Monday, 13 November 2017

New Glasses | Specsavers x Balmain



Now I'm back wearing glasses, they're kind of replacing handbags in my life. In that, I've gone all Pru Leith & want a pair in every colour and if possible, a few designer ones too!
Of course, just like designer handbags, I can only look and wish. Glasses are expensive. But last week, Christmas come early when David, the main man in Specsavers Victoria Square, invited me in to the store to check out the new Balmain collaboration AND offered me my choice of frames as a gift. 
Balmain is a real old school French fashion house - remember Pierre Balmain? It's one of those brands I remember from my childhood. My mum must have had a perfume by them.
The brand was close to bankruptcy before 25 year old Oliver Rousteing, only a year with the company, was promoted to the role of Creative Director. He has an amazing back story and with his appreciation of the power of celebrity and social media, he has catapulted Balmain into the 21st century. You can read a little about his impact on the brand in this GQ article. 
Part of his plan has been strategic collaborations with the likes of H&M and L'Oreal - bringing Balmain to the masses. And the latest hook up is with Specsavers in the form of a range of frame designs that are both fashion forward and a nod to classic French style
I tried on all of the styles that were available.
Despite the range only launching that day, already one of the pairs had sold out! 
Jennifer in the store was so helpful and once she got the feel for what I wanted, she immediately pulled the prescription sunglasses from the lower right hand image above, popped out the lenses and it was an immediate yes! Because all of the range can be made with a clear or tinted lens and with the 2 pairs for £169 offer, it means you can even opt to get one of each.
After a quick measure of my eyes & pupil distance, I was told that my frame was in stock and that if I came back in an hour, I could wear home my glasses. That's what I call service.
Obviously, when you're in Victoria Square, you're in the right place to kill an hour so I headed to House of Fraser to mull over that jumpsuit from my party outfit post last week.
And just over 2 hours from when I arrived into the store first, I bounced out of Specsavers with my little bit of Balmain. 
(Thank you to David for taking these photos - a man of many talents)
I should say that I didn't need an eye test as I'd just had one with my own optician, Gillian, so this made the process even faster. Obviously this is something that Specsavers offer too and it usually requires booking and an additional half hour or so.
But I guess what I realised from this is that there's nothing stopping you buying a pair of glasses elsewhere while staying loyal to your existing opticians. While I love my 'good' glasses I got from Gillian and love supporting an independent optician, it's nice to have a pair or two of high street glasses to mix and match. You can ask your opticians for your prescription and bring it with you anywhere (provided it's in date).
Thank you to David, Jennifer and the rest of the team at Specsavers in Victoria Square for looking after me so well. I was gifted my frames & single vision lenses but I wasn't paid to come in or to write this blog post. All the words are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog. 
Ax
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Thursday, 9 November 2017

Home | Chalk Painting my Fireplace

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I chalk painted my fireplace last week. It was something I'd waffled on about doing for months but it took a work visit to Doris & Jeannie on the Belmont Road in Belfast to get me to finally buy the paint. It then took me another month of procrastinating and waiting for the husband and children to be out of the house for a few hours. 

Because the husband was not keen on the idea. He reckoned it was like something you'd do in a student flat. It did make me hesitate I have to say but then I decided I hated the fireplace surround in it's current state so the worst that could happen is that I'd still hate it when it was painted.

Here's the before photo...ignore the fender that doesn't fit. It was just to keep all the painting things from rolling off onto the carpet. I'm currently gumtree'ing daily looking a fender that fits.
I should say that the fireplace is not original. It was added to the house in the 80's and is not in keeping with the other 1930's original features that have (thankfully) mostly been left alone. It was badly chipped and marked as the house had been let out for about 7 years before we bought it. So overall, it was in a bit of a sorry state. We don't use the room that much and I think it's partly because it's a room that has a slight air of being neglected. So step one is the fireplace....I'll get to the other steps eventually.
And here's what I used - Annie Sloan chalk paint in Graphite.
I didn't prep the wood at all, apart from giving it a clean with a damp cloth. I used a regular paintbrush (not an Annie Sloan one) and the first coat went on really nicely and without much bother.
after the first coat

