The short of it

Another title for this blog post could of been – Body Image: Current status ‘its complicated’. Let me explain…

I’m just about to go away on holiday and for the past 11 weeks I have been religiously following the Weightwatchers Flex plan my aim to lose a stone before my holiday as well as running my usual 15km a week. As ever my commitment was unwavering and I exceeded my goal losing 17.5lb and over 10% of my body weight.

In a way that was the easy part. It has been an extremely hard journey to lose the weight this time round (I am now 45 and losing weight is getting harder and harder) but more importantly during this journey I have noticed some other significant changes happening to me. One of the biggest things that has happened is I have started to wear shorts!!!

Now thats probably not a big deal to most people but it is a huge deal for me…

Obviously a trivial thing like wearing shorts is the visible change but something much more significant has changed in me. Even though I have lost a lot of weight over the last 5+years (I was at my heaviest a size 20/22 and am now a size 10/12) I find it very hard to see myself and my body as ‘ok or even *gasp* quite good. These insecurities would mean I would wear leggings under dresses and go running in capri running tights even on the hottest of days.

Body image is a strange thing and however much other people tell you your body is ok unless you believe it yourself, it means nothing.

During the last 3 months I’m not sure why I started to feel different but I realised I was feeling angry. Angry mainly at myself for limiting my choices. Why shouldn’t I wear what I wanted? Why should I be hot and uncomfortable because I was worried someone might judge me? Was I really this stupid? Was I really this vain?

So, I bought some running shorts and I ran. And bought some summer shorts and I wore them. And you know what? The world didn’t end!!! No-one mentioned my admittedly wobbly thighs and even better I didn’t feel bad. I actually felt great. I felt free…and most importantly proud of myself.

Learning to love yourself is a journey thats for sure. But here I am, standing smiling in the sun wearing the kind of ‘short’ shorts I used to fear and a vest, embracing my new body, faults and all. I have bought a white bikini and will wear it by the pool and those running shorts are packed. My body is not perfect, but its better than it was. Its healthy and strong, my boyfriend thinks its sexy, it made a beautiful child and most importantly its the only one I’m getting!

More reading:

Find previous blogs about my weight loss journey here and here.

Find previous blogs about my fitness and running here, here and here.

Nanoblading Review – going under the mini knife!

I have been unhappy about my eyebrows for some time. After over-plucking them in the 90’s (thanks Madonna in your Erotica period) they had been left sparse and gappy and did not really ‘fit’ my face anymore. I had tried different topical beauty treatments and make-up products and had got to the point where I would want to pencil them in even if I wasn’t wearing make-up that day.

I knew a bit about Microblading but also was fearful of how ‘permanent’ it was. I didn’t like my brows but also didn’t want two thick caterpillars tattooed on me!!!

After hearing great things and seeing examples of her work, I went and visited Sophia Coomber from Beauty and Bloom, a beautician service local to where I live where she told me to forget about Microblading – the future is Nanoblading!

Nanoblading is a new brow treatment that uses ultra-sharp nano needles that can actually mimic the diameter and dimension of a real hair in the skin, It is a form of cosmetic tattooing but it’s not as deep as a conventional tattoo, as you are only going through the top layer of the skin into the upper dermis.  Put simply, it’s Microblading but with super fine, flexible needles.   The technique means you can create a more natural looking brow shape because the beautician can apply more accurate pressure and the pigment that is used is finer too.

First session – consultation and patch test 

After a patch test to ensure you aren’t allergic to the pigment or the numbing cream, you have a consultation to discuss the perfect eyebrow shape and colour for you. Sophia is absolutely lovely and immediately put me at my ease. She explained the procedure and well as how she was trained and the attention to detail she has. She warned me it would hurt a bit and as she had to do a tiny test cut to check I wasn’t allergic to the pigment I discovered she is truthful too! It does indeed hurt!

Second session – Nanoblading procedure

A week later I was back and ready to go for it! I was a little nervous but Sophia made sure I felt very comfortable and assured me we could take breaks if it got too uncomfortable. After applying some numbing cream, your chosen eyebrow shape is drawn on top of your brows so you can check it, before the treatment starts.

