Saturday, 20 July 2019

Kenneth Green Associates launch Tocca Perfume in the UK | Competition

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I've teamed up with the team in Kenneth Green who are one of the biggest distributers of luxury fragrance to give you the chance to win one of 3 of the fragrances within their newest brand in the UK, Tocca.
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Thursday, 18 July 2019

Holly Willoughby Launch at M&S | Style

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Today, 18th July, sees the launch of the latest Holly Must Have collection online and in selected stores across the UK and Ireland and in advance of the launch, I was invited into my local M&S in Sprucefield, Lisburn for a sneak peek and a try on in the Fit & Style* room ahead of the items hitting the shop floor.
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Friday, 12 July 2019

Words of Advice to yourself NOW!

I had a discussion with a friend this week about body confidence and how we were both at a stage in our lives where we are more at peace with our bodies and less obsessed about achieving something that's not meant to be for us. But we're still hard on ourselves too - there's always that niggle about being a bit slimmer, a bit taller, a bit less lumpy (or a bit more (lady) lumpy in some places!)

And it got me thinking about the memes and blog posts you see about 'what you'd tell your 18 year old self'. The wise words we wish we could have told ourselves back when we were insecure and before we'd gone through our roller coaster 20's and 30's.

Why not flip it and thing about what you'd tell your current self in 20 or 30 years time. Because it's a much more useful exercise than reminiscing about what you wish you'd known. Actually remind yourself what your priorities should be right now - I think we know what those things are already. But we push them to the back of our minds and hope that they'll sort themselves out at some stage.

So to kick things off, here are my 5, in no particular order

  1. Shop less and save more - don't ignore the pension fund.
  2. Get stronger - you need to build all the muscle you can now to keep upright and mobile later.
  3. Don't feel guilty about having me-time - the kids will fly the nest soon and you need to enjoy time away from them now to prepare you for this new stage in your life.
  4. Be bolshy & stop people pleasing - say no more often!
  5. Spend less time on your phone - be more present.
Of course, it's all very well saying this...what am I going to do about it?

Number 1 is where I'm starting and it's a few weeks away but I've decided to make September a shopping free month. I've noticed myself creeping back into a habit of buying bits here and there that I can do without and mindful of finances and the impact on the environment, I'm going to push myself to have a month off. Could it be the start of something more permanent? Will I be able to save some cash during this month? Let's see and why not come join me?

Number 2 sees me back at the gym again this week - I've missed my pump classes for a while due to injury and I'm determined to get the strength back to what it was a few months ago. I feel SO strongly about this - deterioration in old age is directly linked to balance and falls - in turn is linked to lack of strength in many cases as muscle mass & bone strength starts to decline even before the menopause.

I'm good at my me-time but I do feel guilty about it so I'm working on Number 3 too. It's actually shocking how suddenly your kids are up and doing their own thing and you're left a little redundant so I can imagine how it must feel when they finally leave home! The blog is a wonderful outlet for me in terms of friendship and getting out and about so I'm ever blessed to have it and the people I've met through it.

I'll be honest and say I don't think I'll ever crack Number 4...it's in my nature and maybe it's not such a bad thing in some cases. However I'm quite good at being bossy with the blog so maybe that's the starting point...working out how to expand this in a nice way to other aspects of my life.

And well Number 5 - I think we all know this is an issue. I've tried in recent weeks and months to spend time away from the phone and it's not easy. I find it easier to do it when I'm on holiday or with friends - I'm ok with not sharing every single moment but I'm not so good about putting the phone down when I'm home alone or travelling etc. A work in progress.

But actually, it's been really therapeutic typing these out - a good starting point for some half year resolutions....do let me know what yours are in the comments below (or via email/Social DM)

Ax
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Wednesday, 10 July 2019

My hush SS19 Sale Picks | Style

I love hush but I rarely buy anything there full price....instead I hold fire until the 50% sale and then strike. Yeah, I miss out on some things but usually I score a few pieces from my wishlist and the satisfaction of getting the bargain makes up for anything I miss.
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Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Clarins Rise & Shine Wellness Treatment | Beauty

