Uniform!

29 February 2016
Uniforms. I have one. Do you? An outfit template that I step in to nearly every day. Something I feel comfortable in and works on every level.

Of course my uniform starts with skinnies and a top. Then depending on the weather, there might be a jacket, jumper or coat. And shoes, trainers or boots. Scarf or necklaces plus bracelet and watch. And that's it. A format that works and I don't have to think too hard.

Every single outfit starts with the skinnies and a top of some sort. The silhouette is there and no one is more surprised than me, each look below is kinda different. (Oh the pain of taking photos sometimes pays dividends).

All old
Bailey Jeans - Wrap London


All old
Austen Cross Body Bag - Modalu 


All old

All old
City Ponch - Kettlewell


All old
Diane Swing Top - Kettlewell


I hadn't thought too much about my uniform until this morning when I decided to wear a pleather skirt that's been hanging in my wardrobe unworn for months. Oh boy. How long did it take me to get ready? I couldn't get a top to work with it, eventually settling on an oversized jumper. And then the bottom half needed attention. Black skirt, black wool tights and black boots didn't look right so I had to play around with this too. Let's not even talk about the coat dilemma. It was all so complicated. And I nearly gave up.

Imagine having to go through that rigmarole every frickin day. Errrrrr no. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to ring the changers every now and again but for me, I'll stick to my uniform for now.

Call me a lazy so-and-so. Sticks and stones and all that.

Do you have a uniform or are you someone who loves to create different looks every day? Do share.


It's One Of Those Really Good Competitions...

26 February 2016
I've mentioned before how lucky I've been over the last 18 months with online competitions. Shame it doesn't extend to the £33 million Euromillions. Zilch, diddly-squat on that front. And still I part with my £2 per draw. Bloomin Nora, I've just worked out that's £208 per annum. That's a pair of shoes or a nice jacket. Whose the mug?

This little competition that's currently running is FREE to enter (click here). And you could win a £250 Gemini voucher. I'm in it to win it. Are you?

It's worth following Gemini on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram because they run regular competitions. One of my favourites is their makeover prize; a day of pampering at the shop in Stratford-upon-Avon where you get to play model for the day. Watch out for that one (I've done it, it's amazing).

Here's how I'd spend the voucher if I won it.

How much do I need a new navy blazer? This much  <...................................................................>

So top of the wish list is this easy wear jersey one from the new Sandwich Collection

Sandwich Essentials Jersey Blazer in Fresh Indigo £79


I'm always on the look out for cute little tops although my days of wearing spaghetti straps or vests are long gone. This one is ideal, it has a cute little pleated overlay.

Great Plains Remix Jersey Top in Sea Salt £35

Bit special isn't it.

And I'm always happy to add an easy wear sweatshirt to my wardrobe. And do you know what, I'm so over wearing a sweater with a waistband. Is it just me or do they ride up and tuck themselves above the belly? Much much much prefer a hem finished like this one. Love this colour, something I haven't currently got. Perfect for Spring with a pair of jeans or layered under a blazer. See above!

Sandwich Light Jade Cotton Pullover in Sprout Green £79 (ha ha ha ha Sprout Green)

Always on the hunt for jeans, I'd definitely give these a whirl. Love the wash - it's my favourite!

Great Plains Cassity Denim Boyfriend Jeans in Antique Wash £65



I work that out to be £258 in total. So, I would owe Gemini £8. Not bad for 4 quality items!

I'm sat here in my 'jamas on Friday night nursing god only knows what, a cold, flu, lurgy. Actually we've all got it. Fun house this is! It might be a case of hunkering down with the Amazon Fire Stick to watch old movies all weekend. Yeay! Except someone has to take the dog out and go food shopping and sort out the laundry. That'll be me then.

Have a good weekend and don't forget to enter the competition.






Nb. this isn't a sponsored post, I thought you might like the chance to win a voucher. Good luck, hope one of us is lucky xx

Dubai: An Alcohol Free Week, Camels Wearing Nappies & A Personality Disorder (in the nicest sense)

25 February 2016
A trip to Dubai has been on the cards for years. We first talked about it back in 2010 but decided to wait until construction work on the palm had been completed. Except we didn't realise there are two palms and one of them isn't anywhere near ready (more on that later). Anyway, being a democratic family we took a vote as to where to go February half term. Hot or cold (aka beach or skiing)? Unanimously hot won. West or East? East won so we settled on Dubai figuring a visit was well over due. And how good is this for a Marie Kondo rolled suit case (the sons, it's nothing new, he's been doing it for years).




