SCHOOL GATE STYLE

Belfast-based, clothes-loving, shopping-obsessed, mum of 3. Wearable fashion on a budget for busy women

Monday, 22 August 2016

AW16 at M&S

In the past week, under the guise of 'let's go get some school supplies', I've enjoyed checking out the new stock coming into the shops for autumn. The two shops I have spent the most time in are Dunnes Stores and M&S so they seem as good a place as any to start. First up, M&S....who are well overdue a good season.

Accessories first and these wraps have just arrived in two colour ways. This colour is very similar to a H&M blanket scarf that I have from a few seasons ago and it's a great way to introduce blush to your winter wardrobe. I love wearing these wraps like huge scarves rather than over the shoulders.
Open Front Triangle Wrap - £39.50  (a bit pricey for acrylic but it is big)
Some great jewellery in the Limited Edition range and the prices are amazing:
This top came home with me - though annoyingly, it went into the sale a week later so it's all sold out online now:
The jeans game is strong in the Limited range too - these black/grey skinnies are fab. Guess what? Not online. This is a frustrating theme that builds as this post goes on....
Took a shine to this cream sweatshirt. Not online.
But this jacket is! It's from the Indigo Collection and it looked great on the hanger:
It wasn't however great on me - perhaps would work better on a shorter body? I'd also say size down - this is the 10 with sleeves rolled up:
But this coat won my heart. I'm a huge fan of a cream coat but they're difficult to keep clean. This is a great option as the fleck will make it easier to hide any marks etc. It comes up huge though - I'm wearing the 10:
here's a close up:
Moving to Per Una...I know, I know...but bear with me! This bardot top is exactly the same as the River Island & Topshop one. I know this as I've tried them all. It's £5 less too #bonus:
but here's the surprise....can't find it online ::Head Desk::

But I've found both of these online and and believe it or not, they are Per Una too - just landed this week and I'm really quite impressed! I guess my head is in a work clothes space but I still think this first one would look great with jeans and black boots:
I'm feeling the pussy bow chambray shirt thing...but concerned about the ties. I bought a cream sleeveless one recently and couldn't work the tie at the neck.

The BOGOHP is still on on the basic tees on this link - get stocked up now!
Shoes-wise, these are a great nod to the Gucci ones all the super stylish bloggers have been sporting
and these boots are a fab dupe of the Topshop Master ones last year, which in turn were a nod to some Stella McCartney ones..
but guess what....they're not online!

So, despite the lack of online stock, I'm hopeful for a better AW16 at M&S. For the first time in a while, there are a few items I definitely want to buy and that's great for the brand after a few barren seasons where they've struggled to find their place in the market.

Finishing with outfits from the past couple of days...days where I've considered renaming the blog 'Black, White & Denim'
Asymmetric Knit - Zara (past season)
White Skinny Jeans - Pieszak via Sarah Jane Boutique, Magherafelt
Scarf (in hand) - New Look
Sandals - H&M

Denim Jacket - Vero Moda (via eBay)
Jeans - Gap Leggings via the Outlet
White Linen Top - Gap (via charity shop!)
Backpack - MiPac ℅ Menarys
Sandals - as before

Back soon with my Dunnes Stores edit!

Ax
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Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Bootcuts are Back!

Well I'm jumping the gun here as I don't even have proper photos of me wearing them yet but yes, after a break of about 4 years, I've got a pair of boot cut jeans back in the wardrobe.
It all started on a trip to Magherafelt yesterday....which was prompted by the last days of the Sarah Jane Boutique sale......
....and assisted by the son being at an athletics event in Antrim (half way between home and Magherafelt!) So the twins and I headed off in the car first thing and after a coffee with my choir friend, Hilary, we nipped into SJ Boutique for a look and a bit of a try on. First up, some Pieszak slim fit jeans - great length but a bit too much like the ones I already have...sorry the pic is overexposed....was hard to show the denim otherwise!
Next up, some grey jeans - also Pieszak...SJ has a HUGE range of this Danish denim brand. I liked the colour here but the rise was a bit low on this style for me.
Then just as I was about to give up on the jeans situation, I tried these size 8 Pieszak boot cuts on the off-chance. The thing with Pieszak is that they're usually really stretchy and come up a bit big so I was able to squeeze into them. The main reason I fell for them though is the fit. They're skinny right down to below my knees before kicking out subtly (not a bell bottom in sight). So with a heel they look amazing and make me look like I've got a 36 inch inside leg, instead of my usual 30/31.
I got a couple of quick shots this morning before we headed off for the day. I popped on my wedges for these pictures but I think I'll prefer them with a boot. Hopefully this gives you a bit of an idea of the shape and leg-lengthening effect...I'm about 5'11" in these wedges.
They aren't going to be everyday jeans as they need such a high heel and I will confess that it's going to take me a while to get used to this look again but they're a nice way to get wear out of some heeled boots and shoes that I've not worn for a while. Watch this space...maybe I'll not wear them as much as I think but I feel like they're the 'something a bit different' that my AW16 wardrobe needs.

Before I left SJ Boutique, I tried on these culottes which I was also tempted by - these are not my shoes btw...just wanted to see what they'd look like with a heel.
They're a beautiful fit and a bit different with a split effect up the front. In a toss up between them and the jeans though, I opted for the more casual option as I know I'll wear the jeans more. Shopping regret has kicked in now I look at these photos again but I need to be strong. (but thinking of how great they'll look with a biker or denim jacket and my brogues or superstars. ::slaps self::)
The cream top I tried on with everything came home too. I need more 'neat on top' tops for wearing with my boot cuts to keep the proportions right. Boot cut jeans = neater top. Skinny jeans = looser top. As if I needed more reasons to shop!

