Belfast-based, style loving mum of 3. Fashion, Lifestyle, Food & Fitness

Friday, 31 July 2015

MIA in Deepest Donegal

(the view from the kitchen window....even washing up was a pleasure!)
I've just returned after 4 days away in Donegal....and I was properly away this time. No phone coverage, no wifi - I didn't need to charge my phone for 4 days! Now I didn't know I was going to end up so out of touch (probably a good thing or I may not have gone) but the reality was that nothing very important happened and when I did finally log back on as we crossed the border this afternoon, it only took me about 30 minutes to delete the rubbish emails and reply to the important ones.

It was a lesson learned because we fitted in so much activity into those 4 days. I finished my book club book,
watched two movies,
went on numerous beach walks, 
(yes - it's a jellyfish!)
had a sneaky few drinks out with the hubby and played two rounds of pitch and putt!
It felt like we were away for more than 4 days and really got me thinking about how much my phone eats into day to day activities.
However, I'm back in the land of wifi now and by tomorrow, my good intentions will no doubt be forgotten but we've booked a few days away on the North Coast in mid-August and I'm definitely switching the phone to airplane mode when we're doing family stuff.

The other good thing about having no coverage is that you've not seen any Instagram outfits from me since Monday so I can share them here in a photo exclusive :) This trip, I went for a stripe capsule wardrobe...starting with Monday's red/cream one:
Breton Top - Jack Wills (similar here)
Jeans - ASOS
Felt Slip-On Trainers - Next Clearance
Tuesday it was the turn of my navy/neon stripe top...
Breton - Joules
Jeans - Maison Scotch (past season)
Wednesday was cooler so I wore my navy stripe knit..
Jumper - Primark
Scarf - Old H&M
Thursday was glorious and there was even some warmth so for a day at Glenveagh Forest Park and Castle (stunning), I wore my Hush skirt!
Skirt - Hush
Handbag - Next
Friday, we headed home and it was a rehash of the day we arrived...too busy cleaning to take photos.

Best item in my suitcase? My £10 Regatta fleece! I had to laugh at my son who after taking this photo in Glenveagh said 'Mum, you do know there's not much you can do to make a fleece stylish...' Sadly, he was spot on!
Oh and before I go, I wanted to share with you my Bellamianta tan (reviewed here) after 4 days - well impressed especially as I've not really been looking after it while away. It looked so natural - even the hubby asked if it was real or not :)
I hope you've had a good week,

Ax


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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Self-Tan Secrets - Bellamianta, The Tan & The Mitt

It was a real treat to be offered not one, but two new to market self tan brands this month. One of them is so new, it only became available to buy on Thursday! I've never looked browner - so much so, my son has a running joke with me 'oh have you been to TANznia again mum??!' Laugh a minute that boy :)

But before I talk tan - I need to tell you about the Avenue 57 Mitt. Miracle worker.
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Saturday, 25 July 2015

White Jeans


I've given up on summer coming back again so I'm just going to pretend from here on in. Starting with getting my white jeans out on the nicest day this week..let's not talk about the other 6! I got these jeans in H&M a few years back and whatever material they are, they have kept their colour really well. I seem to remember they were only £14.99.
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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Sales - what I bought & what I sent back!

I've not bought much in the sales this summer...mainly because I'm saving for Boston but also because the weather's been so rubbish. But I did put in a few orders last week and did a massive try on session at the weekend - brace yourself for a photo heavy post :)

Starting with Next - not a sale I'd made plans to go along to but we got home late on Friday from Tipperary so I was up early on Saturday to get groceries and what do you know? The sale had started! I call that karma.
Aware that the kids were waiting hungrily at home (although, in my defence, it was only 8.30am), I didn't linger and just did a quick sweep though.
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Monday, 20 July 2015

Summer Waterproof Jackets for all the Family from TargetDry


There's one thing you always need to pack on a family day out in this part of the world...and that's a raincoat. So back in May when the team at local company TargetDry offered me some coats for the family for the lovely Irish summer ahead, I took them up on the offer and it was a wise move - especially this week! These photos were taken in local National Trust property, Mountstewart - a stunning location for a family day out.
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Sunday, 19 July 2015

It really is a long way...

....and it's my excuse for not blogging for a week. I've been in Tipperary (and Enniskillen before then). Lovely visit with the kids and hubby too. We're a big group to cater for so rather than staying with family, we rented a house via AirBNB - check it out if you've never heard of it. You can rent rooms in people's houses...or indeed, rent out a spare room in your own. But you can also rent entire properties, sometimes second properties or in our case, it was the family's main home but they spend the summer away from it. It worked out really well for us as it had 3 bedrooms, a nice big living space, was within walking distance of my parents and it cost the fraction of what a hotel or B&B would have cost.