As usual we used Travelbag to plan our trip. Give them a budget and they come up with a suitable package. We were presented with 3 options; Sofitel The Palm, Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach  or Roda Amwaj Suites Hotel. I think we'd already decided that we wanted to be over on Jumeirah Beach where there are many, many restaurants to chose from. The Roda Amwaj seemed much more appealing than the Sofitel as it offers serviced apartments. Which means a washing machine and a huge American fridge and space (lots of space as it happens) to spread out. A no brainer really. I think having had an apartment in Spain for the last 10 years, I'm used to bringing home clean laundry. Got this thing about stinky clothes touching the insides of the suitcases. I mean, it's a real obsession of mine.

Stock photos as I didn't take any but they're exactly the same...



Two bedrooms, two bathrooms (plus a guest loo), large kitchen, utility, living room and dining area plus the biggest hallway I've ever seen. 




And a view to die for. 

(nb. not stock photo, I took this myself!!). 



We travelled with Emirates. Downstairs not up - husband said no, it's just a short get away, we don't need the 5 star treatment. To be fair cattle class is really rather ok with Emirates (beats Squeezy Jet and Ryan Scare). But I'm not sure I could do a long long-haul. 

My first impression of Dubai was the traffic. Oh Lordy, how many cars? Seven lanes on the main road from the airport to the resort. I mean, we're talking Los Angeles territory here. My second impression was how spread out everything is. I thought the palm and Jumeirah Beach would have been much closer. Ooh and before I start another paragraph, I have a third thought. Dubai is SO CLEAN. Everywhere. Hubby had a new pair of trainers although he would like to point out that these were not bought specifically for the holiday (chav springs to mind). The soles were absolutely spotless after 3 days of wearing them. Honestly, you could eat your dinner off the shopping mall floor. I even saw a guy on the beach cleaning in-between each piece of wood of every bench. It took him hours. And then he came back and did it all again the next day. Oh and even the two camels wear nappies so that they don't poo on the beach. 

Camels and skyscrapers, not something you see everyday. I swear the buildings are made of cardboard, a scene straight out of Universal Studios.



The downside to staying over at Jumeirah Beach is that it's a public one. So no beach service. Not that there'd be a Mojitos at the click of a finger (oh the alcohol ban was tough). I've got to say, it did play on my mind....the public beach AND the alcohol drought. But actually, the beach was great in a modern sense. Cosmopolitan restaurants, decent sun loungers (£38 per day for 2), kids facilities including a mini water park, inflatable adventure area in the sea, football and tennis areas), beautiful people walking the walk and waiter service from a couple of the bars. Oh and not forgetting those smokey places - sheesha dens. Life was good. Well goodish. It got busier and busier over the course of the week, so much so that I feared we wouldn't get sun loungers on our last day. Sardines. Tin. sprang to mind. Hmmmmmm. And you can forget the pool (unless it's a roof top one), the buildings are so high that they're in the shade most of the day.

Of course we had to visit the Burj Khalifa. We hopped on the Metro. So cheap, so easy and so clean. Sorry, couldn't resist taking a photo of the carpet. And yes, those are sores on my left toes (high sandals, lots of walking from the night before). 



Hey, there's even a Gold class carriage with wide leather seats. Mind you, jump on the first carriage and hog the front window, you'll get amazing views of the landscape. All going swimmingly well until we got off at Dubai Mall (as instructed). And then the hike. It's a long way to walk especially if you have little ones. There are travelators but you'll need to wear comfy shoes. Eventually arrive at the mall and either the 4 of us are totally thick or there are absolutely no signs whatsoever. We were directed through the mall to a book shop - it would give Foyles a run for it's money. It's huge. We walked and walked and walked and eventually popped out the other side to the entrance of the Burj Khalifa. 



I think we paid about £85 each for a trip up to the highest viewing deck on the 148th floor. Ushered in to a beautifully decorated waiting area at the bottom, we were fed dates and that funny tea (I guess it's our equivalent to wine and crisps) and then whisked passed the waiting crowds who were going up to Level 125. You know those fast passes in Disney, well this is one of those. 77 seconds later (and popping ears) we were up there. The whole floor is sumptuously decorated as you'd expect; white leather, shiny floors, fresh flowers, macaroons (oh those macaroons) and cold drinks. 


Amazing views and we were fortunate to see it in daylight and sunset. This was no coincidence, we planned it (booking a 5pm slot - which wouldn't work in the middle of July of course as sunset is much later!). There are viewing areas inside and out. Surprisingly it isn't at all windy up there and we were also invited down to Level 125 which still has amazing views. 



I'm not great with heights and I'm not going to lie, I felt a bit wobbly sitting here. It's not a case of husband looking at me adoringly, more that he was laughing at my vertigo.


