Visiting the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N experience – Excel, London

Ever dreamed of being recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D.?  We visited the Avengers exhibition at The Excel centre in London and tbh its probably the closest you’ll get! Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network), is an immersive and interactive experience that explores the science behind the Avengers and tests whether or not you yourself have what it takes to be an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D...

We visited with 4 12year old boys and its fair to say they loved it!!!

Located at the back of Londons Excel centre, in its own purpose built building, you travel through various themed rooms until you reach a 4D Interactive game at the end.

Although reviews were mixed we booked tickets for six of us (using a voucher website to receive a slight discount on the ticket prices). You can book a time-slot so waiting time is reduced and the nearby Excel centre has food and toilets.

The props and tech used in this exhibition are really good. The most famous Avengers have their own rooms and interactive games, and the lesser known ones are grouped together with lots of on screen information, costume displays and other interesting titbits!

Amongst other exhibits, you can hold Hulks hand, ride Captain Americas bike or hold his shield, Follow Antmans ants or try and lift Thors hammer! I failed 😦

One of the things I liked best about it was the level of detailed information. As a fan you can read the ‘science’ behind all the characters and their stories as if they were real, studied phenomenons. What to know how the Rainbow Bridge forms? How Wakandas communication devises operate? What each Infinity stone does? How Captain America went from skinny boy to super-soldier? Its all here waiting to be discovered!

The whole thing is immersive and everything presented as it it is real. The team working the event are there as SHIELD operatives and you are kept in this bubble the whole way round. You wont find any mention of comic books or actors names here!

We didn’t queue very long for anything apart from the interactive games in Tony Starks lab (which our 12yo’s loved) and photography is allowed and easy to do as there aren’t crowds as only so many people are let in per time-slot.

After slowly making our way through the exhibition (I’d give yourself at least an hour if you want to enjoy the interactive parts) you then get ushered into a final room, split into teams and all given ipods to play an interactive Avengers game. This is great fun and a really good way to end the experience.

There is also a large gift shop (no cash, card only) and an opportunity have have a souvenir photo done, digitally posing with the Avengers.

Me, my sons and their friends really enjoyed this experience and I’m really glad we went. I would say its best added to doing something else in London if you were coming for a day out as it doesn’t last that long but for any Marvel fan it is a must see!!!

Due to extra demand this experience is now running till the 28th of April. Book your tickets here. Able to be flexible? Find selected Groupon offers here.

What happened to Valentines Day?

Ok, lets get this out the way…I HATE the modern day version of Valentines Day.

I bet you’re thinking – well I guess she’s some super grumpy, unromantic person who hates all this love and fuss stuff? Ironically that couldn’t be further from the truth. Let me explain…

In an age before the internet, social media, Tinder, non stop advertising and the media trying to convince us we should all live/look/spend like the rich and famous whatever our income; a pretty paper card sent anonymously to a loved one was an adorable way to show that you loved/liked/wanted to court them. It was personal and coy and sweet and seemingly now something of a time gone by…Let me tell you a bit about me – I would describe myself as a very romantic person. I tell my fiancé lots of times through the day I love him (as he does to me), send romantic messages and notes, go on date nights, take time to look after myself and look nice/wear pretty lingerie etc (because it makes me feel good – making my boyfriend smile is an added bonus), spend time cuddled upon the sofa in the evenings and generally make time to do things that will make him feel loved, appreciated and wanted. I love being in love and couldn’t imagine living any other way. I don’t dislike the idea of Valentines Day…I hate what marketing and the media has made the day become.

I think because I am a romantic person who loves to make a fuss of the people I care for, it makes me hate the whole concept of the modern day Valentines Day even more. Let me tell you why…

Its fake – So who was St Valentine? The saint of Beekeepers and Epilepsy amongst other things. Why do we celebrate Valentines Day? Well that one is full of debate. One thing is for sure – the whole thing is a mix of other celebrations and twisted to fit in with a modern day event created to sell stuff.

It encourages people to spend money have on things they don’t need – Valentines Day is a marketing dream (I should know, its what I do!). Adverts begin weeks ahead, stores replace their Christmas stock with Valentines stock, magazines tell us instead of a £5 box of chocolates and a card, we should buy the person we love a £200 designer watch because bigger is better and we start to get brainwashed by it all.

A whole industry has emerged created fun ‘novelty’ gifts no-one in their right mind would want – Everyone loves a teddy with a heart on, pair of fluffy handcuffs or fabric rose don’t they? Oh right, they don’t. And don’t get me started on things like chocolate body paint…

There’s some women who use it to make other women feel like lesser beings – There’s always those people who want to show you their huge bouquet of roses, heart shaped balloons, diamond earrings etc. Good for them…but show offs are never fun to be around and there’s a competitive, nasty side to it that I just don’t like. Ladies we don’t need to be like this!

