Homely Houston.

Good afternoon to you my travel loving trendsetters,

This past weekend I returned back from a business trip to attend a training course. Although I have been to Texas once before, this time around I got to see and do a bit more to experience the great hospitality and homeliness in Houston.

(Image courtesy of google images)

On the first day I arrived in the US, I was taken to my hotel which was the Sorella in the City Centre and the pictures definitely did not disappoint. The rooms were modern, airy and spacious and the pool area was almost magical when it was lit up with twinkly lights after sunset. I spent my evenings meandering the pedestrianised walkways window shopping and deciding what restaurant to try next. (If you are ever in the area, I would really recommend the Smokehouse for their huge selection of barbecued meats and delicious salads)

I had heard that July was a particularly hot month in Texas but the humidity that sends your senses into overdrive the minute you step outside was definitely something to get acclimatised to. As usual, I was faced with the conundrum of what to pack which was both professional, office attire but also light and cool. I settled on fit and flare styles in bright prints with tanned Ralph Lauren sandals or knee length floaty dresses with embellished flats. I am sure those on my course could definitely tell I wasn’t from the US not only from my accent. Haha.

With Houston being a predominately Oil and Gas city, as you can imagine there were designer shops mixed in with your usual high street favourites catering for all bank balances and occasions. Some of the cars which were being valet parked outside my hotel were incredible too – a particular favourite of mine was this postbox red Ferrari.

One of the things which astounded me before and was proven once again on this trip is that southern charm really is infectious. From taxi drivers to restaurant staff, everyone was so friendly and genuinely seemed interested in your day which is so refreshing. With our busy lives working and living in London it can sometimes be a struggle to forget about the stresses of the day and smile 😊

Although my trip was short in duration, it definitely left a lasting memory in my mind. I love travelling – experiencing new walks of life and cultures and I can pretty much guarantee that no matter which city you visit in America, it will be completely different from the last in a good way.

Where will your adventures take you next?

Until next time,

Take care, Keya x

Green garden

Good morning to you my nature loving readers,

From earlier posts you would know that I LOVE travel. Whether it be practising yoga amongst the rice paddy fields in Bali or relaxing on the beach in Cyprus – I am in my element. For the past few months however, I have stayed a little closer to home and visited some beautiful places within the UK. For this months post I wanted to delve into the garden just beyond our doorsteps.

My parents have been taking me on holiday since I was three years old, my first destination being Portugal. Although I cannot remember that trip specifically, the bug must have stuck because as I’ve got older I have tremendously enjoyed researching new countries to visit – either going with family, friends, as a couple or on my own! I guess, I just never really considered staying in the UK for my summer holiday – boy was I wrong though.

I love this time of year in the UK. When the sun is shining, everything just seems to come alive. The grass looks greener, the flowers in full bloom and it just makes me want to get outside and enjoy nature at its finest.

Growing up as a teenager I loved Kate Moss, as I can imagine many girls my age did at the time. I remember reading an interview she gave where she said that when she wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of London she went to her country home in the Cotswolds, only a few hours away so that was our first short weekend break location. We spent our days filled with long forest hikes, stopping off for quaint country pub lunches and finding local gems to explore for our evening entertainment.

Our next stop was Warwickshire. When we were looking for places to stay the Wroxall lodge and spa was our instant favourite. The mansion has been standing since the 1800s, and I loved how it still had original features like the bell telephone system and the ornate fireplaces in each room. Around every country bend there was another cosy pub which were mostly dog and children friendly. We instantly felt like we were welcome and one of the locals. If you are staying in this area, for a great coffee spot try the Cowshed and for dinner you must secure a reservation at Robbie’s restaurant. On our last night, we had a seven course french taster menu which was simply out of this world and great value for money.

Including a weekend stop over in Bath last year and several trips to the North East under my belt, I can safely say my passport is staying put for the time being as there are still so many exciting areas I would love to explore on our green shores.

Until next time,

Take care

Keya x

Power dressing – the feminine touch.

Good afternoon to you my sleek stylistas,

Well so much has changed since my last blog post. After much deliberation and decision making, we decided to end our chapter in Qatar and I am now living back home in London. I have also since started a new job – slightly more senior than I had been previously which is a huge challenge but mega exciting. Quite fittingly for this months post we are going to delve into the tricky world of power dressing but keeping it feminine.

