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Monday, 6 July 2015

Unearthing gems everyone else seems to know about

One of the great things about writing this blog is the opportunity to discover new brands that otherwise might pass you buy.  There are simply too many brands out there for everyone to know about.  As you're probably aware, I am often (very very very often) asked if I would like to review products but it's not often that I say yes. 

The reason I say yes so rarely is so that when I do, it's evident that it's because I truly love the products that I've been asked to look at. 

However there is the odd time that it really does work out in everyone's favour.  You discover a brand that hasn't been on your radar before and wonder why it hasn't. 

You also discover that everyone else seems to know about it.  On chatting to a couple of friends about shoes I was receiving to review - two of them immediately piped up about how they always bought shoes from there and how fab they were and HOW did I not know about it before?

Well it always look just a bit sporty.  And there in lies the issue of there being so many shops on the high street and so many retailer outlets to navigate online.  Brands can get overlooked if the perception is that it's not for you.

The brand I'm talking about today is Geox.  The Italian brand who I now know, much to my mortification, do sell shoes other than the sporty ones.  And really very lovely shoes (and boots and sneakers...) at that.

Why do I think they're sporty?  Partly because that's where my boys get their trainers from (we don't buy from a Geox store so I've never had a chance to see what else was on offer)  And partly because the window of their store, often predominantly has sporty and, dare I say it, sensible looking shoes in the window. 

Well it just goes to show that you can't always judge a book by its cover and you certainly shouldn't rely on preconceptions. 

Because how wrong was I? 

So wrong that I honestly struggled to choose just one pair of shoes and exceptionally cheekily asked if I could also try a pair of flats.  

My main mission was to discover if, as per their marketing about the practical benefits of their shoes, I could find a pair of comfortable heels.  One of my friends swears that once you've bought a pair of heels from there, you will never buy a pair from anywhere else.  Clarks schmarks.  These are the most comfortable heels you can put on your feet according to her and she buys a pair from there every year. 

And it didn't stop with my friends' adulation.  Was chatting to the family about work and lo and behold - the 10yr old and The Husband both piped up with "LOVE geox shoes (mummy loads of my friends have them), why can't we have any".  So back to Geox I trotted and they very very kindly offered a pair to both of them (I didn't have the heart to go back and ask if the two smallest monkeys in the family could have a pair of trainers seeing as I already am fully aware of how great they are.  Darn it!) 

But enough of the small talk - let's see the proof. 

So I will admit that they do have a very wide selection of shoes that are definitely suited to a wide range of people (for a start, my whole family are now Geox fans).  But even within the women's selection, they do pretty much have a shoe for everyone. 

I was all about the heels though and once I'd seen these, there really was no going back.

Unfortunately they've sold out of them in this colourway but to be honest, it was a close call between the black above and the light taupe ones below. 

Ivana Heeled Sandals in light taupe was £120 now £80

Mine arrived last week and I am wore them last Thursday night to a dinner party.  I can honestly say it certainly doesn't feel like you are wearing heels that high.  They really are the acme of comfortable heels.

However it was difficult to choose between the Ivanas and these, the Heritage, which I've since discovered, they make every year but with a twist each season.  Super popular and my friend can vouch for extremely comfortable. (I'm not going say that she's usually fussy with heels... but she's usually fussy with heels.  Very.)

Heritage Heeled Sandals £110 now £77

Or the black again now £77 - you see how hard it was to make the decision?  I could happily have both of those.


Other heels that caught my eye in store were the Lanas. These are definitely slightly lower. With my love of the vertiginous heel, I would categorise these as being of the mid variety and actually perfect to wear on a daily basis.  Ideal for Summer office wear.  These could well have made the cut for me, had I not had a slightly similar pair in the black from Clarks a couple of years ago (which I wear loads - they are definitely timeless).  Plus once I'd set eyes on the Ivanas.....

Lana in light taupe were £110 now £77

Or in the black again now £77 

The other option that I nearly went for and loved were wedges.  They have some amazing wedges that don't feel remotely as high as they look.  

Jaleah Wedges in biscuit were £103 now £73.50

And here is a lesson in needing to try something on to see what they actually look like. Normally I wouldn't have bothered with these but I have to say on, I absolutely loved them. 