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This week I was invited to review one of the two new Clarins Wellness Treatments - the Rise and Shine (the other one is the Beauty Sleep) at the Clarins Spa in House of Fraser, Belfast. These 1hr 25min treatments are all about reclaiming a bit of me-time away from a busy lifestyle and they're a welcome departure from an increasingly aesthetics-driven therapy space. Beauty comes from within and massage is a huge driver of skin health so has an important part to play in this surface beauty focussed world. As well as promoting skin health and clearing the body of toxins, massage also promotes wellbeing for the body and mind. 
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Sunday, 7 July 2019

A Short Break in London with Older Kids | Travel

Last week the twins (age 10) and I headed to London for 3 days (2 nights) to see what we could squeeze into this time on a budget. I'm pretty familiar with the city myself having visited relatives several times as a child and with many work and leisure trips as a grown up. I have particularly strong memories of a visit with my dad and sister doing all the touristy things when I was about the same age as the twins so I was excited to recreate these memories for my girls.

1. Where to Stay?
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Wednesday, 26 June 2019

M&S Try On | Sale Preview

I was in my local M&S this week with some time on my hands so I did a bit of a try on and thought I'd share it here with the links because the word on the street is that the sale starts on Friday 28th...with some people getting preview access from late on the 26th June (today) so you might find seeing the items on me helpful if you're trying to decide what to pick up in the sale.
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Monday, 24 June 2019

Race Day Style | Down Royal Racecourse

Emer Dooris and Jeff Meredith - my Race Day companions!
[AD] paid collaboration with Down Royal Racecourse
Saturday saw me glam up on a trip to Ladies Day at Down Royal Racecourse, just outside Belfast. It was the second day of the Summer Festival of Racing and I was excited to see all the style - there was a prize fund worth £3,500 for the winner and finalist in the Best Dressed competition. 
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Thursday, 20 June 2019

My Brazilian Blow Out | 12 Weeks On

It's been 12 weeks since I had my Brazilian Blow Out at Rogue by Jody and I've been inundated with questions asking me how I've gotten on with it and whether I'd recommend it and have it done again....
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Tuesday, 11 June 2019

5 things you'll never buy once you make them yourself...

I'm lying low at the moment with a chesty cough so I thought I'd make use of my time and clear out some of the 'draft' blog posts that I've never got around to finishing. There are about 15 of them that for various reasons haven't seen the light of day. Some are controversial and I'm not brave enough to post them (the one about using your kids on instagram for instance!), others started off well and didn't go anywhere...and then there was this one. The reason it didn't get published is that I could only think of 4 things...until today when I remembered my amazing Pavlova recipe. So here you go....a digression from dresses and shoes. I hope you enjoy!
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Sunday, 9 June 2019

Father's Day | The Kids Takeover in M&S

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This blog post is about what we bought our Daddy in Marks and Spencer for Father's Day. Mum was given a gift voucher by the people in M&S but we were allowed spend it and she couldn't tell us what to buy.
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Saturday, 8 June 2019

Can a fashion blogger have an opinion? | Blog Stuff

Recently on the blog I was chastised for having an opinion about the Northern Ireland local elections. I used my Instagram story platform to encourage people to get out and vote and in the sequence of stories, referred to my frustrations with the currently useless government (or the lack thereof) in Northern Ireland. I used the word bigoted.

The person who took offence at this told me that they follow me for fashion and beauty commentary and that I shouldn't use my voice to discuss political matters, especially whenever my view was a strong one. Specifically I was told I shouldn't have used the word bigot. When I suggested that person might be better unfollowing me if it was such a problem (probably not the best response in retrospect) things escalated to the extent that the person told me they would report me to the brands I work with.

In the end, I deleted the stories and apologised for my rudeness. But it's irked me since that I was silenced. That I was told to stay in my fashion box and not dare to have a view about anything that's unrelated to dresses and shoes. That my reputation as an honest and transparent blogger could be damaged. The crux of it was that if I was earning money and 'getting free stuff', I need to behave in a certain way to be deserving of this.
(On an aside, there's no such thing as 'free stuff'...but that's for another blog post)

So it all got me thinking, once you earn money and work with brands on a blog, do you have to dumb down your content to a people pleasing, non-controversial level? 