All images courtesy of google images)

Whenever I hear the words power dressing, I can’t help but be reminded of Oliver Twist – sooty faced chimney sweeps on one end of the spectrum and gentlemen in elegant three piece suits with a slick hairstyle to match on the other. It does seem like quite an old fashioned notion especially as today’s fast fashion is one in which we embrace our individuality and what we wear today is yesterday’s news once it’s picture has been posted on social media – however power dressing has had a serious upheaval in recent years.

As I recall I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the very first time I watched the series Suits on TV with Jessica wearing an one shouldered monochrome dress with sky high Christian Louboutins and Rachel in fitted a line dresses or shirts and pencil skirt combos I was sold. I knew that I wanted to improve the way I dressed in the office too.

One of the fond memories I have from living in a conservative state in the UAE is it really made me think twice about the length of my skirt or whether my shoulders were covered each day. I really liked how elegant I felt in midi skirts or floaty long sleeve tops and trousers. I have always believed in the less is more approach to dressing anyway so being covered up in the work place felt natural and comfortable.

In my new role I wanted to embrace that new style into my wardrobe so I find my day to day go to’s are knee length fitted dresses with a jacket and heels or tailored chinos with a smart top and heels. It really doesn’t have to cost a fortune, I find by mix and matching my jackets or cardigans or shoes with certain outfits it can look completely new and is extremely versatile.

Because my days are so fluid in the office also I never know when I will have to attend an impromptu meeting so I find a simple shift dress with paired back accessories and simple hair can take you from boardroom to after work team building with ease.

One of my absolute style crushes for work wear at the moment is Amal Clooney. She effortlessly puts outfits together so beautifully and she looks amazing whether she is attending a red carpet event or spending a day in the office. There is something so chic about a twin set and pearls and she really pulls off the old school 50s Hollywood glamour.

So whether you prefer a sharply tailored suit or a ankle length pleated dress and jacket for your work wardrobe, just remember in a proverbial mans world we can still be feminine and on trend with or without the trousers in the board room.

Until next time,

Take care

Keya x

Fast fashion – the True Cost.

Good afternoon to you my fashionista friends,

A short while ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix called “The True Cost” (an absolute must watch if you are as fashion conscious as I am) and it had such a profound effect on me. I knew immediately it was something I needed to research in more detail and share with my readers. Therefore, this month we delve into the world of Fast Fashion.

(All images courtesy of google images)

I was in tears by the end of the documentary as it goes into great detail about the working conditions in textile factories in some of the most poverty stricken, third world countries in the world. Mothers can be seen bent crookedly over their sewing machines whilst their newborn babies are swaddled in a blanket at their feet, whilst others earn so little money each month they have to send their children to live with relatives in distant villages because they cannot afford to provide basic human needs for their families.

It really puts a spot light on the influence of how Fashion has evolved so dramatically even in my lifetime. The demand for ready to wear collections; seen one day on the catwalk and then available in stores the very next is now the norm – but at what cost?

I was absolutely appalled to see how in some remote regions in India, because of the harsh chemicals used to dye leathers and suedes, the local rivers which provide drinking water to its inhabitants are now heavily polluted. These areas do not have access to bottled drinking water like we in the western world take for granted, so they risk severe illness and even death by consuming it.

Or when textile workers complained to their senior management about unsafe working conditions in a factory in Dhaka which was ignored, Rana Plaza came crashing down to a pile of rubble in May 2013, killing over a thousand people albeit barely making international news channels. These companies are under such pressure to produce garments as cheap as possible, with the notion of if they refuse, the fashion houses will just find another factory to fabricate their collection even cheaper.

It really puts me into such a conundrum. I, like everyone I know will shop in high street chain stores where you know you will be getting basic items at minimal prices because frankly we all love a bargain. That feeling of buying a dress which was originally £50 but only amounted to £19.99 when you go to the checkout counter is an instant endorphin boost. I wholeheartedly admit that with the world of social media and digital technology, the ideology of being able to wear a new outfit every time you socialise with your friends is highly coveted but not sustainable at all. What with rising costs of living, bills and supporting families – many of us do not have anything extra from our salaries to purchase frivolous clothing.

