Saturday, 22 July 2017

A maxi skirt that's a dress - it just doesn't know it yet!

ASOS maxi skirt in floral print with shirred waist (£35)

I have a serious new love, in the form of ASOS. I know! How late to that particular party am I? The guests have literally packed up, gone home and had a two week holiday in the time its taken me to cotton on. But better late than never. I should add that it's not just for my benefit. No sireee. I have tried to get my husband some new Birkenstocks for our summer holiday because frankly the 12 year old ones are worn out. And whilst people may well have tried to steal his crocs on the beach in Cornwall a few years ago (I kid you not. Have you ever heard of anything more ridiculous?) they didn't have them in his size.  Oddly the Carvela shoes I liked were available in my size. But I shall save that tale for another day. 

I am getting to the point, honestly, albeit via a de-tour to the moon and back. Whilst searching for maxi skirts, I came across these two beauties (above and below). I ordered the black one first, closely followed by the lighter version. 

ASOS maxi skirt with shirred waist in floral print (£35)

But guess what? They look absolutely ridiculous on me as a skirt. A shirred ("smocked" to those of us who grew up in the 70's) waistband does not flatter a tummy that's had three babies. True a longer line top might work but really no-one wants a skirt that makes them look as if they're about to have a fourth baby. Soon.

But hey presto, hoik them up under your armpits into an off-the-shoulder dress and they work a treat. They fit neatly over the bust and aren't too voluminous but there's enough room for anyone who wants to get themselves a little holiday baby belly. 

The black one that I ordered was a size 8 and the white one is a size 6 as that's all they had left. Both of them fit plus they're a nice fabric, they don't crease easily and they pack down small - which is good because our luggage amount will be limited. 

Photos will follow from a sunny isle sometime soon. Well actually no doubt it will rain when we get there because as a family, we have the capacity to make it rain anywhere we go. Who needs a rain dance? Just call the Goodrhams! 

Friday, 21 July 2017

A cheeky weekend purchase from Boden...

Rae ruffle sleeve T from Boden (£35)

Well if Boden send a £10 voucher through, it would be rude not to spend it wouldn't it? I love a bit of a frill sleeve and a few stripes - especially if they're navy and white - so I have high hopes for this little number.

It is absolutely throwing it down cats and dogs outside but it seems that a lot of people are getting ready to go away and the excitement is palpable. It's another week before we head off to the sun but this year I'm determined that we will be packed a good few days in advance (famous last words). I'm going to start squirrelling the clean clothes away rather than distributing them to the family. Sneaky huh?

And I may have just subscribed to the ASOS "next day delivery for a year" service. I fear that the floodgates may be about to open.....

Thursday, 20 July 2017

My favourite silk shirt - and when life throws you lemons....

Djungle print silk shirt & Other Stories (£69 down to £48)

I love a silk shirt. Not that I get to wear them often - but when I do, I love the feel of them. My other silk shirt was from Warehouse and it's ridiculously old now but this one I spotted when I was shopping in Other Stories in Leeds. Despite, or in spite, of its bold print and bright colours, I fell in love with it and bought it on the spot. Its first outing was to a pre-birthday, birthday party, with some friends a couple of Saturdays ago. We sat outside around a fire, drank rhubarb gin and ate cake in the warmth. It was perfect. Then life took a turn for the worse and I've since looked back at the photos of that night, wondering whether they were the last ones where I would be truly happy and free from worry.

Barely two days later I was in lots of pain firstly with pulled muscles in my neck, plus I'd got an infection and shortly after that, I found two lumps where really you don't want to find lumps. But this isn't really about that because all is fine, thankfully. What it is about though is how we deal (or don't deal) with the unknown. How we go to those darkest of places and how friends and family scoop us up and keep us going, promising that if sh*t is on its way, "we'll be in it together." 

But back to the shirt first. Can you see the lady drinking cocktails? That was me - well with my rhubarb gin! 