It's been done to death but I do love a good capsule wardrobe post and I border on the obsessive now when I travel in that I keep whipping things out to see just how little I can travel with.
To make it simple, I decide on a black or navy base colour and build everything else around that, with one key accessory to keep the colour palate simple. That accessory this time was this scarf that I've got in my new AW range (in the shop in a few weeks). It says it all about the current weather that I'm wearing it now in July...but let's not go there.

So navy it was this time with shades of green/cream and tan. Here I am en-route on Tuesday, which was a lovely day:
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Saturday, 11 July 2015

Weekend Flash Sale!

Just a quick post to let you know that there's a flash sale in the shop this weekend with a range of sample pieces & end of lines reduced. With prices starting at £5, it's the perfect opportunity to stock up for teachers, friends or of course, yourself! Check it out on this link...
The sale runs until Monday 9pm...or until everything sells out. It's a bank holiday here in Belfast on Monday (yay!) so all items will be dispatched on Tuesday.

Finishing up with today's outfit for a roadtrip with the kids...can't do all the links as I'm blogging from the car (not while driving, I hasten to add!)

Jersey Jacket - New Look
Slip-on Trainers - Zara
Jeans - Vero Moda
Scarf - future stock...hopefully!!

Have a lovely weekend!

Ax
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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

New Look, Warehouse & Fossil Sale Bargains ..... and some great customer service!

Today, I had to take my daughter for a hospital appointment at 9am so once we were all done at 9.45, it would have been a waste not to nip into the city centre and have a quick look...and buy her (and mummy) a little something for being brave.
I wore my latest sale bargain which I picked up in New Look yesterday. Their sale is pretty good but was well picked over so I was delighted to come across my favourite Jersey Blazer in the khaki green colour way...for £10! I was at the till in moments. It was the only one left though so might not be widely available in stores. It's still showing online at full price but this is because these jackets are regular stock in New Look.
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Monday, 6 July 2015

Tan Avarcas & Tall Ships

I was lucky enough to receive a pair of Avarca sandals from Palmairas earlier in the year (blogged here) - a style of sandal I'd never worn before but which I'd admired on others. Because I loved these black studded ones so much, I decided to save up and buy myself a sandy tan leather pair...a colour I'd admired on Emma over at Life at the Littlewood when we met recently.
Zoom forward a few weeks and I've worn them loads already. They really are the most perfect 'match everything' sandy tan colour. So they were the obvious choice for my invite aboard the Sorlandet Tall Ship last Thursday evening, to celebrate the launch of the Tall Ships Festival in Belfast. The dress code was open with flat shoes being the only stipulation, so I teamed them with my khaki jeggings, a cream top (surprise, surprise) and a light jersey kimono...just in case of a chilly breeze.
Cream Top - Dorothy Perkins (similar here)
Tan Avarca Sandals - Palmairas (back in stock but selling fast!)
Tan Cross Body Bag - Fat Face (past season - similar here)
Pendant - Vintage
Sunglasses - Heatons
Husband - Model's Own
But I need not have worried about any chilly breezes as we had a glorious evening with the sun streaming on the decks and the company was great too in the form of my blogging buddies Karen from Raising Mighty Girls and Emma herself. Luckily she didn't wear her avarca sandals also :)
I have the team behind Lidl NI and Smarts Communicate to thank for the invitation - it really was an honour to get a chance to spend time aboard one of these historic ships. The Sorlandet was built in 1927 and has the honour of being the oldest full-rigged ship in the world still in operation. We even got to meet the Chief Steward, who told us about some of the scary storms the ship has braved. Made me realise I'm not cut out for seafaring - eek!
The invite on board the Sorlandet was appreciated even more when I headed in on Saturday with the twins, as we couldn't get onto any of the boats because of the crowds...there were huge queues at every ship and although I would have happily waited, the kids were not so keen. They had a great time walking around the docks and shopping for bubble machines :)
Apparently Belfast was the busiest of all the venues the ships have visited - we are officially the Tall Ship's biggest fans over here! Check out this amazing video of the festival....watching this makes me remember why I love living here..

Ax
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Saturday, 4 July 2015

Bring on the Shorts!