To be fair, I usually don't tackle big issues on my content - I don't ever refer to things that hit the news. I actually think that a lot of modern day anxiety is because we hear every single awful story from all over the world on a constant reel. It's good to be aware of what's going on but it's ever present for us nowadays. Not very many years ago, you'd read it in the paper or see it on the news but you'd not have thousands of sad stories shared on a constant feed. You'd not get every person's perspective on an event - the ordinary people who's lives are ruined forever by what's happened or the people who witnessed it.
We're forever hearing about children getting sick, young husbands and wives dying tragically and unexpectedly, people's holidays being ruined by terrorist attacks or accidents. That 'don't worry because 99% of what you worry about will never happen' starts to feel more like 99% of it WILL happen. We are naturally hardwired to be empathetic but I think at the levels we're having to feel empathy nowadays, the amount of times we have to think 'oh my how awful', we're actually in an anxiety space where we're afraid it might happen to us.

So I stay well away from that space - not because of working with brands or because I don't have a view and feel empathy. I don't follow the fashion-focused bloggers I follow to be further reminded of a terrorist attack in a city near me. I equally don't think said fashion blogger is a heartless person for not mentioning it (I've been accused of this too).

But when it comes to positive action - like voting,  I feel strongly that I SHOULD use my voice to encourage people. We had two sets of elections in Northern Ireland in May and I was shocked at how many of my educated friends had opted out of voting in the first round of elections because they felt it wouldn't make a difference. It made me so sad...in a time when we don't have a government because of bigoted politicians on both sides, that people would just opt out. Be passive and accepting of what's going on. Allow polarised parties to continue to be in control and not compromise one bit.

I was shot down by someone who had a polarising opinion. I was silenced for having a compromising, middle of the road view on the situation. The person possibly gauged from my words who I'd likely voted for and perhaps didn't like it. I might have rushed to defend myself when I was challenged and come across as being rude in my reply but a few weeks on, I realise I was wrong, SO wrong to delete my story and apologise. I feel ashamed that I let this person bully me into doing it. If a brand doesn't want to work with me because I think some of the politics in this county is bigoted, then that's just fine. I don't want to work with that brand.

And on that, challenge me on my opinions, give your opinion, disagree with me. Both on this post and on anything I put on social channels. Bring on the discussion - it's the only way we can all co-exist. None of us should feel forced to keep our constructive opinions to ourselves or to voice our frustrations because our country has had no government for 873 days (as at the 8th June) and that in that time, MLA's salaries have totalled over £10m.

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Friday, 7 June 2019

What I've been Wearing | Style

A later than usual update (where are the weeks going to?!) but hopefully it's worth it! Here's what I've been wearing lately...with a heavy dash of green and some great walls!!
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Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Things I do now I'm older Part 2 | Hair

One of the most frequent questions I'm asked on the blog is about my hair. It seems we all struggle with what's on our heads, products, cut, colour etc. So in my second 'Things I do' post, I'm covering off the 5 things that I swear by for my hair.

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Thursday, 30 May 2019

Wedding Guest Dressing from JD Williams | AD

JD Williams have asked me to work with them again this month and this time the brief is Occasion Wear - helping you to find something fabulous to wear to those occasions that don't come around too often but seem to take up waaaay too much 'what am I going to wear' time and effort!
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Thursday, 16 May 2019

A M&S Try On | Style

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As part of my regular collaboration with M&S, I paid a visit to the Sprucefield store yesterday because let's face it, it's lovely to order online but nothing beats getting into the shop and trying before you buy....and I'd spotted some great dresses when I was in getting food last week and didn't have time to try on.
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Wednesday, 15 May 2019

What I've been Wearing | Style

[Some affiliate links used. Gifted items marked]
At last, another outfit catch up post. I try to do these every fortnight but I swear the time between those two weeks seems to get shorter and shorter! I think the combination of a busy period in work and 4th year exams both played a part this month. Work is still busy but the exams are all done now...roll on the GCSE's!!

Before I share the outfits, I want to thank everyone who got in touch with ideas and suggestions for London. I'm so grateful and thanks to all your messages, we now have a jam-packed itinerary for each day, discounted tickets to a show in the West End AND a couple of amazing view options without the cost of the Shard or the London Eye. I will blog about it all I promise...I know lots of you will find it really helpful too.
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Friday, 10 May 2019

The Perfect Mix of Trend and Comfort from Fitflop | Style

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The white trainer trend is going nowhere and they've become the go-to footwear choice for so many of us because they're so easy to wear and work equally well with jeans and dresses.

