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

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

My Metro Saturday with Translink NI

I've always loved getting the bus or train and generally avoid bringing my car into the city. Not just because of the parking costs but also because of the hassle of heavy traffic and finding a parking space that doesn't require a lengthy walk. Even when we lived in our last house, which was further out of the city and didn't have a regular bus service, I would have driven to where the Metro buses to the city started, parked up the car and jumped on the bus!

One of the drivers for us moving home late last year was to be on a Metro 'pink' bus route as my son was starting in big school and I wanted him to be fully independent getting to and from school. Having kids at different schools with different start and finish times, I knew I'd be up and down the road like a yoyo otherwise. But the move also meant that heading into town is so much easier for the whole when Translink Metro invited me to take advantage of their #MetroSaturday offer during September and October, I was happy to oblige and decided to take the eldest with me for some quality mum & son time.
The Saturday offer gives you unlimited bus travel from 9.30am for just £2 with a dayLink card or £2.50 with a Day Ticket (half price for kids). You can just head into town and back home or you can take multiple trips during the day - all on the same ticket.
Our main reason for heading into town was because my son had lost his multi-journey bus pass earlier in the week. He tops up 40 journeys at a time on this card (meaning the trips only cost him 62p each) but luckily there were only 6 journeys left on the card when he lost it. Even at that, Translink were able to cancel the card over the phone and issue me with a voucher for the remaining journeys - a great service. Just remember to take a photo of the card when you buy it to ensure you have the card number if it goes missing (and apparently, they do so at an alarming rate!).

So our first stop was the Belfast Welcome Centre to pick up a new card and load it up with journeys. The good news is that unit the end of the month, there's no charge for travel cards (usually £1 for a new one) so while I was there, I picked up Smartlink adult card for myself and a dayLink card for the hubby who travels in less often than I do.
I'd forgotten there's a great shop in the Welcome Centre - lovely to see my friend Jeff's Belfast Times stuff taking pride of place (also available online).
Then it was time for the shopping to commence - starting with FootLocker....he's trainer obsessed at the moment..
Avoca is one of my favourites in the city - it's just like an Aladin's cave...though my son wasn't as keen.
I'd been meaning to call into Studio Souk again as I've not been for a while and I found myself a real bargain here.
I'd been looking for a grey cross body for a while and saw these handmade satchels that are made in Belfast by Vintage Satchel Company. They're all at 50% off right now so this one was down to just over £40. I'd just been given £35 by Ruth who owns Deja Vu - where I'd consigned some of my clothes recently so I used this cash to break my recent spending ban. I'd say that's allowed? It only cost me £7.50 in actual money??! 
My son and I had a great afternoon - taking our time to look in whatever shops we wanted and not stressing about parking tickets or the potential bankruptcy that threatens when you park in a certain underground carpark in the city ;)

4 hours on, we headed home, chatting the whole time and letting the bus driver take the pressure of the rush hour. It made me realise that it's so much easier to talk to my son when I'm not trying to concentrate on the road at the same time. It really was proper quality time together and if I'm being honest, that was the best bit of my Metro Saturday. Thanks Translink!

Full details about Metro Saturdays can be found on this link. There's also 20% off food at Home restaurant every Saturday until the 17th October on presentation of a valid bus ticket. Yum.


Disclaimer - I was provided with vouchers in return for writing this post - a huge help towards the cost of my son's daily travel. All words and pictures are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

The MASSIVE Boden AW15 Try On!

Although it's been quiet on here for the past week, off-line, it's been anything but. On Wednesday, 5 rails of Boden clothing arrived at the house, along with a massive sack full of shoes and bags. I was in Boden heaven...
but it comes with the downside of taking over your home for 48 hours. However, this was my third home party so the set-up was straightforward and made much easier by having my friend Natalie with me.
In fact, by 12pm, I had my first sale from a neighbour who just happened to drop by as we were setting up!