After an hour and a half of drying, it was ready for the second coat, which was definitely harder to put on. I guess you're painting onto a rough surface and not the smooth original surface? It required much more elbow grease and a bit more care but after about an hour, it was complete and I left the fireplace then to dry overnight.
after the second coat

Next morning, I used the Annie Sloan clear wax to coat the chalk paint, as you're advised to do. This is to protect the surface from marking and staining. And here's where I started to throw a strop. It was a MARE to get on. I tried all sorts of cloths and brushes and ended up using an old t-shirt. I must have watched about 8 Youtube videos of happy crafty American bloggers putting it on with apparent ease but I did not find the process easy by any means. 

It took about 2 hours in total and left me exhausted and with a blister on my hand! But here's the final result.
I also cleaned my slate hearth, surround and tiles using oil and a bit more elbow grease. All it needs now is a nice fender, a new rug and the husband to put the mirror back up on the wall. Luckily I'm patient as it's likely to be Christmas 2018 before any of that happens.

Would I do it again? Definitely. But not the waxing. Thanks to Helen in Finishing Touches Too in Limavady (another stockist), I found out that you don't have to wax if you don't want to and instead, you can paint on a clear coat of water-based lacquer. Annie Sloan sells this too (on the link). So the next project is the pine furniture in my son's bedroom.

Hope you found this helpful - do share any Annie Sloan nuggets of advice in the comments below. You can find your local Annie Sloan stockist on this link. Other chalk paints are available though I've never tried them and there are always lots of workshops locally that will show you the ropes if you're unsure so get googling! 

Ax
Disclosure - this post is all my own and I bought all the products myself
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Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Christmas Party Style from House of Fraser | #BringMerryBack

As part of this week's party promotions at House of Fraser (more below), I was invited in to try on some of the range of party dresses and jumpsuits in store at the moment and to select my favourite for the upcoming Christmas season.
I was in my element - you know my love of Issa dresses in particular and it was amazing to see this latest drop of frocks from the brand, with longer and more formal options now in store ahead of party season. But I was also impressed this visit with Label Lab and Linea.

So I started my try on with some longer options from Issa....first up - this stunning red one:

Next up, another Issa one and this one is a bit more flattering on the mum tum and over the bust. The purple shade is stunning too for this time of year and I actually think it would work really well in summertime too with a denim jacket.

A jumpsuit now - the perfect addition to your wardrobe as it can work at a formal occasion or on a regular night out. This asymmetric top is just stunning and it has pockets (YAY!). It's by Label Lab and I'm wearing the Size 10

This Linea dress was an unexpected hit. It comes in black and plum - though only the black is available online. It's got a full zip down the back and is a flattering midi length. I absolutely loved it and would snap it up if I had an occasion to wear. I'm wearing the 10. The benefits of this one is that you can wear a proper bra #winwin

All the blingarama now with this Biba dress! It's not a great shape for me as I suit a bit more nipping in at the waist but what a Christmas dress this is. It's got those fab sequins that you can push up and down...which is potentially a torture as your kids will want to play with the dress constantly!! 
Biba Fully Sequin Shift Dress - I'm wearing the 12 as it's tricky to get on over your head!

Finishing with a slightly less blingy number with Christmas day in mind. This dress would work so hard for you because as well as dressing it up with heels, you can dress it down with an oversized knit and ankle boots.  The print is stunning and very seasonal and it covers the arms! Lots of ticks in the box and for me it was the one that stole my heart.
While I was in the store, I also checked out the Charlotte Tilbury counter mainly because I'd heard so much about the Limited Edition Instant Eye palette and their version of an advent calendar - the Naughty & Nice Magic Box which contains 12 products, including 4 full size. A must for any CT fans. 