However the story of the Summer for me (and the latter of last Winter if I think about it) has definitely been flats

Hold on to your horses now - these are absolutely not going to be for everyone.  But watch this space as these are going to be everywhere come the Autumn I promise.  It's the fringe phenomenon going to the next level.  I thought these would be really cute with a pair of khakis, thin knit jumper, blazer for the now (well not now scorchio now but last week now) and with a military jacket and big scarf for the Autumn.  Marant eat your heart out.  I did try to order these but they're sold out in my size. 

Sara Moccasins - collaboration with Patrick Cox were £140 now £70

And if you haven't got your sandals yet then there are two pairs in particular I would have worn in a heartbeat. 

Starting with these which I can't find online but they did definitely definitely have instore.


Or the Jolanda was £90 now £63  The best thing about their flat sandals is that they don't go up around the ankle unlike most of the gladiator sandals out there.  One of the major bug bears I know lots of people have is that they really don't like ankle straps.  I personally am a fan but even without an ankle strap, for me, these were amazing.


But I am sandalled out (yes, can you believe I am admitting this....?) and so I chose to look ahead to something I could wear now for cooler days but really thinking about A/W.

What did I struggle with last year and couldn't find at all? (and believe me, I did give it a really good go...)  A black sneaker. 

Call off the dogs.  Geox have some amazing sneakers.

The New Club in black patent snakeskin was £70 now £49 I wish we had touchavision (clearly we don't as I just made up the name, let alone the concept or technology) so that you could feel how light these are.  At the same time though they don't look like a super summery plimsoll but a proper leather sneaker.  All the advantage of leather but with a breathable sole and super comfy technology.

I absolutely love the shape at the front.  Pointy enough to be on trend but not too pointy so that they're hideously uncomfortable and so long that on larger feet make you look like a penguin.  These are perfect.  Size wise, I took my normal size. 

I am beyond giddy that I have found a pair that work and am already starting to plan my A/W monochrome outfits round them.  All hail the black.  Black leather skirt, with all jeans, with little black dresses, dungarees, you name it, I shall be wearing them with it.  (including midi dresses - how could I have neglected to mention the midi dress...)

And with the cooler weather yesterday, I got a chance to wear them.  Super comfortable without socks, wore them all day without one hint of any rubbing.  I am going to be all over these in the A/W.


They do also have them in the white if you have been on the look out for a pair of sneakers and haven't succumbed to the Stan Smiths.  These are an entirely different level of comfort, I promise you. 

And what did the other lucky members of my family pick? 

Well it didn't take much for the 10yr old to hone in on these ("a girl in my drama has them mummy and they're amazing!").  A really good selection for girls.  Not too grown up but a world away from too young.  Perfect.

And The Husband - with ideas of all things Italian and Euro chic (he's going to LOVE me for that), chose a pair of suede moccasins.  They do look great for weekend dressing with shorts and a casual shirt.  One thing my other half does do really well is casual smart Summer dressing. (as well as obviously being impeccably turned out at all other times...)

So am I teaching you all to suck eggs?  Am I the last person to know how wide the ranges on offer at Geox are and how versatile, let alone comfortable their shoes can be?  I'd love to know your experiences and if they weren't on your radar before, then I can highly recommend a look.

Great sale on by the way even though I might be all over the sneak peaks of their A/W ranges.  I have a ballet flat hole that I need to fill and my other friend who's been a Geox fan for years, says these are her go to brand for style, comfort and quality.  I shall be exploring in further detail another day. 

And as an experiment, I have had the sneakers on today for a dog walk.  No. Sweaty. Feet.  I also think they'll be amazing with my growing collection of black dresses - get used to seeing them.  They'll be out a lot.

Both outfits from Thursday and yesterday. 


Black shirt dress - & Other Stories
Ivana sandals - Geox


Off white jumper - Kin by John Lewis
Black skinny ankle zip jeans - Boden
Whiskey Medium Marcie Satchel - Chloe
New Club sneakers - Geox

So am I very late to the party with my Geox discovery?  Off to see if I can grab some bargain sandals in their sale. (and of course more boys trainers.  I am not leaving it till the Summer holidays when they're all sold out and I have to end up paying full price for them)  But thank you to Geox for the shoes for myself and especially for The Husband and the 10 yr old who are delighted.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Envy = panic

Envy of the dress variety.

