10 Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas | Shopping

With just over a week to go, I thought I'd gather together some present ideas from across a few different brands and businesses, small and large, local and further afield. Just a random mish mash of things that I like and some lovely small businesses. I hope it gives you a few ideas if you're stuck for that someone special...


Christmas Jumpers from M&S | Model & Me | AD

For my monthly collaboration with M&S, I was tasked with trying on all of the Christmas jumpers...because we all need a great Christmas Jumper at this time of the year and the great thing about them is that you can wear them year after year - you only really need to buy well once and you've got it forever.


Self Tanning 101 | FAQ

I'm asked all the time about self tanning - advice on what products to use, how to apply and how to remove. Other FAQ's include smell issues, winter tanning and temporary versus longer term tans and spray tans.


What I'm buying on Black Friday | Shopping

(some affiliate links used #ad-affiliate)
Black Friday has its haters and I know where they're coming from but broadly speaking I don't think it's a bad thing. For a last minute dot com shopper like me, it's a good push to get some Christmas shopping started and I do tend to pick up a few things that I'd have left to the last minute otherwise. It's also a great opportunity to pick up the things you buy regularly at a discounted price AND to buy items that are higher in price point and perhaps for an occasion - it's a great time to pick up a dress or a coat.
With this in mind, here's what I'm looking at this Black Friday...


A Shopping Trip to Omagh | AD

Have you ever thought about a shopping day trip to Omagh? Last week I was invited up to the town by 9 local businesses and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. The task for me on the day was to showcase the town as a venue for a day trip by sharing a selection of the businesses in the town - food, interiors and fashion. And it really is just a selection because there were many businesses and shops I walked past but didn't have time to share.


The M&S Coat Edit | Life Lately

AD - Affiliate links
Back to fashion (that's my blog rant stuff done for another wee while!) and for my monthly collaboration with M&S, I'm all about the coats. Which is a fortunate one as I'm not really fit for trying on much more than that at the moment...but more on that in a bit.

Despite negative press this week - and remember M&S are not alone with the high street struggles - I still maintain that they're changing for the best with the recent personnel re-shuffle on the clothing side of things. It's a massive business that will take a few seasons to find its feet but it's still my favourite high street shop. The challenge for the entire high street remains that they have to offer something that is better than what you get online and that's tricky now that deliveries are so often fast and free. For me, I love the experience of going in-store. The team in Sprucefield (where I spend most of my M&S dollah) are so friendly and helpful and I never go there without meeting someone I know that I've not seen for ages. On my trip today, I met Conor, the Belfast Food Blogger and his wife Lauren and daughter Lily. I also bumped into Jocelyn from Orchid Lingerie on the Lisburn Road (and Dungannon) so it was actually a real tonic for me after the week I've had!

But I digress - back to the coats and there is so much to love this season. I have a weakness for coats anyway but I was genuinely so impressed with the range I tried on....and there were plenty more I didn't try because my size wasn't available and because I ran out of steam..

