If you follow me on Instagram, then you will have seen me last week sporting my latest wardrobe addition – a new red animal print dress from Zara. I got it as a surprise gift from Mr Smith for my recent birthday and it’s safe to say that I absolutely LOVE it (he did really well this year)! I was so surprised that he chose something so perfect for me, stylish and also something I am so happy with – it was both exciting and lovely.

Animal print of course is a big trend this Autumn and as someone who adores both colour and animal print, I couldn’t be happier to see it everywhere (I only wish I had more cash flow). I especially love the red animal print mash up and have for a while wanted something in that look. I love the primark polo neck top that has flooded Insta and hoped for that, or something similar to add to my wardrobe. SO, of course when I opened this dress on my birthday I was genuinely grateful and made up!

This dress ticks all the boxes for me; It is comfy and easy to wear, modest and on point. I love the high neck, the below knee.mid calf length and the full sleeves for cool days. The boldness of the colour with the print suits me well and I really like it too – in my opinion it just looks fab and was this aspect of this dress that made me instantly love it.

It is a really flexible dress to wear, which makes it a great investment and addition to my wardrobe. I like that it can be dressy with ankle boots or heels, or casual with leggings/over Jeans. Initially I wore it with black opaque tights and black mules for a chilled yet smart look on remembrance Sunday, but I already plan to wear it with my heeled ankle boots, or with leggings and trainers too. The fact that it’s red means it has the addes bonus of being festive too with the right accessories on a Christmas do!

It’s safe to say you need one too!

This dress is available now in Zara – its a bargain at £17.99 and also comes in other colours and prints too (if you want something more toned down but still on trend!). I am wearing a medium and it fits really well for someone who is a UK 12!

Thanks Mr Smith – I love my new bright red animal print Zara dress of dreams!

Not a sponsored or collaborative post – just sharing the love! 

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This last week I have felt like I have practically been doing everything by the skin of my teeth! Whilst we have had some lovely days out with friends and shared some lovely moments, I have felt like the house has been in a bit of chaos and that most mornings have just got the better of us. Towards the end of the week I have been feeling a weak and achy and just not quite right in my abdomen and back – we stayed in yesterday and had a chill day, and today Megan and I missed church to rest too as she woke up with a temperature.

The week however (despite these moments of chaos and feeling a little rough) has held some great moments of fun and joy too – namely Friday when I had my birthday “round 2” with my mates. It was a great evening where I made a mexican feast and then we had a dip in the hottub followed by desserts and cake. It was such a laugh and I am thankful for each of them.

Grateful For

This week I am grateful to finally have my curtains up in the lounge. Nathan hung them on Saturday and they make me very happy and look pretty cool too (in my opinion at least)! Our lounge is just about there and it feels good to have it feeling more homely and in a style we are happy with.

I am also grateful this week for my group of friends. Moving house isn’t an easy thing (however right and exciting it feels), but to have come to a place filled with such lovely people has been a huge blessing to me. I know so many great people here and I am thankful for my little crew I see most days and who have become great mates to me over these last few months. I have chatted and hung with various friends this week from the village and each one has enriched my day, but I am especially grateful for the kindness of my friends on Friday in surprising me with H&M love and a delish cake, as well as just wanting to spend time together! I am grateful for them being so lovely and funny, kind and always up for lots of laughs – they made my week!

Succeeded At

I want to say I survived the week and got the kids to school every day on time – so I will, because for some reason it really has been nuts and seemed nigh impossible some days!

I succeeded at fitting into my denim shirt more comfortably – thanks to So Shape and their products I reviewed this week. Granted, with all of the treats from Friday night that’s probably being reversed now, but I managed it so that’s a high 5!

We also succeeded at doing a few more things in the lounge and as I say getting the curtains up.

Found Beauty In

This week started off beautifully, with a mild Monday which saw us having a beach walk with friends. It was such a clear day and the beach was calm and peaceful that it really filled my soul with joy. Alice enjoyed splashing in the pools, throwing stones and collecting shells. It was such a beaut of day – you could see for miles and it was lovely.

On Wednesday morning I woke up to find the kids all snuggled together on Ethan’s bed with him reading them all a story. It was one of those “pulling at mama’s heartstrings” moments and was incredibly beautiful. I find most mornings pretty mad with them all but this was a beautiful start to our day and I am glad that I could capture it.

This week has been mad but good too – we have eaten a lot of pancakes for breakfast, we have had drizzle and fog and we also had children in need where they dressed up as teachers or in something spotty. I have loved spending time with my mates throughout the week, learning new techniques at college and getting more of our home in order. I had fun on Wednesday with Nath’s mum and sister and Alice and I found a new deli in Beverley which was lush for lunch!

