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!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Can I tempt you with an off the shoulder dress from Whistles?

Embroidered jersey dress from Whistles (£60 down from £99), Ear-rings Alice's Wonders (£5) Shoes Air & Grace (£99)

Phew! Today has been a scorcher hasn't it? And if it's a case of "No Vest Required" for me, then goodness knows how hot some of you must be.

For anyone on the hunt for a "not too challenging" off the shoulder dress, then I can thoroughly recommend this one from Whistles. I say that it's not too challenging because, other than its neckline, it is fairly sober in terms of its sleeve length, hem length, fabric, colour and detailing. Which doesn't make it boring - far from it - it makes it a great backdrop for lots of different looks. And if you're going to be spending pennies on something that might have a limited life span in your wardrobe (although to be fair "trends" tend to come and go less frequently than they used to - once they're here they stay for quite a while) then a black jersey number is a really good bet.

Along with this great, dress, I'm wearing these gold tribal drop ear-rings from Alice's Wonders which are £5.00 and totally gorgeous. If you haven't nipped over yet to see what Cathy stocks on Alice's Wonders, then I recommend that you do. She has some absolute gems!

And here's a close up of the dress, for anyone tempted to dip their toe in an off the shoulder style dress.  

Long may the "No Vest Required" weather continue!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Fitbit stats and anlysis - part 1 (the nerdy one)

So I'm going to start by trying to explain what my goal is with this post, as I fear that I may get it horribly round my neck, or make it really complicated.

I've been wearing a fitbit for nearly 18 months now and what I've realised is that the amount of calories burned (let's say energy used - it's more constructive) is not always proportionate to the number of steps taken. 

I'll use some stats to illustrate what I mean in a minute but the reason that I wanted to share all of this is because I know that a lot of people struggle to reach their step target each day, which can be demoralising. Or they feel that the only way to meet their target is to run but without the energy to do so, they get frustrated.  But having kept an eye on things over a number of months, I think it's more about general tweaking to our every day life style, maybe incorporating some HIIT training and perhaps making sure that we're on our feet a lot on the days that we're not forced to sit down for long periods. Now none of that is new but I just wonder if perhaps seeing things in black and white via stats, makes it all seem a bit more believable.

So now I'm going to try and demonstrate what I mean.....

I took this screen shot at 10.35am yesterday, by which time I'd run just over 20km and taken 22,433 steps. The energy used was 1,597 calories. Seeing those figures in isolation and without a reference point would make anyone think that it's just not achievable on a regular basis and they would be right. But the point is, it doesn't need to be.

Let's do a comparison....

On Saturday 3rd June, I covered 23,665 steps in the entire day. This was roughly the same amount of steps as I'd done by 10.35am yesterday.

But let's compare the energy used....

Although roughly the same amount of steps were taken on both days (22,433 vs 23,665) the energy used (calories burned) was much higher on Saturday 4th, compared to yesterday ( 2,641 vs 1,597).

Which got me thinking - on a very simplistic level of course - how could that be? Obviously it took a lot longer to use the same energy on Saturday 4th and my body had to use energy during that time just to keep me alive - but would that account for the difference?  

Now it could be that I'm just a real nerd on these things and that no-one cares - but I like things to add up in my pea sized brain and currently they don't. And it got me thinking that for those who are really short of time, or who are struggling to lose weight, finding a way to optimize their steps/activity levels so that they use as much energy as possible, in as an efficient a way as possible, could only be a good thing.

So now I'm going to take a look at a completely different kind of day in terms of steps taken...

On Sunday 4th June, I took far fewer steps than on either of the days above - only 12,973 steps as opposed to 22, 433 steps (yesterday by 10.35am) or 23,665 steps (3rd June during the whole day). Given that the steps were almost half of what I'd taken on those other two days, I would have expected the energy used to be roughly half too. But it wasn't....

In fact the energy used was far more - 2,902 calories as opposed to 1,597 (yesterday) or 2,641 (3rd June). Again, how can that be?  

So looking at the step "pattern" ie the period over which the steps are taken has to be critical, as does what activity is being done during the taking of those steps, together with your heart rate during the course of that activity.

Are you all still with me? I'm not quite sure that I'm with myself but this is where I think I'm headed with it....

Let's just take a look at one more lot of nerdy stats before moving on. Actually I'm thinking that this post may have to come in two parts as I need to tidy up and put the washing away before the weekend arrives. Can you bear to tune back for more?!

This table shows my stats for the week May 29th to June 4th. It also shows a comparison with my activity levels for the previous week. In summary, I was much less active (which was intentional) in the week May 29th to June 4th than I was the week before.