It's rare that the shorts make an appearance during an Irish summer but this week has been a real corker and I wore them for three days straight. I got these shorts from the Avenue 57 pre-loved page on Facebook a few weeks back....for a bargain price of about £8. They're from TU at Sainsburys and are called 'Boyfriend' shorts which means they're nice and loose...just the way I like my shorts as I'm not a huge fan of getting the legs out.
Here I am on Wednesday on a walk along the coastal path at Holywood, the girls on their rollerblades and me running/walking behind them. We were just in time to see a few of the Tall Ships coming into Belfast Lough ahead of the festival which started the next day.
Top - F&F at Tesco
Avarca Sandals - Palmairas
Cross Body Bag - Fat Face (past season)

I love the Tesco top so much, I actually bought another one today. Has anyone else ever done that? I had tried the yellow colour way but the colour didn't like me so I went to change it and just decided to get the cream one again. My justification is that cream tops discolour over time and I've good form in ruining them in the wash....but the girl at the customer service desk was amused by the fact that I was wearing the same top that I was buying.

On Thursday, I had to return something to M&S which reminded me that I had a voucher from my birthday that was unspent. That's old age for you! This is what I wore..
Lace Cropped Oversized Top - TK Maxx from years back
White Vest - Gap
Sandals/Shorts - as before
Necklace - new stock for the shop...available soon!

I was looking for a couple of tops that weren't white or cream but were loose and cool for this lovely weather. This cotton top comes in two colour ways...
I opted for the coral on the 6 year old's recommendation. She's good at these things. I also tried on this denim midi skirt but it was too tight in the 10...no 12's in stock sadly or I would have picked it up too. It's not online for me to link to but it's from the Limited Edition range if you're in-store.
The third top I tried, I ended up buying and wearing on Friday...
Feather Print Peplum Top - M&S
Avarca Sandals - Palmairas (sold out but new stock arrives regularly...watch on the Facebook page)
Cross Body Bag - Boden (past season)
Necklace - Next (can't find online but it is current stock)

Thought it was high time I washed the shorts after all that so today I'm back in the Tesco top with some distressed jeans I bought pre-loved from Anneli's Tictail shop for a trip down into Belfast for the Tall Ships.
Top - as before
Jeans - Vero Moda (past season)
Slip-on Trainers - Zara (now in the sale!)

About to put my feet up after all the walking this morning and a busy afternoon cooking and cleaning...I hope you're doing the same. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Ax
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Friday, 3 July 2015

Home Colour Rescue at Rogue Belfast

A couple of weeks ago, with my greys at a serious stage and a few night's out planned, I thought I'd save myself some time and money and home dye my roots. Big mistake. I ended up with black roots....I don't know why as the colour I bought was medium brown but that's the thing with home colours, you have no idea how they will turn out. I have had reasonable success with another brand of all-over colour but had never used the root touch up before...and won't again!

In any case, the hair gods were listening to me as a few days afterwards, I was asked if I'd like to try the colour service at Rogue Hair Belfast, which boasts not one but three of the very few L'Oreal Colour Specialists in Northern Ireland. This elite team of experts are qualified to degree level and guaranteed to be amongst the first to  use the latest techniques and products...and to be able to fix any colour disaster that comes their way. You can read more about what a Colour ID artist actually is on this link.
Last week, Karen took me under her wing, starting with a gentle cleanse. Now I was concerned about having a cleanse as I've had one before and found it very hard on my hair. Karen assured me that this cleanse is without peroxide so is the most gentle way to strip back unwanted colour. Here I am post cleanse...
...my hair is back to pre-home colour levels at this stage and I'd happily have worked with that but no - Karen was planning to work some magic in the colour department - giving it a bit more depth and tone and warming it up a little...as well as properly covering up the greys.
At this stage, I could really tell how passionate Karen is about colour and how much she knows about it - testament to all the extra training and time that goes into being a Colour ID specialist. On top of this, the salon is multi-award winning and holds the accolade of being the first Irish winners of the L'Oreal Professional Colour Trophy in 2009.

With the colour sorted, the cut was next and as I was looking for a structured bob, Karen got her husband Jody to cut my hair - he's the short/structured hair expert and I knew I was in equally good hands here....though I think he wasn't expecting such a heavy mop of hair so early in the morning! I am delighted with the greatly thinned out sharp bob he gave me - exactly what I'd asked for.