But to my mind, the palette is a more attractive option.
It's got 4 eye looks in one palette though I would mix and match them as the colours are workable together in any combination. As the counter was quiet yesterday, I was offered the option to have my eyes done with the palette and Joanna my MUA used the 'date eye' colours beautifully. It stayed put all day and still looked amazing when I was going to bed and reluctantly taking off.
The other gift I was tempted by was this starter Charlotte Tilbury skincare kit. I asked Joanna what her hero product from the whole brand range is and she chose the Magic Cream. Which retails at an eye watering £70! But the starter kit is a great way to try out this cream, and Charlotte's best selling mask and primer (all in travel sizes). Retails at £39.
But now, more about the Party People activity in House of Fraser stores this week. There already is up to 20% off party wear across many of the brands as part of this promotion, making this a great week to pick up your party outfit for Christmas. 
In the Belfast store specifically, there's a fabulous evening planned this Thursday with discounts and treats as well as stylist advice in menswear and womenswear. There will also be gifting stations on all floors so the organised among us can start on their Christmas shopping (not me). The event runs between 6pm and 10pm.

Across all the stores, there's some Christmas charity activity going on in the form of Wishing Trees with all proceeds going to Action for Children. You can buy a decoration, write your wish and hang it in the tree in each store in return for a donation. What a lovely idea.

I hope you enjoyed my party try on - thanks to everyone who commented on Instagram...I literally spent 3 hours on Sunday evening answering all of your lovely messages! More changing room try ons will follow as it seems to be a popular one for Instagram Stories. Hopefully without children rolling on the floor next time :)

Ax
Disclaimer - I received vouchers to put toward buying the Linea dress above. I was not paid to write this post. In some cases, the links are affiliate meaning House of Fraser pay me a small commission should you purchase (and keep) the item linked to. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.

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Monday, 6 November 2017

Style | Posh Pyjamas | Figleaves

both gifted by Figleaves

The other week I was sent something that I never buy myself. Posh pyjamas. I'm a PJ cretin, wearing old t-shirts or leggings mostly. I have a couple of nice pairs that were given to me when I had the twins as I spent more than a few weeks lounging about (in shock!) but they are 9 years old now so well past their best.

So when Figleaves offered to send me some new Pyjamas to welcome winter with open arms, I accepted with open arms. And they didn't disappoint, sending me these gorgeous soft black jersey PJ's with a matching dressing gown.

And I thought I'd take some posh photos of me lounging on my bed like a stylish lounging blogger. Of course the reality is nothing like this. It's a messy bed, kids getting in the way, bad hair. And it's way earlier than I want it to be so usually I'm a helluva lot grumpier! But no-one wants to see that reality so here's the Instagram equivalent.
The best bit about these PJ's (and indeed any plain colour ones) is that you can legitimately wear them all day. I mean, it's just a black top and some wide leg jersey trousers?! Add pinkness and flowers and suddenly, you're a lazy hallion who should have gotten dressed hours ago :)

So of course, now I've got the taste for the posh PJ's and I'm eyeing up the grey version of these. But seriously - a brilliant Christmas present idea. Hint hint.

Thanks to Figleaves for glamming up my bedtime - the PJ's were sent as a gift but I wasn't paid to blog about them, nor was I obliged to do so. Thanks for supporting the brands who support this blog.
how I would laugh if my life was actually as perfect as this photo suggests....

Ax
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Saturday, 4 November 2017

The Sisterhood of the Travelling MiH Jeans

For those of you wondering what on earth MiH jeans are, it's a UK super cool and pretty expensive denim brand. But there's a great story as to why I've ended up with a pair of these designer jeans....let's go back a couple of months to when Sue shared this photo on Instagram:
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Thursday, 2 November 2017

Red Coat Love | Outfit Update

I've been so absent here - lots going on with work and family and so it's a case of fitting it all in. Sadly, the blog gets the lowest priority some weeks, especially with school holidays. But I'm taking advantage of the kids watching a movie and a quieter afternoon to share a few outfits, starting with this red coat again...I shared it a couple of posts ago with my midi dress but I wanted to show it with a more casual get up...
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Friday, 27 October 2017

Food | Easy Christmas Cake Recipe

This is a bit off piste but I made my Christmas cakes last weekend and got SO many messages from people asking me for the recipe I use. So I thought it would be easier all round if I did a blog post showing you just how simple this Christmas Cake recipe is - and I can vouch for it with confidence as I've been making my cakes this way for 6 years.
Easy Christmas Cake recipe
I made 4 cakes in total - 2 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday (for family!) and honestly, it only took me about an hour and a half each day. Admittedly, the cooking time is quite long but they don't really need any attention once they're in the oven so your work is done by then.

