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 –

img_4957-1

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!

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.

Oh hello again weight loss journey…

For the last 3 months I have been signed up to Weightwatchers and following their new Flex program to lose weight.

I had put on a bit of weight this year (about 2 stone) due to too much snacking and too many treats as well as an issue with my contraception which meant I had to go on the pill for 6 months which changed my body shape/weight completely. I was unhappy with how I looked, was struggling more and more while running and knew my issues with food were rearing their ugly head again, so in September signed up with Weightwatchers for 3 months.

My start was a little slow but after 4 weeks I had lost 7lb and got my first ‘silver 7’ sticker. It took me a while to get used to points rather than calories but I soon adjusted and was tracking my food every day.

While I was on my 3 month subscription, the Flex program was launched – this is where my weight-loss really sped up. This new system builds on the existing SmartPoints system, but has expanded the zero point foods to include more than 200 different foods. You do get a lot less points per day though – mine dropped to just 23 but I have to say it worked for me. According to Weightwatchers in a six-month clinical trial, WW Flex produced better weight loss results among participants than in clinical trials of previous Weight Watchers programmes.

As always with Weightwatchers, no food or drink is off limits and now members have the freedom to eat many more foods without tracking or measuring, including eggs, all fresh fish and seafood, skinless chicken and turkey breast, fat free plain yogurt, beans, peas, sweetcorn, lentils and tofu. For even more flexibility up to four unused SmartPoints each day can be rolled over into your weekly points to use however you wish (for me usually on something sweet!).

Find out more about Flex here – I definitely recommend it.

My next milestone was losing a stone…and you get a little certificate! They say a stone is a dress size and my this point my clothes were definitely starting to feel loose on me plus some bits that had got too tight now fitted again.

Once you achieve a loss of 10% body weight it is also marked with a certificate as its an important milestone in health. According to Weightwatchers losing just 10% of your body weight is scientifically proven to lower your cholesterol and reduce your blood pressure, and high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure are two major risk factors for heart disease. Also if you’re overweight, you’re at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, which means your body can’t make enough, or properly use, insulin, a hormone that helps convert food to usable energy. By losing just 10 percent of your body weight, you’ll improve your body’s ability to use the insulin it makes, possibly preventing the onset of the disease. My blood pressure and cholesterol were already fine but its still great to be keeping an eye on these things particularly as I am now in my forties.

Exercise was a key part of this process for me – I ran in the snow…

I ran at night…

I just basically ran a lot!!! I have been exercising regularly the whole year anyway, running 5km three times a week, every week currently adding up to about 725km/450 miles in total – but weight loss is 30% exercise/70% diet so sadly the weight still crept on. If you’re interested in starting running but don’t know how to start, I’ve written some blogs about running as it has been a lifesaver for me – find links to them at the bottom of this post.

My last weigh-in was this week and I lost another 2lb taking me to 1lb over my goal of losing 1.5 stone by Christmas. I am so proud of myself as it has been really hard particularly as it got closer to Christmas.

So what have I learnt? After losing over 6 stone about 5 years ago I really thought my struggles with my weight were over…sadly I was wrong. I realise now this is something I am going to have to manage my entire life and must always be aware of.

So at the end of 2017 I am 22lb lighter, off the pill, my running has improved again and I am back to a size 10-12. For my work Christmas party I wore a heavily sequinned top which I would never of worn 20lb heavier…and I felt fantastic!

Always a blue sky girl 40 plus fashion blog blogger Sarah Gorlov blueskygirlie very sequin party christmas top

Always a blue sky girl 40 plus fashion blog blogger Sarah Gorlov blueskygirlie very sequin party christmas top

Losing weight has not been easy, but it definitely has been worth it. I realise not everyone wants to lose weight but for me the bigger I am, the more unhappy I am.

I enter 2018 much more aware of how easy it is to put weight on and feel I am back in control of my body and mind again. I feel healthy and strong but most importantly, I feel the best version of me again. I still have about 7-10lb to lose but for now I’m going to enjoy Christmas (although not go mad, I’ve worked too hard for that!) and then continue my weight loss journey in the new year, knowing I only have a few pounds to lose. Most importantly I am going to do what I have always done for the last 3 years – keep my running up (3 x 5k a week), walk as much as I can and generally be as active as possible…it really makes such a difference.

This is going to be a life-long struggle for me, but I am never going to give up. People throw around the phrase ‘lifestyle change’ but thats sadly what it has to be. This change has to be for life…of course every day cant be perfect, but as long as theres more healthy days than unhealthy ones, thats what matters.

Find previous blogs on my weight-loss journey here and here.

