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. 

Sunday, 11 June 2017

The 20 minute guide to getting ready....

Although I was up bright and early this morning, having faffed around and having completed a Joe Wicks workout, I left myself with only 20 minutes to get showered, dressed and breakfasted before needing to leave the house to take the youngest to gym. As I was going to be sitting watching her for an hour and a half, and given that I was a sweaty and disgusting mess, there really were no short cuts So here's an outline of my thought processes, how it all went and where I saved the time....


"Great" I think to myself. "We can both have a bowl of cereal. That's the quickest breakfast ever and much quicker than toast." I make a bowl of cereal consisting of oats, shreddies, bran flakes, nuts and sunflower seeds. Daughter refuses cereal and I have to cook toast. Annoy myself by turning toaster to maximum to make it cook quicker (hate it when the older kids do that). It doesn't work. Time wasted: 3 minutes.

Carry bowl of half eaten cereal upstairs whilst simultaneously trying to check instagram. Realise said bowl of cereal is about to be dropped so stop trying to multi-task and feel very smug that disaster has been averted. Pat on head as have saved myself at least 5 minutes of clearing up. Realise smugness is mis-placed. I am 46 and should know better.

Invite youngest to follow me upstairs to eat her toast in our room (excellent parenting). When she asks where to sit I suggest on her Dad's side of the bed (I'm an excellent wife too.) Time saved zero but at least I won't be sleeping on crumbs.

Get in shower and whilst it's warming up, decide to use oil cleanser in the shower rather than using it standing at the basin afterwards. Decide this would all be a good idea for a blog post. Consider cleaning teeth in shower too as per Chris Evans. Decide that's gross. Time saved cleansing in shower , 1 minute. Time wasted cleaning teeth separately 3 minutes. I'm another 2 minutes down.

Go straight to conditioner rather than shampooing too. Time saved 3 minutes. I'm clawing back those minutes.

Whilst in shower, plan outfit. Think exactly which underwear I want and where it is, along with jeans, shirt, shoes and bag - plus which reading material I want to take with me too. How organised?

Can't find the jeans I want. Put on these Whistles ones which were previously tight but which miraculously now fit. Time wasted 1 minute but pleased that jeans can now be worn.

Find the shirt. Put it on. Decide I need a vest. Take it off and put vest on. Vest too high at the front. Take vest off. Complete waste of time. Convince myself I'll be warm enough. I wasn't. Time wasted, 2 minutes.

Time for the make-up. Can't skimp on foundation, blusher, mascara or lipstick but do it in record time. Eyes get a swoosh of shadow and only eyeliner on the bottom lid. Realise that some of make-up from the night before is still smudged under eyes. No time to remove it. Decide I'll pass it off as a smoky eyed look. Time saved - 30 seconds.

Blast hair with dryer but largely at the front only. I can't see the back so who cares? Dispense with the idea of hair product. Seriously look like a dog's dinner but at least I don't smell.  Time saved - 5 minutes.

Decide not to bother with stopping at newsagents for paper. Will read the bits from last week that I still haven't read. Time saved - 3 minutes.

Delighted that I have 2 minutes left before we have to go. Do Olga Korbut's hair. Fill water bottles for both of us. Have time to put on new Air and Grace shoes and tie them up. Find car keys. Get in car.

Arrive at gym exactly as Old Joe chimes 9 am. Get daughter into gym. Find a seat, sit down. Phew that wasn't so bad after all. Get my newspaper and new book out. The water bottle has leaked and both are saturated. Bollocks. Oh well at least we weren't late.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

A Finery Dress WITH sleeves AND it doesn't show your knees!!!

Benworth Lace Panel Midi Dress from Finery (£99)

I know how difficult it can be to find a dress not only with sleeves but also with a good length, so I really wanted to share this Finery dress with you. If you haven't already come across Finery do nip over to their site and take a look. They have some brilliant pieces, with great styling at good prices. 

Along with the dress, I'm wearing these Coral Cord Tassel Ear-rings from Alice's Wonders (£6). Cathy set up Alice's Wonders a few years ago now and we collaborated together right at the very start of her journey. Cathy has a great eye, she's really passionate about what she does and she has some wonderful pieces at great prices so again, I would thoroughly recommend taking a look at her site.

And it's my 9 year old photographer who's responsible for creating this shot. She wanted me to twirl. So twirl I did!

Hope that you're all having a super weekend. Beth x

Friday, 9 June 2017

My perfect Boden holiday wardrobe

I know that I'm a little late to the "holiday booking" party, especially when said holiday is only six weeks away - but today, after months of procrastination and inactivity, I finally managed to book one.

And the thing is, I'm really excited. Since we've had children, which is now heading towards 19 years ago, we've done very few "hot" holidays. True, we've had some that were meant to be hot but that weren't (the rain is attracted to us like bees to honey) but other than that, we've been happily UK based. Partly we just weren't hard core enough to face travelling with the children (I'll admit, I like an easy life!) but also with our annual trip to Guernsey which we all love, and a few trips to Wales and Cornwall here and there, we were content with not going very far.

But this year we felt like a week in the sun. Flo will be off to University in October so who knows where she might be next year and after what seems like a never ending winter of rain and damp, a week in Crete is just what we could all do with. And don't talk to me about the skiing "holiday". That doesn't count. I don't think that I've ever sworn so much in a week.

So when Boden invited me to take part in their campaign to celebrate the launch of their "Holiday Hub" I felt that it would be the perfect way of pulling some of my holiday wardrobe essentials together.