This pretty much again happens every time of the year - I see dresses that I've seen in store and thought - nah - on another person and suddenly think OH MY LORD I NEED THAT DRESS. 

Of course the reality of it is that I don't and the reason I bypassed it originally was, on second inspection (it's amazing how quickly I can google a dress when I need to), valid.  What looks great on another person doesn't necessarily work on me. 

The first dress I saw was on an amazing lady I met on Saturday when I had the absolute pleasure of judging the Young Fashion Designer Of the Year for the South.  I was incredibly honoured to be asked and it was honesty the most fun I've had in ages.  The standard of talent at GCSE, AS and A Level was more impressive than I would ever have expected.  I felt just like a giant version of May Martin.  Especially as I was accompanied by the winner from last year - George Chaffey who made a fantastic young Patrick Grant. (skip that last bit of you don't watch The Great British Sewing Bee although if you don't you should as I think it's actually better than the Bake Off one.  Compulsive viewing!)

So the dress in question was worn by one of the other judges and it was another & Other Stories one.  This one, which is now sold out.  It actually looked a lot better on her than it does on the model here.  She was much more petite and it was a much better length on her.  So actually on me, it would have looked pants.  PHEW.  However is that going to stop me charging up to London this week "to see"??

The other dress was last night at a party for a friend's birthday when another friend was wearing the most stunning maxi dress (khaki with a print on..... sleeveless, tie at the neck) which I haven't in fact seen before.  From M&S.  Now I clearly have spent the best part of today trawling through the M&S website to see if I can find it.  Can I heck as like?  

However I did unearth a whole load of dress gems that are new in at M&S and full on floral and print is the current story.  Which suits me right down to the ground.  I am having a full on dress revival and think a couple of others to add to my stash (because it's been at least a fortnight since I've bought a dress - to be fair, I have worn both of them twice already which isn't bad at all) would be fair game.

And the beauty of most of these that I did find, is their versatility.  The ultimate dress me up dress me down frocks at truly great prices (the price thing does go a bit off piste towards the bottom of the blog, I'm warning you now....)

Firstly one that I would happily wear on the school run with sandals.  (I would lose the fascinator.  Probably)

Floral Tunic Dress from M&S £39.50

Another shift dress - this time without sleeves.  

Cotton Rich Floral Placement Dress from M&S £39.50

Now this one I think is a lot more Temperley than M&S...

Butterfly Print Maxi Dress from M&S

Whilst we're on the subject of resemblance, I think this bears more than a striking one to the DVF shape and print. 

Geometric Print Shirt Dress from M&S £59 If you look closely the print of this is white, pale pink, black and KHAKI. Whoop de whoop.

Another oversized floral print which is very much more Sportmax or DVF than M&S.  I love the idea of trying this one.  

Easy Care Oversized Rose dress £39.50

Ditto this print - Round Neck Floral Shift Dress from M&S £65

Full on floral full length and a bargain price at Phase Eight.  

Phase Eight Julia Floral Maxi Dress was £89 now £49

Another slightly more subtle number from M&S - I've seen this a number of times in store and it's a great extra to have in your wardrobe.  Perfect for work, the school run, out for dinner or even to a wedding. 

Ditsy spotted shift dress from M&S £55

From subtle to totally in your face but some great reductions at Selfridges, including this rather bright but rather amazing number from Maje. 

Abstract print silk dress from Maje was £369 now £184.50

More bell sleeves at Mango - this is just simply heavenly and perfect if you're shorter as Mango short dresses are notoriously crotch flashing for tallies.

Printed Dress was £40.49 now £20.24

Also adore the red 

Another one I swear I've never seen on the Mango website

Flowy Printed Dress was £31.49 now £15.74

And in the red shade  - sorry, that should be vermillion....

New season now at Mango - but still a great price and perfect for the warmer weather.  So long as you're petite.

Floral Print Flowy Dress from Mango £35.99

However I do have hopes that this one will be slightly longer  (that'll be Bob Hope or no hope of course)

Flowy Shirt Dress from Mango was £26.99 now £13.49

From the mostly very short to my newly beloved midi dresses and obviously I can't possibly do a blog on any form of dress without including a Self Portrait one. 