I’ve got to be honest the numbing cream doesn’t really make that much difference – Nanoblading hurts! Obviously this is the case wherever you go as tiny, light cuts are being made that feel like deep scratches but hey, no pain no gain! Sophia has a lovely calm and comfortable treatment room and you can have music playing which is a nice distraction. Oh and chatting, that helps too! The procedure itself takes between 1.5 and 2 hours depending on the amount of brow you need creating and at points I found it quite hard and my eyes did water quite a bit but overall it was manageable. You know you are going to get something you really want and I would say just be brave and focus on the end result.

Before and after – 

After the procedure you can see the effect is quite significant but also very natural. The colour looks a little dark at first but Sophia assured me it would fade over the next two weeks, which it did.

The aftercare is much like a tattoo – you clean the area morning and night with cooled boiled water and add a skin healing cream straight after. Sophia provided everything I needed right down to the cotton wool pads for the aftercare which I thought was a lovely touch.

I didn’t feel any real pain or discomfort afterwards and by about day 10 they only felt a little itchy as they were still healing but that didn’t last long. You are also advised to keep out of the sun, to not use certain beauty products and not get your face too wet for the first week or so. The better you look after them the longer they will last before needing retouching.

You’ll need two sessions, the second about four to six weeks after the first, to achieve the finished look, but you’ll still be able to leave the first appointment with beautifully shaped brows that don’t look half-done.

Third session – perfecting treatment – 

So five weeks later I was back! Having lived with my new brows for well over a month I felt they could be a little bit thicker and longer. Sophia added some tiny drawn hairs to the arch and ends and this procedure was much easier. I think its definitely best to err on the side of caution during your first session though as you can always add a little more but you cant remove any!

Straight afterwards  – 

This is just after my perfecting treatment. Again my brows are quite dark but slightly stronger looking which is what I wanted. And no thick caterpillars in sight!!!

2 weeks later…

A few weeks later I have stopped cleaning them and they have faded slightly as expected. I am so pleased – I am not wearing any eyebrow make-up in this photo of any kind and now I don’t need too. Even close up you cannot tell they are not real hairs – it really is amazing!

Overall progress – before, after first procedure and after perfecting treatment –

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I think this series of close-ups speaks for itself. The initial treatment takes about two hours, followed up with a perfecting session that lasts about an hour.  Everyone’s skin is different, but generally the pigment lasts in the skin for 12-18 months without retouches.

Sophia’s treatment costs £250 for the three sessions. She covers the East Kent and Redhill, Surrey area and can be booked here. I thoroughly recommend her.

For those in other areas, to find a qualified Nanoblading beautician look for one certified by a recognised training provider and one that is fully insured.  Plus request to see pictures of other work that they have done or look on their social media before booking in for the treatment. Make sure they are only using their own original photos and look for reviews and testimonials.

I am so glad I finally plucked up the courage to get this procedure done. I feel so much more confident and attractive. Yes, it hurt a bit being done but that feeling of confidence is just priceless!

Uniqlo/Marimekko collaboration

Sometimes theres just a coming together of two favourite brands that you cannot ignore. This happened recently when Uniqlo announced that their next designer collaboration would be with Finnish design house Marimekko.

For those not familiar with Finnish design house Marimekko, their style is bright, fun and vibrant and having started in the 1950’s has a very retro feel.  They create fashion and homewares and their fabrics are often used within interior and retail design projects.

The collaboration itself is a range of 6 different prints repeated into dresses, tops, trousers, bags and shoes with all the price points sitting within Uniqlo’s affordable set pricing structure.

After visiting the store and trying on a few pieces (being a Japanese brand I find Uniqlo clothing can come up a little on the small side) I settled on two t-shirts and a dress. I could of bought lot more but was strict on myself as my wardrobe is already bulging at the seams.

This is what I bought…

Dress – £19.90

Uniqlo Marimekko fashion range via www.AlwaysaBlueSkyGirl.com / Blueskygirlie

The print itself is named Polle (Horse) and is based on an image the Marimekko design team took of what they describe as the “round hoof prints left by a plump small pony.” so I’m already in love this print!  This is a comfortable slightly A-line fit, t-shirt dress and I went for a small which would fit a 10-12 fine. Its sizes run XS – L, is 100% cotton and costs just £19.90. Oh and did I mention it has pockets!!!