But what if you've never made a Christmas cake before? Don't worry.....every fruit cake has 6 simple steps. Soak your fruit in a little brandy/whisky/rum/lemon/orange juice. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one by one. Fold in your flour. Bung it in a tin. Cook slow and steady. 
And this recipe is exactly the same - with just a bit more quantity and some extra ingredients like ground almonds with your flour and lemon zest.
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Sunday, 15 October 2017

Newbridge Silverware Belfast | Competition Time

This blog post is about an undiscovered gem right in the centre of Belfast. When I paid a visit to the Newbridge Silverware store on Upper Arthur Street last month, I was genuinely blown away by the gorgeous fit out,  the customer service and the stunning selection of homewares and jewellery. It was way beyond my expectations.
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Saturday, 14 October 2017

Wearing Midi Lengths in Winter

As the seasons change, I've been asked a few times what to do about the cold leg issue when wearing midi dresses and skirts. I have it covered girls...in a couple of easy steps!
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Sunday, 8 October 2017

A Confession | Navy Biker Jacket

I have a confession to make. I'm not good with long coats and when I went to put on my Marks & Spencer coat from this previous post on the school run, I just couldn't as it felt too long and big on me. Maybe it wasn't cold or wet enough and I felt too covered up? Maybe I'm just always destined to have wet legs in the rain?

I decided to return it for the size down but it still felt too big. All while the advert for the coat kept popping up on my social media making me want it even more!

When I went back to see if there was a size 6 to try on (there wasn't), I spotted a navy biker and suddenly it all fell into place. When I spotted a fab navy floral midi dress close by, I realised that I could swap the trench for BOTH of these items and once that realisation hit, it was a deal done. Farewell gorgeous trench coat which would keep me warm and dry. 

I may regret this decision but in the meantime, Jess my fabulous photographer Instagram friend took these gorgeous photos of my new navy ensemble....look at how I'm laughing off the colder, wetter days ahead.....I'll be FINE in my short jacket and floaty dress
Navy Ankle Boots - Ash (sale purchase)
Navy Cross Body Bag - Yoshi (past season)

Of course, that still leaves me with a trench coat gap in my wardrobe but it's ok - I've spotted this bottle green one and I'm sitting tight for the next 20% off :)

Ax

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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Zohara AW17 Collection | Navy Cross Body Perfection

There are several items that have consistently eluded me in my 'key pieces' search over the years. Navy features in several of them with a navy cross body up there on the top of the list. Well can I say 'bravo' to Zohara for allowing me to cross that one right off with this beauty from the AW17 collection.
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Tuesday, 3 October 2017

My 6 (7) Must Have Make Up Items | No. 7 Lift & Luminate Foundation Review

First up, this post is not sponsored in any way. I bought everything you see here. What prompted me to write it is my journey to find another foundation after Kiko discontinued their Anti-Age one (thanks a million Kiko). After trying a few different foundation samples at home and talking to my make up guru friend Katrina Doran, I decided to buy a bottle of the Boots No. 7 Lift And Luminate Triple Action Serum Foundation
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Saturday, 30 September 2017

Seven Boot Lane | AW17 | Discount Code

It's my favourite post of the season - my Seven Boot Lane review and discount code, which I know several of you have been waiting for. More on that in a moment but first, I want to introduce you to Grace....the grey ankle boot of your dreams.
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Wednesday, 27 September 2017

What's in my Wardrobe?

I'm asked all the time about how much clothing I have and where I store it so last week when I did my AW changeover and a massive tidy and clear out, I immediately took ALL the photos - the chances of it staying tidy for more than 24 hours was low.

So meet my wardrobe - my one and only. It's 3 metres long, split into 3 sections. It's not the pretty wardrobe I would choose if money was no object but our bedroom is small and our bed is big so I had to go for practicality (on a budget) over beauty. In our last home, we had loads more space (hence the big bed) and I also had the use of a full sized wardrobe in a spare room. I used it all...proof that if you have the space, you'll fill it. More on that later...