This one.  I need.  And it sneaks in under the banner of "print dresses" because... because it just does and I need to look at it again and again and again.

Self Portrait Fringed Midi Dress £240 - remember, these do go in the machine and size up a size.

Moving onto more purse friendly options - this one I tried on earlier in the season and did love but wasn't entirely sure it was me.  However it's an amazing dress and the best bit is - machine washable.  Get in there.

Ted Baker Ravina rose dress was £159 now £80

More amazing floral at FCUK and a bargain again at £52 in the sale. 

FCUK Freida Dress was £130 now £52

Sort of midi - well it would be on most people... I wouldn't have thought this length of dress would work but I think it looks great in this pic.  However that could be because she is an 18yr old model... hmmmmm.  However I love the zip detail, the pattern and the colourway.

Textile Federation for ASOS Shirt Dress with zip detail £45

I have also been spending every free minute drooling over the (limited) more wintery clothes that there are out there and this dress from FCUK is top of my wishlist.  

Sundown Jersey Paisley Maxi Dress from FCUK £80

Love the print of this - I think with a plain coat over - simply perfect.  

Paul by Paul Smith Jersey dress £135

And here I am proving that I can't get enough of my dresses at the mo. 

This is from yesterday for the judging.  I stupidly didn't realise (duh) that I'd be on my feet all day.  However these old favourites from LK Bennett were surprisingly comfortable.


Porcelain dress - & Other Stories
Tan peep toe shoe boots - LK Bennett
Whiskey Medium Marcie Satchel  Chloe

And last night out at a friend's birthday party.


Yellow dress - Whistles
Yellow, tan, black & snakeskin sandals - Zara
Snakeskin clutch - Michael Kors 

Anyone else on a total dress fest at the mo?  Having had my legs out for the past couple of weeks, they're got a bit (a *bit*) of colour to them and so I don't have to rely solely on the fake tan (my bed sheets are thanking me) so I'm on a frock roll.

I hope everyone else has had a good weekend.  I'm trying to work out when I can get to London this week to fling myself down Regent Steet and grab the dregs of the sales.  See?  Total panic.  I'm such a predictable fool.

Friday, 3 July 2015

It's a left field one from me

That's because it's a beauty one.  An exceptionally rare one for me as I don't remotely proclaim to be an expert in this area at all.  I have an embarrassingly pathetically stocked beauty stash.  It's tiny.  

I do get sent the odd thing but genuinely, it takes something very impressive to drag me away from my old favourites.

I'm always being asked what I do use for various things and I've promised a couple of people that I would do a round up of my favourite beauty products.  There are some new additions but mostly these are my very own Hall of Fame products. 

Starting with one that is new in - shampoo and conditioner.  This was recommended by the wonderful Caroline Hirons (a true Beauty Goddess) and it's as good as all the shampoos and conditioners that I used to use which were 3 times as much.  And the best thing - a totally SLS free product. 

OGX Hydrate Defrizz Kukui Oil Shampoo £6.99 from Boots but on 3 for 2 at the mo. 

And the conditioner again £6.99 but on offer at Boots.

Again new - a new oil treatment product which is the best I've used.  Now this isn't cheap (I nearly threw up when I saw how much it was when I went to pay) but I reckon this will last me till my kids go to uni.  It's huge and you use the tiniest amount.  And genuinely do only use the tiniest amount as the only solution to using too much is to rewash your hair.  (been there, done that, sworn)

Moroccanoil Treatment £31.95 from Feel Unique

Whilst we're talking of luxury products - my next new product is one that isn't cheap.  I won this on the raffle at a school function and I love it.  It came with a milk bath product thingy which I have to say I don't rate in the slightest but the exfoliator is Amazing.

Elemis Sp@Home Skin Nourishing Body Scrub £29.50  This is the biggest treat ever (I'll be totally honest, I didn't realise how much this was and I will be using it slightly more sparingly in the future.... it needs to last at that price!) 

It did remind me that my favourite exfoliator that I haven't bought in ages but I used to adore was the Incredible Spreadable Ginger Scrub from Origins.  However this is £25 (I swear it wasn't that much....) so hardly a comparative bargain.  But I've never found a cheaper one that really works as well.  Any suggestions?

