Southern Yacht

My little take on plus size fashion, life, travel and smurfs

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers at The Point, Eastleigh

Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers at The Point, Eastleigh
The Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers arrived at The Point Theatre in Eastleigh this week as part of their UK tour. Mugenkyo are Europe’s leading Taiko drum group and are currently celebrating their 25th year of performing. Founded by Neil Mackie and Miyuki Williams, they learnt their craft from the prominent Taiko master Masaaki Kurumaya Sensei in Fukui, Japan.
To be honest, I didn't know a lot about the Taiko drums. The other half knew a bit more and was very excited to see them performed live. On arrival, we noticed earplugs were being handed out and we could hear the drums in the distance as the players warmed up - we knew were in for a loud evening!
Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers at The Point, Eastleigh
The show was a mix of new material and some older favourites from the last 25 years. The first half of the show was called Tribe and was described as a celebration of our collective human spirit. With a variety of drums, (plus a megaphone!) dramatic lighting and dance, the mix was a fusion of traditional and contemporary. The overriding impression I had straight away was how much the players were enjoying themselves. The love they had for the drums and performance shines through to the audience and you can't help but be involved. Culminating in the final piece of One World Tribe, the mix of voice and drums was haunting and reminds us that we are all one world and one voice.  
Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers at The Point, Eastleigh

Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers at The Point, Eastleigh
During the interval and at the end, some of the players were in the foyer of the theatre to answer questions and meet the audience. It's such a personal touch that makes you feel more connected to the whole show.
Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers at The Point, Eastleigh

Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers at The Point, Eastleigh
The second half celebrated the last 25 years of the Mugenkyo. The first piece started with a solo by the groups founding member Neil Mackie on the Odaiko, a huge drum which takes immense energy to play and can only be described as almost hypnotic. The precision and synchronicity of the drumming with the other players was spot-on throughout the show, sometimes playing two drums at once whilst moving around the stage with martial arts-inspired choreography .
Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers at The Point, Eastleigh

Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers at The Point, Eastleigh

At the end of the show the cast truly deserved their standing ovation. The amount of energy and stamina needed for every show is mind blowing. Quite how they manage to perform at that level night after night on their tour is beyond me. Mix this with their humour and warmth and obvious enjoyment and it make this a show not to be missed.
As well as touring, Mugenkyo have released a number of albums and concert DVD’s which makes them the most artistically prolific Taiko group outside of Japan. They also perform at large-scale events and festivals at home and abroad and run weekend workshops in rural Scotland where you can learn to play the Taiko drums (which honestly sounds like the best stress relieving idea ever).
A big thank you to Mugenkyo and to The Point for inviting us along. The Point Theatre is a little hidden treasure in Eastleigh and every time we visit the staff make you feel so welcome.
The Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers are touring throughout the UK until the 24th November 2019. You can visit their website here for more information on dates and tickets.

Thanks for reading

Cathy
xx

[Press tickets gifted for the purpose of this review]
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Thursday, 31 October 2019

Body Shop Christmas launch - press event

The Body Shop Christmas Event with Southampton Bloggers

I know - we've barely finished Halloween and 'BAM!' Christmas is upon us.

To be honest - I can't get enough of all things Christmas so couldn't wait to see the latest range from The Body Shop for the festive season. The Southampton branch at West Quay Shopping Centre invited the Southampton Bloggers down for an early morning look at all the goodies (on a side note - how lovely is it to browse around a shop when you're the only customers there? Bliss....).

The Body Shop Christmas Event with Southampton Bloggers

The three key fragrances this season are Rich Plum (a previous customer favourite which made me do a little whoop), Warm Vanilla and last but not least, Juicy Pear.

The Body Shop Christmas Event with Southampton Bloggers

Now - I didn't think I'd be impressed by a pear scent - but I was wrong. It's so clean and fresh and perfect for cold crisp winter days.

The Body Shop have worked so hard to make their packaging recyclable wherever possible. With open packaging on soaps, create your own gift sets using jute bags, cardboard packaging and a traditional print as well, the displays gave me a real old-fashioned Christmas vibe. And the packaging saved is the equivalent to 1/5 of a space shuttle! That's pretty impressive.

The Body Shop Christmas Event with Southampton Bloggers

The Body Shop Christmas Event with Southampton Bloggers

The Body Shop Christmas Event with Southampton Bloggers

And as normal, The Body Shop is giving back to the community. A percentage of their Christmas sales will be going to Plan International in Indonesia to help empower women and give them a voice.