But the views were incredible! I mean, they have to be don't they...it's the tallest building in the world!





Oh and if you do venture that way, you need to visit the Dubai fountain - quite a spectacle, particularly at night (shows are every half an hour - no cost for a ring side view!!). 




The kids also wanted to go over to the Atlantis Palm waterpark. We'd toyed with the idea of staying there but the Atlantis is kind of a bit special to us as we got married in the one in the Bahamas and I didn't want those memories tarnished in case it didn't come up to scratch. As it turned out, I'm kind of glad, the whole basement of the hotel is open to waterpark guests too. It was to say the least busy! Nah! Not for me. 

Being over at Jumeirah Beach, I was wondering if we'd missed out on the more traditional 'hotel' holiday. Now when I part with my money, I want the travel agent to sell me the dream. This is the dream (my photo so yes, I confirm this is the dream).



Lovely yes? Except no. This is what they don't show you. A direct view from the Atlantis!




I don't want to be laid by the pool or on the beach looking over to a building site. Even the Burj Al Arab (the ultra swanky 6 star hotel) had not so desirable views across the water. I'm sure once all the building work is complete, it will be wonderful but I kind of want that now. Don't get me wrong, we had an amazing time but I think my face was 



Errrr.... surprised! Anyway, the waterpark was rated as pretty good by the 3 kids. Sorry 2 kids and Dad. I pitched up on the beach looking at the building site all day. I think it cost about £50 each and then you can add on some sort of a meal deal plus entrance to the aquarium which is as good as the one in the Bahamas. 

We ate out at various restaurants near where we were staying, traditional cuisine, Italian, Indian, burgers and it was all excellent. If you enjoy a glass or two of wine, you would probably be better booking in at one of the many hotel restaurants as they serve alcohol. I made do with non-alcoholic Mojitos and pretended. 

A delicious Lebanese beef in tomatoes dish. 




And we sat outside for dinner each night which was totally unexpected (February can be chilly in the evening) but it was pleasant with a light jacket. Daytime temperatures were around 25 degrees (pretty much perfect for me). Rain was forecast - it never came (thank you God). 

Everyone speaks English, very good English so there are no language barriers. Even information boards and leaflets are translated. And surprisingly it doesn't seem to be a compulsive tipping culture. Yes you leave tips in restaurants and for cab drivers etc, in fact pretty much as it is in the UK. You can't move in the Caribbean without someone expecting a tip.

Dress wise, it did my head in trying to work out what to take beforehand. In the end, I settled for jumpsuits and dresses in the evening and dresses during the day. All covered the tops of my arms but were maybe a tad over the knee. It seems that a certain amount of tolerance is offered to visitors. Ashleigh wore a pair of denim cut offs for a photo shoot for Wrap (see previous post here). She couldn't wait to change quickly into something more appropriate even though we were in the beach vicinity. 

It's as expensive as you want it to be. Our restaurant bills seemed cheap in comparison to Marbella but then there's was no alcohol added on. Certainly there's enough choice to adapt to your own budget.  

Dubai is a place of mixed personalities, dare I say, a little bit schizophrenic.  It thinks it's Hong Kong, with it's sky scrapers and junker boats on the marina (well worth an evening visit by the way). It takes on the persona of the Caribbean on the many sandy (slightly gritty) beaches. But maybe it's Orlando with it's many miles of shiny shopping malls and water parks. Or those cardboard cut out buildings reaching high into the sky, a bit Universal Studios. A little bit Las Vegas too with the dancing waters of the Dubai Fountain. Whatever. It certainly has personality. And the people. Well everyone seems to rub along very nicely. Many different nationalities living and holidaying in harmony. It all feels very safe. 

And something I pondered (and marvelled) about all week.. what on earth do those Arabs use to keep their white kanduras so pristine. Am assuming it isn't Daz. A complete mystery to me. 



So what do I think about Dubai? We had a fabulous time, it was more than I ever imagined it would be. A kind of 'city' break by the sea. But but but, I think my heart still lies in the Caribbean. Sun lounger, uninterrupted views of blue seas, a never ending supply of cocktails, a good old book and not an exposed girder in sight. Now that's paradise! 

Pop over to Instagram for more photos.



Hope you enjoyed my Dubai round up. Sadly it seems a long time ago now, it's so bloody cold this week!

Back soon.





Jeans For Me, A Jumper For The Daughter!

23 February 2016
Do you remember this post here? Well, the people at Wrap London saw it too and asked if my daughter and I would like to choose something to take with us to Dubai (don't worry they don't do swimwear...it's safe to read on). But anyway, how nice of them?