So starting with this teddy coat - an absolute find! This colour is simply perfect. It's like a mix of brown, black and grey and it fits beautifully. So cosy and fully lined. 
Next up and I keep trying on this colour of coat - love the rust shade but I feel like I wouldn't wear my camel coat as much if I had it. Adore the shape of it and love how it works with the grey shades I'm wearing today.
Same kind of shade in a shorter fit with more of a boucle fit. This is a really well priced coat and it ticks lots of trend boxes. Great on a more petite frame as it's not as long as many of the others in stock at the moment.
This next coat is very like my Topshop one that I wear so much each winter. It's a lovely animal print effect with shades of black and grey through it so it's much more wearable than the brown/tan leopard print and a bit less Bet Lynch!
A pop of colour next and this is very similar to the famous purple coat from AW18 but it's in a much more wearable plum shade. There are a few other colours on the link. It's got a dolman/dropped shoulder effect going on so size down.
Another shorter one - this is a boucle effect double breasted coat from Per Una in a lovely duck egg blue. It's not a great colour on me but perfect for a spring colour palette.
Checks are everywhere this season too - I've actually tried this one on before because I LOVE the colours - perfect for a soft and warm palette. This comes up big - I'm wearing the size 6!
This wax-effect coat has been selling strongly and although I wasn't that drawn to it on the hanger, I was so impressed when I tried it on. Love the country/equestrian vibe and it's a gorgeous cut. The colour is another fab neutral winter shade - somewhere between a burgundy and a brown.
Next up, total comfort here in this duvet style coat. It comes in 4 colours but this was the only shade that was left in a size 10. I prefer the green shade on the link....adore the oversized shape. For info, it's polyester filled.
This is a more fitted padded coat and this time it's down filled. It does come with a belt but I have taken it off for these photos to see what it looks like without. I tend to wear my coats open and belts just annoy me! This is softer than the one above and SO warm. You can feel the heat as soon as you put it on..
And one last padded one - loved the colour of this one but it's really neat fitting so I couldn't zip up the 8. Definitely size up on this one. It's got wrist warmer details, taped zips and stormwear technology to keep you dry and cosy. It's poly filled for info.
Another casual one that I spotted on my way out. It's a classic parka that's faux fur this colour way.
And a final couple of things that I spotted on my way out. This Autograph coat caught my eye at the press show recently but it was only left in stock in bigger sizes. Love the mix of red and camel.
There were also some gorgeous leather cross body bags - I've been asked a few times about slightly bigger ones and these next two are great well-priced options:
Oh and worry not if you wanted an M&S Advent Calendar and saw that they're sold out online - there are plenty in-store in Sprucefield. Selling strongly but still a couple of week's worth left.
So that's it from the shopping side of things and it just leaves me to give you a little bit of a life update. I've been on my back literally for the past week because I injured it again last weekend. There was thankfully no referred leg or nerve pain so I was back moving pretty quick once I got the pain under control on Tuesday. Down to just anti-inflammatories now and hoping to ease off them in the coming days. It's a good reminder to get back to the gym as I've been slacking off in that department for the past few months. 

As always, being self employed is a blessing and a curse at these times. I can take a week off without answering to anyone but there's no income! I also had to cancel a few freelance gigs, including a try on in a gorgeous local boutique. There was just no way I could have done my usual strip off and try on which has been my cardio most weeks recently!! I'm hoping to do one this coming week - it's a bit closer to home and I'll bring some help so I don't over do it! 

Also next week, I'm helping my friend Clodagh who owns Honey on the Lisburn Road with a customer event on Thursday night. It won't require much from me except to meet and greet and give a bit of a chat around the fashion show. I'm really looking forward to it as her stock at the moment is beautiful. I'll be eyeing up some potential Christmas gifts because there will be some discount on the night. If you're local and would like to come along, you can register to attend on this link (purely for numbers and also for the prize draw on the night!). There will be Muff gin for everyone attending excuses!
Apart from that, like many other local readers, I'm an AQE mum this month so that's keeping things busy at home. My twins will sit three exams over three different Saturdays in November to determine which grammar school they go to. It used to be a single 11+ exam but Northern Ireland being Northern Ireland, we like to complicate matters. Roll on December!!

I'll be back with a bit of an outfit update shortly...speak soon!



Part 3 | A dose of reality | Why Influencer Marketing Works

So here's the I read back over my two blog posts from last weekend and following conversations with PR's and brands, as well as a few bloggers, I kept coming back to the annoying realisation....that no matter what, Influencer Marketing, as much as so many of you tell me you dislike it, still works.



I asked on Instagram what people REALLY think about Influencer Marketing | Part 2 | Brands & PR Companies

And now for blog post number two where I share the feedback I received when I asked on Instagram what brands and PR agencies should do differently when it comes to influencer marketing.