My party was due to start at 8pm that evening so with the kids at after-school, I did a try on of everything that I've admired from the current range and also just anything that would fit...brace yourself for a photo heavy post :)

Starting with outer wear - and the sold out Charlotte Cape was on my last chance to purchase rail with 30% off. This is the size L and is a bit too big for me. The shape is so lovely but it is an autumn piece as it's quite lightweight - like a smooth boiled wool fabric.
And what a treat to get to try on the Sienna Coat in Oatmeal that has been a huge blogger hit. It was also was on my Last Chance rail in the size 16 and I loved it - it's a great shade & a lovely weight. Comes up small though.
The Velvet Coat in blue next and this is the 12. Felt quite big on me and I didn't feel it was worth the price - seemed a bit shapeless.
A couple of blazers now - The Velvet Jacket in a size 10 (neat so I'd definitely need the 12) and the
Chelsea Jacket in grey. The latter is a size 12 and was a little large on me. I have to say that both seem really pricy to me...more so than some of the coats! I'm not a blazer lover though - no matter the price so I'm not the right woman to comment...
Next, the Duffel Coat. This is a size 12 and it's so lovely and cosy. Sadly I've been scarred by the duffel coats of my youth so I can't love them. Sizing wise, it was spot-on.
My runner up coat from the collection I received is the Windermere down filled coat - exactly what the cold frosty school run needs. This is the 12 and was a bit generous but with a jumper it would be fine on me. 50% down and 50% feathers so it's going to keep you super warm. Lovely fur on the hood and well priced for real down.
Number 1 coat for me though was The Mac - the new version of the Rainy Day Mac which is more like a mac making it a bit dressier but it's still got the fab fleecy pockets and lining - a sheer's the simple things! This was a size 10 and fitted me well so I'd say it comes up big.
Knitwear next and even though it was a size 14, I had to try on the Fair Isle Jumper. Wasn't to my liking - it was HUGE so maybe size down on this one.
I had more luck with the Animal Intarsia Jumper - nice shape and so lovely and soft. This is the 12:
Moving onto the Mia Jumper in a size 14 (loved the neckline but not the shape on me) and the Alexa jumper with its cute navy trim was lovely on the hanger but not the best shape on me - this is the 12:
Best knitwear piece for me is the Relaxed Stitch Coatigan - ADORED it in the grey and could see me wearing it so much. This is the 12.
Moving onto tops and starting with The Ravello Top I had on above. I love the Ravello top in the catalogue but it never really works on my shape for some reason. Admittedly, this isn't the best colour for me and in a 14, it's too big but I think it's the pleating on the front that doesn't quite work as I've bought it in a 12 in the past and returned.
And the first one of the The Tamara Tops - this one in the spot pattern (size 10)
Next, the Tamara Top in the floral colour way was a good seller on the day of the party. I'm big floral pattern shy so it's not for me (wearing the 14 here though so it was a bit big for me)
Much preferring The Rosalyn Top in purple - great shade. This is the 12 and it comes in cream and black too with a great sleeve length. It's the same style as a sleeveless version that was part of the SS15 range:
The print in The Square Tee is amazing but the shape wasn't great on me. It comes in a dress though which I had more success with (see further below) Wearing the 12 here. The Gwyneth Top was lovely - I prefer the navy colour way though. This is a 12 again in the brown:
Two navy tops now and The Ottoman top was another bestseller - back in stock in some of the colour ways after a sell out early in the season. It's fairly true to size - this is the 12R:
The Dobby Panel Top is a gorgeous piece - definitely my runner up in the top department. This is the 10 and it was a good fit though it's the sort of top that you could wear bigger and not really notice much difference.
But my favourite top is the Dolly Top in Blue Deco Tile, which also sold well. Just a great fabric that hung really nicely and the style would work worn loose or tucked in. This is the size 12:
Shirts next and I had zero luck with The Boyfriend Shirt - it's ridiculously long on my 5'7" frame. This is the 12 - size down!
I had much more success with 'The Shirt' and realised I had a blue shirt gap in my wardrobe. interestingly, it came in both the regular length and the long length so you can see both on me in the size 12 - good for comparison. Despite having a long body, the regular length is fine for me I think:
For the purpose of research, I also committed to trying on all the skirts and dresses....see how much commitment I put into this blog (ignore the lack of a post for the last 10 days!!). You probably all know by now that I'm a reluctant dress wearer but this try on session was all the proof I needed that sometimes I should step outside that comfort zone and wear more dresses and skirts. Ignore the bare legs - most of these pieces are winter ones so I'd only wear them with opaque tights.
Starting with the Annabel Knitted Skirt which looked like nothing on the hanger but was a fab skirt to wear. So comfy and flattering. I'd definitely have it in my work wardrobe if I had an office based job. This is the 10.
Runner up in the skirt range was The Cambridge Skirt - this is the 10. A lovely practical skirt that would dress up for work wear but would also work great with tights and ankle boots:
The winner though is the Julia Patch Pocket Skirt - purely on the basis of the colour selection available. Check out this yellow - it's a 14 but wow on the colour!
It comes up big because the 12 in the navy was quite generous too:
There wasn't a 10 to try but in the interest of research, I beat myself into the 8 and I guess this just serves as proof that it's on the large side....
Dresses now and the Nora Ponte cross over dress looked really unimpressive on the hanger but was a nice shape on. Too big on me in the 12 though so size down. Also deep on the cleavage so would need a vest underneath.
The Boho Tie Neck dress is fab on too - and perfect for me in the 12. It's got a great weight to it and with navy and black in the print, is very versatile:
The next two I tried on were The Hartland Dress - in a 12 here and is too big for me so size down! Fab print, lovely length and great dressed up or down, it was low in stock and there were a few disappointed customers who weren't able to secure this in their size. And the The Retro Hotchpotch Tunic Dress is a real Boden staple - fab print and a good fit in the 10:
Dress runner up was the Lara Sparkle dress which looked like nothing on the hanger but was the most amazing fit on me - perfect for my shape! It made my bust look bigger, my waist look smaller and the flary sleeves are so flattering and feminine. If I had an occasion, I'd snap it up tomorrow. A great classic dress that would stand you in good stead for many years - also available in navy, this is the size 10:
My dress winner was another one that looked like a no-no on the hanger but it just worked on my body shape. This is the Jodie Dress - a great print and it's a real dress up or down piece. I could see it with boots and a long cardigan but also with a navy jacket and heels. Fab print too! I'm wearing the 12.
Finally for clothing, I tried two pairs of trousers - The High Waist Super Skinny was first and the 10R fitted perfectly. I'm wearing the metallic grey in the photo but if I was buying, I'd get the Eggplant - the fabric is so lovely and soft.
The Jade Joggers were a little long for me here in the 12 so they'll be great if you've longer legs.
Finally, accessories & shoes, of which there were fewer this party as compared with previous ones. I tried on the Alexis High Heel Boot, which were as lovely as they look in the catalogue, though quite narrow so I'd have to size up to the 40. Not too high and easy to pull on and kick off. And the pony skin Scallop Point were a good fit on my wide foot (in a 40). I found these the most comfortable of all the flats I tried.
The Court shoe in seaweed green was lovely. These are a 39 and fitted perfectly and were surprisingly comfortable. They come in a leopard print too:
The Beatrice Mid Heel wasn't for me but a beautiful shoe none the less - a good fit in the 39.
The handbags are easy - I loved them all and they were all as gorgeous in the flesh as they look online. The Bloomsbury Bag came in the peach pink shade - a surprisingly neutral colour that works even though it's autumn. The only one that perhaps didn't wow me was the Chancery Clutch which felt a bit impractical - I can't imagine fitting much into it so it wouldn't be great for daytime, as these styles of cross body/clutch have been in the past. The clasps seemed a bit loose too but that could just be because it's been carted around so many parties. It looks divine though!
and the Berkeley Zip Bag is just stunning - a beautiful beautiful bag in the flesh. If I could have justified it, I'd have snapped one up in a heartbeat. I'm a cross body girl at heart though, as you know!
As I'm saving for Boston, I have so far resisted the urge to buy but I have a wish list that includes: The Mac, The Coatigan, The Jody Dress and The Dotty Top. I've added them all to my basket and will be checking back tomorrow as the good news is that there's a partial sale starting with up to 40% off until Thursday and then up to 50% from Friday - Sunday! I"ve been told that the sale is unlikely to include any of the pieces in my party stock but it's still worth a look....wouldn't be right if I didn't check out a Boden sale now, would it?!