T-shirt – £12.90

Uniqlo Marimekko fashion range via www.AlwaysaBlueSkyGirl.com / Blueskygirlie

A boxy shape, I went for a size medium for a slightly roomy fit. It has all its print to the front, is available in sizes XXS – XL, is 100% cotton and costs just £12.90.  The Pompula (pompom) pattern depicts flowerpots. According to Marimekko, its been used as flowers are a warm way to remember friends, family and loved ones on different occasions.

T-shirt – £12.90

Again a boxy shape, I went for a size medium for a slightly roomy fit. It is white with just the print on an oversized chest patch pocket featuring that aforementioned plump pony print! It is available in sizes XXS – XL, is 100% cotton and costs just £12.90. Perfect with jeans and trainers I loved the cute simplicity of this tee.

All the items are all beautifully made and fantastic quality for the price.  Sizing can be a little confusing and I’d recommend a try on session but as ever Uniqlo has come up trumps.  It even comes in its own lovely paper carrier bag…

The range is available now in selected Uniqlo stores now and online here.

Visiting Venice

My fiancé and I recently returned from the most lovely trip to Venice and I wanted to tell you about it! Venice had been on my bucket list for a while (I had visited for a day as a teenager on a school trip to Italy many moons ago but that was it) and I have to say it didn’t disappoint.

It is definitely the most unique place I have visited on my travels so far and the no roads/all boats took a bit of getting used to.  It’s so iconic you spend a lot of time gasping and ahhing at all the sights you’ve seen in images over the years – its really quite surreal. After landing, we took a pre-booked bus transfer from the airport and then walked into Venice from the mainland via the main drag.

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We stayed in a lovely hotel in walking distance to all the sights – the beautiful, opulent and very romantic Hotel Ai Mori D’Oriente and found the cost per night for 4 star hotel quite affordable. Venice is pretty small so you really can cover a lot of it on foot and by water bus but its always good to have a central base I find. The hotel and its rooms are beautiful and the staff couldn’t do enough for us so I would definitely recommend it.

So Venice…where to begin?

I always think theres two parts to a mini break – the sights and the experiences so lets starts with the sights we visited…

Places to visit

Piazzo San Marco (St Marks Square), St Marks Basilica, Doges Palace and the Campanile Bell Tower

It is said that Napoleon called San Marco “the drawing room of Europe” and it is a breathtakingly beautiful place. Busy and filled with tourists it is one of the main areas to visit in Venice – probably number 1 on most peoples lists.  There are queues for both the Basilica and the bell tower, expensive restaurants with musicians playing on the square, streets of designer stores and LOTS of pigeons.  The stunning, multi domed Basilica is free to enter and is dark, dramatic and rather solemn with no talking (and some shushing!), but you do need to pay to see the Pala d’Oro – a magnificent golden Byzantine icon of 4,240 square meters of gold mosaic.  The Bell Tower is a must – take a lift (there no access via stairs  – my boyfriend was furious!) and admire the views of Venice – your wont find a better place to view the city or in our case, share a kiss.

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The views from the Bell Tower and breath taking…

Rialto bridge

The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal. Connecting the Sestieri districts of San Marco and San Polo, it has been rebuilt several times since its first construction in the 12th century, and is now a significant tourist attraction.  It is huge – breath-takingly so, with shops running down the centre of it, it is so wide.  Again it is VERY busy with tourists so it is easier to see from a boat than on the actual bridge. As well as walking it, we went underneath it in a gondola and it was really something – definitely recommended.

Bridge of Sighs

This enclosed bridge is made of white limestone, has windows with stone bars and passes over the Rio di Palazzo, connecting the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace.  The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment and the bridge’s name, given by Lord Byron comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.

Island of Murano

This was a lovely treat – a free trip provided by our hotel which we travelled to by water taxi (more of that later).  A 15 minute speedboat ride takes you out of Venice and on to one of the various islands – Murano, famous for its glass production.  Anyone that knows me, will tell you I LOVE glass and collect vintage Murano pieces mainly from the 1950’s and 60’s.  The island of Murano is renowned for its long tradition of glass-making and visitors come to explore the Museo del Vetro, which tells the story of glass through the centuries, and to shop for locally crafted souvenirs.  We were lucky enough to visit one of the main glass producers and see how the glass is made which really was one of the most amazing experiences of my life so far.  There is a bit of hard sell to encourage you to shop but we politely excused ourselves as bespoke pieces cost up to 100,000 euros!

