To blog or not to blog.....

I won't lie to you, I'm impressed by all the bloggers who keep writing posts during December. At times, it makes me anxious, thinking that I'm not keeping up but mostly, I remind myself that we all have different demands on our time and  priorities and I'm sorry to say that blogging goes way down my priority list at this time of year. Work has also taken much of my blogging time away from me but I'm ok with that too - I love having something that's totally removed from blog and family and I can't deny the income has helped greatly this Christmas.

Mostly, I've just felt a bit out of sorts with blogging. 

I'm torn between the feeling that I'm helping you with your style and shopping dilemmas and the sense that I'm fuelling unnecessary purchases and making you all feel that you have to buy things you don't really need. I know I feel that way when I read other blogs and I hate that pressure. I can't help feeling that lots of the issues we have with our wardrobes are to do with having too much in them in the first place.

I don't know the answer except to say that during 2017, I'll definitely continue to shop less. My resolutions at the beginning of 2016 were very much around buying quality basic items and focussing on preloved as much as possible and I'm happy to report that I've done just that. I've sold off loads via eBay and Dejavu and my wardrobe is about a third smaller than it was in January. It's definitely more classic, less trend driven and in all honesty, a bit boring. But it's FAR easier to dress and I find I'm stressing less about unworn items....because there aren't many. Anything I feel I've not really been wearing, I drop it down to Ruth for her to sell on my behalf. I'm yet to regret letting go of a single item.

Do I want to continue blogging? I'm just not sure right now. I worry that my pared back, boring wardrobe is not exciting enough. I often crave privacy.  I miss going for a walk and NOT taking 30 photos. I went shopping on Boxing day and didn't take a single picture and it was like a revelation!

But I also know that I'm so blessed to have this space and all the support and love I get from everyone who clicks through to read. I'm privileged to be regularly sent product to feature - every item comes with an internal conflict about coming across as too commercial but I'm realistic enough to know that the selected few brands I do feature, offer me the opportunity to add fresh content and it always motivates me to blog when I'm feeling less than inspired.

I think however that 2017 will see less content on blogs like this and more on instant social media channels. I'm LOVING Snapchat and over Christmas, it was really the only channel I kept a presence on. It's instant, real, honest and good fun. There's no backlog, no unread posts, no audit trail. No pressure! I'm also enjoying Insta stories and Instagram generally. Fewer words and a visual feast with all those fabulous filters...a blessing for those of us without photographer partners and fancy cameras!

For now, I'll keep my little piece of the internet and see how things go. I'd love to hear your views - do you read blog less? What social media channels are your favourites? Do I need a kick up the arse?!!

Oh and after all that.....I've been asked by lots of you to share my January sales purchases. I made a list before looking at any of the sales and bought carefully so given it fits well with my basic/capsule objectives for this coming year, I'll take some photos and share in the next few days. But don't feel any pressure to buy also!!!!

Back soon my friends,




#BringHomeChristmas with SuperValu NI

This is a bit off piste but when SuperValu NI got in touch to ask me to get involved in their #BringHomeChristmas initiative, it just felt like a lovely, family focussed thing to blog about. Plus, I love supporting local companies. Oh and they sent me some wine too....that helped!


Cashmere Crew Neck from John Lewis

I've always wished for a wardrobe of gorgeous cashmere classic knits. The wardrobe staples that stand the test of time, made from the softest warmest most luxurious wool. So when John Lewis asked if I'd like to road test their classic Cashmere Crew Neck, it didn't take me long to accept the challenge.

I thought it would be an interesting challenge also as the idea of saving up to buy cashmere basic knits appeals to me but when push came to shove in the past, I always opted for less expensive lambswool or merino. So would road testing this knit every day for a week, make me realise the worth of buying quality cashmere?
I was sent a Black Crew Neck Cashmere knit in a size 10. Fit wise, it's perfect for this style of jumper. Neat without being clingy but with enough room to wear a layer underneath, which I did on a couple of the days. 



My Personal Styling Session at Victoria Square, Belfast

I was asked a few weeks ago if I'd like to try out the Personal Shopping service at Victoria Square Shopping Centre as a way of finding something to wear to my Christmas party and a couple of other social occasions during December. Well I wasn't going to say no to that - a chance to spend a morning in the gorgeous styling booth in Victoria Square trying on rails and rails of clothing picked especially for me? Shopping heaven.


Win a Bog Standard 3-Wick Candle!