Back to the wardrobe and when we moved, I was being quoted in or around £3k for a 3 metre built in wardrobe that would have had to stay in the room forever. This was around £800 and it's not fully built in - it's just fixed to the wall temporarily, meaning neither my carpet nor the original picture rail had to be cut. It also means that if I take the notion, I can move it to another room or we can bring it with us if we ever move.  
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Sunday, 24 September 2017

A Leopard Print Shoe Find | Van Dal

I posted this next picture on Instagram a few weeks back as I couldn't believe where these gorgeous shoes came from and it was clear that many of you who saw them on there couldn't believe it either.
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Friday, 22 September 2017

Blogging Friendships | Nikki @ Midlife Chic

I originally wrote these words as part of my post about the Issa launch at House of Fraser but as I typed them, I got to thinking that they really warranted a post of their own. Plus as that last post was so picture heavy, I knew the story of a blogging friendship would get lost in the midst.

Nikki Garnett and I have been in regular contact since she set up her blog, Midlife Chic in 2014. I could tell from the first post that it was going to be a brilliant blog. She has such a beautifully pitched writing style which really sets her apart from other bloggers in this demographic.  

The reason for this is that as well as being a genuine and lovely person, Nikki knows her stuff. She's got a wide experience in marketing and publishing, including 9 years at Selfridges, where she was responsible for editing customer magazines. When I found this out about her, it immediately made sense because what comes across in Nikki's blogs is her knowledge of how fashion works. I learn something from every blog post. It's not just about sharing what's in the shops each seasons, Nikki tells you WHY that product is in the shops. The colour choices, the range selection, the thinking behind it - fascinating. This post is a good example.
My sister in law has become a huge fan and I think she sums it up really well. Nikki's blog is not just about Nikki herself. It's not a 'what I wore' kind of blog with endless photos and poses in the same outfit. Yes, she shows you her outfits and how she works her wardrobe. But she does it in a hugely informative way - usually mixing and matching with her existing wardrobe or showing you how a range will work for different occasions.
We've been fortunate enough to meet at 3 different events in London over the past year alone, the most memorable of them being the Issa/House of Fraser event I referred to above.
Nikki chose a gorgeous emerald green dress from the Issa range in a flattering wrap style and rather than our usual selfies, this time we actually got a lovely photo together thanks to the security men at Kensington Palace. Who I should say were highly amused at the two of us getting our blog photos on the avenue leading up to the palace. Nothing like a bit of banter to relax you for a photo. And a photobombing jogger.
It was a wonderful night and after a number of occasions of meeting Nikki during the day, this was our first night out together and boy did we made the most of it, ending up in Nikki's hotel showing Japanese tourists how to do a tequila slammer and chatting to a man from Co Wicklow!

Here's to blogging friendships. In a hugely competitive place, it's wonderful to find genuine ones.

If you don't follow Nikki already, you'll find her blog on this link. She's also active on Facebook and Instagram - click on the words to link straight through.

Ax
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Saturday, 16 September 2017

Not Jeans

I'm not good at wearing trousers. I like what I like and I stick to it so my current trouser options are skinny jeans or culottes. But I know that my slimmest part is at my waist so in theory, a paper-bag style trouser should work? The website description for these trousers says that they're 'leg elongating'...I need ALL of that.

But first, let me tell you how I ended up buying them. Picture the scene - I'm in rainy London wearing a maxi dress and getting increasingly frustrated by wet hems and the trip hazard navigating tube stations with a suitcase so I ducked into Oliver Bonas to find something else to wear. I had a dress in mind but then I spotted these chinos...
Trainers - Seven Boot Lane (past season)

Fit wise, they're generous, so I'm wearing the 10. The material is lovely - an autumn/winter weight of chino material that feels smooth - if that makes sense? It means they hang beautifully and don't crease. 
Now I'll hold my hands up here and say that despite the nipped in waist, they're not *the* most flattering trousers on me. Yes, they nip me in at my slimmest part but they do add fabric to my widest part - my hips.
My blogging friend and photographer Marlene, agreed with me and so I got to thinking that a longer line jacket would better off-set this. Zoom forward a week and I'm wearing them again with my new M&S Navy Biker. Much better I think.
Trousers & trainers - as before
Stripe Top - H&M (past season)

And as an aside, I need to talk more about this biker jacket because it's such a find. The most perfect shade of navy and it fits like a dream. I'm looking forward to wearing it lots this autumn/winter.