I've always known that I'm not good with uncertainty but no-one teaches you how to deal with potentially bad news, which may still be two weeks away. And there's no time for a quick hit of CBT during that time. And odd things happen - you become acutely aware of the word "died" or anything relating to it. Plus there are amusing things that happen. I couldn't get my neck sorted as I knew that it would be too painful to lie face down on the osteopath's table. Really I needed to put the bit of me that was sore, through where your head goes. But then I would have fallen off the table which would have been a great comedy moment. Then thoughts go around in your head. I kept thinking of a phrase that I'd seen on Instagram "When life gives you lemons, freeze them and throw them back." Well my freezer was full of lemons waiting to be lobbed at whatever was coming my way.

I also thought how lucky I've been in life so far and maybe it was time to take one for the team because statistics state that amongst my friendship group, one of us is going to find a lump somewhere that may not turn out to be good news.

[No doubt the youngest was asking for the first (and biggest) piece of cake. This is the cookies and cream party cake   The one that I made was half the size of the recipe!]

There were times that I wondered whether I would ever run again and whether the last long run that I had done barely a few days before would, literally, be my last. But then again, when a needle was inserted to drain the fluid off the lump, in my head I was running along the canal, counting herons. And whilst there are obviously other things more important than that, I'm keeping the children out of this or else we would all be in tears!

Two of my closest friends are committed Christians and both of them prayed that I would get an early appointment rather than have to wait for two weeks to be seen. And when that early appointment came, I did ask them both whether they had friends in high places. Equally I felt guilty for being so lucky as to get the appointment. It was a phone call at just the right time which resulted in me getting a cancellation so I didn't queue jump in one sense - but in another I felt that I had.

The Doctors and Nurses at the clinic were amazing and before too much time goes by, and before life returns to normal, I must thank them properly and let them know how much their compassion and positive outlook made a difference to me. What I experienced was the NHS at its absolute best. Oh and we have a lovely Doctor's receptionist too - I must take her some flowers and thank her because she swept me up on more than one occasion.

And the people around me who knew - particularly my wonderful husband - kept me going when really I didn't know what to do with myself. Now I feel a little beaten up and slightly emotional but I'm ready to run, which is a sign that all is well again.

Is there a point to all of this? Well I suppose that it's important for us to be aware that when we're least expecting it, life can suddenly throw us a curve ball - and it's amazing how quickly things can go downhill from there - so don't sweat the small stuff. I don't think that I handled my curve ball very well in some ways but others have reassured me that it's all perfectly normal.

I do think that it's important that we talk about these things and share them though, although of course everyone deals with things in different ways. But I like to think that if anyone came to me and they were in the same situation, I might be able to offer up some help, however small. So let's keep talking, and checking, and fund-raising and having positive thoughts. Luckily I didn't need to throw any frozen lemons and the freezer is full of peas for the sore neck - but if anyone ever needs a few frozen lemons lobbing, I've got a pretty mean throw.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Revealing a brand new design from Air & Grace...

Earlier in the week I was in London and I took the opportunity to nip along to the Air & Grace studio in Brixton. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, or who read the blog regularly, you will know that I'm never far away from my shimmies which I absolutely adore. They have seriously revolutionised my life! True, I'm not wearing them in this shot - I decided that they were just too good for the streets of London.  


Michelle, who helps Claire in the studio, took this photograph whilst standing on a chair, which is why I look spectacularly small. But to be honest I would look spectacularly small standing next to Claire in any event, because she is beautifully tall.

The studio is serious shoe heaven! Everything apart from the espadrilles are made in Spain (the espadrilles are made in Portugal) subsequent to which they are shipped to the UK. Claire was fabulous, talking me through her designs for A/W '17 as well as for S/S '18. She showed me her sketches and fabric swatches, as well as the details such as tassels and pom poms and I had a good feel of the three layer memory foam insert that goes into each shoe. We talked about stockists and finances and all things relating to small businesses and it's amazing how hard Claire has worked to get where she is.

There are some fabulous designs coming our way ladies and without wishing my life away, I can't wait for the S/S '18 collection to arrive. Let's just say neon, metallics and even heels may feature.

You see the boxes in the white packaging on the right hand side of the photograph? Well these were all waiting to be sent out to lovely customers.