Men generally don’t like it – You know when another ‘special’ day exactly a month later is created (it involves steak and other things men love – see the cheeky details here) by men for men, that Valentines Day is not a thing men on the whole want to be forced to do. There is of course, lots of romantic men out there but who wants to be told when and how you should be romantic?

Its creates ‘the pressure’ – The pressure to buy gifts, the pressure to book an expensive restaurant, the pressure to send flowers, the pressure to have sex that night whether you want to really or not, the pressure to out-do your friends. If you’re single there’s pressure to be in a relationship as that’s what society tells us will make us happy…well, I know quite a few people in relationships who seem utterly miserable. Anything to do with love should feel free, not forced.Whether you are single or in a relationship we all know the truth – we are being manipulated. Don’t be told when to be romantic – in fact if you’re anything like me make an effort of be romantic EVERY day…and don’t expect a present because of it. Do it because you want to. Do it because being in love compels you to do so. For me that’s what true love should do…and the rewards are much better than getting a gift you’ve guilted your other half into buying you.

Personally this Valentines Day, I will choose a card, write a heartfelt message and that night have dinner, watch TV, kiss and cuddle and then go to bed with the man I love just like I would any other night.And you know what? Life is about freedom of choice – if you truly love the whole idea of Valentines Day then go for it – the candlelit dinner, expensive gifts, rose petals on the bed, slow-mo sex; whatever says ‘love’ to you!

But do it because you want to…and don’t share it all over your social media for the attention and likes – the odd pic might be cute but your whole evening?  Intimate moments of love should be for 2 not 200. True love is the most precious thing we can have in our lives – lets not cheapen it – its worth far more than that.All photos via my Instagram – to follow me (its not all romance I promise!) click here.

Hello 2019 – pleased to meet you!

So you’ve probably noticed – it’s a new year! Now, I am not a believer in the whole ‘new year/new me’ stuff but I do like to have goals, I like to constantly try to do better and I thrive on the feeling of being proud of myself and my achievements.

So I decided to use the rolling over of ’18 to ’19 to come up with 10 manageable (and that’s the key word here) things to keep me on the right track for moving onwards and generally achieving my goals over the next 12 months.

Lets be clear though, these are NOT resolutions. I am not a believer in New Years Resolutions. Over many years I have set myself ridiculous goals – started strict diets, tried to force myself to do things I didn’t really want to do and unsurprisingly I failed. And then the excuses would start, the guilt would come, which was often followed by some self loathing. And then usually I would forget all about it all and not really achieve anything over the next 12 months!

But what are my 2019 aims?

Face the fear (and maybe do it anyway)

My biggest enemy is anxiety. For as long as I can remember I have been a worrier and at times I have suffered with panic attacks and illness due to anxiety. I have worked very hard to control my demons and during 2019 I want to make sure I am as self-aware as possible remember to always put my mental health first. One of the biggest challenges for me is telling people when I feel anxious but I know if I share my worries and seek support the easier it is. Part of this is also looking after myself physically, so I need to get enough sleep, keep away from alcohol, exercise regularly and not eat too much junk food as I find if my weight goes up so does my anxiety. I will not allow my worries steal my happiness.

Stay ‘present’

One of my worst traits is being easily distracted. I have a very busy mind and often find it hard to focus on just one task as I am always thinking ahead. This year I am going to work really hard to stay in the present particularly with my loved ones and put that phone away and keep my focus where it needs to be. I want my children to feel they are the centre of my world not Facebook or Instagram. Plus I am going to try ‘seize the day’ where I can (someone often harder for anxious people) and be more spontaneous and hopefully have more fun!

Be the star of my own story…
Family first

Start a new (mini) business

Last year I had the idea to launch a new Etsy business. I already have an Etsy shop selling vintage items (find it here) but I wanted another a business that was a bit more creative. I did quite a lot of work on it but life got in the way and I never got to launch it. This year I want to bring that business alive so watch this space!

Be real (aka don’t just ‘do it for the gram)

This year I am going to work hard to remember social media is definitely NOT real life. Working as a social media manager for a large retail company, I really should know to not judge myself against the 1000’s of curated, photoshopped or stylised images out there but I still do. This Christmas I realised I had hardly taken any photos but had a lovely time which was a real eye-opener for me. Everything doesn’t need to be recorded digitally and immediately shared…memories are really all you need.

