by the rails of clothing as can sometimes be the case. They also had some stalls selling homewares and collectables set up in the foyer, along with a larger stall selling hot drinks and baked goods with a seating area, which meant you weren’t confined to one room.

By the time we got around to the refreshment stall though they had unfortunately sold out of all the baked goods except for a few cookies. With another hour left before the fair closed we thought we had better leave before the riot started due to the lack of cake.


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The importance of wedding fairs

At the weekend I met up with a lovely bride-to-be to discuss the initial ideas for her wedding.  She has only recently got engaged and is now in the process of formulating an idea of how she would like her big day to look and feel.

2014-01-26 13.19.38For me, this is one of the most exciting times when organising a wedding. I love the amount of variation available, and it allows me to get to know the couple quite rapidly by finding out about their tastes and preferences. For the happy couple though, this can be completely overwhelming.

I always advise couples to take their time with this stage of planning if they can. It is important to understand what options are available to you from the beginning. This will help you to avoid changing your mind at the last minute, or even worse, once it is too late.

Doing as much research as you can to find out what is out there will help feed into the natural development of a wedding that truly represents you and your partner. Sometimes couples like a lot of what they see, or favour different options, but it is also important to take note of what you both don’t like. Through this process of selection and elimination an overarching theme for the day will emerge. Subsequent decisions can then be made to fit the feel of the day, which can be really useful when you can’t agree or don’t have a preference on something.

There are many ways to look for ideas, suppliers and inspiration for your wedding and I would recommend using as many of them as you can. There are a multitude of websites, online directories, and magazines available, or you can use sites like pinterest to see what other people are doing. Plus of course venues and suppliers will often have their own website so a good old internet search will bring up plenty of collateral for you to look through.2014-01-26 13.53.06

The common drawback with all of the above ways however is that you can only see images, or video if you are lucky, of everything, and it involves you trawling through hundreds of options which can be rather time-consuming. It is because of this I hold wedding fairs in such high esteem. Many are free to attend, and they allow you to see and feel (and sometimes taste!) a whole host of ideas. Plus you get to talk to a variety of suppliers face to face, and get an instant answer to any questions you have.

Wedding fairs come in all shapes and sizes, and generally occur between January and March, and September and November. Most venues that hold weddings will also hold at least one wedding fair a year and will have local suppliers exhibiting. Plus larger fairs take place at exhibition centres (for example the NEC) throughout the year, that will have larger, national suppliers. You normally have to pay an entrance fee at these.

If you have a venue in mind for your wedding (or several you can’t choose between!) and they are holding a wedding fair I would highly recommend that you try to attend.  During wedding fairs, venues are often partially set up as they would be for a wedding allowing you a glimpse of what the venue could look like for your day. Visit at any other time and there is no guarantee how the venue will be set up, as it will depend on what event they happen to have on. They may have a gorgeous function room, but it can be hard to imagine it filled with people and laid out for a wedding reception when it is set up for a conference.

In addition, the suppliers you meet at a wedding fair are often ones that have worked at that venue before. This means they will know how to get the best out of the venue. For example, a photographer will know where the best locations are to get the most flattering shots. This is not a definitive reason for why you should go with a supplier, but is something useful to consider when making a decision.   2014-01-26 13.20.54

I rarely leave a wedding fair without feeling excited about something I haven’t seen before, whether it is a new cake design, a new idea for entertainment, or even a venue I haven’t visited or thought of previously. When I met the bride I mentioned earlier, the date of our meeting coincided with a wedding fair at the Poppy and Pint in Lady Bay, so we took the opportunity to go there before sitting down to talk details. I hadn’t been to the Poppy and Pint before, and was really surprised by how lovely the function room is. It is a medium-to-small sized room but it has windows along two opposing walls making it light and airy. There is a stage at one end and a bar at the other. The food being served in the pub downstairs looked delicious too.  All this, coupled with the pub’s proximity to the Rushcliffe Registry Office, make it an ideal place for a wedding reception.

The wedding fair was small as you would expect for a venue this size, but still gave us the opportunity to talk to someone who made wedding cakes, a photographer, two ladies who worked together to provide hair and make up services, a DJ and a pianist, a magician and someone who provided wedding cars. Plus we were given a goodie bag (and a glass of bubbly!) on arrival with more useful suppliers details in.

