Friday, 25 March 2016

Diamonds are a girl's best to win some whilst supporting a fabulous charity

As many of you will know, in four weeks' time I will be running the London Marathon. I am raising money for Coram, the oldest Children's Charity in the UK and I have a target of £1750 to raise.

Coram are such a well respected charity by many professionals and they do so much with disadvantaged and underprivileged children. Some of the services that they offer include running an independent adoption service, using a variety of creative therapies to help children from complex and traumatic backgrounds, supporting parents who are having difficulties in caring for their children and offering health, well-being and drug education in schools.

We all have demands on our resources all of the time and there are so many fantastic causes, so I hope that you don't mind my plea for help. However in return I hope that I am able to offer something that may bring a little happiness to you, or a loved one, or another charitable cause. So here goes...

Back in February of 2014, I entered a competition to win a gift card for £1000 to spend at 77 diamonds, who are recent winners of the 2016 UK Wedding Awards. I had to blog about what made my best friend so special.

Diamond Studs - oooh yes please!

For anyone who is interested, you can read the post here. Anyway, incredibly, I won and I've decided to put the £1000 Gift Card up as a competition prize, hoping that along the way I can raise money for Coram.

Eternity Rings - rings are definitely some of my favourite things

So, this is how it will work:
  1. Please make a donation to my page  (obviously it can be as little or as much as anyone would like to donate and  I promise that the money isn't for my private shoe fund, but for Coram);
  2. Please email me at and your name will be put into my metaphorical hat (which is seeing a lot of action at the moment)!
  3. The competition will be open until midnight on 31st May 2016, with the winner being notified by email on 1 June 2016;
  4. The winner will be put directly in touch with 77 diamonds who will arrange for the £1000 Gift Card to be sent to the winner;
  5. For anyone entering, if you felt able to mention the competition on your social media sites, or if you could spread the word amongst your friends and work colleagues, I should be so grateful. 
And that's it really. Hopefully many of you will see it as a great opportunity to win a fantastic prize whilst at the same time supporting an incredible charity. Ultimately I would love it if, between us, we could use that £1000 gift card as a competition prize time and time again to raise as much money as possible for as many charities as possible. There are so many wonderful causes to raise money for and with a bit of teamwork I think that it might be able to rustle up a few pennies for a few different charities. 

Engagement Rings -  do we hear the sound of wedding bell(e)s?

On the other hand if whoever won the Gift Card fancied treating themselves, or if a someone was about to make a marriage proposal and this enabled them to get a wonderful engagement ring, or if it was used to celebrate a long standing anniversary, how fabulous would that be too?  We all love a feel-good story. It would be great to share on here how that Gift Voucher is spent, or where it ends up.

Before I sign off, I would like to thank 77 diamonds for their support in helping me to use the Gift Card to run the competition in this way. It is very much appreciated - thank you. And Good Luck to everyone who enters!  

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Last chance to enter the M&S competition for a day out at the new Longbridge store....

For those of you who haven't yet entered the fabulous competition that I am hosting with Marks & Spencer, you have until mid-night on 24th March to do so. Don't miss out on what promises to be a brilliant day out with a friend at the new M&S store in Longbridge complete with lunch, a personal shopping experience, make-up with the beauty team, brows or nails at the nail bar PLUS a £100 gift voucher for both you and a friend to spend in store. 

For anyone who would like to enter, please email me at and I will put your name into my metaphorical hat. I will notify the winner before close of play on Good Friday. Good luck to everyone! 

Beth x

Sunday, 20 March 2016

So how do you run 24 miles? (If I couldn't do it with a friend, I wouldn't do it at all!)

But before I start.....

I didn't manage to get a place in the ballot for the London Marathon, which means that I am fundraising for Coram, who do amazing work with vulnerable and underprivileged children. I feel really uncomfortable asking for donations from people, so instead I will shortly be posting about a fabulous competition that I am going to run on here to help reach my target. Do keep your eyes open! 

Twenty four miles is the most that my friend and I have run whilst training for the London Marathon. "How do you do it?" is a question that I've been asked a lot recently.  Compared to some, I've run very little. Many others have run much further than this and much more frequently too.  But the one thing that I do remember is being in the position, not so long ago, where I would look at others and think "How on earth do you do that? How is it physically possible?"

On reading this I really DID ask myself "how is that physically possible?" The author is an ultra-marathon runner. 50 miles, 100 miles - it's no problem to him!

The answer is you build up to it slowly. It's not as if you just wake up one day and think to yourself "Oh I know, today I'll go and run 24 miles." Having completed the Birmingham half marathon last October, my friend and I ran the half marathon distance possibly once a month until Christmas. The day after Boxing Day we did 13 miles, the week later 16 miles, then 18 miles, 20 miles, 22 miles and then 24 miles. So like anything, if you build up little by little, it's not so much of a shock to the body.