Yes, it has been a mad week, but it has also been balanced out with beautiful moments too. There isn’t a lot planned this coming week other than I hope to make a start with the Christmas shopping (when did that creep up on us?). Here’s hoping it is filled with bargains and joy, and isn’t too cold!

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A few weeks ago French Nutrition company So Shape got in touch with me to see if I would like to sample some of their foods and see if it could help me with my health or weight loss goals and bring a bit of zest to my life with all of those extra vitamins!

As I am pretty content with how I look and feel right now, I decided to give the 5 day challenge a go just to see what it was all about, but also to help me have a bit of a detox from sugar and carb rich foods. I hoped it would help me feel less bloated and wobbly following birthday indulgence and a Summer of eating far too many treats!

And so for the last 5 days I have replaced 2 or my normal daily meals with So Shapes smart and healthy ones and have been really impressed with the flavours and ease of it all. Whilst it was initially hard to get it together and get my head in the So Shape game, the ease of them has been great – especially on busy school mornings for someone who doesn’t really do breakfast!

What is So Shape?

So shape are a French nutrition company that have created a series of “Smart Meals” that are 100% vegetarian, gluten free, and some are even vegan. The are rich in protein, low in fat and easy on the calories, and each one is filled with vitamins that in the longer term can boost your immunity and in the short term help to ensure you have plenty. They help you to detox, are great to regulate metabolism and help keep muscle mass whilst exercising and working out.

So Shape is designed for people always on-the-go, with busy lifestyles, for those who want extra protein intake, or just for people that want to fit into their jeans or have a post weekend detox. They supply all of your daily micro and macro nutrients and each one is tasty and delicious!

I love that they have flavours and foods far from what you would associate with weight loss – making it easier than ever to stay on the weightloss wagon!

So Shape has 3 plans you can choose from that each differ in length depending on what you are hoping to achieve.  All are the same in the respect that you replace 2 of your regular meals with 2 smart meals (and your 3rd meal is healthy), but you obviously take the challenge for longer if you want lose more weight and inches!

The first one (which I did) is the “5 Day: Feel lighter” challenge. It is £39.90 and you can select 10 meals – it also includes the shaker and book!

The Second option is done over 14 Days and is £89.00 for 30 meals (again with shaker and meal plan book). This one is great if you have an event coming up and want to fit into a certain dress or pair of jeans, or you generally want to shift a few lbs to feel more content.

Finally is the 28 Day Challenge – labeled as “change your size”! This one is £159.00 for 60 meals and again includes the shaker and meal plan booklet.

They also have an array of snacks available for when you need something more, that are rich in nutrients, low in calories and convenient and tasty. They are of course nowhere near as sweet as the real thing, but they help you enjoy life’s pleasures (or have a little treat) whilst still staying in shape – they mean you can literally have your cake and eat it and I found them quite nice.

I took the 5 day challenge with the goal that I wanted to feel less wobbly and bloated and that hopefully my clothes wouldn’t be so tight. I lost 3lbs whilst in Italy (living off a lot of veg and walking 5 or 6 miles a day) and I am at a place in life where I am learning to love my body more and with that I do feel mostly good in my clothes and naked. I have however noticed that my bra cuts in a little and as I enjoy far too much rubbish, I was aware that my mum tum was bloated and my skinny jeans just felt too tight! I hoped the 5 day feel lighter challenge could help me be more comfortable in these areas – therefore helping me embrace my body even more than I already do.

I mostly cook and eat really well, but one thing I lack on is that I don’t always have the best eating habits. I think like a lot of busy mums, I skip meals and then fall into the trap of compensating by eating crap and so again I hoped the 5 day So Shape challenge would also give me a kick into a good “3 meals a day” routine!

I found it a little tricky initially as many of the shakes and frappes contain green tea (which I can’t have) but I did manage to enjoy a few that saw me through, and rotated these between the Smart pancakes as options for my breakfast. I then ate salads, tuna or wraps for my lunch and a Smart dinner and plenty of water and the odd smart muffin in between! The pancakes were great with a handful of berries and a drizzel of honey, and were really simple to make too.

What I Loved

The thing I love the most was the ease of it all – it really is convenient. I also loved the flavours of the shakes and found them incredibly easy and convenient to make and drink. My favourites were the Lemon Cheesecake and the stracciatella (chocolate ice cream) both were super tasty and whilst I know it’s not everyone’s idea of breakfast to eat “lemon cheesecake” or even “white chocolate” it was so delicious and a real boost to my morning! I found that both the shakes and the pancakes were filling and mostly satisfying and sweet enough to curb and sugar cravings.