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Glass shops

There are a lot of glass shops in Venice.  Image the weirdest thing you can…they will have it made of glass.  Prices start at a euro so anyone can treat themselves though.

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Things to do

Take a Gondola ride

We couldn’t of visited Venice without doing this – yes its expensive but totally worth it.  Gondola fares are set officially, these are the minimum fares for a standard gondola ride but rates can go higher (most fares are higher at night).  During the day it is 80 euros which is what we paid. Gondolas hold six people and can be shared without affecting the fee so you can save money by sharing a tariff with other people if you want to – personally though I wanted the love seat (the main decorative seat) and it feel romantic so there was no sharing for us. I didn’t get to eat a Walls Cornetto on one, but this was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.

Take a water taxi

Want to feel like Sophia Loren in the 1950’s?  Beautiful speed boats with leather and walnut interiors are the taxis of Venice.  Fantastic fun but not the most affordable way to travel so we also made good use of the water buses which you can ride all over Venice for 24 hours on the same ticket for 20 euros. But for glamour? The taxis (and their drivers who seemed to want to go as fast as possible) had it all!

Eat and drink…alot!

Pasta, Pizza, Gelato, wine, butter biscuits… Italy is the home of great food and drink. Alongside the usual Italian fare, Tramezzini, also called Venetian tea sandwich was a must for me. These triangular sandwiches (starting 1.50 euro per piece) come with many different filling.  My favourite? A whole boiled egg surrounded by tuna – utterly delicious.

Buy a mask

There are mask shops everywhere in Venice with lots of street sellers selling cheap Chinese version from market stalls and discount tourist shops.  Visit one of the traditional artisan shops where you can see the masks made by amazing craftsmen and women.  It really is amazing watching the creations be made and discovering the many different types of masks many that have been used in film and TV.  As well as the traditional masks you can now pink SteakPunk versions, ones inspired by 50 shades of Grey and fashion pieces intricately cut out of metal and leather. My boyfriend fell in love with them and we ended up bring one home with us which now has pride of place in our bedroom.

Look at Art

There’s a lot of art in Venice.  As my taste is more contemporary, The Peggy Guggenheim Collection of 20th-century masters was my dream visit, with art by Jackson Pollock, Picasso, Magritte, Max Ernst, Andy Warhol and an amazing outdoor collection of sculpture and experiences.  It was founded by one of Venice’s most colourful expat residents, Peggy Guggenheim, whose father went down in the Titanic, leaving her a fortune.  Admission is 15 euros a person and well worth it.

Visit a supermarket

We always like to find a nearby supermarket whenever we travel (who wants to pay mini bar prices, right?) and Venice did not disappoint.  Want the most dramatic, glamorous SPAR ever?  That’s Venice…

Add a love lock

A tradition for us, Russ engraved a padlock before we left.  In our usual way, we added it to one of the many bridges in the city (there were quite a few locks there already) and threw the keys in the canal.  Another Sarah & Russ love lock left in Europe xxx.

Do some exercise

OK, OK I know we are annoying.  Another ‘me and Russ’ tradition achieved though as we ran a 5k route round the city.  We had eaten a lot of pasta and pizza by this point so it was probably needed!

All in all Venice was an odd, amazing, tiring and slight surreal trip.  It is small enough to do via a mini break and can be done on a variety of budgets.  It definitely is the strangest place I’ve been so far and loved seeing views and sights I’d seen in photos for so many years.  Yes it’s busy.  Yes its touristy.  Yes you have to pay for every toilet. But overall?  It is just amazing.  Oh and I got that Cornetto at the airport before we left!!!

All photos via my Instagram – follow me here.

COLOUR POP: Red & Pink

When I saw this blouse in Zara the other day, displayed with a whole red and pink theme I just had to have it. Its rare I feel like that while shopping these days so didn’t hesitate in buying it.

