Friday, 1 April 2016

My St James's: Shopping like a Royal in one of London's most historic neighbourhoods

Emily Johnston St James's
Cherry Blossoms St James's
There are a few neighbourhoods in London that hold a very special place in my heart and each come with their own set of memories. For me, St James's is perhaps one of the most special. It is an area of London, just south of Piccadilly, that is the most historic, the most prestigious and the most refined - and that's not just because it's where the Royals seem to do most of their shopping. St James's is quite honestly a feast for all the senses. I've lived in London for 14 years now and each time I return, I discover a new sense heightened by the experience. So, I thought it high time to share a proper exploration of the area. With the help of the St James's London, I put together a mini tour of the area. I played a full fledged tourist for the day in the hopes of encouraging more to do the same. One could spend a whole week just in this area and not see it all, but here are a few of the highlights for a 24 hour adventure. Be sure to pop on over to the St James London website to check out the video for more info on all the places listed below:

1. Check out the Cherry Blossoms right now!
Sake nO Hana Cherry Blossoms
It's that time of year and all the trees are in bloom in St James's. Start your tour with a drop by the St James's church and market (picture above) to take in the sites and shop the local fare. If you're a true tourist in London you'll find loads here to take home as small gifts for family and loved ones. If you're still in need of more of a Cherry Blossom moment, head over to Sake No Hana, one of my favourite sushi restaurants in London, not just the area. They have the most stunning Cherry Blossom display and menu to compliment the season (I wrote about this a few years ago - check out the pictures). 

2. Ice Cream at Fortnum & Mason
The Parlour Ice Cream Fortnum & Mason
Fortnum & Mason is truly a Royal experience in St James's that engages all the senses. This is a place where tourists and locals alike gravitate towards for any number of reasons. While I'd like to say I'm usually in residence to pick up a beautiful item for the home, or a bundle of beautiful tea bags, I'm actually almost always to be found in the The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason's. This is a local favorite, to the great detriment of my waistline. Whether just popping through for an ice cream sundae, or the Knickerbocker Glory (invented at Fortnum's in 1955), this is an experience in pastels and sugar highs.
The Parlour Ice Cream Fortnum & Mason
The Parlour Ice Cream Fortnum & Mason

3. The scent of Royals with Floris
Floris St James's
Floris, the royal perfumers, date their start back to 1730, where the original store (pictured above) still stands on Jermyn Street.  It doesn't get much more historical when it comes to brands. They've been scenting the Royal Family since the beginning, and have two Royal Warrants today (which means they still provide services to the Royal Family). While the shop itself is the most incredible experience and truly feels like a step back in time, it's the sensual experience with their fragrances that will transport you to another place. In the video you'll see we take a step back with the company and look at their ledgers, which showcase fragrance orders for every King, Queen, Princess and so forth and so on... I couldn't believe the treasure trove of information they were sharing!
Floris St James's
Floris St James's

4. Christy's Hats
Christy's hats St James's
Well, Christy's hats is a little newer than Floris. But we're only talking less than 50 years here, folks. The esteemed creator of society's most celebrated hats was founded in 1773. In the 1850s, Prince Albert began wearing Christy's top hats, and since that day, the Royals have continued to use Christy's as a master creator of hats. You may have also seen The Godfather wearing the now famous Christy's Homburg Hat. And, the friendly Metropolitan Police also sport a Christy's hat as they make their way around London on a daily basis. Things you learn, eh? And yes, the lead picture above is me having a go at a classic Christy's piece. Think I need to go back and get my hands on one or two for my wardrobe. An absolute classic! 