The day before, and the day of, a long run preparation is key. We do our long runs on a Friday afternoon and we do shorter sessions, and hill and sprint work, either together, or alone, or with other super lovely friends who run, during the week.

I don't do too much exercise the day before. On a Friday morning I eat a lightish breakfast, have a mid-morning nutri-bullet and an early lunch. Then, when the running watch starts charging, together with the FitBit, and the phone - when the bum bag gets loaded up, when the key and cash get stashed in the phone holder that I wear on my arm - that's when the adrenaline kicks in.

Unlocking the key to the success of the Kenyans in distance running. 

I wouldn't want anyone to be under the illusion that we run 24 miles non-stop. After five or so miles we'll have a quick stop. Out comes the M&S chocolate flapjack, the elderflower water, the Love Hearts, Twix - you name it, we've got it. In fact, if we're honest we probably spend most of our run working out when we can next stop to eat something delicious and sweet.  We could do with a Mrs Overall style trolley for our three course meal that we take with us. And thereafter we'll stop every 40 minutes or so to top up as once you've gone past the point of no return, you really know about it.

And as for passing the time? Well we go in phases. Mostly we chat - a lot. In fact a friend of mine said the other day that she heard us coming before she saw us, which was impressive as we were wearing huge amounts of pink lycra.

We talk about our children, work, schools, things we've read and how we're going to run on the day. What if one is faster than the other? What if one needs a loo stop? What techniques are we going to use to motivate ourselves through the tricky spots? And most importantly, how are we going to communicate given that, for once, we won't actually be talking? We un-pack things that need unpacking and when the going gets tough, which is does, we try to re-set one another's brains by the use of distraction, or pretending that we've only just started and that we're full of beans, whereas really we're at mile 18 and just want to go home.

Occasionally we'll just plod along in silence - but that's usually only when we're going up hill and we're breathing too hard to talk. Then one of us will say "I'll talk at the top" and on we plod until we've made it and normal chatting is resumed.

We have run in all weathers and sometimes the harshest weather makes it more fun. Blizzards, hail, snow, rain, wind (my least favourite) - it all helps with the stamina. I think that our greatest difficulty will be if it's too warm as that is something that we're not used to at all.

And crikey sometimes we're laughing so much that we have to stop running. We've been known to balance precariously over canal locks when the tow paths have been closed. We've clambered over, under, through and around barriers of no-go areas. We've run through the industrial backwaters of Birmingham, under the M5 bridges and under railway bridges with their huge concrete supports, expecting (in my case) to find a dead body at any moment.

And then, when we run up one of the hills to get us home, sometimes we get that fourth, fifth or sixth wind and it no longer hurts. It feels as though we're flying. Not out of breath, not aching just powering up towards the traffic lights that signal home. And then we stop. And then we can't move again because everything hurts and those seconds of pure joy have passed. But still we keep on chatting...

So my tips - none of which are revolutionary or revelatory because if you're training for a distance this will have all be covered in a training plan/manual somewhere:

  • If I couldn't do it with a friend I wouldn't do it at all. Of that I'm sure!
  • Whilst some people love them, I'm suspicious of the gels and would rather eat proper food, even if on the day I carry little bits and nibble it slowly - so flapjack, Naked bars - it's all good stuff. And sweets really do give you that sugar kick just when you need it;
  • On a long run avoid looking your watch too often. It's like going on a long plane journey - you just have to switch off and let the hours wash over you;
  • The long runs for us are to get used to the miles and to build stamina - not really for the speed, although we do wear running watches so that we know how we're doing. It's the other training - the hills and the sprint work that will help with the speed and a bit like baking a cake, hopefully it will come together on the day;
  • I find that core and leg work also help with strength, although it may just be psychological;
  • I love reading books about runners - Running with the Kenyans, Eat and Run, Running Like a Girl, books about Ultra Marathon runners - all of them have the page corners turned down at places where I find something helpful or inspiring;
  • Running is as much psychological as it is physical. Next on my reading list is "the Runner's Brain". If you can accept that it's normal to want to stop, then you're half way to keeping on going! 
  • What works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. You may prefer to run alone, to listen to music or listen to podcasts, to re-fuel with gels - it's all just trial and error really. But the one thing that I am sure of is that never once have felt worse after a run than before. 

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Oasis Lexi coat is back on the rails...

I bought my Lexi sleeveless coat from Oasis (£80) last autumn and whenever I post it on instagram, I'm always asked where it's from, so I was delighted (literally - I know, I'm easy to please) to see that it has been re-issued for the spring. 

This time it is a lighter colour to the one that I have but other than that it's exactly the same. I've loved wearing mine - it's a gorgeously soft fabric and great for those times when you just want to feel a little smarter (parent's evening, school concerts etc) but when a full on smart coat isn't needed. At £80 I realise that it's not cheap but it feels far more expensive than that. The sizing is quite generous so there's no need to go up and if anything, you might want to go down a size. 