For me, key in any hair salon - the banter was good. It felt relaxed and un-pretentious...the sort of place I could speak up and say no to what was being suggested or ask them to hurry up if I was running late. Very down to earth and very much up my street. Karen and Jody are a similar age to me, parents of 4 boys with one already in the grammar school my son will start in in September so it was great to hear about their experience as first time parents at that school. They really felt like good friends by the end of my session.
I can honestly and happily recommend Rogue Hair Belfast as a great option if you have been looking (as I was) for a salon that's got gifted hairdressers who are experts at their craft but who are utterly down to earth and genuinely interested in earning your return business. Which they have. Since Uber closed last month, I've been a bit lost - but not any more!

You can read more about Rogue Hair Belfast on their Facebook page on this link and there's a lovely article about Karen and Jody on the Belfast Telegraph website on this link.
Ax
Disclosure - my cut and colour was complimentary but I was not obliged to blog about my experience nor was I paid to do so. All views are my own - but you knew that :) Thank you for supporting the brands that support me.
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Thursday, 2 July 2015

5 Best Facial SPF Creams - Tried & Tested!


A quick post for you as I've had a few friends asking me about this. I'm as fanatical about SPF as I am about chemicals in skincare and it's a difficult balance to strike at this time of year because many sun creams are loaded with chemicals - so much so, there's a line of thought that says the chemicals in the long term are worse for you than the sun exposure. I personally think it's a bit like comparing apples and pears. They're both dangerous - in different ways.

I look for 2 things in a facial SPF cream - it has to have a low level of chemical ingredients - the ideal would be no chemicals at all but that does mean the price goes up - and it has to work under make-up because I want to wear it every day in the summer months, not just the hot sunny days...I want it essentially to work like a daily moisturiser so that it's not a chore to put on every day and I'm not layering more than two products on my face (moisturiser and foundation).

Here are the ones I've personally tried and tested. All good in their own way but some better from an ingredients point of view and some better from a daily wear under make-up point of view. 
Taking the image left to right..
  1. Antipodes Immortal  SPF 15 - made in New Zealand, this natural product was my autumn/winter cream of choice after finding it in my local natural food store at half price. SPF15 is perfect for the winter months and this cream has completely natural ingredients, is fragrance free and gives a great base for make-up. Easy to absorb and no white face. The only thing that would stop me buying again is the price...but I'll definitely snap it up again if I find it reduced.
  2. SunSense Face Anti-Ageing SPF5 50 - my blogging friend Nic from Strawberry Blonde Beauty Blog gave me this last summer and it's another great option for under make-up as it soaks in quite quickly and doesn't make the face all white. It's not as chemical free as I would like so I alternate this with other creams but I use this on very hot days where I know I'll be in the sun all day as it's rock solid from a protection point of view.
  3. La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF 30 - I discovered LRP a few years back and was attracted by the fact that the products are low in chemicals but still offer superior protection. LRP are renowned for their extremely gentle skincare - suitable for the most sensitive of skins, so as a consequence, this cream is ideal for anyone who gets heat rash from suncreams. I mostly use this on on the kids' faces as it doesn't make their eyes sting. From a grown-up perspective, LRP gets top marks for not making the face too white and the lotion soaks in well, allowing make-up to be applied immediately afterwards. Comes in a range of formulations for acne prone skin/normal skin etc and also comes in an SPF 50 which I've found works just the same as the 30. I prefer the lotion texture that comes in this shaped bottle but you can also get a richer cream texture in a tube. 
  4. Balance Me Natural Protection Moisturiser SPF25 - in terms of ingredients, this is a brilliant option. This chemical free formulation in a high SPF is great but the price you pay is that it does make the skin white on application and takes a while to soak in. I also find this a little greasy for my skin for daily use but it would be great for drier skins. It's also a real hit with the kids as it smells so lovely and doesn't irritate the eyes.
  5. Epionce Ultra Shield Lotion SPF 50 - and this is the creme de la creme...and proof that you get what you pay for. If you can afford this lotion (note that mine is just a sample!), I can't recommend it enough. It's a joy to use, beautiful texture, provides a lovely base for make-up, no white face and it's free of parabens and fragrance. Once I've worked my way though my LRP and SunSense, I'm going to invest in this. I got my sample from the Destination Skin concession in House of Fraser Belfast - there are Destination Skin salons all over the UK so if you have one near you, it's worth going to ask for a sample of this amazing cream. Incidentally, the Dermaquest range is also very impressive and if you have sun damage to your skin already, definitely go check out their antioxidant VitC serum - it's a miracle worker!
I know there are loads more great facial SPF's with natural ingredients out there but I wanted this piece to be about recommending what I know and use daily rather than products I've never tried myself. So please do share in the comments what works for you - it would be great to get more recommendations.

Ax
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