2014-01-26 13.19.15I was really glad I had met the bride-to-be here, it served as the perfect demonstration of how wedding fairs can be so useful. She’s now planning to go to all the wedding fairs she can, hopefully not just for the free champagne!

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Stonebridge City Farm, Nottingham

Last week my younger sister came to visit so we decided to go for a family outing to commemorate the occasion.  Without hesitation my husband suggested going to Stonebridge City Farm.  His workplace annually organise a day out of the office where the staff volunteer at a chosen local community project, and they had gone there a couple of years ago to build compost bins and fix rabbit hutches.  He had mentioned wanting to go back a few times now, but we hadn’t got around to going.

Nottingham is lucky as it has some really good farm visitor attractions within a short drive of the city.  Stonebridge, however, is within walking distance of the city centre.  Tucked away down a side street near Sneinton Market, Stonebridge City Farm really is a city farm.  I was amazed by how residential the area it is located in is.

On arriving we entered through the building where the café and offices are located as we had the urgent priority of finding a baby change unit.  We found one located by the toilets, which are next to the main office.  The facilities are basic, but clean.  There are also hand washing points around the site.

This is a good time to point out that the farm is funded through donations, any grants they can secure, and revenue from the shop, café and events that they hold.  According to their website it costs around £246,000 a year to keep the farm open, £150,000 of which they manage to raise through grants.  Despite this entrance to the farm is completely free.

The café is also basic, but light and roomy.  We had not long had lunch so didn’t purchase anything, but from what I saw other people eating the food looked nice.  The menu was surprisingly cheap too.

Venturing outside we passed the training room where they hold courses, including First Aid and Food Hygiene, available to anyone wanting to improve their C.V.  They also offer children’s parties which I’m presuming are held in this room.

My sister had cautiously worn her wellies, we were of course visiting a farm, but thankfully there are wooden walkways to follow which are firm and secure.  In fact the farm prides it’s self on being accessible to all, including those with wheelchairs.

The walkways lead between a number of small paddocks where the birds and larger animals are kept.  They included chickens, cows, goats, and ponies.  A full list of what they have can be found on the website.  We managed to miss the pigs, but it was a cold January day so they may have been sheltering somewhere.  The majority of the animals seemed friendly and came over to be stroked and fed (you can buy bags of suitable feed in the shop).  I think we were more excited by this than my 9 month old daughter, but once she realises what animals are it will be a great experience for her.

There is also a barn where rabbits, guinea pigs and a terrapin are kept.  You can pay 50p to handle the animals in here.  It was also in the barn that we got to meet some of the wonderful volunteers that work at the farm.

Much of the work done at the farm is by volunteers.  This includes supported placements for adults with disabilities.  On the website for the farm it says that through working at the farm it is hoped that the volunteers will ‘build up confidence in their abilities and increase their self-esteem.’  I can certainly say this seemed true for the volunteers we met in the barn.  They were doing daily checks on all of the animals when we entered, and they showed us what they were doing and introduced us to each animal they picked up.  It was lovely.

In additional to the animals there is also a garden you can walk around.  Here they grow all sorts of fruit and vegetables.  The wooden walkway extends around the garden, so again it is accessible to all.  Next to the garden there is a play area, with a climbing frame and see-saw.

I briefly mentioned the shop earlier.  Not only can you buy feed for the animals from the shop, you can also buy much of the produce of the farm, including honey from the farm’s bees.

Admittedly Stonebridge City Farm does not compare in size, or variety of animals, to the farms found slightly further afield, but I do not feel that is necessarily a bad thing.  The size is ideal for smaller children, enough variety to feel like they have done a lot, but without being too overwhelming or tiring to get around.  The staff and volunteers really set the place apart though.  I don’t think I have ever been anywhere else where the staff were so engaged with what they were doing and so excited to tell you about it.

I’d recommend this place for everyone to go and visit; whether as a family outing like ours, to one of the fine dining nights that they hold in the café, or just to visit the farm shop.  Regardless of why you go though, please make sure you put some money in one of the donation boxes found around the farm.  Stonebridge City Farm is too good to lose.

For more information on Stonebridge City Farm visit their website by clicking here.


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