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Thursday, 2 May 2019

7 Heroes every Wardrobe Needs | JD Williams | AD

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Wardrobe Heroes are those go-to items in that every woman needs in her closet - the items that work hard for you. For me, I know my wardrobe heroes because they're the things that I have more than one of. They're guaranteed to get lots of wear and it's important to have back ups - at least that's my excuse...so when JD Williams asked me to find 7 Wardrobe Heroes in their SS19 collection, I was keen to take on the challenge. I like that as a company, they're committed to changing how the world views fashion for women over 45. This is important as there aren't many brands out there focusing exclusively on this demographic. As part of their mission, they're declaring so-long to ill-fitting sizes, limited options, and one-shape-fits-all, and championing stylish, affordable, well-fitting products. Would I find this to be the case when my selections arrived?
The Wardrobe Heroes I selected are as follows:
Starting with the Midi Shirt Dress which is the perfect length on me. I'm not a massive fan of your typical midi length, preferring instead something that comes in at a 'mid-axi' kind of length. Just looks more flattering on my frame.
The fabric composition is Viscose, Cotton and Linen, making it lovely for warmer days. It's got enough linen to give it a crisp clean look but not so much that you end up a crumpled mess when you wear it all day. I actually could have worn it straight out of the delivery bag - I only ironed it briefly to get the collar sitting right.
Midi Shirt Dress
Black Flat Slider Sandals
I paired it simply for this first look with my second Wardrobe Hero - the Black Slider Sandals
 and these are such a find. They're close in look to a couple of others I shared on my sandal blog post last week and a fraction of the price. Made from real leather, they have a croc effect finish and cream stitching. Size wise, go up with these ones as they're neat.
Second look now and I'm sticking with the dress but this time I'm adding Wardrobe Hero number 3 - trainers. I'm asked ALL the time where to find a well priced plain white leather trainer and these are on the money. No go faster stripes or leopard, crystals or stars - these are understated and classic and pretty much perfect. They come up on the big side so size down if you're in-between.
White Leather Trainers
Biker Jacket (similar to my own on link)
Leopard Bag (similar to my own on link)
My third look sees me adding the 4th Wardrobe Hero, Infinity 4-Way Stretch Black Skinny Jeans. I'm wearing the size 10R in these and they really are a great fit. The website says they are the most comfortable jeans you will ever own and that they won't lose their shape after one wear or sit too low on the waist. I couldn't work out what it was about them that worked for me until I read the website blurb - they're cut higher at the back! Absolutely great for pear shapes - there's no gap on the back when you sit down and I've not needed a belt when wearing them. I would probably like them tighter around the ankle but I've been wearing them turned up anyway. That's more of an issue when wearing them with ankle boots. Fit wise, I'm wearing the 10R and they come to my belly button so aren't super high waist - perfect for a half tuck.
Black Vest (my own)
For this look, I wanted to demonstrate how great a fully opening shirt dress is. You can totally change the look by wearing it kimono style over skinny jeans and actually, I've done this look in warmer weather over a pair of denim shorts too. Not brave enough for that one this weekend.

My 5th Wardrobe Hero is this classic grey sweatshirt with the added bonus of ticking another one of my Wardrobe Hero boxes - leopard print! These sleeves add a gorgeous feminine edge to this sweatshirt and are a perfect nod to the animal print trend without being too OTT. They're made from a blouse material whereas the rest of the sweatshirt is a soft jersey. It works great under a blazer and I'm also keen to dress it up with a midi skirt.
Grey Sweatshirt with Leopard

Sticking with the skinny jeans and white trainers, my 6th Wardrobe Hero is a slogan t-shirt  I really like this one - it's simple monochrome and hasn't got a controversial message. A perfect way to dip your toe into this trend. Such a youthful way to dress down a blazer.
White Slogan T-Shirt
Black Blazer (similar to mine)
I added my own red bag to this but there's similar colour pop bag on the link above. Any colour would work - blue/green/yellow. It just lifts the monochrome colour palette and makes for a much more interesting outfit.

Last outfit and last Wardrobe Hero - a cami top. I wear these lots over the warmer months, especially on nights out under a blazer. They're also great worn with denim shorts on hot days. Loose, floaty and flattering over the tummy area - what more could you ask? There are tons of colours and prints in this particular cami top but I opted for the animal print to tie in with my Wardrobe Hero colour palette. I'm wearing a 10 and I love that it's got a snug fit on the décolletage so you don't flash anything when you bend over (it's the little things!). I'm wearing my usual strapless bra underneath....always invest in a good one of these and look after it. I've had mine for 3 years now and it's still going strong.
Nude Heels (similar to mine on link)
Black Clutch (similar to mine on link)

So there you go! That's my 7 hard working hero pieces that I know will mix and match so well with other items from my wardrobe all summer long and beyond. I'm wearing the grey sweatshirt with blue faded jeans and a darker pair of trainers today - I think it's my favourite of the 7.