For me it's the "bits around the edges" that make a summer holiday wardrobe. It's the holiday accessories - the pieces which shout "I'm on holiday and yes, I might even buy into one of the crazy local souvenirs which seems a good idea to wear when I'm here but which I might live to regret when I get home and re-visit the photos." It's the things that I don't necessarily wear on a daily basis when at home, that make all the difference.

So first off I would choose the Antibes Cup Size Bikini Top because obviously it fits my brief (no pun intended) of not being something that I would ordinarily wear when visiting my local supermarket. I love navy, its such a classic and the polka dot gives it that lovely 50's feel. Plus the cup sizing is a god send for someone like me who just doesn't fit the standard size 8/10/12 norm. Oh and the wiring - let's not forget that all important push both inwards, and upwards, that the wiring gives. And those children I've mentioned - well let's just say that they've all played a part in things not being what they could be (and of course I wouldn't have it any other way!)

And I think that I will go with plain bottoms. I just feel happier that way. Let's just draw the eye upwards and away from those cheeky bum cheeks shall we? Yup, good idea. Very good idea.

And for those days when a bikini just feels too much like hard work, then I'm a fan of a full on figure flattering swim suit. It still needs support and the clever styling of this Santorini Swimsuit ticks all of my swimwear boxes.

The words "body sculpting" and "lightly padded cups" are all music to my ears! I love the print on this swimwear - it's just like the gorgeous tiled floors that all the instagrammers take photos against in their summer sandals. Speaking of which...

I would be taking these Pom Pom Sandals  in snap dragon, which sounds so much more engaging than red, with me.

And for nights out - which largely exist in my head, I would be taking these Caterina Sandals. Not only because I love the idea of them with boyfriend white jeans and a bardot top but also because it wouldn't be so easy for my son to tap me on the head, look down at me,  and say "All right short arse?"

The reality of course is that really I could do with the Eva Espadrille because whilst I'm not the slightest bit concerned about everything going with everything, they will go with everything and they will be comfortable, particularly for travelling in.

And speaking of travelling, I love this Ariana jacket for travelling in. We land back in the UK late at night, when no doubt it will be a little chilly, so this would be perfect. In fact it might be the piece that I wear the most on holiday as the "battle of the air conditioning" commences inside the villa. Why my husband chooses to go somewhere hot and then make it as cold as back at home, I'm not sure. 

Then I need some eye catching sunglasses, such as these dahlia red Luz sunglasses which will just add a bit of colour to my outfits and make me look very cool and trendy (well, in my head at least.)

After that, how about a fringed towel which I can use as a sarong, around my shoulders - or indeed as a towel (although it's probably too nice for that and I'll just stick a few old Ben Ten/Tweenies ones from home in one of the kids' suitcases)

I always have a gorgeous scarf wherever I go on holiday, which I use as a blanket, around my neck (obviously), to tie on to a bag, to wrap a child in, as a pillow on an aeroplane, or to put around my head chic startlet style (OK old woman style) when we end up whizzing along somewhere and there's a breeze. This pom pom scarf would work perfectly for me. 

Then I will need a gorgeous bag trips to the pool or the beach...

Some jewellery... such as the Diona Bracelet

And the Lena necklace which, being simple in its styling, will again go with anything and everything.

And then I'm good to go. Except, as you may have noticed, I don't really have any clothes. But then again for a week in the sun I don't need many clothes - as I said before it's all about the "bits around the edges". Having said that...

A beach kaftan would be a perfect addition to my holiday wardrobe, as much for everyone else's benefit as for mine when I'm walking around between beach and bar (OK, pool and fridge.) The Luz sunglasses will work like a dream with it too. 

But for sure I would need some shorts, so I would take the Lottie Linen Shorts because they will be cool and shorts crease whatever they're made of, so that fact that they're linen is immaterial...

....and a pair of plain shorts could be a good idea, in which case the Pippa shorts, with their broderie texture, fit the bill perfectly. 

For tops, I'm not really a fan of lots of piles of plain vests or t-shirts, instead preferring to cover up with some cooler, looser, boho or bardot tops. So let's go with something lightweight but with sleeves, such as this gauzy boho top which I can pop over my swimwear or wear with the Pippa shorts.

...or the Henrietta linen top which will go with both of my pairs of shorts and also underneath my Ariana jacket. 

Ooooh and the Allegra top has my name on it too. This would look great with the Pippa shorts and pom pom sandals. 

Skirts, for some reason, I'm not too concerned about. All of my tops will be quite long so their proportions will work better with shorts or trousers but a couple of dresses? Now we're talking. I love a summer dress - so easy!

The Terese dress is 100% cotton, so it will be cool and lightweight plus it will work really well with the Luz sunglasses and pom pom sandals. 

I adore a black dress in the summer. I find them chic and a fantastic back drop for jewellery, such as the gold Lena necklace, which I've featured above, so this jersey maxi dress would be perfect.  In the evening I would wear it with the necklace and Caterina sandals and in the day, with the pom pom scarf and pom pom sandals. 

For a week in the sun, I think that I'm done. Oh, apart from nightwear - I definitely need nightwear. The Suzie shorts and the Featherweight T would work like a dream (I know, terrible pun. Again.)

So, the things is, I'm too tight to pay for the bags to be booked into the hold, which means we're all travelling on hand luggage. Consequently, someone might need to let me have a little room in their suitcase. Husband, you can manage for a week in a couple of pairs of budgie smugglers and a pair of crocs right? Yes? Excellent.

Just so that everyone is in the picture, Boden may send a small gift to me for writing this post - but I have no idea what that may be. All the items that I've chosen I've done so myself and all wording is my own (as if anyone else would write what I write!!!) And I'm so pleased that I was asked to write it as the timing was perfect (although not perhaps for the bank balance!) Have a lovely weekend. Beth x