And ta-da! A new shoe! This is a new design of Claire's and it's called "Flutter". The Flutter comes in navy, white, grey and pink and is sleeker and has less padding around the ankle, compared to the Copeland  - which means that people now have a greater choice. It's not yet available but it shouldn't be too long now.

Claire's background is in shoes and she has worked for many well known High Street brands such as Office, Fit Flop and Aldo. Essentially Claire designs shoes that she loves and it just so happens that her customers love them too. Her attention to detail is amazing. She tweaks the eyelets, laces, colour of the soles, colour of the leather - everything in fact - until she gets it just how she likes it. And because she only ever wears her own shoes, she knows exactly what else is needed in the range to make it complete.

In particular I loved the shearling high tops for the winter but as yet the design isn't quite to Claire's discerning eye, so we will all have to wait for the big reveal. What I can say, however, is that they come in tan and khaki and I think that once anyone puts a pair on, they won't want to take them off again.

I currently have my eye on the Copeland trainers (£149)

Claire was due to make a day trip to Portugal the day after I saw her, to check on a trailer of shoes that had temporarily gone AWOL thanks to some friendly local bandits. Luckily it had turned up again but in true Claire style, she had to check that everything was just so. And it's that kind of commitment that has made Air & Grace so successful in such a short space of time. Claire, I take my hat (and my shoes) off to you!

Monday, 3 July 2017

The Topshop Floral Length Maxi Dress - fit for a ball or the beach

Topshop floral print maxi dress (£65)

I'm never very good at planning what I'm going to wear to an upcoming event. If it's a "big" do I work on the basis either that I have something that I can wear already, or that something will find me. However it works out, I don't stress too much and nor do I spend too much on something that I may not get a lot of wear out, preferring instead to keep the pennies for something that I will use and wear every day, such as a pair of trainers or my Air & Grace espadrilles 

I was in Topshop last week with a friend when this little number caught my eye. I think in my head I had a vague recollection of Kate Moss wearing a dress with a similar silhouette and on hunting the internet whilst writing this post, I think that this is what I had squirrelled away at the back of my brain....

Anyway, clearly the colour of the dress/lack of sleeves/print/neckline/person in the dress look nothing like the image above BUT it was a full length, satin, bias cut maxi so there are some similarities. Hmmm.

Along with the dress I wore some Karen Millen shoes that I've had for a few years now, a Liberty clutch that was a gift from a friend and these gold tribal drop ear-rings from Alice's Wonders (£5). My aim was to not look too formal and "ball like" and I love the spiky look to these ear-rings.

The dress was lovely and easy to wear - not tight, not short - just like a full length nightie really. And I plan on wearing it again - after I've had a couple of inches chopped off the bottom, so that I can wear it with a biker jacket and flats. For anyone vaguely tempted, I would give it a whirl. It's much more flattering than you might think on first glance. As for sizing, I felt that the 8 would have required a little too much by way of breathing in and I'm just not about that, so I'm wearing a 10.

Topshop  maxi dress £65)

Friday, 30 June 2017

"He's Got My Back" by Love for the Mama

We all know that slogan T's are a huge trend at the moment and recently I met Kayla who runs Love for the Mama. Whilst on maternity leave with her second child, Kayla started jotting down phrases that came to mind which "related to the madness of her day as a mother." A germ of an idea for a business was sewn but she painstakingly researched suppliers before launching her business.

I'm wearing Love for the Mamas He's Got My Back T (£25) which Kayla kindly gifted to me. I chose this T because my husband really does have my back. I had to explain to him what it meant though - he's a lawyer and not particularly au fait with social media and this "modern" kind of lingo. But once I explained it to him he got it. Although I think that he still remains slightly bemused and when I wear it he looks at it and says questioningly "Oh, that's me isn't it?"

This style also comes in "She's Got My Back" (you just make your selection at the checkout). For information I'm wearing an XS and it's plenty big enough on me. I love the idea of giving a "She's Got My Back" T-shirt to a friend. I really believe in the whole "sister hood" idea and looking out for one another when life gets tough - or just in general.