Blouse/ £25.99 Zara

From the Zara Basic range it is made from a lovely silky material, with a hidden placket front, shaped shoulder pads and cuff button detail. At £25.99 it is a complete steal and looks so much more expensive than it was. Their VM fuelled my already slightly obsessive love of red and pink together and I also picked up a pair of pink Zara cropped wide leg trousers for £29.99 (although I think a pair of red peg leg trousers may be next on my shopping list – the Zara ones the model is wearing were about 6″ too long, so searching the petite ranges it will have to be!).

So instead heres how I styled it…

Size wise, I went for a small in the blouse and it fits well – fitted on the shoulders but loose enough on the hips to be worn longer with jeans. I was feeling smug about buying the small at Zara but had to size up to a large in the trousers as they are a pull on style so that soon put me in my place! Urgh, Zara sizing…

To complete the look I added some bright red sling-back flats from Primark…

…as well as a bright pink lip colour.

I really loved this outfit and will definitely wear it both for the office and with heels and tassel earring on a night out. I have SO many different red and pink items in my wardrobe this blouse has encouraged me to mix a few of them together. I cant wait to see what looks I can create next – I really think its the perfect bright colour combo for Spring/Summer!

Not quite your style? Heres some more red and pink Zara shopping inspo….theres something for everyone!

Red blazer /  trouser  Sleeve detail top  Ribbed t-shirt

Two tone bodysuit  Flower earrings    Floral wedges

Blouse / Zara (in store now)
Cropped trousers / Zara (in store now)
Shoes / Primark (old season but similar available in store now)

Letter to my 13 year old self

Today is International Women’s Day, a day that commemorates the movement for women’s rights. It is celebrated on March 8 after women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia on that date in 1917 and it became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.

This years theme is #PressforProgress. In a statement for 2018 they said “With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away – there has never been a more important time to keep motivated. And with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and more – there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity. And while we know that gender parity won’t happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day. Plus, there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support. So we can’t be complacent. Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. A strong call to #PressforProgress. A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.  International Women’s Day is not country, group or organisation specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. So together, let’s all be tenacious in accelerating gender parity. Collectively, let’s all Press for Progress.”

Recently I have been musing on how hard it can be to be a woman. In the light of the #TimesUp movement much has been spoken about about the challenges and inequalities of being female and although things are changing they still have a way to go. I have had my fair share of harassment and in my younger years had to stop a man trying to force me to do something I didn’t want to do on more than one occasion. It amazing how charming and funny you can be while trying to not get assaulted… Since having my son it has been very hard to maintain any consistency in my career (in fact even have a career), and its clear that women with children are still discriminated against quite openly and it is still a very male orientated world.

I wondered, if I knew then what I know now what would I tell myself? Here is the letter I would write to my pre-womanhood self…

Sarah,

You are just about to become a woman. Urgh, I know, periods are rubbish right?You’ve always been female, but you will soon learn you now have a whole new set of skills to use and issues to deal with. It is sad, but you will be judged on how you look – and even though you are a feminist you will use those looks when you can. Remember all the ‘look pretty’ and ‘be a good girl’ comments? It going to get worse…but now you will be judged on your body too. There nothing wrong with revelling in your femininity, but make sure it is not all you are.

Talking about bodies, do not compare yourself to others. Not your face, your figure and definitely not your personality. You will blossom and grow and by the time you are 40 you will look pretty good. It will take a ton of hard work but it will be worth it. You will always be short though, sorry.

Do what you love. You wont want to follow the same path as your peers and that’s ok. Try as many things as you can both in your career, in life experiences and in bed (sorry mum). Give everything you try your all but if you do fail just dust yourself off and start again. Don’t worry about the applause, the applause won’t do for you what you think it will. Never, ever, give up.

You have your whole life ahead of you and you do not need to rush into anything. You are beautiful and talented and there is only one of you. Wait for a lover who knows what a gift he’s getting to get to have you in his life. You are not easy, but you are definitely worth it – don’t ever let a boy define your happiness.

Talking about happiness – let yourself be happy. Really happy. That can be harder than it sounds. You won’t always be perfectly happy – you’ll have to learn to find happiness, to fight for it sometimes. You’ll have to learn that no matter how sad you get, you can always fight your way back. It is always there…and in the meantime there’s always music and pick n mix.

