Friday, 29 December 2017

5 non-essentials to buy in the Christmas Sales

Following on from yesterday's 4 investment items, today is all about those non-essentials that are great to have in your wardrobe - just in case. It also includes items that are particularly on trend and not worth buying full price (in my opinion).

Starting with faux fur coats, gorgeous to wear around Christmas time and on nights out but I'm unsure if they work all winter long so I'm not convinced it's worth investing in an expensive one. However, faux fur comes in varying qualities so you don't want to be buying a cheap one if you can avoid it.
I tried this one on in M&S Sprucefield a couple of weeks ago and I'm gutted to have missed out on it in the sale. However, I've not been in-store yet in M&S so remain hopeful. It's way nicer in real life and looks amazing with jeans as well as with a dress.
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Thursday, 28 December 2017

4 Investment items to buy in the Christmas Sales

Nothing like coming back after a month away from the blog with a whole load of amazing bargains. Yes, it's my favourite time of the year for snapping up the key pieces that you'll wear again and again starting with Seven Boot Lane ankle boots. I know I don't need more but when they're up to 50% off, this is the time to grab them. The quality is incredible - these are proper investment items.

Starting with their best selling Grace boots, which are selling out fast and only now available in small sizes in the grey and black. But the fabulous Bordo suede option is still available in most sizes
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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Silver Story Party | Cancer Focus

You may remember I had a Silver Story party back in June and I've been asked so much about the brand and when I'd have another party so I decided to book a pre-Christmas one for tomorrow - Thursday 30th November! Late notice I know but it's ok because although the house party is just on Thursday,  my code is valid online from now until the 9th December.

This time, I'm giving 10% of the total sales to Cancer Focus NI, a local charity for whom I have been trying to organise a girls' night in for ages. It's just been so hard to get everyone together so this became the best opportunity. If you use my dedicated code AVFREESHIP at the checkout online, not only with you get free postage in the UK but 10% of the value of your order will be donated directly to the charity - I'll confirm the total after the code expires on the 9th December. The charity has been one close to my heart in recent months as my choir performed at a concert in September in memory of my choir friend Emma's mum - Lorna Telford, who was only 49 when she died following a 4 year battle with cancer.

I thought it might be helpful to share my favourite pieces on here, starting with this beautiful delicate circle bracelet
or how about this rose gold necklace with gorgeous detail:
Or how about making a bit of a statement with this beauty, which I've already bought and will be wearing on the day of the party:
I've been enjoying wearing earrings again recently and I can't wait to see these in the flesh on Thursday:
This next hexagonal necklace has a matching bracelet too. How stunning! 
There is actually so much more than this that I love but I have to catch myself on!!! Do keep an eye on my Instagram stories today and tomorrow to see close ups of the items in the flesh - so to speak.

In the meantime, if you'd like to order online, the code is AVFREESHIP and this will give you both free UK postage and it will allocate all the sales to me, allowing me to claim the 10% for the charity. 

Thank you in advance for your support - both for the charity and for this lovely small business. The jewellery is all sourced ethically and it's run by a friend of mine from her home in Scotland - so it's a real win/win scenario.

Thanks for looking and do please drop me an email to avril@alifetostyle.com if you're local and you want to come along on the 30th during the day.

Ax




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Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Outfit Update | Gucci Dupes

A long overdue outfit catch up as I'm aware I've been sharing stuff on Instagram but not as much here on the blog. So for those of you not following on Insta (and I know there are quite a few), here's what I've been wearing and doing the past couple of weeks.

Starting with some new shoes and I first spotted these beauties on another Instagram account - Back of the Wardrobe.  They're the most amazing Gucci dupe from Dune and I had been on the look out to replace my River Island ones which are not leather and are slightly wrecked looking after much wear.
And of course, I had to wear them the next day along with a recent purchase from Gap at The Outlets in Banbridge. Loving this stripey jumper which was on 30% off the day I was down, making it about £25 (can't find the receipt)
Jumper - Gap
Cross Body Bag - M&S (SS17)
Jeans - H&M (SS17)
Shoes - Dune
(all my own purchases)
Next up and a colder day outfit from a day at the Good Food Show in Belfast. I bought this Benetton down filled coat in the sale in January (with Christmas money from my mother in law) and it's without a doubt the warmest coat I own. It's like putting on a heated blanket because it instantly retains the heat thanks to the feather and down filling. They retail at about £140 I think but it's worth racing in to the beginning of the sale to snap them up with some discount. I think mine was £100...definitely don't have that receipt still!
(current season version on link. It doesn't have a hood like mine but actually thinking about it, I don't really use my hood...)
Scarf - Fat Face (AW16)
Boots - Ash (AW16 - bought in the Summer Sale - the best time to snap up boot bargains)
Handbag - Zohara currently reduced
(all own purchases apart from the bag)