Find previous blogs on my running here and here.

10 ways to make your gift wrapping stand out this Christmas

So, who has bought all their Christmas presents? Not me obviously as I am always a last minute kinda gal, but I’m sure all my sensible followers have bought at least some, if not all, of their Christmas gifts. I do love a nicely wrapped present and think it really adds to the whole gift giving experience so always try and make my presents look nice.

I was actually taught to gift wrap at Harrods when I was a junior window dresser so know a few tricks too to make them stand out from the crowd. I’ve created 10 looks to make your wrapping look amazing this year…plus none of it requires much outlay and much of it you probably already have. Oh yes, we are going to be eco-friendly too and do a bit of recycling! Lets get inspired…

Idea 1:Use fresh foliage –

Theres always so much stuff to use for free – you just have to look for it. Head to your local park for Holly, Ivy, Fir and berries. You’ll only need a few small bits, which you can leave in a small amount of water or damp oasis and then add them a few days before you gift your presents so they don’t dry out.

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogPillow pack / Wilkinsons

Idea 2: Get personal with personalised paper* –

For paper that really grabs peoples attention why not create something truly unique? Pretty Gifted is 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. I went for a little message to my boyfriend to wrap one of his presents in – ‘gifts are nice, but our love is everything!’ Lets get this whole season of buying stuff in proportion, eh?!?

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogGift wrap sheet, tag & metallic pen / Pretty Gifted*
Curling ribbon / The Works
Wooden decoration / Demelza Hospice shop

Idea 3: Map it out –

Know a person who loves to travel? Maps are something of a blast from the past these days but whenever I see old ones I want to make use of them. Dig out your old ones from the back of the cupboard or source vintage maps from charity shops and second hand stores and you will have some ready-made and totally personal, wrap. Just add ribbon…

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogVintage maps / various charity shops
Ribbon / Tiger Stores

Idea 4: Make part of the present the wrapping –

Giving a gift of a scarf or similar? Why not use it as the gift wrap? Theres nothing like getting two presents for the price of one! If you can’t use the gift itself you could use a beautiful off-cut of fabric – just wrap it around the gift, add a satin ribbon to fasten, and you are done!

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogVintage scarf / my own
Satin ribbon / John Lewis
Gift tag / Clintons

Idea 5: When theres not much time but you still want to be individual –

We’ve all seen all the gift boxes you can get in the card shops – they are easy to use, but usually not that exciting. However, life gets busy so for a short cut use pre-made gift boxes, but do it your way. Change the ribbon and the tags and add some personal touches such a giant bows and christmas decorations – now your box is totally unique.

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogGift boxes / The Works (striped), Card Factory (glitter), Sainsburys (gift card)
Curling ribbon / The Works
Tree decoration / Demelza Hospice shop

Idea 6: Christmas decorations –

This time of year its easy to find a different decoration to suit every type of person, so why not add it your parcel as a personalised gift tag? The person can keep it afterwards and add it to their tree as a keepsake. For a special gift, look for collectable decorations and for a more budget friendly version check out the supermarkets, Wilkinsons or charity shops – many charity shops have ranges of new decorations for sale and you can help a worthy cause at the same time.

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogChristmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blog25th Dec wrapping paper / Clintons
Wood & raffia decoration / Demelza Hospice shops
Set of 3 porcelain decorations / Georg Jenson at John Lewis
Ribbon / Tiger Stores

Idea 7: Recycle that newspaper –

Boring old newspaper can look amazing as a present wrapping. Use an unfamiliar paper such as one from a foreign country or as I have here, the Financial Times. Look out for vintage newspapers and comics – for a really individual touch you could use one from the year that person was born.

Christmas gift wrap wrapping Newspaper style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogChristmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogFinancial Times / selected newsagents
Ribbon / The Works

Idea 8: Doilies –

Paper doilies have gone out of fashion in recent years but they are easy to track down in the party and disposable plates section of many stores. They make a fabulous addition to gift wrap particularly with a simple paper underneath. Want a truly unique gift wrap? Then this look is for you.

Christmas Paper Doilies gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blog

Brown paper / Poundland
Decorative string / The Works
Paper Doilies / Tesco

Idea 9: Tins –

Tins, both vintage and Christmas themed are really a gift in themselves for wrapping smaller presents. Look out for unusual ones throughout the year and then add your smaller gifts into them. Finally just add a bow and boom – done!