Has anyone tried the Champneys Spa Treatment Salt Scrub? £12 and on 3 for 2 (so you could have three of these for less than one of the above....)  I used to use the Sanctuary one, also from Boots but it was only *ok* and I couldn't stand the fragrance.  All recommendations gratefully received please. 

The last new product that I adore and can't get enough of are more stick on nails.  Or should I say glue on, as I use a nail glue as opposed to the tabs you get in some of them.  I promise you, these don't harm your nails at all - at the very least compared to the gels which (and it didn't matter which brand I tried - I really did try them all) trashed my nails. 

Broadway Nails - Natural Deceptions from Superdrug £7.65 I file these so that they're round as I'm not a fan of the curved nails.   These are short and subtle.  Pure elegance as opposed to Made in Essex specials.

Finishing with some of my beloved favourites that I couldn't live without and in Summer that is first and foremost my products of the fake tan variety. 

Top fake tan for me is the Cocoa Brown Mousse at £7.99 from Superdrug  As good, in fact I think perhaps better as it fades more evenly, than St Tropez and less than half the price.  One thing I would say is don't wash it off after an hour or even three hours.  I have heard of people having a problem with it not being dark enough if they've done that.  I put it on in the morning after a shower and go - I don't bother washing it off at all (yes MING alert - I do eventually obviously....but just not a couple of hours later).

And for my face, there is nothing better than the Chanel facial self tanner which I have used for more years than I can remember.  It's amazing.

Chanel Soleil Identite in Intense Bronze.  Cheapest place I've found it is from All Beauty at £27.   It lasts for absolutely ages and I would say is probably my top beauty product.  It genuinely makes your face look like it's been airbrushed - it has scarily magic capabilities.

I recently had an eye flare up of my eczema due to using a whole load of different cleansers I was asked to try and the only way it went away was going back to my tried and tested eye make up remover and cleanser.  I now refuse to use any other cleanser on my face.  There is nothing that comes close to either of these in my book. 

Lancome Bi Facil Eye Make up Remover £19.95 at All Beauty (cheapest place I've found it)

And the simply perfect, nothing can come close - Emma Hardie Moringa Balm £38

So what do I have on my list of must try things? 

Firstly, I've stopped using the Revitalash as I had read some disconcerting things about it but have heard better things about the Mavala Eye-Lite which also claims to lengthen lashes.  The fact it's approx a sixth of the cost is also rather appealing.  And it gets great reviews. 

Has anyone tried it? 

Mavala Eye-Lite Double Lash now £11.70 from Feel Unique

I'd absolutely love to hear about your beauty Must Haves - especially ones for Summer.  I'm sure I have loads more (actually I'm not as I'm woefully slack on the whole beauty regime) but the ones that I seem to use regularly, I've definitely shared. 

Another little secret I'll let you in on - my new top.  Yesterday I had to go to Sainsburys to get some new boys school socks.  None at M&S, Florence & Fred or Waitrose so my only other local option was the not so really near at all Sainsburys.  This was to prevent a nervous breakdown (on my part) over Sockgate.  WHERE do they go?  The other morning we literally couldn't find one pair of socks - sod that - we couldn't find any socks (at the time I couldn't have given two hoots if they were matching or not).  So I was on a sock mission. 

And whilst I was there it would have been rude not to scoot around and see if there were any gems.  Usually I never see any but then, hey presto I saw this top and thought this would be perfect for Sports Day and all those occasions when you're out in the scorching sun, zero shade and (shallow alert) want to avoid the obvious strap marks.  (ok so on reflection this is only Sports Day and the Summer Fair but at least I have a top for next year as well).  Beyond thrilled with it. 

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Linen embroidered top - Sainsburys
Stone Chinos - Boden
Tan sandals - Forever 21
Cognac Cross body bag - Campomaggi 

So I'm at home with the kids tonight whilst The Husband is out at a Beer Tastingthingy.  Tomorrow - super excitingly, I have been asked to be a judge at the Young Fashion Designer of the Year UK (the Southern counties).  Which means himself is on Daddy Day Care and the kids are going to try out their Summer club at The Maths Factor - LAST chance today to get the 3 month Summer club for £9.99 - offer ends at midnight tonight... before they can play on the Xbox to their hearts content.  Win win for the big man.

Hope everyone is enjoying the sunshine and please share your best beauty secrets!