It was only a matter of time before I secured some gorgeous Bog Standard candles to give away here on the blog and the good news is that I'm going extra large.
I've got two Extra Large, 3-Wick candles to give away. One in our seasonal fragrance - Winter (below) and a second in our bestselling Linen fragrance (above). So there are two chances to win.
Our 3-Wick candles have a 90 hour burn time - really filling a big room with scent, making them perfect for hallways and kitchen/living open spaces. Though there is a knack to burning them - especially the first time and I've blogged about it on this's all about getting the first burn right.

To be in with a chance of winning one of these gorgeous candles worth £32.95 each, simply follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below. The completion will run until midnight on Sunday 4th December and I'll contact the winners by email on Monday 5th, as well as announcing their names here.
a Rafflecopter giveaway Thanks for entering and for supporting both my blog and my new really does mean so much to me. Oh and GOOD LUCK!



The Woolovers Cashmere Poncho

The freezing office at work has drawn me to all offers of cashmere and wool knits...have you noticed?  I am always cold anyway, so working in an baltic office is a poor outcome for me BUT as the weeks have gone on and the temperature has plummeted, I've realised that it's nothing you can't dress for and cashmere, wool, thermals and layers have become my friends.



A long overdue 'what I've been wearing'

The title says it all - I've been most neglectful on here and I can only apologise. Between work, running, singing and the full time job at home, I've barely got time to sit down and chill...not to mind blog! But I've a few posts I really have to do and this weekend coming is a less busy one so I'm looking forward to catching up.

But for now, here's what I've been wearing on the days I got pictures. Oh and if you're not a follower on social media, you won't have heard that I had my hair  chopped off. Jury's still out...I like it but I'm still adapting and getting a shock every time I look in the mirror...


An entire outfit for less than £100?

As queen of budget dressing, I love a challenge so when the new TK Maxx store in Ards Shopping Centre, Newtownards, asked me to make up an entire outfit for less than £100, I was all over it!

The store only opened a few months ago and I'd heard lots of buzz so I was delighted to have an excuse to head over for a look and ladies, it didn't disappoint. From the huge selection in this gorgeous new store to the easy on the eye sales assistants (seriously - on the night I was there, the staff was almost entirely made up of guys in their 20's who couldn't have been more helpful - did this hassled 40+ mamma the world of good I tell you!).
Having the craic with the young man at the till....


Khaki & Checks

These are the colours I'm supposed to wear all the time according to colour experts...and when I wear them, I do see why. I've never liked browns or oranges that much but I could wear khaki all the time and the coat and jumper I'm wearing here are going to ensure I wear it more often this winter.



This etoile jumper from the hush winter collection deserved a blog post all of its own. I'm not usually a fan of regular shaped jumpers or sweatshirts with waistbands but this one sits so well and doesn't make me look heavy on the waist like a lot of jumpers do. 


Work Trousers from hush

I was over in London a few weeks back meeting the team from hush and we got to talking about work wear. It's my new struggle. I have a job that doesn't require formal dress but I do want to look smarter than I usually dress. One way to do this is to ditch denim/skinny jeans and wear more trousers but apart from my M&S wide legs I featured on this post, I just can't find any trousers that are on trend, smarter than jeans, comfortable and will work hard in my wardrobe.

So hush took on my feedback and offered to send me 5 pairs of their trouser styles for me to try on and pick one favourite to keep. I thought about the best ways to feature the items and decided that a good old try-on at home post would work best. No fancy photos - keeping it real!

All the trousers I'm wearing in this post are a size 10 - they all have elasticated waist, side pockets and rear pockets. But they're all different and will suit different body shapes. Read on for more info. The Etoile jumper throughout is also from Hush - a new piece in their winter drop. I've a separate post coming up about it.

Starting with the Winona Cropped Trouser. One I wasn't expecting to love as much as I did. They fit really nicely and although I can't pull off the ankle boot/cropped trouser look, I do love them with these pointed pumps and if you scroll down, I realised they are more versatile that I thought. 



More of what I've been wearing...

This week, the weather's been a-changing and there's a touch of winter in the air in Belfast. So the layers and the blanket scarves have come out.
And as the weeks have gone by in my job, the dress code is becoming increasingly dictated by weather. The office is quite cold - it's an old building that used to be farm outbuildings so layers are essential. I'm thinking my smarter knitwear collection will grow this winter. In fact, I've already ordered some cashmere!