Here are a couple of ways that I've worn mine. I know, it's not rocket science but sometimes seeing a piece of clothing on a person helps with identifying how it could work. 

This was my outfit this morning. Just before this was taken I asked our youngest why it was that I thought that it was a good idea to wear shorter boots with trainer socks (hence flashing my ankles) when clearly it was still cold enough to wear my fur scarf. Neither of us could fathom that one out. Spring on the feet - middle of winter around the neck. Hmmm.

Here I wore the coat with a pussy bow blouse. The v-neckline offers a nice shape for those with a curvier bust and the absence of a collar means that you can also add interest in other ways. I swapped the belt for a studded Topshop one.

And whilst I'm about it, I thought that I would share a couple of other gems. This Oasis fur gilet was £55. It was then reduced to £40, then £30 and it now has a further 20% off, making it £24. For anyone on the look out for a fur gilet, this is a fabulous option.

I'm also loving the blush coatigan (reduced from £55 to £25 plus there's a further 20% discount) which also comes in grey, as I've shown below.

Did anyone hear the article on the radio recently about the signs that show that we're turning into our Mothers? I couldn't think of anything in particular until I took this. And then all became crystal clear. My Mum loves birds and we love our Mr Robin who sits outside the bedroom window and sings....but I don't think that I will be having a perm any time soon :) x

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Today I was stalked by....Bardot tops

One of the best things about my job is having the legitimate excuse of spending a few hours every so often walking around the shops to see what's out there.  Whizzing from one store to the next in quick succession is a great way of spotting the trends. And today I felt that I was being stalked by blue Bardot tops. Shop after shop had them on their rails. Take a look to see what I mean....

The Bardot striped top from Whistles (£85), which also comes in white.

Zara blue and white off the shoulder striped top (£29.99) 

GAP tencel off the shoulder top (£34.95)

H&M blue off the shoulder blouse - £7.99. This one is 100% cotton and it's from the H&M conscious range.

So is anyone tempted to jump on the Bardot bandwagon, or are you more likely to give them a miss, knowing that the rest of the world could, quite possibly, be wearing them too?!!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Jam Jar Lights - Lighting the way....

I was so excited to drive past Jam Jar Lights  on Sunday as I recognised it as having fitted out one of our local coffee shops with the coolest lights. Today I had an opportunity to go in and to chat to Kate, one of the founders of Jam Jar.

The idea for Jam Jar arose after she and a friend had been travelling. On returning to Birmingham they weren't terribly excited about stepping back into the real world and so started renovating their flat instead. Unable to find lighting that they liked, they started to experiment with different ideas until one night Kate turned a Jam Jar into a light and Jam Jar lights was born.

Customers can design their own lights, selecting the individual components, all of which are made in Birmingham. 

 These are the individual Jam Jar lights...

And here's a selection that have been clustered together, all with differing coloured cables...

Loving the fairground lights that can be powder coated in any colour. Surprise surprise, I love this pink one and how lucky are we to have a girl with a name beginning with "M"?! 

The wall of cables is a work of art in its own right. 

And with all things copper being such a huge trend, who fancies one of these lights?!

This is Jam Jar's take on a chandelier...

And these are examples of the different lighting systems that have been created with piping

Kate said that she fancied trying different colours on the metal work, hence the gold and rose gold below. 

And finally, this is the shop fit. The corrugated iron came from Kate's cousin's back garden and had to be scrubbed to remove what the birds had left behind on it.  And Kate and her partner went skip surfing for the wood. All of which is so in keeping with the feel of the brand.

This is my favourite - I love this combination.

 Having spent a little time looking a lighting recently, it is all quite "samey" but this is totally different. Jam Jar have even made a light from an old water tank, so if you're thinking of ripping anything out, it could be possible to upcycle it into a really fab piece of lighting.

And this letter "F" is for my lovely Flossie who is away from home this week and I miss her :( (but she is having fun) :) x

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Some "Me & Em" gems...

Like Hush and Baukjen, Me & Em is one of those brands with a simple aesthetic that appeals to so many right now. All of these brands have several gems each season, which can form the backbone of a wardrobe for now and for seasons to come.  Sometimes its the styling that attracts me, sometimes the potential longevity of an item and sometimes it's just an "Oooh, that's a lovely item" moment - but then more often than not I'll try and find those pieces at somewhere like Zara or Topshop instead.

I know that there have been a million blog posts about Breton tops over the years but this particular Breton top (£35) falls into my gem category because of its slight ruching at the sides. Style wise it allows it to be worn either longer or shorter and the ruching is so flattering over those various wobbly bits that we may want to disguise. As soon as a brand adds ruching in the right place, a top becomes a whole lot more accessible to a whole lot more people. Over the years I've loved the Jigsaw Breton tops but the colours aren't quite right this year - so I will be trying this one instead (if it's in stock).