I also believe however, that spending a bit more on classic, well made items ensure they really do stand the test of time. A wonderful example of this is a well worn Burberry trench coat is now one of my prized possessions after it was handed down to me by my mum. It comes out in the Spring every year and must be at least 20 years old but utterly timeless in my opinion.

I guess my passion for Fashion has predominantly come from seeing masters like Manolo Blahnik lovingly going to his factory in Italy every few months where he insists on making the sample shoe of each style himself, teaching his staff the skills and quality he brings to his brand. And Dries Van Noten ensuring all of his textile factory staff are taught how to sew couture gowns and intricate sequin work by hand as he wants his legacy of dress making to continue long after his reign in the industry has surpassed. When you learn that a standard Michael Kors bag can be made in 20 minutes whereas a Hermes Birkin can take easily 24 hours as it’s all hand made – you can fully understand how the costs can vary so dramatically.

Personally I have learned that I as one person will never be able to change the world myself by refusing to wear animal products or only choosing to buy clothing from high end designers perhaps once a year instead of for that special occasion you would like to look your best for, but by consciously thinking about where the item was made and if you really need it instead of merely wanting it – day by day you can make a difference to your own life and your loved ones around you. I believe one small act of kindness or compassion achieved by us all, will collectively make a lasting impression in the world for our future generations.

Until next time,

Keya x

An ode to Oud

Good day to you my sweetly perfumed patrons,

Just over a month into my time here in the Middle East, I felt it imperative to immerse myself in the local culture and traditions as much as possible. It is such a different way of life to my own upbringing back in the UK, but immensely interesting.

As a predominately Muslim country, I have personally witnessed many people taking part in Wudu, which is the religious ceremony of washing one’s hands, faces, feet and arms prior to prayer. Another facet to this ritual of cleanliness is scent which is what I wanted to delve into in this months post.

When you walk into any fragrance store here you are instantly subjected to an overload to the senses. Firstly you have the utter visual beauty of the glass bottles displayed on the shelves, secondly the heady scents of incense, Amber and the rich woody texture of Oud fills your nostrils and finally tracing your fingertips over the amazing tapestry of presentation boxes can easily transport you to a traditional store in a souk in Morocco or Saudi Arabia.

Auod/ Oud or agar wood as it is also known, is one of the most expensive woods in the world with an average price per kilo as QAR 40,000. The wood can be burned on its own to perfume an individuals home, or more commonly the oil from it is used as the base for many perfumes. It’s rich, powerful aroma is instantly recognisable.

With agar wood as the base note of the scent, other delights like incense, Amber, or strawberry (the list could go on) are amalgamated to form the most incredible scents. Many are unisex with women preferring the bolder hints of the masculine eau’s and the lighter, more fruity feminine fragrances are used by men subsequently.

The delightful concoctions are not just limited to our skin either with many people opting for perfumed hair sprays and body musks to ensure they all are smelling deliciously fresh and clean in the summer heat.

These fragrances are not just a wonder for our noses either, the opulent and luxurious bottle designs would not look out of place in the palace of Versailles, however we too can have our own slice of exquisiteness on our dressing tables at home.

It is utterly impossible not to walk out of an Arabian perfume shop without having a huge smile on your face and more than likely owning your own personal scent bottle also. Our senses are heightened everyday with the world around us and sometimes a certain smell can remind us of a lost loved one or transport us back to a childhood memory at the drop of a hat.

We decide everyday what outfit, lipstick colour or shoes to wear, who says our perfume choice can’t be included in our daily routine also?

Until next time,

Take care

Keya x

Otherworldly Oman

Good day to you my travel loving adventurers,

I cannot believe it has been so long since I last posted, but once again I have flown the proverbial nest and I’ve joined my partner in the Middle East in his new career opportunity which is incredibly exciting.

Within 24 hours of arriving in Qatar, we were en route to Oman for a short break. Considering I have never been to the UAE previously, it felt very jet set visiting two countries in short succession but Oman is truly breathtaking and definitely a must visit.

On our first day we hired a car for the duration of our stay (which we ended up being so grateful for in the end) and checked out the local mall for some lunch. We then headed to the port where we glimpsed lofty vessels moored in the harbour from around the world and with the incredible backdrop of mountains and ancient forts dotted all around us.