Here's what I've been wearing, starting with this sleeveless coat that I've ummm'd and ahhh'd about  for a while in terms of wearability. But I think I've cracked it with this layered look using a grey v-neck knit and a white top. So pleased about being able to wear this scarf again - as you'll see a bit further down...


Workwear - Pewter Brogues & Wide Leg Trousers

I featured my Halo Brogues from Seven Boot Lane as part of a casual outfit on this post so today, I'm showing them as part of a workwear outfit....doing what I do best in this first photo (according to husband..i.e. smiling and nodding when he speaks but actually paying all the attention to the phone)


I wasn't expecting this...

Not a Jamie Lawson know I don't get deep on here! But for me, a surprise outfit hit from a brand I wasn't expecting to be impressed by. I'll share the photos first starting with this most brilliant leopard print coat.
I've been looking for a leopard coat with proper black (not brown) in the pattern for a while and this ticks the box. I also love that it has a nude/blush colour going through it as well as an off white. It's just a little bit different, a little less Bet Lynch and a lot more stylish.


New Trainer Deliberations & What I've been Wearing...

Yesterday, while in town, the girls and I sheltered from a heavy shower in Foot Locker at Donegall Place. I need to take a moment here to wonder at how truly awful this store is....from the dirty, tired looking fit-out to the ugly uniform they expect their staff to wear, I'm amazed the business is surviving the UK high street in the current climate. It's like a blast from the 90's...and not a good one. I couldn't even reach down the trainers I spotted while browsing as they were up on stupidly high display shelves (I'm 5'7" and was wearing heels). Please someone tell me they're getting a refit and a new uniform soon?

Anyway, the torrential rain was marginally less attractive so we stuck with it and I managed to find a member of the team to get me the trainers I had my eye on in my size and try them on. And despite the less than impressive surroundings, I bought them because I instantly loved them. The colour, the shape, the fit. Could they be the black trainer I've been looking for?


Denim & Camel Layers for Autumn

Last Sunday, I spent the day in Stranmillis College with the rest of Belfast Community Gospel Choir recording our new CD - it'll be ready for Christmas and never fear, when it's available I'll publish a link to where you can buy it. It's going to be our best CD yet - the sound was amazing....even if I do say so myself!

Dressing for 8 hours (mostly standing) in an auditorium presents a challenge. Clompy shoes and jingly jewellery are not welcome, as the mikes pick it all up on the recording. And layers were essential as we had no idea how warm or cold it might be.
After some deliberation, I decided to go for my most comfortable jeans, a cotton boat-necked top and a cosy poncho...


The Parka Again...

I did the wardrobe changeover a couple of weekends ago and one of the pieces that made me happy it's properly autumn is this parka I got in Warehouse a few years ago now. It's just the perfect classic parka that I love wearing each year.


A Competition - with Yoshi Handbags

The team at Yoshi Bags have been kind enough to get in touch to offer me a handbag to give away to one lucky School Gate Style reader. As I love their bags so much, I was delighted to accept the offer.
If you've not heard of the brand before, I can highly recommend them. I have a few of their bags now - some gifted by the company but I've also bought a couple myself, as I was so impressed with the quality of what they sent me.

My current AW16 go to bag is their Lowry Clutch in black. Every wardrobe should have one because it's not a clutch alone - it's a cross body bag that is a decent size in the softest leather. It's perfect for busy days spent running about but then a bonus - clip off the strap, and it's a clutch for evening time. Complete no brainer.


New Season at Seven Boot Lane

Seven Boot Lane have come up with another swoon-worthy autumn winter range and every season when they offer me a pair to feature on the blog, I honestly have to pinch myself because I feel so lucky to be asked. But working with them over the past few years, I've fully realised the logic of paying a little more for good shoes because each season when I do the wardrobe switch over, I realise that the brands you pay a bit more for, are the ones that endure. I still have that first pair they sent me 3 years ago and they still look as good as new. Yet, on average, I give away or throw out two cheaper pairs seasonally because they are too exhausted looking to survive a second season of wear (or indeed too uncomfortable)

I dithered between boots and shoes but in the end, opted for the Halo Leather Brogue in Metallic Leather


A little try-on in Next...

Unbelievably, I've not bought any clothing or footwear for over a month. Not much for some people but for me, this is significant. A combination of being overdrawn, uninspired and busy, meant I managed to abstain from the high street and it has gotten me thinking about how buying all the time can become a bit of a habit. I have pared my wardrobe back lots over the past couple of seasons and ironically, it makes dressing easier and has me feeling less like I need to add to it constantly.