Kayla makes a range of t-shirts for children, Mums and Dads too, with a percentage of her profits going to charities such as Women's Aid, Water Aid and Save the Children.  I love this no time to contour tee (£24) - which perfectly sums up a busy morning with young children.

And whatever our age, or stage in life, we all have reason to be....

This Thankful T is £25 and comes with black sparkly lettering. And for a baby or child, there's the Milk Drunk baby T (£12). I remember those days so well. That warm, snuggly, post feed stupor that babies go into.

I love supporting small businesses and Kayla is an absolute gem. She's bubbly, lively, full of energy and I'm delighted that she's holding a Body and Style Confidence event at the Plough in Harborne on  6th July at which Natalie from Style Me Sunday, Pascale from Style Mum and Victoria from Victoriagenevievestyling will be answering questions. Oh how lovely to have an event in Birmingham! And later in the year Kayla and I will be holding an event together - so I will keep you posted of developments!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Fitbit stats and Analysis Part 2

A couple of weeks ago now, I wrote a post entitled Fitbit Stats and Analysis Part 1 which you can read here.

The aim of that post was to demonstrate that the amount of calories burned (energy used) was not always proportionate to the number of steps taken. In essence it's possible to take a similar number of steps on two days - the example that I used in that post was around 22,000 steps - but to use different amounts of energy - 2,241calories vs 1,597 calories. And what I wondered was how could that be?

My conclusion was that what was critical in burning calories had to be the period over which the steps were taken, what activity was being engaged in whilst the steps were taken and also an individual's heart rate during that activity.

I've written about Kathy previously on here. She lost a lot of weight using her Fitbit and she observed as follows:

"...I don't think that steps, if looked at in isolation, are a good indication of fitness or activity, as it all depends on how you do them. A 10k run followed by not much else for the rest of the day, will give you the steps and a bit of calorie burn but it will soon level off. I have found it's much better to be moderately active throughout the day ie bit of housework, bit of gardening, a dog walk etc..."

And I think that Kathy's analysis is absolutely right. It's the long slow burn throughout the day that uses the most energy, which, if you think about it, is probably why 1950s/60s/70s housewives were so slim. Whilst they weren't engaged in hard core cardio activity, they didn't sit down for the whole day and given that portion sizes were smaller then, convenience food was less readily available and that they (probably) didn't eat out so often, they would in all likelihood have burned all of the calories that they consumed in a day.

Sunday 11th June is a good example of my step count being quite low but my energy consumption being quite high. You can see from the information below that I took 9,878 steps which is way below what I would normally do in a day.

But at a calorie burn of 2,527 the energy used that day was really quite high given the amount of steps taken.

What I've noticed time and time again as being relevant is my heart rate zone - and how many hours are spent burning calories in the fat burn zone (as opposed to the peak heart rate zone, or the cardio zone) Both of these involve far more effort but seemingly for little return, in that sense at least.

And this totally supports what Kathy says. It's the dog walk, the housework, walking around tidying up, doing the supermarket shop that burns the calories. So what can we take from this?

Well on days that we're sitting behind a desk, it is hard to get those steps in but at if an opportunity comes your way to walk up some stairs, nip out for a walk for lunch, get off a stop earlier at the tube, park further from the building - it all adds up. And whilst it sounds patronising and annoying and it's what we've been told to do for years - it's right.

And on your days off, there's no need to go flogging yourself to death. I absolutely understand all of the health benefits of cardio exercise but I suppose it's a case of not beating yourself up if you can't get to the gym and get on the treadmill, or make the exercise class, or get out because it's raining - just bake cakes, clean the house, walk around when chatting on the phone, forget what you've gone upstairs for so that you have to go up again and don't sit down until the evening!

I hope that this helps. I would love to hear your views on it!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

A Kitchen Make Over

For those of you who have been following the blog for a while now, you may remember that this time last year, we were mid-extension. As it's necessary to walk through the kitchen to get to the new extension, once the major works were done, we needed to give the kitchen a little bit of attention.