5. The luxury library (complete with cocktails) at Assouline 
Assouline Book Store, St. James's
Here's my top secret St James's hangout: Assouline. This is truly a hidden treasure and unless you know to look for it, you could walk right past it - which would be a crying shame! Assouline is of course the famed book publisher responsible for some of the world's most beautiful creations. To get lost in this beauty would be a truly terrific thing. Whether popping in for coffee with friends or cocktails at the bar, I would advise you to enjoy a bit of a break from shopping and then select a beautiful book from the library and settle in for a rummage and a purchase - as I've never been able to leave a book behind once cracked here in the soft leather chairs at Assouline. 
Assouline Book Store, St. James's

6. Cheese, cheese and more cheese at Paxton & Whitfield
Paxton & Whitfield, St James's
If you don't like cheese... wait, you don't like cheese? You are reading the wrong blog. Leave NOW! Ok, kidding, kidding, I know cheese isn't everyone's thing, but I have a serious passion for it. Call me crazy but I'll take a room full of stinky cheese any day. Enter Paxton & Whitfield - the stinkiest cheese shop I've ever encountered in my life and the next best thing to heaven. This is another shop steeped in history (see a trend forming here?) and again, another shop that is frequented by the Royal Family. In fact, Paxton & Whitfield have been Britain's leading cheesemongers for over 200 years and have two Royal Warrants today for continued services to the Royal Family. With over 150 varieties of cheese in store, this is a sensory experience not to be missed. There's even a cheese wedding cake. Need I say more? 

This may be my first feature on St James's on FFG, but it is most certainly not the last. I have been inspired and I feel there is much more to uncover in this area of the world. Of course, we're only scratching the surface here. There's much more to discover over with the video we created! Take a look! 

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Thursday, 31 March 2016

5 essential lessons for a creative mind

Trying to be a creative person, on a daily basis, requires a very unique skill set and one that is constantly in need of updating. I discovered this the hard way and will easily admit that I've had more than a few creative meltdowns over the years. Don't laugh. I know it may sound pathetic. How can someone be breaking down over the idea of being paid to travel the world and write about fabulous places, food and fashion? Right? I have such a tough life. But it isn't one that comes without its own set of challenges and they go a little something like this...both challenge and solution offered:

1. Being original.
This is an hourly struggle as an online entity. You are given upwards of seven social channels that require constant content and original thought. Here's what you need to remember - don't look sideways. Every thought you have is original. That's just the way the world works. Sure, it's influenced by everything you see around you, but it's your thought at that moment. No one else is having it right then, just you. Put it out there and let the chips fall where they may. 

If you are looking forward in your own creative adventure, you are being original and that's that. Common sense, right? Well, easier said than done. As bloggers I believe we are constantly looking sideways by default, as we are constantly pitted against our peers for jobs and unique work opportunities. It's hard to stay focused, but the greatest advice I was ever given was to concentrate on flexing my own creative muscles on a daily basis and just throwing content out there that I was proud of  - that's the only requirement for creation... be proud of what YOU have created.

2. Keep going, no matter what.
This leads me to the most important lesson in accessing any creative side- it's important to keep creating. Even if you feel what you're creating is complete crud, do it. Not everything needs to go out into the general public, but I do believe everything that pops into your head, from a healthy creative place, should be put out into your own physical world, should there be the time to do it. Weeding the good from the bad is just part of the process, but constant creation is essential.

3. Recognize that we're all going to have creative ruts and forgive yourself for those moments immediately.
I firmly believe a creative rut is, in itself, a creative process. When you are forced to be creative daily, you can sometimes feel as if the well has run completely dry. For me, this is a weekly occurrence. And here's how to deal with it. Recognize it. Hell, welcome it. Think of it as a cleanse for your creative soul. Your mind is telling you it's time to shake things up a bit. After you've said all these somewhat ridiculous and comforting things, grab your bag and get out of the house. Go out and let your eyes wander. It's a great big world and no matter where you live, I guarantee you there's a place or side of town you haven't seen. Go there, grab a coffee and a book and watch the world go by. If you are open to inspiration, it will always, ALWAYS, find you. And it has a way of doing so just when you need it the most.