It just leaves me to thank everyone who supported my Boden party and travelled from near and far to come along. It was great to meet some readers of the blog whom I'd not met before.
A HUGE thank you goes to Lisa, Natalie and my sister Siobhan who helped me before and during the party, setting up, taking orders, making coffee and clearing up. And I can't forget my school mum friends who baked the yummiest tray bakes and scones for me and helped with pick up's and drop-off's during the day. Oh and the long-suffering husband who made himself scarce on Wednesday night AND looked after the kids on Thursday afternoon, keeping them away from the house so the party would run smoothly. You're superstars, all of you.

So I'm back with a blogging bang this week with a ton of posts that I've had on the 'to-do' list for a couple of weeks. Brace yourselves :)

Signing off for now,



Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Affordable Leather from Yoshi

Ok - I've given myself a kick up the backside and we're back into blogging mode again after that more reflective last post. The comments and offline messages have been really helpful - thank you. I'll keep blogging away as much as I can and you'll be the first to hear if there are any developments on the work side of things. But back to business today with a brand find I think you're going to like.

When it comes to handbags, I am a total PU/Faux Leather snob. It's the only area of my wardrobe I won't compromise on anymore because a leather bag always looks better and lasts longer...though sadly, they're often considerably more expensive - especially lovely soft leathers that get better with age.

So it was great to come across Yoshi recently when they contacted me to see if I would like to feature them on the blog. As soon as I clicked onto the website, the lovely leather, stunning colours and huge range of practical yet beautiful styles really impressed me. The handbags start from £40 and are all made from soft Nappa leather.

I was offered my pick of the range to review and early on knew the sulphur colour was the one for me...but which style? 
After much deliberation, I opted for a bag that would work hard for me as both a clutch and a cross body. One that would comfortably fit all I need to carry every day but not so big that it's difficult to carry as a cross body.

Meet the Lowry Saffron Leather Handbag by Yoshi (check out the fab dust bag!)
Instantly, the leather smell wafted out and I could see that the bag was gloriously soft and beautifully made. The stitching is perfect, as is the subtle branding on the bag. I'm not a fan of big logos or bags that shout out designer names.
The foldover style is very much up my street and I have a few similar style bags in my wardrobe already. I love that this bag is a little bigger and also is cut to allow you to open up the bag easily to see what is inside...essential when you're trying to locate lost keys.
I am really pleased with the colour also - it's more mustard/tan coloured than I expected, making it even more neutral and wearable with blacks/browns/greys/blues. I kept it simple last week (on a warmer day) with black..
Black Cotton Tunic - ℅ EKO Organic
White Jeans - H&M
Black Sandals - Topshop
Necklace - A21 Pendant from this post
and then today with navy. Also loving how well it goes with this scarf from the shop - the one I wore so much over the summer...
Scarf - SGS Shop (limited stock)
Denim Shirt - White Company Outlet
Navy Ash Jalouse - Bought last winter (similar here)
White Jeans - as before

Here are a few other bags I've got my eye on from the Yoshi collection - adore this fig colour:
Turing Bag in Fig Leather - £50
Cullen Bag in Mushroom Leather - £75
Jenner Bag in Ink Leather - £40
and how much fun is this? Makes me hungry looking at it!
What a wonderful, creative brand at an affordable price. Right up my street! 


Disclaimer - I was gifted my handbag by the team at Yoshi. I wasn't paid to write this blog post, nor was I under any obligation to do so. All the words are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog
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