The problem was that we didn't want to spend a fortune on replacing it with something similar - and given its shape, there wasn't a huge amount of room for manoeuvre. Plus the carcasses - although only from Ikea - were fine and we liked the work surfaces. There was also the danger that if we moved the kitchen island, the work surface above it might crack. I guess that we could have gone high tech with all kind of gadgets but to be honest, it's not really us. We both do a lot of cooking but we're not that fussed about the latest must have super whizzy gadgets.

So a re-vamp it was, which included the following - replacing the cooker which was on its last legs, replacing the cupboard doors with handless ones, having new plinths with lights in them, taking the splash back off and replacing it with tiles, re-configuring the bank of cupboards at one end of the kitchen to provide more storage space, replacing the lights over the kitchen island, replacing the radiator with a ladder style one, painting the door and replacing its handle, having the kitchen re-decorated which included wallpapering one wall. Finally we added in a new sideboard where previously we had a table and chairs but I will cover that in a later post.

This is the kitchen before its revamp - it's an Ikea kitchen with white high gloss doors with handles. The tall bank of cupboards on the left hand side of the photo was a bit hit and miss. It just didn't quite work. And the microwave wasn't built in but rather it just sat in a hole!  

This is the bank of cupboards after we had it re-worked by the hugely helpful Ray from the Kitchen Centre in Harborne. Ray has run his business for over 20 years now and he was more than happy to help with replacing just that part of the kitchen, whereas many businesses weren't interested. Steve, his kitchen fitter, was fantastic too. In some ways its quite clinical but we have so much storage space for all our cookery books, the nutri-bullet (our one gadget!), cake stands, water jugs, plastic bags and all of the food.  I even have a shelf for "party things" - candles, bunting, paper plates etc. All of which has come in handy tonight as our daughter's friend is currently holding her 18th party downstairs. Eeeek.

These are the handless doors which were made for us by Shaker Doors. They make replacement doors for Ikea kitchens which is great as the dimensions of the new Ikea doors are different to the older doors, which we have.

The doors along the front of the island were colour matched to the colour that we used on the wall which is Yenston Sky from the Hemsley range at Homebase. There are four colours in the "Yenston" range, in varying shades. We've used three of them now, with the darkest one being in the new room.

This is a photograph taken from behind the kitchen island when the doors still had their handles.

And afterwards - you can see that the kitchen has much cleaner lines now. And oddly a real benefit has been that we have much more room behind the kitchen island now. Before it felt a bit squashed but removing two sets of handles has had a real impact.

This is the view when I'm standing at the cooker and looking up. Quite often squirrels play in this tree - a Christmas tree which was planted over 70 years ago now by a Mum who had just had her first child. Her daughter still comes back from time to time to take a look at it.

And when the sun shines at certain times of the day the light bounces around the kitchen giving  a lovely effect.

I realise that things are meant to be in threes and in some ways the previous lights worked better but (wait for this) I couldn't see the TV on the opposite wall when there were three lights, so I had one taken away and replaced them with these crazy lights from Graham & Green.

Then the wooden door (which was slightly orange in colour) was painted in a grey colour (sorry I can't remember its name now but it was a Homebase one) and the office style door handle was replaced with this one from John Lewis (£40 for a pack of 2).

The splash back tiles are the Attingham tiles from Topps Tiles which we also used in the utility room. The link is to the powder blue colour but these are the mist colour. I love a good geometric pattern!

And (almost) lastly, we had the wall opposite the kitchen island - where the TV is situated - papered in this star print from Cole & Son, available at Amara (£72) per roll. The ladder style radiator was from B&Q.

Next to be sorted is a shelf on which I'm going to display some lovely bits and bobs that I've bought from Oliver Bonas. It will just break things up a little and add some subtle colour.

In my heart do I know that we've compromised slightly and that there are one or two things that aren't quite 100%? Yes I do but they could easily be fixed and we've probably saved about £15-20k by doing so, so I can live with that.