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blog

Tins / charity shops, Poundland, Ikea
Ribbon / Tiger Stores, M&S

Idea 10: Tinsel is not just for the tree –

For a fun look tinsel can work perfectly as an alternative to ribbon. Look for rolls of mini tinsel which is usually used as a garland or for smaller trees and wrap it around your wrapped gifts. Cut smaller sections and tie together to make a starburst bow and your gift will look amazing!

Christmas gift wrap wrapping style guide via Always a Blue Sky Girl blueskygirlie style blogMini tinsel garland / John Lewis
Gift tag / John Lewis
Wrapping paper / Poundland

And finally, some tips to make your wrapping look great. Remember with gift wrapping, the basics matter –

  • Measure out how much paper to cut by rolling out your wrapping paper and then placing the item (ideally a box) in the centre of the paper, upside down, so the seams of the paper will end up on the bottom of the package. Bring the paper up one side and over the top of the box, all the way to the opposite edge estimating how much additional paper you’ll need to cover the side of the box that’s not yet covered and then cut the paper.
  • Bring one side of the paper up the side and halfway across the top, affixing it to the box with a piece of tape.
  • Before bringing the second side of paper up and over the first, create a clean seam by folding over the last half-inch or so of the paper, using your fingers to create a tight crease. Now bring this side up so it just overlaps the first one and affix with tape – double-sided tape can be used for an even neater look. Position the fold on an edge for a seamless look, making sure you line up any patterns.
  • Fold the paper on each side of the present and starting on one end, fold down the top flap onto the side of the box, creating two little wings at the side. Flatten those in against the box, then fold the remaining triangle of paper up against the box. Fasten it in place with a small piece of tape.
  • Add your bows and tags as required. Curl ribbon with the underside of a sharp pair of scissors and cut ribbon ends into forks or angles.

Enjoy getting ready for the holiday season! If you use any of these ideas I would love to see! Tag me on Instagram – @blueskygirlie.

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

All photos are my own and cannot be used without permission.

Planning my next adventure with Cabin Zero

What do you dream of? I dream of travelling – seeing new places, experiencing new things and creating amazing memories.  So when the guys at Cabin Zero asked me if I wanted to test out one of their innovative travel bags I jumped at the chance!

Myself and my partner travel to a new place on a ‘us time’ mini-break every year, as well as taking a family holiday and for me travel really does feed my soul.  Travel for us isnt just about seeing a new place. Its about taking the time to be a couple, not just mum and dad, and its something we promised each other we’d always do when we first got together and after 5 years together we’re 5 trips down…

Now, the dream of travelling is a great one but what about the practicalities? What do you pack? And more importantly, what do you pack it in?

Cabin Zero flags bag luggage packing flatlay via Always a Blue Sky Girl style travel fashion lifestyle blog

Jumper/boots/wallet/make up/hat – all Primark
Cat collar – ebay
Socks – New Look
Eye mask – Bedtime Bliss*
Watch – Marc Jacobs via PlusWatches*
Toiletries – Soap & Glory/ Baptise/ Sure/ Garnier/ Burts Bees
Books – Amazon
Straightening Comb – Poundland

I chose the Classic Flags ultra light cabin bag in orange chill. Its a limited edition design in the larger 44L size.  I love the look of this bag in its bright, but not garish burnt orange colourway and its retro applique flag patches over it.


Its size is perfect as carry on luggage (it measures the regulation 55cm x 40cm x 20cm), it is really lightweight (760grams) and holds so much. I don’t like to travel light (hey, you know I love fashion!) so all this is important to me, but the best part of Cabin Zero’s innovative design is rather than wheel it along, you carry it, either by its handle or using the two padded back straps like a rucksack. This leaves you free to carry another bag or just move around really easily…now that is brilliant!


Inside it has a zipped pocket and mesh compartment, perfect for smaller items.

And to keep all those bulky contents as small as possible, side compression straps.


Theres also a built-in global luggage tracker powered by OkobanN that you register your details on and a 10 years warranty (upgradable to 25 years free of charge if you ‘like’ them on Facebook).

This is a fantastic travel bag both in its styling and its innovation. I can fit everything I need into it and because you carry it like a rucksack, any weight is easy to carry. I will definitely be swapping it for my usual wheelie case as it is so much easier to use. I can’t wait to use mine on my next adventure. Now, the only other question is – where to go…?

Cabin zero flags 44l cabin bag hand luggage via Always a Blue Sky Girl blog blogger style fashion blog

Classic Flags cabin bag – £65 / via Cabin Zero*

For 10% off all orders use the code CZBLUESKYGIRLIE (valid until 20/12/17)

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

10 things that have made me happy this month

Its October, theres a chill in the air, the leaves are on the ground and Halloween is nearly upon us.  I love this time of year and this month has been filled with some lovely stuff.  Want to know whats been making me smile this October?