During the week May 29th to June 4th, at 75,410 my steps were down 83,582 compared to the previous week. And at 56.30 km, I covered 68.48km fewer than the week before. On that basis logic tells me that I should have been burning less than half the energy (calories - per day) than the week before. But that wasn't the case. My calorie burn decreased from 2907 per day to 2157, which was a decrease of 747 per day - significant but much less than might be expected, given that my activity levels decreased by more than 50%.   

I'm afraid that I'm going to have to leave it here or else I'll have a miserable weekend because the house will be a tip - but I hope to continue with my musings tomorrow and in the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts. Perhaps I should wait until the post is finished before making it live but just imagine if I get run over by a bus on the school run and the most impressive body of uncompleted work in the history of the universe lays undiscovered on my laptop?

Of course I should add lots of caveats in here and say that first of all, I'm not obsessed by these stats. If I were, I would have realised all of this in about the first month of using my fitbit, not 18 months later. Oh and just to re-iterate I never weigh myself so I'm unware as to whether I'm putting on 2.1kg every week as my fit bit suggests (see screen shot above) - but I don't think that I am. 

As we all know, good nutrition is important in this being "healthy" game and this post (not that I've reached any conclusions yet) isn't designed to devise a way of eating as many cream cakes as you can whilst still staying slim - unless any of us has a red carpet event coming up and then of course all bets are off.

Also, there are of course many benefits to all types of exercise - it's not just about energy consumption. I for one know that - I suspect that if I didn't get out and run with my friends, we would have a rather large bill for the Priory. Plus it's good for bone density, your respiratory system, muscle mass and so on - so I'm really not searching for a way for us to sit on our bums and still be healthy.

Finally, no animals or young children were harmed in the writing of this post but I may have bent my daughter's boyfriend's ear with my theories and for that Michael, I am truly sorry.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A "back of the net" dress from Whistles

Rosie Lace Panel Dress from Whistles (£165)

We all need one of those dresses in our Wardrobe that we can just pull out at a moments notice, safe in the knowledge that it's not going to let us down by demanding the perfect tan, or particular underwear, or a particular event for that matter. It needs to make us look presentable and to give the impression that we're on top of our game - even when nothing could be further from the truth.
And that's what I mean by a "back of the net" dress. I'm not saying that I look great it in, just that it would do a good job and get me out of trouble, if it did find its way into my wardrobe.

As many of you will know, Whistles (along with many other stores) has a sale on at the moment. I  first wore the blue version of this dress a few weeks ago when presenting an event and when it went into the sale (the blue version is £145 as opposed to £165 for the red) I decided to give the red one a whirl. 

I also have the blue one in a box upstairs as I need to compare them against one another. It might be that I don't keep either but here's a photo of the blue one. So come on you stylish ladies, which one do you prefer? I thought that I had a clear winner but now I'm not so sure!

Have any of you found any great sale pieces? If so, I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, 12 June 2017

A gorgeous summer dress from HUSH

Hush Magnolia Dress from John Lewis (£89) Ear-rings Alice's Wonders (£6) Shoes Jigsaw (previous season)

I love a good black dress in the summer and equally, I love a good cream or white dress. This Hush Magnolia dress is white but I wouldn't say that it's a brilliant, bright, white - it's more of a creamy white. 

I spotted this dress when I was in John Lewis at the weekend and thought that the styling of it was great, which is why I wanted to share it on here. 

OK so it doesn't have sleeves, which I know lots of women prefer but it does have a v-neck which as those of you with a bit of a curve in the boob department will know, is a good thing. The straps are wide enough to accommodate a decent width bra strap and the way it nips in at the narrowest part of the waist is flattering.

It can be really hard to find the v-neck/wide strap/ nipped in waist combo in a dress and if you do, often the skirt lets it down by either being very full in a 1950's style way, or more commonly, they are found on a maxi dress.

The skirt part of this dress isn't too full though, plus it's a great length, lending itself to heels, flats or skater trainers. Plus - just look at those pockets! For those of you who like pockets, this is a winner!

Hush Magnolia Dress from John Lewis (£89)

I love the simplicity of this dress as it's such a great backdrop for so many looks, whether it's with pom pom sandals for a casual summer day, with a black jacket for a monochrome look, with tan accessories for a typical summer colour combination or with neon brights - like this lovely ear-rings from Alice's Wonders (£6)

For anyone wondering what's going on in the hem department. it's the lining which can be seen through it, which personally I like because it makes it look a little "undone". 

And if you want to see how it features on the site (and how it's meant to look!) take a look at the picture below.