I asked on Instagram what people REALLY think about Influencer Marketing | Part 1 | Bloggers

It’s the blog post I promised. To give some context to those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram, I asked on Friday for some honest feedback about influencer marketing. A friend of mine had called me out on a couple of brand things that I was involved in recently – in a lovely honest way - but it brought back to me something I've been mulling over for more than a year now. If a friend who supports me in everything I do is questioning it, has influencer marketing finally had its day in its current form? Are the majority of people simply fed up with endless group events and gifting en masse, unboxings and trips away and is this style of influencer marketing in fact negatively impacting the brands it is supposed to be promoting?


Excel Clothing - 25% off for 1 Day Only

Last Monday, I went into local boutique, Excel Clothing in Bangor to do one of my try-ons. It was great timing as I was hosting a fashion show for them at the weekend and it was a chance for me to see and try some of their gorgeous AW19 arrivals.
I was blown away by the selection and it was so lovely to meet the owner Gillian. She's an expert buyer and has her finger on the pulse of retail. Loved talking to her and loved trying on...but then I got wind this week that there's a 1 day, in store only, offer for 25% off everything - this Saturday, 25th October.


What I've Been Wearing 14 | Style

Another update on my outfits recently...transitional dressing is in full swing this month! Starting with a recent one from this week. It was one of those mornings when you wake up late and can't think what to wear. But I had a couple of meetings and it was my son's school prize giving so I had to make a bit of an effort!! So I called on all the wardrobe basics....


How to Detox your Wardrobe in 5 Easy Steps

Last week saw me do a long overdue Wardrobe Detox on my own wardrobe....and it reminded me to re-write and publish my 5 step approach to tackling your own. It's really easy - all you need is to set aside about 3 hours (ha, I hear you say...but you can also break it up into chunks as I did...2 hours in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon). Like everything that takes time, it's well worth every minute and I can't overestimate how amazing it makes you feel.


Sofa Workshop & Dwell in Belfast DFS | Interiors | AD

Last weekend I was invited to visit Belfast's newest interiors destination on Boucher Road. With significant investment and creating up to twenty jobs between them, sofa manufacturer and retailer DFS, alongside partner brands dwell and Sofa Workshop, are co-locating in a spectacular new space full of design inspiration and with a great range of price points and I was one of the first people thought the doors!
Dress - Topshop (affiliate link)
Boots - Next (AW17)
Blazer - Mango (SS19)
Bag - Zohara (AW19 - gift)

For a start, I wasn't aware that DFS owned Sofa Workshop and dwell - on the day I found out they also own Sofology - another brand that will join the site in 2020, making this location a real one-stop sofa spot. Of course, this makes so much sense - it allows one location to cater for a wide range of customer needs and budgets and also ensures that the craftsmanship of sofa manufacture stays in the UK as it's operating at a scale that can really compete. I started my tour around the DFS store which has been transformed since I was last there. While it does have a clearance section where there are bargains galore to be found, the core season range is beautifully displayed with all of the interior goals going on in each furniture setting.

Key to their offering is the So Simple range where you choose your perfect style from a selection of 8 contemporary and comfortable sofas, that come in a range of sizes and a choice of fabrics. You can see your style mocked up online, including 360 degree views and videos to ensure you pick the right style and fabric for you. 

There are also some collaborations with well known brands like French Connection and Joules
Next, I headed upstairs to check out the new dwell store, a first for the island of Ireland and a real feast for the eyes.

It has a broader furniture offering, specialising in gorgeous functional dining & coffee tables, sideboards, display and entertainment units. It also sells some sofas and beds

...and mirrors....the best selection of mirrors I've seen in one shop. 

There are also some beautiful pieces to adorn your sideboards and occasional tables

especially if you love pugs...

The rug display was impressive and overall, prices are really affordable considering the high quality of the pieces.

My third destination was the new Sofa Workshop next door...

the first time SW have been back in Belfast in over a decade. It was sorely missed - I remember going to look for it when we moved house and being so disappointed to realised it had shut a number of years before. It's so great to see it again and I know from mentioning this on my social channels that many of you local readers feel the same.

Sofa Workshop is renowned for creating bespoke furniture - you get to customise to a much deeper level than most sofa shops and their fabric collection is incredible.