Starting Weightwatchers (again)
OK, so starting a diet isnt making me smile but getting back in control of my eating is. I had a few months (well about 6 🙈) of no calorie counting and although I kept up my running some weight crept back on. I’m not happy bigger and I knew I needed to get my eating back on track.  I lost the bulk of my weight about 6 years ago with Weightwatchers (probably 3 stone) then went in to lose another 2 on my own so it felt right to re-join for 3 months to get back to a weight I’m happy at.

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Getting organised on Etsy
My ‘Always a Blue Sky Girl’ Etsy shop is my business baby. I favour it over other selling areas I have (sorry Ebay) but when I’m busy it seems to fall by the wayside.  This month I’ve made a conscious effort to get my best vintage stock listed, add some great photos and curate a really stylish selection of items.  

If you want to check it out click here

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Park running
As I mentioned I’ve still been running my 5k three times a week, every week. I pretty much never miss a run and this time of year is perfect for it. If you’re thinking of starting a fitness regime don’t wait for New Year, start now!  The scenery is stunning, its not too hot and you can wrap up if its chilly.  When I need to de-compress I pop in my headphones, zip up my jacket and take a route through my local parks and it totally de-stresses me…

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Reuben’s 11th birthday…in fact just Reuben generally!
My son Reuben turned 11 on the 11th and it really was a fantastic couple of days. After asking for some totally random presents – a 1990’s Gordon the Gopher puppet and a pie in the face (not a game or anything, the actual action) for example, we all had fun as a family and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself.  He’s growing up so fast and this month has been filled with secondary school open days as secondary school places have to be applied for by the end of the month. He, as ever has been a total star and we also got the news he passed the 11+ too (the banding test to determine the 20% of children who can apply to a Grammar school). He had to work very hard for the last 12 months and I am incredibly proud of him.

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Ebay China
I do love a bargain and we all know the real bargains lie many 100’s of miles away in that far off country…China.  I dont often buy from China due to the long delivery times and the hit and miss quality but this month I took a few chances buying accessories and the results were amazing.   This Vivetta inspired cat design false collar? Yours for about £4 including shipping!

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Creating wish lists
I’m a pretty organised fashion lover. When I see something I love, either in an ad, featured in a magazine or on a blogger, I save a photo of it for later. On Instagram you can save any image to your own personal area and create different areas for them to be put in. The rest I save on my phone to look out for when I’m shopping…and as we get nearer to Christmas? Well a traditional gift wish list is perfect. Always wonder why some people get EXACTLY what they want each year? Yep…Amazon have a great one and you can add items to it from any website and then email it out or go old school and print one out like the example below..

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Decluttering

Now, its OK writing wishlists for new season products but you’ve got to fit it all in. I try and follow a strict ‘1 in 1 out’ system so if I want new things other stuff has got to go!

I sell many of my unwanted items on Depop cheaply to get rid of them quickly as I hate having piles of stuff around I dont want anymore. For those not familar with the site, Depop is a great app for buying and selling, is safe and money changes hands via PayPal.  Alot of bloggers sell through there so you can often end up buying stuff from peoples whose style you love which is great. The rest I bag up and take to the charity shop…where I usually end up buying more stuff! Ah well, baby steps…

If you want to check out my Depop shop click here.

 

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Halloween
I’ve always enjoyed Halloween and was having parties way back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when Halloween wasn’t really a thing yet in the UK.  A few days ago we went back to Fright Night at Thorpe Park with our older boys and enjoyed getting scared to (almost) death by zombies via the AMC Walking Dead experiences.  We went last year and its now become a date in our diaries we will keep repeating.  Halloween is something you can dip in and out of depending on your life stage but for me now its a chance to dress up, watch horror movies and of course eat the sweets the trick and treat’ers don’t take!  This is me last year…


Sale shopping
I love a bargain, and this month I have found some brilliant ones…all at 70% off (or free – the shoes were a buy 2 items get the 3rd free!). Look for transitional pieces you can layer up for winter and you can wear them straight away.

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Netflix

Netflix makes me happy every month to be honest, but this month?  Stranger Things is back, their ‘made for Netflix’ films continue go from strength to strength and are as good as anything in the cinema (check out Stephen Kings ‘Geralds Game’) and their documentaries are amazing. If you havent watched ‘Five Foot Two’ on Lady Gaga do – its beautifully made, honest and very interesting.

All that and then I watched the first episode of the reboot of Dynasty.  I’m obsessed!!!

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Whats made you happy this month?  Take time to think about it and enjoy the little things – I know I do!