Listen to yourself. You have an amazing instinct – it will save you again and again. Listen to advice when it is offered, but when it comes to taking it not all advice is created equal and you need to know this. Even those with the best of intentions might be unaware of how they are guiding you to the place that is best for them – not necessarily for you. You’ll know what’s right, trust me.

Learn to say no. No I would not like to go out with you. No you may not have my phone number. No I do not want to have sex with you. No I will not text you a picture of myself. No No No. Consider saying No about lots of other things too, but those no’s will be especially important. You do not have to do anything you don’t want to do. Those girls that are doing it all now? Its ‘tortoise and the hare’ I can promise you.

Find some friends. You don’t need a lot of them but nurture the great ones. As you get older you will realise how important true friends are. That girl in your class Veronica? She is going to be your bestie for life – you will see each other get married, have babies, even get divorced (sorry – spoiler alert).  Loving people makes you a better person – fact.

Learn to stand up for yourself as soon as you can. One of your best traits will be your bravery – you are so brave it amazes me. Family, friends or lovers might stand in for your own courage sometimes, but that there is no feeling the world which compares to standing on your own two feet. Earn your own money, buy your own things and own your own life. Always speak up if you think something is not right.

Be a proud feminist.  You have come from a long line of strong, intelligent, independent women.  Make them proud.  Make all women proud. 

You will be hurt. Anyone who lives a brave life gets hurt. So learn to forgive. Forgive your parents for not being perfect. Forgive the ones who tried to love you but couldn’t. Forgive friends who let you down. Forgive (but don’t forget). Try and remember that most people, most of the time, are doing the best they can. Try and be kind…its not your natural style but you will get better at it.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. You can be a little self-obsessed. Learn to laugh at yourself more than just about everyone else.

Look after yourself.  Health is everything.  You wont sort yourself out properly until youre about 40 and you will waste so much time before that hating yourself.  Love yourself whatever your size – you are the same person inside, remember that. You think you hate sport currently…try and change that mindset as it really will change your life – by 45 you’ll be running 3 times a week.

Spend as much time with your dad as you can. You’re going to really miss him when he’s gone.

You don’t think you want kids at the moment but becoming a mother will be the greatest thing you’ll ever do. In the meantime, learn from your own mum – she will show you how to be a truly great mother (and definitely use birth control till then – you wont believe how many people you know will have ‘surprise’ babies). She is and will always be, your greatest fan.

Try not to worry. You worry a lot. About everything. It really doesn’t change anything.  Fight your anxiety.  You will beat it.

And finally, that thing you think about the most – you will find true love.  However it wont be with Ben from Curiosty Killed the Cat, sorry.  But that love will make you truly love yourself finally…even if you tummy is still a bit fat and your nose is still a bit big.  Be brave in who and how you love – life is not a dress rehearsal. 

Can’t wait to watch you shine.

Love
Sarah xx

Oh and your fashion sense will get much much better…

Me and my mum circa 1986.

Gloria Steinem, once explained “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” So make International Women’s Day your day and do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women. It can be hard being a woman. It can be unfair. But at the same time it is amazing.

Living in Electric Dreams with Order Electric Blinds.co.uk

Made to measure blinds are one of those things that sometimes can seem a bit stressful to buy. Because they are designed to fit a specific space and room they might look fabulous but the idea of the measuring, the ordering and then the installation can be a bit daunting for most of us.

Enter Order Electric Blinds

BEFORE –
The large window in our kitchen was looking pretty uninspired. An area of our home that doesn’t get much light, we inherited a wooden venetian blind when we moved in and had just stuck with it. The wooden slats were dust catchers and showed every splash of water from the sink, and the dark wood finish made it that even less light got through into the kitchen.

I wanted something that was both effective and stylish yet still subtle. Theres so many different colours and patterns available on the website and I was tempted by a bright orange which I think would of looked really great but decided on something a bit more neutral. In the Essentials range I went for the beige Electric Wire Free Blackout Roller Blind* as I thought it would be the best match to the paint colour in the kitchen. If you are in any doubt about choosing a colour, Order Electric Blinds can send you colour swatches so you can get the perfect shade for your room which I think is a great way to take some of the stress out of the made-to-measure process.

The Essential collection of electric roller blinds are a simple and effective way to dress your windows – included in the price is a power source, single channel handset and the made to measure blind. This collection of blinds is available up to a maximum size of 200cm wide by 170cm drop and all of the fabrics they use offer thermal insulation as well as blackout making them great for bedrooms and children’s rooms too.