This year I am going to work hard to not believe everything everyone else is doing/living/sharing is perfect and that sometimes an outtake photo is a better representation of the moment than a stylised Instagram worthy shot as seen below…

Silly faces – thought = I dont look pretty enough
New Years Eve – thought = laughing and bent over is unflattering
Bonfire night – thought = no make up and too dark

Re-do our lounge

Last year we made some real progress doing up our house. This year I want to tackle my favourite room – the lounge – and create a really lovely space to relax in. Theres a lot to do as everything needs changing but I can’t wait! Look out for updates as we progress…

Continue to run

I’ve now been running regularly for over 4 years and last year I ran 750km in total. I run every week, 2-3 times a week and it has really changed my life. I ran over Christmas, on holiday, in the cold and rain and when injured or unwell. I don’t always want to run but I always am glad I did. In 2019 I don’t want to run further or faster, I just want to keep making myself proud every week about the level of exercise I do because it is really hard to run every other day, EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

Thinking of adding regular exercise in your life? Why not have a read of the blogs I have written about it – find them here and here I cannot recommend it enough.

2-3 5km runs EVERY week

Karrimors on…

Read more

I buy a lot of books but they just mount up by the side of my bed! I read on holiday but that’s about it, so this year I am going to try to read a book a month. I am going to read them at night and allow myself the time to do so. I also think it will help me wind down before sleeping which can sometimes be hard for me.

Keep on exploring

I love to travel particularly with my fiancé Russ. Last year we visited Venice as a couple and Majorca as a family as well as taking some great days out in the UK and I want to make sure we achieve that again this year as it makes us so happy. I’d better start saving again as we all know sadly holidays aren’t cheap!

Venice
Copenhagen
Budapest

Be kinder to myself

Now this one is hard. I am my own biggest critic and this year I want to try to be kinder to myself. Self care will be key to this – I need to give myself permission to relax and spoil myself whether it is a pamper session, allowing myself some chocolate or just having a lazy Sunday.

Work hard, Play Hard, Love hard

I am very lucky. I have a partner I adore (and he feels the same thankfully), a beautiful family of loving, healthy, beautiful boys, a nice home and most recently, a job I love. In 2019 I am going to make sure I remember to be thankful for all these things and never take them for granted, as well as working hard to make sure things stays that way. I want to excel at work, be the best girlfriend and mum I can and have fun as I go along.

My soulmate xxx
My beautiful boys

What are your plans for 2019? Are you going to push yourself harder or just enjoy the ride? Whatever you choose enjoy and be part of 2019 – we are never going to get this year again!!!

Another way to say thank you with Cadburys Roses

On Saturday I had the chance to have the most lovely experience in London thanks to Cadbury’s Roses.

On a quiet street at the back of Oxford Street just opposite Soho Square, this gorgeous pop-up shop was hiding, waiting to share its beautiful thank-you with anyone who happened to pop in.

It looked absolutely adorable, from its 3D flowery signage right down to the vintage style yellow bike outside.

Once inside it got even better…

Set up like a high end florist, each classic Roses flavour had its own hand-made paper rose with the chocolate hidden inside surrounded by foil petals. I’m a Strawberry Cream and County Fudge kinda girl…what are your favourites?

The idea was you could pick one flower, write a thank you note to someone special and then take it away for free to gift to the person you wanted to say thank you to.

The pop up shop was created by GoLin PR Agency and Bearded Kitten Events with 7000 hand-made flowers created by set designer Tamara D’Silva and her team and was really lovely – a chocolate florist shop…it doesn’t get much cuter than that! As a creative, I love seeing a concept delivered really well and the shop was utter event/pop up perfection! I believe its due to go on tour around the UK so keep your eyes peeled for it in your city!

I had my son Reuben with me and he wanted to say his ‘thank you’ to me. I saw him chatting to the lovely ladies running the shop and the next thing I knew he had a huge bouquet in his arms for me! See the video below…

And this was his message to me…*heart almost bursts with love*. What a wonderful treat.

I think its fair to say I was very pleased with my bouquet of chocolate Roses (one of every flavour no less!). I mean, look at how I’m looking at them

Cadburys Roses Thanks a Bunch Another Way to Say Thank you 80th chocolate pop up event

Cadburys Roses Thanks a Bunch Another Way to Say Thank you 80th chocolate pop up event

Cadburys Roses Thanks a Bunch Another Way to Say Thank you 80th chocolate pop up event

The real reason for all this loveliness? Well that’s lovely too –  Cadbury’s have created a limited edition Roses tin to mark the chocolates 80th anniversary. Can you believe Roses have been around for 80 years? The retro vintage design tins feature a variety of coloured roses surrounded by ribbon-style banners against the traditional ‘Cadbury Roses Blue’ background. The design is really nostalgic and reminds me of a Nana’s sewing tin! On that note, sustainability has also played a key role in the decision to opt for metal packaging for the once-in-a-lifetime celebration tins. Its definitely not something you’d ever throw away – I mean, look how pretty it is…

Find your limited edition 800g tin exclusively in Tesco now! Its RRP is £9.99 although it was just £8.00 when I checked while writing this blog post. A total bargain I say!

And thank you to Cadburys for making me feel so happy and giving my wonderful son the opportunity to say thank you to me! If you’d like to say thank to someone too, I think the vintage tin would be a lovely way to say thank you to someone special this winter.

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.

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.