Finishing with a couple of the new stock of dresses at SJ. This orange one is just FAB in real life - the phone couldn't cope with the colour. Check out the ruffles:
and this one I would snap up immediately if I had an occasion to wear it to. Gorgeous colours and a great price too:
On my race back to the car (as by now, I was going to miss my son's races if I didn't get a move on), I called in really quickly to Spoilt Belle Boutique around the corner.
The SBB in Magherafelt is bigger than the Coleraine store - in fact, there are 2 shops in the town - one with shoes/bags...
and the other has clothing. Great scoot around both & lots added to the wish list...
Most especially this navy Tommy Hilfiger coat which is cut so beautifully - just such a gorgeous classic piece. 
The sale is still on here too - lots of great occasion wear at fab prices:
Gutted to not have time to call into Dice again...or Sportique, both stores I love to call to when I'm up in the town. As a guide, if you're visiting Magherafelt, it does only take 35/40 minutes from Belfast but you need to leave yourself more than an hour to look around. School girl error. But my proud mummy moment was waiting for me in Antrim. I now know how Mrs Bolt feels this week :)
Hope you're having a great weekend!

Ax
Disclaimer - I'm not sponsored by Magherafelt Chamber of Commerce or by any of the local boutiques :) I promise to visit other local towns in the coming months and spread the blog love all over....just let me clear the overdraft first!
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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Days Out - Seaforde Butterfly Farm

For the last 2 weeks of the summer holidays, I've not enrolled the kids into any activities. They've been doing bible clubs and sports camps on the few weeks that I needed to work but I've set aside this week and next for just days out and time together....in an effort to bore them with my company so they can't wait to go back to school!

We all love each other really...

So today we went to the Seaforde Butterfly Farm & Gardens which we've driven past hundreds of times and always wondered about visiting. It's a bit expensive for NI - it would have worked out at about £30 for all 5 of us to go and I wasn't sure if my son would really appreciate it or indeed if I would (wrong on both counts)

In the end, it was just myself and the 3 kids who went so it was £24 for access to both the butterfly house and the gardens. I'm not sure if it's worth it to just do one or the other - you would really need both to make a day out of it. We arrived just after it opened at 10am and there were only a couple of cars in the carpark so we had the place to ourselves.
This was what greeted us when we entered the hot and humid butterfly room....stunning!
and really from then on, it was a continuous stream of 'ooh-ing' and 'ahh-ing' and WOW from all 4 of us as the most exotic and colourful butterflies flew around us and landed on our heads and shoulders and even in my son's case, right on his glasses!
After about half an hour, we moved to the second tropical room which contains turtles that live around a lovely indoor pond full of colourful carp and goldfish.
There were also a few parrots and some smaller birds. The kids had so much fun talking to the parrots - they were really sociable.
Then the kids found a smaller room which had a couple of tarantulas, giant snails, a scorpion etc...oh and a big python too! I wasn't so keen to hang around here...
My idea of HELL in a glass case

We spent over an hour moving between the three rooms - the kids kept wanting to go back into the butterfly room and I was happy to oblige. There were benches and places to sit and once you got used to the tropical temperature, it was quite pleasant...
Trousers - Hush (past season)
Sandles - Next (via eBay)
Navy T-Shirt - Gap
Denim Jacket - Vero Moda
Backpack - Mipac ℅ Menarys (has been a GODSEND this summer - thank you Menarys!)
Then it was out to the gardens for a walk around the maze, which kept the kids entertained for ages. We enjoyed our picnic down near the pond in the pheasantry - which sadly had no pheasants that we could see. But it was all in the most gorgeous surroundings with the walled garden reminding me of The Secret Garden - with its big wooden doors and tunnels.
After heading up the spiral staircase to the top of the small tower and getting a 360 degree view of the whole place....
....we went back into the butterfly room for another hour. The kids just never tired of spotting the butterflies and having them land on their heads.

On the way home, I got the kids to rate the trip and the 12 year old said it was one of the best days of his life...now that's something for a 'too cool for school' tween boy to say! Naturally, the girls just adored it and wanted to go back again the next day. All 3 agreed, it was a 'core memory' (that's for those of you who've watched Inside Out)

I have been asked so many times since I posted about this on social media - 'is it worth a visit?' Hence this blog post - I wasn't planning to write about it - it's a bit off-piste for me but it's a good way to answer everyone's questions in one go.

I do think it's worth visiting. It's old fashioned....I would say it's the same as it was 10 years ago and I wasn't wowed by the shop and the ticket desk on arrival. But the playground and picnic area at the front are new and lovely and surrounded by opportunistic peacocks - which were completely unfazed by toddlers chasing them around the place!
The business person in me thinks what potential it has but the reality is that it's a part of an estate where a family lives and it's only open during the summer months. They clearly don't want it to be a major tourist spot as it couldn't cope with huge crowds. There's a quaintness about it that I loved and you could tell that the butterflies and gardens are a passion for everyone involved. It was like a step back in time and as the day went on, I realised I loved how it hasn't been modernised or computerised...it was a proper old school day out and it did my heart good to see how the kids who were there (not just mine) were blown away and properly wowed by nature.

So do visit...it's not somewhere you'll go to regularly - I reckon we'll go again next summer but it's probably a 'once a year' kind of trip. Try to go on a weekday, early on so you get the place to yourself. Bring a picnic and a full battery on your phone. And make sure your storage has plenty of room for the photos. And enjoy!

Ax
Note - there is a coffee shop but we didn't go into it. I'm sorry I didn't as I can't report back on what it's like but perhaps if you're reading this and you've been, you could leave a comment. Thank you! 
Full details on opening hours and prices on this link: www.seafordegardens.com 
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