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

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

A Perfect Spring Coat from Great Plains

It's been ages since I've done proper bloggy photos on here - winter is always really difficult for this, especially if you rely in husbands or kids. Mostly they're not there during the day when there's good light for the photos. I do admire bloggers who keep up the outdoor photos year round...unless they are married to a photographer, in which case I'm just jealous!

Anyway, this post features one of my favourite brands - Great Plains, the sister brand of French Connection. I always get their seasonal catalogue in the post and it's beautifully styled and before the brand actually approached me to pick a piece from the collection, I'd already earmarked the Claudie Suiting Trench Coat for a few reasons.
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Monday, 22 February 2016

Looked at FatFace Lately?

I hadn't looked in ages - it's so easy to just stick with the same 2 or 3 shops but then I find myself getting frustrated as the same items keep cropping up on all the blogs I read (Zara & Topshop, I'm looking at you!). So it was really nice to be asked to chose a couple of items from the current FatFace range to wear on the blog. I guarantee a granny shoe-free zone ;)

My first choice were these boots:
Shalford Asymmetric Ankle Boot - Tan
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Saturday, 20 February 2016

Knickers, Sheep and Kua 'Aina

Being based in Belfast, where everyone knows everyone and the blogger-sphere is lots smaller, there's quite a bit of, let's call it 'off-piste' stuff that comes my way. Stuff which doesn't always warrant a full blog post of its own. So today I bring you some of what I've been getting up to in recent weeks and days....

First up - knickers and bras with the opening of Theo Paphitis' new Boux (pronounced 'boo') Avenue store in Belfast.
Now this blog is an underwear free zone (thank goodness you all declare!) but I always make sure I'm measured regularly and wear the right size bra. It's important to support what you have if you're more blessed but it's just as important to make the most of a smaller bust too. So as I'd not been measured for over a year, my main motivation for coming along to the store opening was to take advantage of the gorgeous measuring/changing rooms...
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Thursday, 18 February 2016

Review - Garmin vivoactive®

In September last year, I gave my lazy arse a kick and went back to the gym. I'd ignored a very slow but steady creep for long enough but when I stood on the scales in August, I got a shock to see that I was about 6kg (almost a stone!) heavier than my usual 62kg. The house move and a couple of bad back episodes in the past year/18 months meant I'd let my exercise and diet slip and some bad habits had developed - things like eating in the evenings, glasses of wine mid-week and not doing much in the way of exercise. Straight away, I stopped eating after 7pm, cut out wine during the week and started Body Pump classes and Circuits - one of each class per week...making use of the gym membership at long last!

By the end of October, I was amazed at the impact just those 3 changes had made. I'd lost all the weight and was starting to develop muscles again. Then I plateaued. Without a specific target, I was lacking in motivation. Step in the Garmin vivoactive® because in December,  completely out of the blue, the PR people behind Garmin Ireland contacted me about road-testing one of their activity watches - perfect timing.
I chose the vivoactive® - a mid-sized ultra-thin GPS smartwatch with a sunlight-readable, high-resolution colour touchscreen and built-in sports apps, including GPS-enabled running, biking and golfing. Now I'll admit to being a bit sceptical about how much I'd use it. My initial thoughts were that it was just a fancy pedometer. But I was wrong - there's so much more to this.

But I'll cover off the activity first - as that's probably the main reason anyone would buy one of these watches. It measures my steps every day and allows me to see my progress over a number of days (the orange days are GOOD!)
I get a buzz on the wrist when I reach my target (you can set this at whatever you want) - and that's such a motivator! It has also encouraged me to go out for a quick walk of an evening. Looking at your watch and seeing the true reality of a lazy Sunday afternoon (i.e. 800 steps for the whole day!) is a good wake up call for moving that booty. Sometimes it's just a quick walk around the block but the important thing is that there's no hiding behind the stats and there's a competitive aspect to it too as I don't like to see my weekly average falling!
It also measures my runs when I ask it to - measuring the distance, speed and calories burned. It's a great way to see how you're progressing if you're trying to increase your speed or distance, especially if like me, you do the same run on a regular basis. In my defence, this example was more of a run/walk....
But there are two benefits to this watch that I never expected. Two things that for me, make it worth owning more than any activity monitoring..

First unexpected benefit is that it hooks up with your watch and alerts you when you get texts/calls/social media activity.
Now this may annoy some people and it's obviously up to you whether you enable this functionality but for me, this is an amazing thing. I'm that forgetful person who leaves her phone on silent and misses calls and texts all over the show. The watch had resulted in me not missing a single thing for the past month. It's perfect for when you're in meetings (or in church!) but mostly when driving - no need to look away from the wheel. A quick glance at your wrist and you know who's trying to get in touch. You can't reply or speak into it like you can with some other smart watches but I don't want to do that - all I need to know is if there's activity that requires a response. It's been brilliant for the blog - I can see when people comment and react to my posts and when the shop was open, I could see when orders came in. All without having to use my phone.

Oh and when you drive off, leaving your phone on the charger at home, you get a 'phone disconnected' buzz before you've gone too far...BONUS - no more forgotten phone!

Second unexpected benefit is the sleep monitoring functionality. Who'd have thought I'd become so obsessed about my sleep patterns? It's fascinating stuff! Over the past month, I've realised that I average about 4.5 hours of deep sleep and 3.5 hours of light sleep (I love my sleep!)
but I've also seen how having a drink results in a much more unsettled night's sleep. How going to bed later than midnight results in a poorer rest. How exercise really does help you achieve a restful night (on one particularly active day last week, I got over 5 hours of deep sleep!)....but for all your parents out there, I have scientific measured evidence that when kids wake you up in the middle of the night, your deep sleep doesn't really come back after that....you tend to stay in a light sleep mode for the rest of the night. Which is why, even though on paper, you got 7 hours, that unexpected sudden wakening makes for an overall more unsettled night and a more tired Mamma in the morning.