Next up, a dressier outfit from a visit to the new Bassetts showrooms in Bangor. Yes, I'm still looking for a bathroom and no, I've still not availed of their kind offer to quote me a good price for a new one but it's in the budget for the new year - just need to get Christmas out of the way first.
Meanwhile, check out the tiled corridor in the new showroom...a blogger's dream!
Jacket - Zara (AW17 - not online but I've seen it in-store recently)
Jeans - MiH (as per this post)
(all own purchases apart from the bag)
The shoes deserve a picture of their own. I saw them in DejaVu about a month ago for £18, brand new and unworn! I just couldn't leave them behind...
Shoes - Nine West (preloved purchase from DejaVu)

Another cosy one from the day I took the twins into Belfast to see Paddington Bear 2. Officially my favourite film of all time. I laughed and cried and came out wanting to rebook immediately to watch it again. 
Coat - Jaeger Outlet, Banbridge (50% paid for by gifted vouchers)
Scarf - Mango (AW15 - google 'plaid blanket scarf' to find lots of eBay options)
Bag - Zohara (as before)
Shoes - M&S (gifted) - only available in black & nude now

Finishing with one from last week - well wrapped up in my new H&M scarf and jumper...
Jumper & Scarf (current H&M but not online)
Jeans - Selected Femme (preloved via DejaVu)
Bag - as before

And that's me all caught up - I've not posted an outfit on Instagram for over a week! Mainly work reasons - it's been a busy one because of candle evenings up at the Field Day factory - but also practical reasons - it's getting dark so early! I've booked a photoshoot with the 9 year old tomorrow so normal service shall resume...

Back soon with a Silver Story party post!

Ax
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Monday, 27 November 2017

Advent Calendars | M&S and Studio Souk | Giveaway

Usually the only Advent Calendars that appear in our house are the chocolate ones for the kids. The excitement each day as they opened yet another tiny bit of chocolate - even though it was just the same as the one from the day before. It got me thinking about how lovely it would be to have one to open myself every day so I did a bit of googling and settled on two very different options.
Starting with the perennial favourite... the Marks & Spencer Beauty Advent Calendar.
These are sold out online now but there were loads of them in the Belfast store last week so it might be worth checking if you've a shop near you. The deal is that it costs £250 but it's only £35 if you buy items to a value of £35. So yes, there's an initial outlay of £70 but I've been told that in theory, you can return the item you bought with it for a full refund. Not sure if that's true - do enlighten me if you work with M&S.
Now I didn't buy this on a whim, I did my online research and the items are largely very useful and at an average cost of £1.40 a day, I figured it was a good way to try lots of beauty brands that I've never tried before. I know for example that there's an Emma Hardie cleanser in one of the boxes and I'm especially looking forward to it as I've been keen to try it for a long time. Beauty is so subjective and not everything is going to suit everyone so it's great to have a sample size to try before you buy. I've also been told that the box makes a great advent calendar for your kids the next year if you refill each box with your own bits and pieces (or chocolate!)
The extra big box for Christmas Day!

The second one I've bought was influenced somewhat by my work. It's been created by Studio Souk, a Belfast shop (online and on Anne Street, Belfast) that showcases all that is fabulous about local artists and crafters.
Siblings, Linzi and Dave, are the inspirational young people who run this shop and Linzi, a busy mum of 2 who has had an unbelievably challenging 2017, has worked particularly hard to get this 12-Days of Christmas Calendar off the ground. I know all this because behind one of the windows is a Field Day product and I helped Linzi with this. I was honestly blown away by how fast it turned around and as a brand, we are delighted to feature among such esteemed company.
12-Days of Christmas Calendar (purchased)
I have no idea which window is the Field Day one - I can't wait to see inside them all!
Just took a sneaky peek but they're all individually wrapped inside so I'm still no wiser!

As it's a 12 days of Christmas one, it strictly speaking should be opened in the 12 days after Christmas so it is actually perfect as a gift to give on Christmas Day. But I've checked with Linzi and she says I can open it earlier if I want : ) I think I'm going to open a window every other day on Instagram Stories - starting next week. I'm so very keen to support both Studio Souk and the local companies contained inside the calendar so I figured it's best I showcase it early so that if you want to buy one as a gift, you can before they sell out.
But now for the best bit - how would you like to share the fun of this 12 Days of Christmas Calendar with me? Linzi at Studio Souk has been kind enough to give me a calendar to give away here one the blog so to be in with a chance of winning it, simply follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter attachment below.
The giveaway is open worldwide and you don't have to be from Northern Ireland to enter. The winner will be drawn on Sunday 3rd December and I'll get the calendar posted out to you on Monday 4th!
Ax
Disclaimer - I bought both advent calendars myself though Linzi at Studio Souk gifted me the second one to give away here. I've not been paid to write this post.
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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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