The Body Shop Christmas Event with Southampton Bloggers

They're also challenging stereotypes - have a look at their advent calendar and you see a female Santa and non-traditional roles for girls and boys. Scattered throughout the store are reminders that girls can do and be anything they want.

The Body Shop Christmas Event with Southampton Bloggers

The Body Shop Christmas Event with Southampton Bloggers
The Body Shop Christmas Event with Southampton Bloggers

Some old favourites make an appearance as well. The carrot range is in recyclable packaging with a cute bunny ears headband. Only carrots that have been rejected by supermarkets are used in this product - it makes me happy that unloved carrots have a use!
The Body Shop Christmas Event with Southampton Bloggers

The Body Shop Christmas Event with Southampton Bloggers

A morning spent with fellow bloggers and the lovely people at our local Body Shop has really put me in the festive spirit - now where's that mince pie...?

Thanks for reading

Cathy
xx




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Sunday, 13 October 2019

Ad - Review of the Annalisa retro tie-waist shirt dress from Navabi


The lovely folk at Navabi recently got in touch and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing one their dresses. Well - I didn't need to be asked twice. I've ordered a number of things from Navabi over the years and while they may not be the cheapest - I've always found their quality and choice to be top rate.

The Annalisa retro tie-waist shirt dress from Navabi

Firstly, I have to say that finding dresses that fit well isn't that easy for me. I normally find I need a size smaller on top than the bottom half, so to get a dress that fits top and bottom is a bit of a miracle basically! Fortunately every dress on the Navabi website has a section with detailed measurements for that particular dress. My advice - get your tape measure out and get measuring. Even if you think you know your size, you may be surprised. I ended up ordering a size 22 and it was a perfect fit on the bottom half and only just a little big on the top. Normally I would have ordered a 24 to get the right fit on the hips which would have been way too big for this dress. They also have suggestions for which style fits which body shape.

Sizing information on the Navabi website

I'm also pretty fussy. I don't like too many frills and flounces, I'm not fond of too much floral and really don't like low neck/wrap tops. However, I do love unusual prints, casual styles that can be dressed up and comfortable, easy to wear fabrics.

The style that instantly caught my eye was the Annalisa Retro Tie-Waist Shirt Dress. It ticked so many boxes for me with the print and styling. I styled it for these pictures with black trainers, but ankle boots or knee high boots would look just as good. The colours just shouted autumn to me.

The Annalisa retro tie-waist shirt dress from Navabi

Just look at the print! It reminded me of a 70's dress but with modern styling. It has a tie waist but I think it would work with a black belt just as well. I mentioned the top half was just a little big and that was most noticeable in the sleeves, but they do have button tabs so that they can be worn rolled-up as 3/4 length. The length was good for me as well. I'm 5'3 and it felt like a comfortable length that could be worn day or night.

The Annalisa retro tie-waist shirt dress from Navabi

The Annalisa retro tie-waist shirt dress from Navabi

The Annalisa retro tie-waist shirt dress from Navabi

Currently this is priced at £90, but I just know this dress is going to be a staple item in my wardrobe for years. I recently took it on holiday and it travels well - no ironing needed! When I received it and unpacked it for the first time (which was beautifully packaged btw) my other half took one look and said it was definitely me. I really like the thought of being just like a retro vibrant 70's dress!

A big thank you to Navabi & Bethany Rutter - and a little something that shows taking photos on a cold autumn day isn't always easy....

The Annalisa retro tie-waist shirt dress from Navabi

Thanks for reading

Cathy
xx

(Dress was gifted for the purpose of this review)


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Monday, 30 September 2019

Planning an American road trip - some hints and tips

Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska

Earlier this year we headed over to America for a three week holiday. It sounds very extravagant (and there was a LOT of saving involved) but with a bit of careful planning, we managed to keep costs down wherever possible. I thought I'd share some of the things we've learnt over the years in the hope it might help or inspire you to do something similar (and a bit of a disclaimer - this isn't our first road trip - to date we've visited 38 states so this is just what works for us, not everyone is the same or likes the same things).

First of all, before we even booked the flights, we sorted out the visa. Depending on where you are when you read this, you'll likely need a visa of sorts to visit. Here in the UK we were able to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) which is valid for 2 years and allows visitors to travel to the US on the Visa Waiver Program. But remember to check your passport expiry dates. Generally it's recommended to have 6 months on your passport when travelling. I didn't so had to renew my passport, before even applying for an ESTA. When you're ready, don't go via an agency as it's cheaper to apply direct ($14 per person when we did it). Most times, applications are accepted straight away. Sometimes though you have wait 48hrs or so for approval (this always happens to me!).