So this watch is ticking boxes for me on the basis of sleep alone - it's the first stat I check each day when I sync the watch to my phone. I should point out that I have no idea how it measures the sleep other than on a movement basis? I'm sure there's a whole section in the manual about this but who reads the manuals? Not me.

Any cons to owning a watch like this? The main one I think is many women will find it's a bit big for the female wrist. I do like it as I'm used to wearing man-sized watches but I think more women will prefer the newer Garmin vivosmart® HR which is smaller:

The other disadvantage is that I have become so addicted to this watch, I've not really worn any other since early January! My Michael Kors and my DKNY, which were on heavy rotation prior to the Garmin coming along are looking very lonely. But it doesn't mean I'll never wear them ever - I do pop them on now and again and I'm sure I'll rotate all three of them in time - using the Garmin perhaps only when I'm training (and sleeping!). Time will tell.

So tell me - have you jumped on the activity watch trend? Are you as obsessed with sleep as I am?Please let there be more of you out there as sleep obsessed as I am :)

Ax
Disclaimer - I was provided with this Garmin watch free of charge but was not obliged to blog about it, nor was I paid to. All opinions expressed are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.



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Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A week of outfits...

There was no blog last week so I've a few days of outfits to share with you. It was another busy gym week so I confess now to 'active wear' on 2 of those days. But here were the ones I did manage to cobble together, starting with some monochrome stripy action....
Stripy Knit - H&M (past season - similar here & here)
Black Suede Ankle Boots - Ash Jalouse (current version here and less ££ here)
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Sunday, 14 February 2016

The Next Assessment

This post kind of got sidelined a bit with other shopping stuff and a busy week of off-line work but at long last....
So the M&S assessment wasn't so good but after a couple of dismal seasons, I can see Next getting its act together again with more than a few things catching my eye when I called in the other week.
First up, some more formal/work wear options and they're so on point in this regard. This dress is stunning - flattering with a beautiful shape and an on-trend hemline:
I've also seen this jacket featured on a few instagram posts. It's part of a suit but looks good worn casually also as it's quite long-lined:
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Friday, 5 February 2016

A Morning in Magherafelt

I'm sure some of you are going 'Maghera-where'?? Bear with me - it's not a sponsored post or anything like that. It's just that a couple of my choir friends live there and they've told me all about the amazing shops. But Belfast folk reckon Magherafelt is HOURS away so I took up the challenge of proving it's possible to have a morning of shopping in Magherafelt on a school day and be back in Belfast in time for a 2pm pick-up.

For non-local readers, Magherafelt is about 40 miles from Belfast heading north west and it is known for having a great selection of small, locally owned boutiques. I found out on my visit that pretty much any brand you'd pick up in Belfast can be found within a few hundred yards of the main street. But what brought me there this week are the amazing sales running at the moment with tons of 70% off bargains - the benefits of having friends in the know!

I arrived in the town at about 10.15am and my first stop was Sarah Jane Boutique:
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Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Hush Alice Dress

A quick post to let you know how I got on with the Hush Alice Dress. I ordered it ages ago when the sale started. Because it was sold out in S and M and the reviews said to size up, I ordered the L. It arrived...and was huge!!
As well as being too big on top, it was too long also - very frumpy looking. So I sent it back and asked to be called once they received my return, in the hope that the S would be back in stock - and it was!
It was a huge improvement - less material in the sleeves, a better fit over the shoulders and neater on the bust. All very helpful for a dress that has the potential to start pregnancy rumours (I'm NOT!)

Wearing it today with a fur gilet:
And today's full outfit...
Hush Alice Dress - as before
Black Ash Jalouse (current Ash version here/similar less pricey version here)
Silver Star Necklace - Joma
Black Coat - Gerard Darel via DejaVu
Leopard Scarf - via eBay

After the drop off, I spent the morning in a gorgeous location - General Merchants over on the Upper Newtownards Road.
I can highly recommend it for breakfast though if it's the weekend, get there early as it's super busy. I went for the Melbourne Breakfast:
and my friend opted for the Waffle 15's:
Both were delicious and the coffee was great too. So great in fact, I'm making plans to head over there again next week.
Until next time...
Ax
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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

What I've Been Wearing...

....and a tassel boot update!

Firstly, the boot update. I ended up buying a Zara pair from my blogging friend Joanna (Poppy's Style)! I had made up my mind to hold out and play chicken with the M&S ones knowing there'll be a mid-season sale soon. But then I happened upon the Avenue 57 preloved page on Facebook yesterday (dangerous) and found Joanna selling these ones:

(side note for my sister/sister-in-law and sister-in-law's sister - I'm NEVER getting a cat so don't worry about my tassels!)
I'd actually seen these Zara ones when their sale started in January but I dithered and before I knew it, they were gone. So you could say, they were the first ones to pique my interest way back before I blogged about them. They'll arrive with me in a week or so and I'll report back then. I fully expect to wear them about four times and never on the school run but how GORGEOUS are they? And when they're preloved, different wearing rules apply :)

Moving onto what I've been wearing and I should say that I share most of my outfits on a daily basis over on Instagram so apologies if you've seen some (thought not all) of these already. I know that I have many readers who just read the blog but also, I know Instagram can be a tricky one to keep up with people on...so many pictures to scroll when you should be in bed asleep...
(or am I the only one who ignores this advice?)
Anyway, back to the outfits, starting with some checked scarf action in the form of my Mango blanket scarf from a couple of years ago (I think?) It's a great scarf though very big so I don't wear it as much as I would like to.
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