As a result, I'm going to try to stay on this more frugal theme on the blog over this autumn winter. A bit frustrating for readers (or so I'm told) as it means you can't instantly click and buy past season items but the reality is that I don't have the disposable income to keep up right now. However, I'm always lucky enough to be gifted a few bits and pieces here and there so they will help keep things fresh.

And in fact, that's what brought me to Next as I was given a gift card recently as part of a press drop promoting their new AW range. I had an hour to spare the other morning so I raced in for a quick try on of a few pieces that I hoped I could add to my workwear capsule...

The colour palate was greys and blushes, starting with this ruffle top - which is like a jumper but the fabric is more like a soft top.


What I've been wearing...

Oh I'm so behind in blog posts! But I've had a few people contact me after my last round-up post to say that they would like to see a weekly combination blog post with all I've worn in one go so here goes with the last week (and a bit!) and as most of it is past season, I have links to similar things where I've been able to.

Work wise, I managed one more wear of the white jeans before retiring them until next spring/summer (changeover is happening this weekend)


M&S AW16 - Model & Me!

I received an email from the team at M&S a few weeks back with a challenge - to recreate a look from the M&S AW16 Lookbook. Model and me style.

I'd been really impressed by some of the new range when Alex featured it over on The Frugality recently so I was already thinking that AW16 could be the season when the on-trend, Zara-loving 35-50 demographic starts to shop in Marks & Spencer again.



Lash Lift at Beauty & Brows Lisburn

I've just been for my second lash lift and I am officially hooked. So much so, I just had to share about it on here.  My first treatment was done in the middle of June and until a couple of weeks ago, I had the most fab lashes. It was amazing how long the effect lasted. Even in recent weeks, I only needed a little bit of lash primer to give my lashes a bit of colour and lift.



Back to Work and Gareth Malone!

Erm...where did that week go? All the intentions of blogging in the evening after work got knocked on the head. Between prepping for the next day, homeworks, gym and catching up with all the great TV people kept telling me I was missing (Cold Feet anyone? LOVED it!)...oh and I can't forget the small issue of recording a Christmas song with Gareth Malone.

Yes, this week, the whole of the choir was sworn to secrecy but I can tell you now that we are backing vocalists on two of the tracks from Gareth Malone's new Christmas album. We sing on his cover of the John Lennon song 'War is Over' and also a Gareth's own Christmas song, which is going to be sung by Ricky Wilson from The Kaiser Chiefs. Well the excitement was unreal...helped by the fact that we all had to wear Christmas costumes.

This is the group shot after over 3 hours of recording:
and there's also a video on this link.



New season, new beginnings, new wardrobe...WORKWEAR!!

I'm writing this in a silent house as finally, all 3 kids are back at school! I've loved the 9 weeks we spent together this summer but even the weather shifted gear this morning and we're all ready to move into a new month and a new season.

I've been taking a spin around a few shops recently as you'll see from my blog posts in the last couple of weeks so on this post, I thought I'd share what I've got on my AW16 shopping list but linked to that, I also wanted to share my new beginning for those of you who aren't on Facebook.

As of Monday, I'm back officially in the working world again after a break of 8 years. I've been working in a self employed way for a few years but I've really struggled with drawing a line between work and home and all just got so blurry and I felt like I was dipping into all three continuously and not doing any of them as well as I want to. It appears I don't have that multi-tasking gene that most women have - I prefer to focus on one thing at a time.

So on Monday, I start with a local home fragrance company


The perfect strapless bra from Orchid Lingerie

I've been wearing my bardot style tops all summer and every time I do, I'm asked about bras! Truth is, I have never been able to find a suitable strapless bra so I was doing the 'strap tuck' on an ordinary bra. Which works fine if you don't have much boobage but isn't a solution for anyone more blessed in that department.



AW16 at Dunnes Stores

Following on from my post about M&S's latest AW16 stock, I'm moving onto Dunnes now and this is a brand that has really upped its game in recent years with lots of designer collaborations and store revamps.