Scottsbluff National Monument, Nebraska

Once you've got that - you're good to go! But before you rush out and book that flight for your dream road trip you might want to plan a few things. Our checklist looks something like this:

Budget
How much can you afford? Be realistic - you have to remember to allow for the flights (and all their hidden costs) accommodation, food, travel insurance, airport parking and transfers, car hire (and any extra insurance you add onto that) as well as spending money for that essential holiday souvenir. When you factor in tips, the cost of ESTAs and possible passport renewals - it quickly adds up.

Also credit cards - if you're travelling with another person and both have a card it can ease those awful 'Help! My cards stopped working moment' (which happened to us this year) plus it's extra backup in case you lose one.

How long have you got?
It sounds ideal to book three weeks off, but realistically, most people will have a fortnight. Plus you'll need a day or so after you get back to recover from jet lag and tackle the washing (seriously - why is there so much washing after a holiday!).

Also driving times - it can be tempting to pick up up the car and head off into the sunset, but you'll need to come back at some time. We normally mark a halfway point in the holiday where we're heading back towards to the airport so make sure you allow enough time for that.

Behind the wheel, and our favourite restaurant

Driving
Are you confident drivers? Try to work out how much you'd be happy to drive in a day. America is vast compared to the UK and unless you're happy to have occasional days where you're driving for up to 6 hours or more, then it might be wise to narrow down where you want to go. If more than one of you is confident to drive it shares the load and takes the pressure off the main driver. For us, the other half likes to do the big long hauls during the day whereas I do the shorter drives in the evening/night time and that works fine.

Think also about the type of car you want. Chances are you'll be driving in safe areas, but sometimes you just want to blend in without shouting 'hey, look I'm a tourist'. You also want a car that's the right size for you! We normally opt for a compact car (as it's the cheapest option for just two people) and resist the inevitable hard sell at the rental desk to upgrade. This year when collecting our car, the agent behind the desk tried to tell us that the car we had chosen was too small to drive across state. That was until we pointed out that a small car in the US is bigger than a family car in the UK. We stuck with our 'small' car and it fitted 3 large suitcases plus hand luggage easily in the boot with room to spare.

Our rental car in the hotel car park

Plan your route
When you hire a car, chances are you'll return it to the same place, but you don't have to. Look at the options your rental company offers. Some will offer free pick-ups and returns at different locations (even different states), other times there'll be a charge. Balance up the costs against where you want to go and how much in time it will save, how much more you could see etc. In the past we're done both options. This year, we collected a car in Denver and headed east out through Nebraska then west back to Denver via Kansas. It was a big loop that worked for us. And as I mentioned above - think about how much driving you're happy to do. A short distance on the map can actually take hours in real life.

Be prepared
Most rental cars will have the option of hiring a sat-nav. You could save money by bringing your own or download the relevant maps onto your phone beforehand. Or you could even go old school like we did and use paper maps only (which always seems to amuse and worry the car rental people in equal measures!).

A four way junction - thankfully quite empty

Be prepared (as prepared as you can be) for the quirks of US driving. The turning right on a red light always seems slightly bizarre but is important to learn as is the no passing of a school bus when stopped. A bit of time spent online will help you get to grips as rules can vary from state to state. There's plenty of sites online that will help you adjust. I also make sure I have the number of the breakdown company when I collect the car and a spare power pack or two for the phone in case of emergencies.

Filling stations are always fun (possibly said tongue in cheek). Some of our most interesting moments have occurred while trying to get fuel. Nowadays, the majority accept credit cards, but in the more remote areas, you'll need to put in a zip code if you want to pay at the pump, which you obviously don't have. No worries, a quick trip into the garage normally sorts that - except that it's not quick if you're in a very rural location. Inevitably they'll want to know where you're going, where you've been, why you're here, and if you're very lucky, what do you think of Trump... We've really met the funniest, warmest people this way. It can turn a quick stop into a 30 minute layover though!

The Sinclair dinosaur - seen at Sinclair garages across America

And last but not least - accommodation. This is so personal to everybody that I'm not going to say a lot - just what we do. We are signed up for every loyalty card / membership programme going for all the major hotels. This is a huge saving for us as we can book free nights, get members rates etc. We like to book in advance and know a room is waiting for us at the end of a long day. In the past we've just turned up and booked on the day, but with better internet access it's now just easier to book online and amend as you go along.

And that's it - some of my hints and tips for a road trip in America. Hope it helps and can't wait to start planning the next one!

Cathy
x



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