We then visited the popular souk where we were met with sense heightening smells of incense and spices in the air, mixed with visual displays of pure cashmere scarves, harem trousers and to my delight oodles and oodles of silver jewellery. I managed to find the most incredible pair of sterling silver handmade earrings which were priced on the weight of the metal not a tourist laden price – it was a lovely memento to take back with me.

On our second day we embarked on an incredible drive through the mountain ranges once again an hour and a half out of Muscat to visit Wadi Shab. After browsing the night before, must do things in Oman this tropical oasis was one of them and it certainly did not disappoint 😊 We arrived at the location and had to get a little boat to the opposite island where we had a tough 30-45 minute hike through unbelievable scenery to the fresh water lake in the depths of the mountains. We happily plunged into the freezing cold water and embarked on the series of lagoons, eventually finding ourselves in a cavern where we climbed a rope laden waterfall to yet another water wonderland. It was spectacular, a real pinch yourself moment.

During our trip we also visited the magnificent Grand Mosque where I was asked to cover my arms and head in respect of it’s religious significance. We laid our eyes on one of the largest chandeliers and woven carpets in the world. I just couldn’t believe the sheer size of that vast but intimate space.

Another must see if you get the chance and are able to get a reservation is to have dinner at the Al Bustan Palace hotel. This positively regal establishment is beautiful beyond words and I am so happy we got to experience the heartwarming local hospitality. Our table overlooked the ocean and you could hear the waves lapping the shore as we dined. Our appetites were gracefully satiated with tuna sashimi, steaks and king fish with the freshest vegetables and Parmesan dusted fries. It is making my mouth water now thinking about it.

We completed our short trip in Muscat by visiting a traditional Omani restaurant where we tried camel Biriani, shark soup and beef Tagine with fresh dates and apricots. What an unlikely but delicious combination I can assure you.

And then before we knew it, we were on our way back to Qatar and our mini break was complete but wow with so many amazing memories to take away with us. Oman it was short, but oh so sweet. It is hopefully not good bye but see you soon.

Until next time take care,

Keya x

New Year, not new YOU.

Firstly welcome to 2019 and I hope you all had an amazing festive break with your loved ones. I hope you are all feeling rested, revived and ready to tackle the New Year ahead.

I have been procrastinating for days now about writing this post because the subject matter genuinely scares the life out of me, but alas if we cannot reveal our own flaws as human beings how can we be compassionate of others?

(All images courtesy of google images)

As those close to me would know, I have spent the last six months in talking therapy for a cleanliness OCD and also to deal with internal battles from bullying and an eating disorder when I was a teenager at school. In all honesty 2018 was the toughest year I have ever faced and although there were many high moments (the most prominent being when I met the love of my life) the lows were crippling, not just for me but my support network also.

I had been the way I was for so long, that I just thought it was part of my personality -just ME. Sometimes however, it takes a defining moment or catalyst to finally say those magic words – I need help and that happened for me in the early part of last year. Once I had taken that first step however, being assigned a therapist was a lot less painstaking then I imagined, and as soon as I met mine for the first time the floodgates opened and it felt amazing to finally talk to an impartial person about my childhood and how it shaped me into the person I had become.

I know this post is not in my usual style of writing if you have been a subscriber since the beginning, but in reality, life is not all sunshine and rainbows. I also cannot sing the praises enough of the Waltham Forest Talking therapies group through the NHS as they ultimately have changed my life forever.

Approaching the end of 2018, equipped with new lessons, tools and a belief in myself for the first time made seeing in the New Year with my amazing partners family in Sunderland even more poignant for me. This was the first year in as long as I can remember, it felt right to not set a New Years resolution. I knew that I wanted to go into 2019 using my new techniques and assertiveness skills to know that I AM good enough, I have a voice and being open and honest is ALWAYS the best policy.

This has been my own personal journey but the message I would like to leave with you all is that it is OK to ask for help, it’s OK to be open about working on your own mental health, it’s OK to not have your shit together, and finally it’s OK to be selfish and say to your loved ones I need time for ME.

Whatever challenges or hardships you have faced in 2018, I wish that 2019 is a year of growth, lessons learnt put into practise, transparency with those who you love most and ultimately just living the best version of you, you can be.

I cannot wait for all of the new content, research and most of all providing thought provoking posts for you regularly this year.

Until next time, don’t worry be happy 😊

Take care

Keya x