Thanks so much for reading and thanks to JD Williams for inviting me to collaborate on this. I was gifted the items I featured and I was paid for the time and effort spent creating this blog post and the social media content over on my Instagram account. All my links are affiliate links which means JD Williams know you came to their website from this blog post.

Ax

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Tuesday, 30 April 2019

What I've been Wearing | Life Lately | Style

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And just like that, the Easter holidays were over....the kids only went back today (Tuesday) but they're off again on Thursday for the elections and then again on Monday for the Bank Holiday. I have a feeling this term is going to fly by.
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Monday, 29 April 2019

An Honest Skincare Review | Beauty

I've harped on about Epionce skincare for a LONG time now. I've been using the products for about 3 years and they've made a massive difference to my skin. They're not cheap though and so every now and again, I take the opportunity to try out other brands. In my head I think it's a good way to give my skin a chance to try other ingredients or formulations but apart from in one case*, it's always been a regret.
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Monday, 22 April 2019

The Sandal you won't take off all Summer

So every year around this time I look for my investment leather sandals for the summer. Last year’s pair are looking quite good so I’m not going to buy a pair this year (yet) but when I wore my olon Instagram the other day so many people asked me where to get something similar. You see, they're the kind of sandal you'll not want to take off ALL summer. I know because I buy a pair every year and I wear them to death. Literally. They rarely get put away for the winter because they are done by the end of the summer. 
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Monday, 8 April 2019

What I've Been Wearing | Style | Life Lately

[AD - some affiliate links used/existing commercial arrangement with M&S]
I'm a week late with my outfit post, mainly because I took so few photos in the last couple of weeks...and life's busy as always. There's something about the end of March - it takes an age to get here and then, bang, you're in April and suddenly every school concert, GB display and sports event hits. My social life is not my own until sometime in mid June.

Starting with a workwear outfit from last week which was a surprise hit on Instagram. I don't look at stats on Insta and have no strategy in terms of when or what I post yet some take off and others don't. My view on it is that you can't play Instagram and I reckon they reward randomness on the algorithm-just fire the pictures out whenever you get a chance. I should really run an Instagram course sometime....
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Monday, 1 April 2019

The Original Brazilian 12 Week Blow-dry | Rogue by Jody

This has been a much requested post and a topic I get questions about on a weekly basis. About 2 years ago, I had a semi permanent blow-dry done in a salon in Belfast. You can read about it on this post but unfortunately the salon is closed now and there's no-one else in Belfast (that I know of) using the same treatment.
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Friday, 22 March 2019

M&S Gift Ideas....for Mother's Day and just because | AD

[paid collaboration/gifts/affiliate links]
As part of my regular collaboration with M&S, I was invited to pick some items that I think would make great Mother's Day gifts. Now I love Mother's Day as much as the next mum (I mean, breakfast in bed?) but every year when I'm asked to do a post like this I'm conscious of friends who have lost their mums or who have complicated relationships with them, friends who would have made amazing mothers but for whom life didn't work out that way. All told, it feels like a difficult one to blog about without making some people I know (and many more I don't) feel sad. 
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Thursday, 21 March 2019

What I've been Wearing | Style

[ad-some gifted items marked & some affiliate links]
The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind - we've definitely reached that stage in the year when the weeks start to fly in. I didn't get a photo every day but I did on the days worth sharing....starting with the loveliest trip to Newcastle to the Slieve Donard Hotel for the Walk in Wardrobe SS19 Brunch, an event I was kindly invited to by the owner, Laura.
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Saturday, 9 March 2019

Rocking the Nana Pants | Style

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The background to this post is that as part of my regular M&S collaboration, I was challenged to style up something from the Classic range. Now before you brace yourself, I'm using the pants term in a US context - it just sounded better to say Nana Pants than Nana Trousers. 
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Friday, 8 March 2019