Theres lots of information on their website from how to measure your windows to how to install your blind once you receive it, plus tons of youtube tutorial videos to help too. I’m a real worrier and found the whole thing really easy and stress-free.

The blind arrived really quickly and came with all the fixings required, a motor, controller and in our case a plug too. These blinds run off of amazing battery operated motors but can be plugged into a power source too if theres one nearby.

Order Electric Blinds only use Somfy motors in their blinds – Somfy are the market leaders in window blind motorisation. Every motor operates on RTS technology which means you can use the same handsets and timers to control a variety of products within your home including roller blinds, wood venetian blinds and roman blinds. Sounds pretty cool, right?

Now I’m no motor expert but my partner is an engineer so pretty discerning when it comes to these things. He was very impressed with the quality, the ease of fitting, set up and use (he fitted and programmed it) and the motorisation. Me? I liked the motor is very quiet, unobtrusive and makes me feel like I’m living in a boutique hotel!!!

AFTER –
And here it is! I am thrilled with the look but mostly its the quality and the ease of use that has really blown me away. We have set it to three heights (completely open, dropped slightly to stop the sun, closed) and each setting looks great. We’ve also wall mounted the controller nearby for ease of use.

Overall I couldn’t be happier with this blind. The quality is great, it works brilliantly and looks so contemporary and stylish. Not having rods or chains makes the whole look so much cleaner and the automation via the remote controller feels so luxe. Any decent DIY’er could put it up especially using the battery motor option and the website has so much information any question you could have can be easily answered. Prices start at £90.00 – and find the rest of the Order Electric Blinds roller blind range (including an amazing Orla Kiely range) here.

*this was a gifted item but all views stated are my own. For more information please see my disclaimer section.

Doing Valentines Day your way…

Now lets start with a disclaimer…I am no fan of Valentines day. In fact I wrote a whole blog about it being a marketing ploy that we should not get caught up in (read my thoughts here). I personally don’t like being guilted in to acting a certain way and all these ‘holidays’ do seem to do that.

Instead lets talk about things I do love…

  • Fashion
  • Hearts
  • Vintage
  • Personalisation
  • Cute design
  • Being romantic

Regardless of the date, let me share some lovely ways to be cute around Valentines Day or Galantines Day or just a random day in February depending on your view, using things I love.

Dress the part –

Don’t worry, I’m not talking sexy underwear (although most men would agree its never a bad idea, I’m sure!). I’m talking a cute reference to the season without looking like you tried too hard. This cropped jumper looks great and I co-ordinated it with a leather skirt for a low key sexy look. It has a sense of humour (a key part of fashion for me), is a great price and best of all you can wear it any day of the year! After all, who doesn’t love LOVE!

Jumper / Divided at H&M, Skirt / Very.co.uk

Get retro –

As you may know I love vintage (I run a vintage shop full of curated pieces on Etsy – take a look) and buying vintage items is a cheap and cheerful way to add a unique touch to proceedings. I discovered these 1960’s glasses in a local secondhand shop and just had to have them.

…and they came in a pair so are perfect for a glass of bubbly with a loved one during a cheeky romantic meal – or how about using them for a yummy dessert?

Smell great –

They say our sense of smell plays a huge part in arousal and smelling good makes you feel confident which in turn makes you sexy. So add a few sprays of a great scent onto your skin and see what happens! Lately theres been some fantastic perfumes launch that don’t break the bank, in fact my two favourites at the moment are actually budget buys from Missguided and Primark.

Pink Candy fragrance / Primark, Babe Power fragrance / Missguided

Wrap a gift but make it personal* –

I discovered Pretty Gifted just before Christmas. They are a fantastic online seller of personalised gift wrap – you pick your paper colour, your print foil, your font and your message and they do the rest. For £7.95 you get a large sheet of fantastic quality wrap, a gift tag and a metallic pen. This time I chose the new rainbow foil effect and went for a cute little message to my boyfriend to wrap a token gift in – ‘can I borrow a kiss? I promise to give it back…’ I’m smooth right!?!