For instance, if you're near Belfast, Dunnes has completely overhauled their Forestside store and it is flipping no Dunnes I've ever been in before. And it's the perfect store to visit to see the best of their designer collaborations, starting with Carolyn Donnelly's 'The Edit'.
If you're of my vintage and from Ireland, you'll remember Quin & Donnelly, the source of many a wedding outfit in the late 1990's and early 2000's. I have a vivid memory of turning up at a wedding in Donegal c.2002 and how can I put it....'co-ordinating' with another guest in my silk trouser suit from Q&D. <shudder>
Anyway, moving on a few years and Caroline is now a Creative Director with Dunnes and has had a home and womenswear range with the store for about 3 years called 'The Edit'
I had hoped to be wowed by the range after reading a few gushing blogger reviews (never a good thing!) and there are pieces that are lovely but over all, it was a bit too grown up for me (seeing as I'm only 30 in my head)...too much like conservative office wear, which obviously some people need....but I don't.

But a few basics that did appeal included this cream top - perfectly opaque too:
and this white shirt insert - great for the white shirt effect without all the ironing :)
This roll neck grey jumper is a classic:
and I wanted to love this blue coat though it was a bit underwhelming when tried on. Nice but not wow
and it had a funny scarf thing that I wasn't sure what to do with!
The Lennon Courtney range is a little more edgy but more in the work/dressy space than I need. Some lovely pieces though:
And then, probably more widely known, Paul Costelloe's range is very classic and the most expensive of all their designer lines. Again, a great work-wear option also:
I think for me, the most wearable and coincidentally, the best value in the Paul Costelloe range is the knitwear (all on this link) - mostly priced at around £45. I'll definitely be back for some.
So I love a good designer collaboration as much as the next woman but I did wonder if Dunnes NI is ready for this? I think that south of the border, people know these designers well and are prepared to come into Dunnes and spend this kind of money but up here (and across the water if it's launching there too), I'm not sure shoppers are going to appreciate these designers to the same extent. I hope I am wrong and I think the store revamps will help to shift the mindset of Dunnes being just one or two notches above the likes of Primark/Penneys, which is where they always were when I was growing up.

For me though, the real hit in Dunnes stores at the moment is the Gallery range:
Very Mint Velvet in looks and much more appropriately priced for Dunnes. These skinnies are that great shade of grey/brown that just goes with everything:
Are you getting the Mint Velvet vibe?
This next top was RIGHT up my street and I couldn't stop thinking about it after seeing it in the Belfast store early last week...which is why I ended up going to Forestside the next day to buy it...more below...
and this grey top is just the perfect simple top that you'll wear and wear...layer it with a white vest underneath:
and here I am in the size M which was a bit too big so I'd get the S if I was buying it:
Thought this was black top perfection - wearable casually, formally and at work. Unfortunately, I can't find it online.
And you know how much I love a high neck cream blouse:
There are two colour ways in this boat neck striped top:
The Savida range also had some gems - it's the next best reason to go into Dunnes. Check out these amazing boots...I am SO ready for boots again!
Navy Mid-Heel boots - not online 
This similar denim high neck blouse to the M&S one. Not available online.
And I can't get enough of this wide sleeve cream knit
also available in a gorgeous golden yellow shade:
Adore this print
Just love how they've merchandised it too..
So I mentioned above that I went back to Dunnes to get the oyster coloured drape top I saw in Belfast above. Sadly, Forestside only had a size Large left so I tried it on hopefully:
but reluctantly didn't buy as it just felt too big and sloppy. A couple of days later, I saw there was a medium in stock and I tried it:
But again - it still felt a bit big. They had the size small in the black:
But it felt a bit neat. I'm going to go back once I have no kids with me and it's not a really hot day outside. I was getting so flustered that day and was too hormonal to make a decision :)

So the overall verdict on Dunnes Stores AW16? I'm hugely impressed with the Gallery Range and can see a few of these pieces making their way into my wardrobe this season. The designer collaborations are also worth checking out too if you've a bit more budget to spend. I'm interested to see how they do in the UK stores - the winter sale will be a good time to gauge this.

For anyone without a Dunnes Stores shop near to you, there's free delivery currently on all online orders over £40. Returns are not free however...but I'm always ok with just paying for one side of it...cannot bear to pay postage AND returns costs!

Do let me know if you've had a chance to try out any of the range or have spotted something great that I've not featured here. 

Have a great Bank Holiday weekend (in the UK). I'm out tonight with some girl friends at a gig that runs until 3am (equally scared & excited at this prospect) and also out tomorrow night with my husband on a long overdue date night so I'm not anticipating being up to blogging until Monday at the earliest :) but you can follow my antics on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook in the meantime. 

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