It was such a difficult choice to make because I still love everything I featured in my original post. In the end, I opted for a pair of jeans. Ha! I hear you say. A safe option. Well yes but firstly all the model shots are stunning (particularly the tops and dresses) - how can I compete with them. Every item is shot so beautifully which makes it easy to envisage how they would work in your own wardrobe. And secondly, I've fallen out of love with Marks & Spencer jeans (my go-to place). Big time. The last 4 pairs haven't lived up to expectations and bag around the bum within an hour of wearing them. As my grandad would have said, I look like a bag of muck. So, say hello to the Baileys.

Bailey Jeans in Dove 


Fab aren't they. Mind you I always, always hyperventilate when wearing a new pair for the first time! The fear of breaking them in, the bum sag and all that. And I forgot to pack a belt. But fear not, they didn't budge and were nearly as comfy as my trackie bottoms.

Bailey Jeans - Wrap London
Printed Top - Zara (similar)
Brown Suede Jacket - Gerry Weber (similar)
Metallic Bronze Clutch - Coach (similar)
Top Post Sandals - Primark (similar)  

Ok, I know you were expecting golden sand and blue sea shots not a shopping mall (it was a very nice shopping mall mind you). I'd planned to do some moody shots around Dubai Marina which is stunning by the way. Sadly the camera didn't want to play ball and when I realised, it was too dark to reshoot so out came the mobile phone. And it's no coincidence that the pattern of my top almost matches the L'Occitane shop front.


So down to business. Did they pass the Donna test?

1. Are they comfortable? Yes, in fact I considered wearing them on the plane journey home - that would be a first, I don't normally wear skinnies for long-hauls. They sit on the hip, maybe a tad lower than I'm used to but that didn't pose a problem. They do look quite low slung on the model shot - but fear not real women, they come up slightly higher.

2. Do I like the colour? Well my array of white jeans range from pure white to soft white to cream. These are more of a subtle oatmeal (they call it Dove but don't think dove as in dove grey - they have a much warmer hue).

3. Are they true to size? Yes, maybe a tad generous but not a full size.

4. Do they give? Not really, there's some stretch in them for comfort but I didn't notice any bagging or sagging.

5. And the length? Just perfect on me. I love the fact that they're not skin tight at the bottom as well.

Anyway, I must really like them because I wore them again today (straight out of the wash). First sign of sunshine for weeks and the ankles came out. Check out those (slightly) tanned legs. It felt positively spring like.

Bailey Jeans - Wrap London
 Pale Gold & White Top - Zara (old)
Fur Bomber Jacket - Jovonna (on sale)
Metallic Pumps - Pop Up Boutique (similar and adore these!)
Bag - Tods (similar)
*By the way, this photo was taken after a mammoth 4 hour spring cleaning session (they don't look bad at all do they considering I was on my hands and knees most of that time). Things to note:

1. Does anyone else wear white jeans (and sunnies on their head) whilst cleaning? No, that'll be just me then.

2. Why do I find it so difficult to cull my jackets and coats wardrobe. I'm ruthless everywhere else. My first attempt resulted in 1 paltry card-jacket consigned to the charity shop. So after having a stern word with myself, I managed another 3!




Anyway, back to the jeans which come in an array of colours, I've got my beady eye on the khaki ones next.



Big thumbs up for my choice. What about Ashleigh's?

Well she chose a little knit that was actually on my original post, the Pia Sweater. 



You really do need to see this in the flesh to appreciate how gorgeous it is (I was a tad jealous if I'm honest). 

Pia Sweater - Wrap London
Shorts - Vintage Levis (selection here)
Brown Leather Belt (similar)
Fig Lace Up Sandals - Top Shop (black available)
100% cotton, perfect for the end of a Dubai day when it cools down quite quickly at this time of year. She chose the Ocean Marl but the other two colour-ways are equally as nice. 

Bag - Primark (old)

The ladder stitch detail on the arm and above the hem gives Ashleigh her 'pretty' fix. She's a Romantic style personality so loves detail on her clothes. It's a slightly boxy fit and sits on the hips. Of course 20 year olds do the 'front tuck' so well....



A quick change into white jeans for a relaxed dinner (I think we ate Italian that night....as you do in Dubai!!).

Moto White Jamie Jeans - Top Shop
White & Animal Print Sandals - River Island (similar)
You know, Ashleigh has so many of these little knits in her wardrobe and pounds per wear....well let's just say they owe her nothing. I know, this one is going to be another firm favourite.

Thank you Wrap London, we had a ball shooting the photos and love what you sent. Do pop over to the website and have a look at this season's collection. I'm betting you'll find something to love.