What stood out for me in Sofa Workshop is the new manager, Lynne Higgins. My daughter was with me and sat down on a sofa while I was browsing. Next thing I could hear her chatting away and I could tell from the conversation that it was with someone who was really good with kids. Turns out it was Lynne and I asked if she'd worked in teaching or childcare. Well I wasn't far off - she used to manage the Build a Bear shop. So basically a retail saint in my eyes! Sofa Workshop have recruited well here.

My favourite pieces were from the V&A collection - just look at the fabrics!

All told, a great morning spent but actually on a more significant level, this is GREAT news for the city of Belfast. At a time of massive uncertainty and quite frankly fear, it's so encouraging to have big businesses investing in our city, having faith in the economy and bringing more beautiful furniture to the city. Now to convince the husband that we need to change the 20 year old black leather sofa in our front room....Ax

*This blog post was writing in collaboration with DFS | All the words and images are my own.



The 3 Shoe Styles you need for AW19 | M&S | AD

As part of my paid collaboration with M&S this month, I'm looking at footwear and at this time of the year, there are 3 types of footwear that in my view, you need to have in your wardrobe so you're ready for the season ahead....and as it happens, each one addresses a question I get on a regular basis...

1. Trainers
I'm asked all the time where to get well priced, comfortable, white leather trainers and every time, I share these ones - they have been my consistent favourites since I got them way back at the end of February and the best bit is that they're getting better with age - more and more like a certain designer brand that are sold already distressed.
I'm also drawn to these ones online as I love that they're completely plain white - they remind me of my Seven Boot Lane ones that my 10 year old has taken ownership of. The reviews are not good - never a deal breaker for me though as I personally never leave reviews...I reckon like TripAdvisor, people are faster to leave a negative than a positive one. Instead I went into my local shop and tried them on and I can give them the thumbs up - the quality is great. Size down though!

2. Loafers
Next most popular footwear question I get asked is about flat shoes for work. I do wonder if anyone actually wears heels to work these days? Perhaps in the office but I suspect not to and from - we've all become so accustomed to wearing flat, comfortable shoes, it seems running in heels has become a bit of a lost art. 
My go to for a smarter foot is a loafer and M&S have delivered in this department with bells on in these beauties. I have them in the animal print but the red and black are both gorgeous. All the Gucci vibes and so comfortable too!

For a change from black, how about these classic berry coloured wearable with black/brown/grey/green..

3. Boots
Third question I get is how to extend midi/maxi dress wearing into the colder weather and there are two types of boots that tick that box - slouchy long boots and chunky, hiking style ankle boots. But the chunky ones are great for jeans too so I'll kick off with them and these first ones are a nice gentle nod to the trend. They're an elegant shape with a fab buckle detail and they're not too heavy and hiking-like.
These next ones though are a proper hiking style option but very wearable - the brown doesn't get a good review online but I prefer the black anyway...I think the brown will look too much like an actual hiking boot. But seriously how good is it that these are properly in fashion? So amazing and practical for the wet and rubbish winter days. I tried these on yesterday in a size 6 and they were so comfortable.

Moving onto the slouch look and this style will keep your dresses in use for way longer this winter - add some leggings or thick tights and you'll have none of the cold ankles that shorter boots can give you. These are the ones I like the most in M&S and they come in a grey suede 
as well as classic black
Great heel height for daily wear but also a nice neat shape for wearing out. Don't wear with jeans though - no matter what you see on the M&S website. They go from 'seriously on trend' to 'hickorama' if you wear them with blue jeans. The M&S website is improving but it's got a bit to go yet when it comes to styling...

Disclaimer - this post was written as part of my monthly collaboration with M&S. I was not gifted any of the footwear. My links are affiliate so that M&S can track the traffic that comes from here to their website and they may pay me a small commission if you buy and keep any of the items I've linked to. This commission is entirely ploughed back into this website to help with upkeep/security/URL licence etc. It doesn't change the cost of the item for you, nor does it preclude you from availing of other offers and discounts. Thanks for supporting the brands that consistently support this blog and help keep it going x
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