The same goes for this Perfect crew neck T (£35). There's also a V-neck style and both have ruching, so for anyone on the hunt for a great T-shirt that has a little length and a little ruching, this could be just the right one. At £35 I think that it's a lot for a T-shirt but arguably it's better to have one fabulous one at £35 than three or four mediocre ones at £10 each. But of course you don't need me to tell you that. And the logic only applies if you would actually be likely to buy 3 or 4 T-shirts at £10 each in the first place.

And who doesn't love a Slouchy jogger (£58.00)? OK, so not everyone but they are so useful, just for those times when it's not a good idea to head out of the house in one's scruffy old Topshop baggy bum joggers (not that I own a pair of those of course. Or even two) but equally when one doesn't want to wear one's skinny jeans either. eg When you've had a big meal and you have to take the kids somewhere but rather than just dropping them at the door, you have to go in and chat too. Then the Topshop baggy bum joggers suddenly don't seem such a good idea. Reversing out of a room always looks a bit odd.

And there is something very appealing about the side stripe trouser (£128). I love a wide trouser with a trainer and there is something very lovely about a pair of really well made, well fitting trousers in a great fabric. I haven't tried these so I can't say whether these tick those boxes or not but they look to me like they might (and should).

Here I've linked to all the pieces with stripes which include a couple of different styles of Breton top and also a few different styles of side striped trousers - for those who may be interested in investigating further.

There's currently a Me & Em 20% discount plus free second class postage with the code GET20 which I hope you will find useful :)

Friday, 11 March 2016

A Quick OOTD - The Jigsaw Coat in Action

Outfit: Coat Jigsaw, Boots and bag Whistles, Jumper Zara, Jeans Gap, Gloves H&M

Some things are just meant to be worn so this morning, off came the tissue paper from my new Jigsaw coat and on it went for the school run. Give me anything soft and navy and I'm there; whether it's a onesie, a pair of socks or a coat.  

Photo bombed I was! Photo bombed by a cat. "Sorry" said my eight year old photographer. "You're not really in the last photos, I was taking a photo of the cat instead." Fair play. No doubt the cat was much more interesting to her. I get that.

Have a super weekend everyone! x

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Navy, navy, navy - 3 navy coats from Jigsaw

The plan wasn't necessarily to come out of Jigsaw with a navy coat when I went to spend the vouchers that I had been given but I quickly realised that there were three that I liked. And then I thought to myself that if I liked them, then you might too.

Now I realise that a Jigsaw coat is not an everyday purchase and whilst it's fine to say "Oh, it will last for years and it's an investment" if it's not do-able then it's not do-able. On the other hand, one of these may just be what you've been looking for or they could provide inspiration for an upcoming shopping trip. So let's kick off. First of all I'm wearing the collarless column coat £229

I have to say that this coat felt absolutely beautiful on. The fit is gorgeous and very flattering plus it's made from 100% cotton which could work fantastically well for those who prefer natural fibres. It's just one of those coats that instantly makes you stand up smart.

The only issue for me was how much wear I might get out of it.  If I worked in an office I would be there like a shot and although it would look great with jeans I just felt that I might not reach for it too easily when dashing out of the door on the school run. As to sizing, I first started off with an 8 which was fine but the 10 had just that little bit more room.

Next I tried the raw edge jersey coat (£229). I'm not quite sure why it's called a jersey coat. The composition is 73% wool and and 27% polyamide so it's not a reference to the fabric. Maybe the styling? I don't know but anyway this was the softest coat that I'd tried on in a long time.

This coat is an absolute beauty - perfect for this time of year with enough room to fit a leather jacket underneath and not at all restrictive.

The sizing of this coat is quite generous and I'm wearing an XS. One of the reviews comments that it is expensive for what it is and I do understand that it's not lined and despite being wool it isn't a very heavy weight coat but it is beautifully soft and it falls well. So that's all to go in the melting pot! 

The final jacket doesn't seem to be online. It's a great piece - a little edgier being a bomber style at the back (particularly with the ribbing at the waistband) but with a straighter jacket front minus the ribbing at the waist.

The fit of this one isn't great on me as it's a size 10 and also as it's shorter, I tend to feel a little more exposed. But I really liked it nonetheless and if I could have had two this would have made it home with me.

So that's my little Jigsaw coat round up but there were plenty more that I loved, from this cream belted cocoon coat (£249) to the double faced jacket (£249) and this long sleeveless jacket (£179).

Thank you so much to everyone who has entered the M&S competition which I published yesterday. Although you may not have heard back from me, all of your entries have been received and you will be entered into the "hat".  Do keep the entries coming and tell your friends - or not perhaps. I'll let you deal with that particular moral dilemma!