Precious day at home on my own today. Got so much done. The dog came back from his hols yesterday (sister-in-laws) - he keeps giving me dirty looks. Ok, I know he prefers her to me, that's an understatement. She is his most favourite person in the world followed closely by the dog walker. Who seems to have got herself pregnant so I need to find another one - swiftly. That will be another few weeks of doggy dirty looks until it's sorted.

Big delivery in the boutique today, looking forward to checking it over tomorrow. The black dress that I featured on Instagram has proved really popular (I promise to email everyone who has asked about it tomorrow when I can confirm sizes). Also looking forward to trying on a couple of Jovonna pieces from our sample sale that I've put to one side; a stunning white dress and a white mesh bomber jacket (it's nicer than it sounds).

Ok, off to put the bins out because no one else seems to do it in this house. I'll tell you about our holiday next time.




Naughty Boden Tempting Me To Spend!!

22 February 2016
It's painful to write but I'm back from my holibobs. We landed in torrential rain. I swear to god Manchester rain drops are twice as wet as anywhere else. I'll tell you all about Dubai soon - it was different to what I expected. A place of multiple personalities.

Anyway, I have a more immediate dilemma. Given the amount of clothes that I've bought since Christmas (I won't be using the blog as a confession box - still in denial), I'd already decided on a period of abstinence of no spend from now until the end of March. Repenting my sins and all. And then Boden do their diminishing discount thingy (see below for details). I mean we knew it was coming but why now??? So do I play chicken and egg and wait until after March (praying that the stuff I've earmarked is still in stock and that Johnnie B does another discount soon) or break my resolve before it's barely begun? Decisions decisions. 

I spotted a couple of pairs of side stripe trousers towards the end of 2015 but if I'm honest the flared leg doesn't work so well on me. Being bigger on top, I need to show the shape of my legs otherwise I look a bit blobby. I tried on the M&S Limited Edition cropped ones (they seem to have sold out online) which I liked and am kicking myself for not buying. But I keep coming back to these. 



Ok, they don't have the side stripe but there's something a little bit different about them and certainly a nod to the current trend. The shape is definitely flattering for my form! I think I prefer the navy to the black ones. And in my head, I can conjure up many more outfits. White shirt as above, navy blouse, the blue boyfriend shirt from Boden last season.

And then there's the shoes. I love my navy and orange Lille lace-ups that I bought last year, good purchases because it would appear there's still life in the ghillie shoe in 2016. But these red ones would slot into my wardrobe seamlessly; black trousers, navy trousers, white jeans, blue jeans and that's before I even think about summer dresses and skirts. 




I haven't been drawn to the Valentino Rockstuds at all. The metallic studs don't do it for me at all but there's something rather lovely about these tonal ones. Look...



Next on my wish list is the Isabella Belted Cardigan. Juries out on which colour to order (both would work equally well). Sadly the 4 reviews available all give it one star. I'd still be tempted to order to check it out for myself.


Navy with rose quartz trim (I have lots of navy and nude pink in my wardrobe (tick)


And the mid grey with navy trim (I'm building up my grey collection and this would work really well with my nude pink tops (tick). See my dilemma?



And finally, the more feminine cut boyfriend shirt aptly named the Girl Fit Shirt is on my radar. I love my Boy Fit Shirt but I've got to be honest, it's a sod to style with flat shoes. 




I have longish legs and the length of the shirt makes them look quite short so I end up wearing heels to correct it. And sometimes you just want to slip those trainers on! So I bought the classic shirt in the same colour to wear under blazers - this one. Much easier to style. 



I'd probably have saved money by buying the Girl Fit shirt in the first place. But if I remember rightly it wasn't released until later in the season. Anyway, I have my eye on this one.



I mean who doesn't love a stripe? 

And that's it people, the Boden bits from my wish list. There's 20% off everything until Thursday, reducing to 15% until Saturday and 10% on Sunday. Plus free P&P. Use code 9J9G. 

Wah wah. What shall I do? I've barely started my challenge and I'm already cracking. Things are already selling out. I've missed out on the Ponte T-Shirt Tunic Dress that I featured a couple of weeks ago. Who buys these things so early in the season? 

I'm going to have to sleep on it I think. By the way, if you're wondering I didn't buy a thing in Dubai. Just can't see the point of wasting a good holiday wandering around shops that we have back home AND I'd already been warned by hubby before we went that there would be no 'luxury treats' so that meant swerving all the lovely designer shops. Surely that deserves a treat yes??

So if you have any tips on getting through 39 days without shopping, do throw them this way. 

Thank you for being my sounding block.


 
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