What I've been Wearing | Style

AD - Gifted Product where indicated
Back with an outfit update and it co-incided with some of the lovely weather we had recently. Bare legs all round - definitely not the case this weekend!
The first outfit was a work outfit that I turned to a casual one with the addition of trainers. The orange blouse is from Warehouse and I bought it after my recent personal shopping session with Katherin in Victoria Square. Just adore the colour...
Biker Jacket - Topshop via eBay
Culottes - Warehouse (past season)
Trainers - Nike (current) - wearing a men's size 6
Bag - Hush (AW18 sample sale)

More culottes and more trainers...this time slip on ones that I snapped up in the Honey Lisburn Road sale. They're from the Kendall & Kylie range that despite the connection (I'm not a big Karsashian fan, can you tell?!), are actually super stylish and really well made. They retail at the higher end of the price point so it was a bonus to find them on the sale rail for less than £50.
The t-shirt and scarf are from River Island but the menswear section! I was hanging around while the teenager tried on some hoodies and came across both. It's hard to find a gorgeous scarf with khaki in it but this is it - and a bargain to boot!
Culottes - preloved Part Two
Handbag - hush as before

Another casual outfit using the Kendall & Kylie trainers from above and a pleather skirt from M&S that I found in DejaVu recently.
Skirt & jacket - preloved
Shoes - as before
Scarf - hush (AW18 sale)

Back to workwear and this dress is from a couple of seasons ago at H&M. It's got a heron print all over with yellow detail so my Marc O'Polo scarf works well with it.
Dress - H&M
Biker - Topshop via eBay
Boots - Seven Boot Lane (AW17) GIFT
Scarf - Marc O'Polo (AW18)

Night out now with the girls and it was a casual and walkable one so I wore my new Holly trainers from M&S along with some wardrobe favourites.
Jeans - MiH (preloved)
Bag - Boden

In a dress next and this was the day the weather turned...I was freezing in this outfit and it quickly escalated to soaked and freezing. But I loved it and I'll always happily suffer for my style!
Jacket, Bag & Trainers - as before
Dress - M&S (AW18) GIFT

Back to work now and I went for classic stripes with some gorgeous navy trousers I got in the Harrison sale the other week. I'd tried them on in black a few months ago in Jude Law Boutique in Magherafelt and regretted not buying them but I think I prefer them in navy. Navy trousers can look a bit frumpy sometimes but not these - they have a cute frill running down the side and are cut in an on-trend jogging trouser style. 
Breton Top - M&S (affiliate link)
Trousers - Great Plains
Boots - as before

Finishing with a final work look - it looks casual but once I've the biker jacket off, the fine knit is very much work appropriate (I work in a business casual environment which works out quite flexible for women, I'm finding). I adore this skirt - a complete find in DejaVu on the Lisburn Road a few weeks ago. I seem to be unable to go in there without buying...
Skirt - M&S from DejaVu
Jacket, Scarf, Boots - all as before.

And there's my fortnightly update done for another fortnight. It's kind of scary how quickly these posts come around. Where are the weeks going?

I've not much to share in terms of a life lately piece. Work has been much busier as the project I'm working on has lots of deadlines and decisions coming up so I've been working 4 days instead of my usual 3. That leaves less time for my other bits and pieces I do from home (social media for a couple of other small businesses/blog projects) and I'm not exaggerating when I say my house is a tip. I'm going to dedicate some time to getting it back in order this Saturday, motivated by the fact that I'm away on Sunday morning to an event and an overnight stay in a hotel. I'm really looking forward to some downtime with one of my friends but as you all know, this comes at a price for a mum....cue much cooking and laundry right up until I leave on Sunday! 
You can see the action as it happens (from the event, not my house cleaning!) over on Instagram, including the wearing of my new Phase Eight dress!

Have a lovely weekend and I'll be back soon!
Ax
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Thursday, 7 March 2019

REVIEW - Seven Seas Perfect7® Renewal | Beauty | Ad

Towards the end of last year, I was asked by Seven Seas if I would take part in a 60-day trial of their latest innovation, Perfect7® Renewal. The product is a UK first with a unique formulation using ceramosides™ for more hydrated looking skin from within.
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Monday, 4 March 2019

The Perfect Foundation for Older Skin | Beauty

As you get older, like your skincare, you need to change your foundation. Heavier, oil free brands make way for more luminous, moisturising formulations, better suited to mature skin. And I've been trying to find that magic new foundation for quite a while. It's a saga - grab a coffee - but it does have an outcome and a few suggestions along the way that you might find useful.. Because what didn't work for me might work great for you - foundation is so skin specific which is why there are a gazillion brands and formulations in the market.