Friday, 23 June 2017

An alternative to jeans - the Hush Monaco trousers

Monaco Trousers Hush £45

I think that I'm probably very late to this particular party but I've just discovered the Monaco trousers from Hush (£45). They're a great alternative to jeans and let's face it, we're often on the look out for a good jeans alternative at this time of year.

The reviews of these trousers are worth taking a look at and the grey have sold out. What I love about them is that they have an elasticated waist (great for travelling in and fab on warm days) they're a silky material which is lovely and the cuff at the bottom anchors them back into the leg, making them a flattering shape. Also, for anyone on the petite side, they may well come up full length, which is no bad thing if you prefer a full length trouser, rather than a crop.

I think that you've seen my pineapple t-shirt on here before - it's from Gift pop boutique and costs £22 and you've seen the espadrilles for sure! They're from Air & Grace (£99).

I'm off to Leeds tomorrow for a good old shop, cake, a lovely lunch and a good catch up with my friend from Newcastle. It's our annual meet and I can't wait! Have a super Saturday everyone!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

House of Fraser Activewear - not what you might expect!

Historically, House of Fraser wasn't somewhere that I would have visited, or looked at online, for active wear. And probably if I had, I would have been disappointed, because it wasn't until the end of March this year that they launched their own active wear collection. Their range includes a collection from their own house brands Biba and Label Lab plus pieces from Seafolly, Bjorn Borg and Ted Baker all of which really are worth taking a look at individually - particularly now that many pieces are in the sale - and collectively they are amazing. I don't think that I've ever seen such a wide range of prints, colours, styles and brands in one place. And whether you're after performance wear, or something more fashion related, there's definitely something for everyone.


This is the vest that I am wearing in the above shot. I actually love it - the colour, the print, the feel and the fit are all amazing. For those who prefer their activewear to be fitted but not skin tight, this is incredible. Stand sideways, breathe in, breathe out and the top looks exactly the same. That's all you need to know really when it comes to its fit! And the fabric has a great weight to it - it must be the 87% polyamide 13% elastane combo - meaning it doesn't leave you feeling exposed and self-conscious.

And these are the shorts that I'm wearing. Again they aren't tight, which is perfect for this hotter weather. They will be coming out with me tomorrow on a run, when the temperature is forecast to reach 31 degrees. Eeek. I think we'll be heading out early doors!

The great thing about the Biba Body range is that there are lots of different pieces within the one print, with lots of plain pieces to complement them. So for anyone who doesn't fancy the jersey shorts, there's the Biba  jungle jaguar capri (now £15, instead of £30).

Or for the winter time, or for those who prefer the coverage that a full length running tight gives, there's the Biba  jungle jaguar legging (now £17 instead of £35).

And for those who prefer a shorter short, there's the Biba jungle jaguar running shorts which are now £10.

Now, in addition to the jaguar print, there are also some other gorgeous prints and styles. I've also slightly fallen for the Lazalea Leopard Ombre Tee (£12 down from £28). And I've identified what it is about this range that's so appealing. It's that the active wear comes in prints that I would actually choose to wear in my everyday clothing, so I actually like it for its design and aesthetics, not just because it comes in a capri, or because the capris have a high rise, or because it has a flash of orange on it.

Love this tee from the back. It's just a bit different!

And this print also comes in capris (£15) and leggings (£17) - I've linked to the full range here and in particular I love this lazalea leopard bra top

Or there's the zebra mono print shown in the capris below (the link I've included is to the entire range) which also includes leggings, running shorts a bra top and a bomber jacket.

Or finally, there's the black stallion print which contains lots of pieces but by way of an example, here's the vest;

I've linked to the entire Biba Active Range here as there are a number of plainer pieces that can be layered in amongst the printed pieces to break up the look.

For now I'm heading off into the distance in my full on jaguar jungle vest and shorts with huge thanks to House of Fraser for gifting* these lovely pieces to me. I shall be adding to my collection for sure!

*Just by way of clarification, whilst the active wear was gifted to me, all words and views are my own.

Oh and huge thanks to my friend Ellen, for taking the photos. She was patient beyond belief - active shots in active wear are very tricky to get!