Of course to be someone who can crawl out of a creative rut (let's keep calling it a creative cleanse, shall we?) you have to be someone who is open to whatever comes your way. Elizabeth Gilbert speaks about this a lot in her book Big Magic, which you absolutely must read if you've gotten this far on a topic of creative living. She talks about the idea of letting yourself be completely open to creativity and what the universe will provide. It's all about knowing yourself and being able to weed through all the creative concepts that come your way. Some you grab hold of and try to bring forth into the universe, others you let go of and give them the opportunity to find another creative soul more suited for the project. However, if you are rigid in your approach to creativity, your creative soul will in fact starve. There's just no way to sugar coat that one, I'm afraid. You have to be ready and willing. If you're "open" to that, the world is your oyster

5. Answer only to yourself.
Of course along the way there will be plenty of critics that pop up to tell you just what they think of your creativity. In this day and age, with ridiculous and jealous trolls lurking about on the internet, nine times out of ten the critics will blow you apart. They'll hate everything you do. They'll hate everything you create. They'll be super "open" about supplying their opinion. And this is the only time you'll hear me say that this is a time in your life where you need to learn to shut it down... compartmentalize and rationalize the crazy general public. The only thing that matters here, and I'm about to sound like a parent, is that you are proud of what you have created. This is the absolute truth. Creative critics are often just critiquing themselves when they share such hateful comments. If all else fails, just remind yourself that if you're attracting such attention, you've more or less been recognized as a creative source worth mentioning at all - and that's a big deal all in itself. 

Go forth and let your creative freak flags fly proudly.... so says FFG.

Need more inspiration? Soar over to Mademoiselle Robot to check out her creative advice... 

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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Outfit du Jour: Casual Curiosity from Topshop

Outfit du Jour Topshop
Shop the Look:

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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Grey Gang


As part of the fashion week diaries, something I wore on a grey day in London. Undoubtedly similar to what I wore earlier in NYC, but I can’t get enough of these wide trousers. I spotted them in J. Crew’s presentation a year back and finally managed to hunt them down in London. They have been sneaking into all the takes of my travel wardrobe lately, so I’m not fighting back. No Easter posts for me, no cake layering family time because I’ve spent the whole weekend locked inside, trying to fight a cold that seems to be never ending. I guess that is eventually the price we pay for a full month of fashion weeking, but then again we can afford to, after a month of hysterically creating content.
Photos by Mikko Puttonen

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Style Update: The perfect off-the-shoulder dress for summer

off-the-shoulder dress
If you thought the off-the-shoulder style died with last summer, think again people. This season we're seeing the trend return in an epic fashion. It seems every designer from high end to high street has a version of the item on offer. 
I'll be featuring a few over the next couple of weeks, but thought I'd start with a reasonably priced favorite from ASOS. Priced at just $65, this is a shoulder shower summer staple if I ever saw one - easy to throw on and go. I'm also wearing some great shades from Quay and classic Havaianas flip flops. 

off-the-shoulder dress
off-the-shoulder dress
off-the-shoulder dress

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Sunday, 27 March 2016

60 Second Restaurant Review: Eggbreak, Notting Hill

Eggbreak Notting Hill
Ok guys, new segment here and it's all about featuring great eats in London in under 60 seconds (not including credits etc... I know some of you are sticklers so I thought I'd put that out there). First up on the "best of" charts is Eggbreak in Notting Hill. This place is THE BEST PLACE IN LONDON FOR FRIED CHICKEN. Oh sorry, did I mistakenly leave the caps lock on there? NOPE! This deserves caps, highlights, boldness and more. I have never had a chicken sandwich like the one in which I encountered last week at Eggbreak. I've also, in general, never had better tasting fried chicken and it all began with the chicken wings as starters. Oh man, I run the risk of writing the whole review right here. Let's let the video do the talking - 60 seconds with Eggbreak, where Fried Chicken is religion (yes, that should be their strapline).

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