The main frustration for me in my search though hasn't just been finding a product I like, it's been finding one that then doesn't get discontinued. Three times I've found one that works for me...and three times the product has been discontinued.

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Sunday, 3 March 2019

SS19 Occasion Wear at Phase Eight | Style

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You might remember that I went into Phase Eight last summer to use the complimentary personal styling service and tried on lots of lovely occasion wear. There was such a great reaction to that post that the team in the Victoria Square store invited me in again this season to do another try on and it suited well as I have a lovely event coming up next week that I was struggling to dress for.
Up front, I'm not expected to blog about this try on but I am asked so often about occasion wear so I thought it would be good to have the photos saved onto the blog for future reference - many of these dresses will be available to buy for the next 2-3 months. You can also see the video of the try on over on my Instagram highlights - really helps to get a feel for the movement of the dresses.
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Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Things I do now I'm older Part 1 | Personal Shopping

There are 5 things I've started doing now I'm older...and I've realised that many of the questions I get via the blog and social media relate back to these things. So I'm going to do 5 separate blog posts over the coming weeks to talk about each one. Today's is Personal Shopping/Styling.

The biggest game changer for me since I hit my 40's is discovering the benefits of going to a personal shopper/stylist and I'm amazed more women don't do it.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Holly's Must Haves - The Denim Edit | Style | Ad

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Once again, I've been in to try on the new Holly Willoughby range at M&S ahead of the launch and I've been working hard since my visit to get this post ready to go live at the same time as her range drops onto the website so that you are armed with my honest opinions (and you get to see that boiler suit tried on!!) before purchasing online.
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Saturday, 23 February 2019

Getting Back into the Workplace | FAQ's

I mentioned a while back that I would write a post about my experience of getting back into the workplace proper after long break. I've done bits and pieces of social media work on a part time basis over recent years but this is my first time back in a role similar to what I used to do before the twins were born. When I talked about it on an earlier post, I had so many emails and messages from women who wanted to reignite their careers but didn't know how to. So here goes - I'm not sure if this will help massively because so much of the jobs game is about luck, timing and connections and no two situations will be the same. It's taken me an age to write it but hopefully bit and pieces of it will help a few of you out there.

I'm conscious that there are many of you reading this who never took more than the bare minimum off work and who work full time juggling work and home. Career vs Kids is such an emotive subject especially if you don't have a choice in the matter for financial or other reasons. It's a massive privilege to be able to stay at home with your kids and to have the choice to go back to work. Equally there are many reading who regret giving up their career and may feel envious of women who didn't, who are now flourishing in the workplace in their 40's. We're all in different situations and every woman out there is doing her best. No judgement. I've personally done all three - full time mum, full time working mum, part time working mum and I couldn't chose between them - they're all difficult and rewarding in their own ways.

Confidence
What I've found speaking to friends and reading your emails and messages is that the main barrier to going back to the workplace to do what you did before kids, is confidence. This can be for a few reasons. Some of us had a bad experience when we worked before. Maybe it was the motivator for you to leave. Others feel they've spent too long in a caring role to be able to function in an office environment again.

Confidence is your willingness to try....this was so helpful to read recently. Confidence is like a muscle - sometimes you have to get out there and push it to make it stronger. 

Like exercise, you can start to grow that confidence muscle with just one baby step. It's not about actually getting the job, that one step might just be sitting down with your computer and typing that word CV on the top of a page. Or calling out to a friend or an expert whom you know can help you with this because like exercise, it helps to have positive encouragement behind you from a coach, a friend or a life partner.

If you're really struggling, ask around for coaching recommendations. I had a session last year with Hollie from The Freedom Method and while it wasn't career specific, she did help me tease out what motivates me in my work life and it really helped focus my mind. She also helped me recognise my strengths and see the time I spent out of the workplace as a positive in that regard.

Shouting it out
Once you've decided you're ready to start looking, I urge you to call it out. Tell your friends, mention it on social media. Drop friends and ex-colleagues a friendly email asking them to keep you in mind if they hear of anything. Start a Linked-In profile and reconnect with work colleagues from way back when. So many temporary and contract roles are filled by word of mouth and if people don't know you're looking, they won't think of you when something comes up that needs filled fast. And a temporary job so often becomes a permanent one.