So that's my foray into a different kind of trousers...maybe it'll make me braver? I'm actually looking forward to trying these with a killer heel on a night out...I think they could look pretty cool.

And a huge thank you to my friend Marlene for taking the top two pictures. It was just wonderful to have an afternoon with her in London eating dim sum and frozen yogurt. I even got to feature on her Instagram page - check it out on this link - 'mother with a drinking problem by a London canal'!

Hope you're having a lovely weekend,

Ax
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Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Relaunch of Issa London - Exclusively at House of Fraser

Last week, I had to pinch myself a LOT. I was invited along to the re-launch of one of Kate Middleton's favourite brands, Issa London, literally in Kate's back garden at the Orangery in Kensington Palace!
It is a beautiful building, with massive windows overlooking the gardens and the set up for the event was stunning with a rainbow of colours along the long table. I sat at the Orange/Yellow section. You can see the effect (and the string quartet) on the next photo:
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Saturday, 9 September 2017

Hanging out with Katrina in The Make Up Dept

Last Friday, the kids went back to school and I finally took up an offer from my friend Katrina, skincare and make up guru, to come see her at her place of work - the Make Up Dept. which is part of the At One Relaxation Space in Portview, on the Lower Newtownards Road.
Katrina is a make up artist for film and TV (Game of Thrones among others!) and also helps out with MUA training at Pamela Smyth's Make Up Dept., where you'll find short courses teaching Film/TV make-up, Special Effects and also a course covering the basics of make up application, ideal as a starting point for all.

Anyway, Katrina invited me to down to do my make up (she's always looking for challenging faces!) and take some photos. Her expertise in make up and skincare would ensure I got lots of info on the right things to use on my face and then her background in fashion styling would ensure fab photos! And of course, we would get to chat for hours and catch up after way too long.

My beautification started with Skyn Iceland Firming Eye Gel Masks, which were left on for 10/15 minutes.
While we waited, Katrina applied some moisture to my skin and then we talked foundation. I'm gutted that Kiko have stopped making my favourite foundation - the Anti Age - so I brought what I've got left of it to Katrina to see if she knew of another one that has a similar consistency and coverage.

Katrina felt that the Chanel Healthy Glow Foundation was a good alternative. The coverage is amazing and I am now going to try it out myself. The colour number 40 was the best match for me.
Over this, she used her 'if you only buy one thing' product - the Bronzing Makeup Base from Chanel - which I can confirm was used on Jamie Dornan in The Fall. If it's good enough for Jamie...
Next, some cream blusher which Katrina is a huge fan of. Her favourite? Rosie for Autograph. She chose Natures Blush for me and I loved it - it was much more coral than I would normally use.
Jumping on rapidly to the eyes and lips which didn't take long at all and looked so natural.
Until Katrina added some glamorous plum gloss from Flormar for my photo shoot...
And then we headed upstairs to the studio room for photos. I wore something VERY different for me - a shift dress in a scarf print, past season from Oasis. I picked it up in DejaVu last month with the intention of wearing with black tights when the weather gets cold but I'd had a spray tan that morning and I had new navy boots from Ash to show off so I thought I'd push the boat out and do a short dress with ankle boots for once.
I'm honestly not sure it's really me - I get away with it but it's not the most flattering thing I've ever worn. But on an aside,  I learned so much about how to stand and pose. Katrina is amazing at this stuff.
Dress - Oasis (Past Season)
Boots - Ash - The Dressing Room (sold out)
Denim Jacket - H&M (Past Season)
Then, a quick change and it was back on the school run albeit a little more glam than normal!!

You can find Katrina on this link and find out more about the courses available at the Make Up Dept on this link. And you have GOT to read about the Head Melt treatment that Pamela offers upstairs in the At One Centre. Absolute bliss...I will be treating myself to this very soon.

Ax


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