Wrapping paper / Pretty Gifted, Ribbon / Wilkinsons

I have kindly been given a code for my followers to receive an exclusive 10% off all orders – bluesky18val . It is valid until their Valentines cut off (midday on Friday 9th Feb)

Have a nibble –

My local independent baker makes the cutest cookies and cakes for Valentines (and lots of other seasonal events) and I bet yours does too. For just a £1.50 or so you can pick a super cute treat for a favourite person to have with their coffee which is guaranteed to make them smile and remind them how much you care…oh and you get to support a small independent business too!

Be cute not crass –

One of the reasons I’m not a fan of V-day is the pressure it creates. It encourages us to spend money we often cant afford on booking restaurants or spending £50 on roses that will be dead in a week, feel we must be waiting in red underwear ready to ‘perform’ as if we were in a XXX movie and the fake world of social media has just made it even worse. Thanks Facebook/Snapchat/Insta but I don’t need to see 37 photos of *insert name here*s Valentines day…no one does!

Often a token gift can mean much more than something expensive but with no thought behind it. A pretty pair of earrings because he knows you love to dress up, a lip balm because he loves to kiss your lips, a Lego mini figure of a favourite comic book character, a book mark because he knows you love reading…These type of things mean much more to me and are the things I have come to cherish particularly as I get older…

Heart Peg / The Works (pack of 10), Earrings / F&F, Trinket dish / Clintons, Lip balm / Beauty Base , Silver Love Heart / Suck UK , Love potion bottle / East of India, Harley Quinn figure / Lego.

So for a simpler way to celebrate, put your phone away, don’t broadcast what you’re doing or not doing and just do something that makes the person you love (whether its a lover, a friend or yourself – self love counts too remember) happy. Write a note, share a memory, make a favourite meal or just sit on the sofa watching a favourite film. Obviously feel free to do any of the other ‘Valentiney’ things if thats your bag, but do them because you want to and can afford to, not because you’re trying to out-do the rest of Facebook, impress your friends or feel pressured to by others.

Celebrate or don’t celebrate, but do it you way!

…And most importantly, none of the ideas shown in this blog cost a lot… because I truly believe love shouldn’t come with a price tag! xx

*items marked with an asterisk denotes a gifted item but all views stated are my own. For more information please see my disclaimer section.

Hankies at the Ready…

I do like to find a piece of clothing that has something about it thats a bit different – a detail, a print or a cut. Style is about finding your voice and the clothes you pick are a great way to do that.

I found this dress by chance when popping into the George clothing section in Asda a few weeks ago. It was crammed on the sale area, all on its own between jumpers and jeans just asking to be looked at. It didn’t look that much in the hanger but I loved its hemline – it was so unusual with it handkerchief hem I just had to try it on. It was a size bigger than I usually buy but I often size up with George and wanted a kind of boho looser fit which when I tried it on it was. And the price? Just £10!

George at Asda snakeprint handkerchief hem dress via Always a Blue Sky Girl aka blueskygirlie fashion style blog

George at Asda snakeprint handkerchief hem dress via Always a Blue Sky Girl aka blueskygirlie fashion style blog

George at Asda snakeprint handkerchief hem dress via Always a Blue Sky Girl aka blueskygirlie fashion style blog

It had a matching tie belt but to make it look more premium I replaced that with a dark silver belt and matching ankle boots. And due to always feeling cold I added a roll neck bodysuit (great if you want to layer without lumps and bumps under your clothes)

George at Asda snakeprint handkerchief hem dress via Always a Blue Sky Girl aka blueskygirlie fashion style blog

Its the hem that makes this dress though. Unusual without being too quirky its one of those items you can dress up or down, layer up in cold weather. Plus for women over 40 like me – it has long sleeves – always a winner.

I absolutely love this item and am so glad I found it…isn’t it funny that sometimes the random things you chance upon become favourites? I probably wouldn’t of looked twice at this if I’d of seen it in a magazine. Its sold out online but have a look in your nearest store – I’ve seen them in a few stores since and it been reduced to £7 – thats practically a steal!

George at Asda snakeprint handkerchief hem dress via Always a Blue Sky Girl aka blueskygirlie fashion style blog

Dress / George at Asda
Roll neck bodysuit / New Look
Belt / Dorothy Perkins
Boots / Primark