Applying for a job
Of course, while waiting for all the lovely referrals from friend and family, you'll have to start searching online applying for all the jobs that fit the bill. After a break, especially one as long as I had, you might have to pitch a bit lower initially and accept less money than you were hoping for, just to get your foot in the door. Also, don't get hung up on essential criteria - if you think you come close to meeting them, give the job a go. I was told recently that men are more inclined to disregard the criteria specifics and apply anyway in the hope that they can wing it at interview!

Register with a few agencies so that they come to you immediately if a suitable role comes to them but don't get too excited about any roles you see advertised online by agencies. My experience is that they're not great at updating online adverts and I came across so many that were already closed or even filled!

For that reason, I favour roles that are advertised directly by the hiring company. If you see something on an agency's site and it indicates who the employer is, go and look on the employer's website to see if you can apply directly.

When it comes to applications, there are still lots of companies that take a CV and covering letter. But it's become more commonplace to have to complete a competency based application form and in these situations you mustn't forget to answer to all of the essential criteria or you won't get an interview. Even if your application form has already detailed that you have a degree or 3 A-Levels in the education section...you will still have to talk about it again on the criteria section if it's one of the essential ones.

I can't say too much about interviews as I've only had one recently. I used a google list of typical interview questions and another google list of good questions to ask as an interviewee. I made a note of examples where I demonstrated the criteria  - initiative, leadership, team work etc - and brought them with me written down in a notebook, which I referred to a couple of times. And I smiled lots....I think that helps a bit!! No one wants a gurney bake opposite them in the office :)

Job hunting is a numbers game and you'll get better at the process the more you apply so keep at it and as difficult as it is, don't take the rejections personally.

Starting a new job
The practicalities of starting back in an office are another source of worry in your messages to me. With a good manager and team, you will adapt to your new surroundings quickly. Being in an office and being a full time carer are not greatly different. Negotiating, planning, communicating, finding ways around things and working hard. Only difference is in an office, you'll have peace to drink that coffee...and adult conversation.

Yes, you're going to struggle with the basics of logging in to a PC, working out how to do a spreadsheet again....and using printers hasn't gotten any easier in 10 years. Thankfully, I had a patient and knowledgeable 21-year old placement student to answer my endless questions and I had a manager who was clear in her expectations of me and the role for the first few weeks. It all really helped me to find my feet. I will assure you that not much has changed in the world of Windows since I was last in an office - 2 days in, and I was flying!


Coping when the going gets tough
And that's the thing - the first few weeks are actually comparatively easy because you're learning. People are making allowances for you and helping you. It's when you're a few months in that shit gets real. I've had a particularly difficult couple of weeks because I moved onto a new project and was struggling to get my head around it all. The goalposts were shifting and my manager wasn't available to help me. 

But it's back to the confidence thing again...it needed another kick up the backside to shift to the next level. I was so encouraged by lots of funny comments and DM's on Instagram where you told me you also felt like you were winging it every day and that this is ok. It's about reminding yourself every day that you've got this - you can do it....
......and perfecting the 'I am in control' face for meetings. 

What to wear
And finally....what on earth to wear. It's all business casual these days and it's a flipping nightmare! I've been relying on pleated or pencil skirts & jumpers, all worn with ankle boots or brogues but beyond that, I was really struggling - especially with trousers. So I set up a session with Katherin Farries at Victoria Square and she got me 3 pairs of work perfect smart casual trousers. Do consider asking for help from a stylist. Katherin does 1 hour express sessions ideal for this kind of thing.

A few tips beyond that:
  • If in doubt, dress up a bit. Always better to be over than under dressed. 
  • Don't show your toes in work. I have a MASSIVE bugbear about this - it looks so unprofessional.
  • Watch for cleavage and transparency of your tops. If in doubt, wear a vest
  • Another thing that hasn't changed in big offices is air conditioning...it's SO temperamental. Layers for the win - cardigans or light knits over a blouse are ideal.

Finally..,
I've not sussed it - I'm absolutely winging it in every respect. Down to writing this blog post in a convincing way. My house is a tip since I started and I have moments of panic every day when I think I can't do this. And I'm only part time in the office - though I am doing a day of self employed work too. But I keep reminding myself that I CAN do it....or at the very least, I'll do what I can and wing the rest.

Please do get in touch if you have any further questions or want to add to this blog post...you can comment below or email my on avril@alifetostyle.com.

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