I have never really been a breakfast person, but I do enjoy a smoothie or shake, or something like fruit and pancakes. In this respect So shape worked great for me as I was able to eat nutritionally rich foods first thing, that I enjoyed and, that helped me feel content and energised all morning.

What I Didn’t

I found it really hard that the dinners are such small portions. That probably sounds rather greedy, but I also didn’t find them nearly as tasty as the breakfasts and snacks either. They are okay and I found adding a side salad helped, but this was where I struggled the most – especially because I was still making dinners for the kids.

I think if I was to do it again I would swap and do the smart meals for breakfast and lunch and enjoy a healthy tea with the fam!

We also didn’t particularly enjoy the granola, but this is personal preference as I know lots of people do.

The Results

This challenge helped me get rid of sugar cravings and think more about what I was putting into my body. It helped me with portion control and eating regular meals and helped me get excited about being more healthy again.

After only 2 days I felt more balanced, my stomach felt flatter, and I definitely seemed more energetic. By day 3 my face felt less puffy and my denim shirt that I have not been able to fasten since having Alice, actually fastened up over my tummy and bust – it felt mint to wear it again under jumpers!  

This So shape challenge that I embarked upon on Monday was less about weight loss for me and more about FEELING less chubby and puffy around the edges. After just 5 days of So Shape, my bra feels looser and where my jeans cut in (giving the whole muffin top sitch) I am now more streamlined and can wear my clothes more comfortably which are all evident that I have definitely lost some inches. I guess because I am trying not to focus on numbers and just be me, it never crossed my mind to take measurements, but I can clearly see and feel more definition in my shape – my waist once again goes in as opposed to bulging in a tire formation and my face isn’t as puffy,

I did weigh myself, and found to lose about 1lb on the scales too – I suppose that’s just a bonus?

I would agree that So shape does exactly what it promises to and if I had have wanted to lose more weight, then exercising alongside this or taking on the 14 day challenge would have ensured this.

So Shape is not a fad diet or a complete lifestyle change – It is a set challenge taken short term with long term effects. It is designed to help you feel lighter, fit into that party dress or jeans, or change size if you feel you are bigger than you want to be. It ensures you receive the right nutrients and comes in flavours designed to satisfy your tastebuds. It helps you get into good habits and regular healthy meals and the booklet teaches you about good foods too. Sometimes we don’t feel as content in out bodies as we would like, or overeating leads us to be bloated and sluggish – So shape is great to get back in shape and on track, and if you want to see how others have succeeded with the longer challenges you can check them out here on So Shapes results page.

If you would like to give So Shape a go for yourself, perhaps to feel a little better like I wanted to, or to reach a goal for that Christmas party, then hop on over to their site and enter code HEARTYCUSTOM to get double the amount of flavours in any 14 or 28 day challenge when using the custom option.

*In collaboration with So Shape – all images are my own

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As the festive season approaches, I am frantically trying to put together lists, sort out the house and, generally just thinking about what gifts to get for those we love. From bits for the kids, to something for Nath (not to mention our siblings and families), there is always so much to think about at this time of year – but I love it too.

The number of presents to buy and the cost of them/how much we end up spending on other extra’s over the Christmas period, can soon mount up. And then, Just when you think you’ve got everything covered and are ready to put your feet up with a mince pie, you suddenly remember you’re doing Secret Santa at work this year (and there’s something about trying to source a gift at a set price for Denise in accounts that can send people into a mad panic).

If you’re stumped and don’t know what to get your workmate this year, then here are some thrifty ideas to hopefully get you inspired.

Get Crafty

If you’re arty, why not turn your talent to Christmas gifts? Should the recipient enjoy a brew, you could try making your own coasters or perhaps they’d enjoy some DIY candles? You could revamp a simple plant pot and add a little poinsettia in to give it a festive touch. I recently tried my hand at some pebble art – another lovely, personal, cheap and effective gift! 

Once you start crafting your Secret Santa gift, you’ll possibly find more people in your life who would appreciate your creations too – another way you could always save some extra pennies – make handmade goodies for your loved ones too.

Bake Some Treats

Should you love baking and enjoy nothing more than whiling away your weekends waiting for your yummy creations to prove, why not bake some festive biscuits, Mince pies or some gingerbread?  Christmas is perfect for delicious flavours.

You can purchase glass storage jars very cheaply at most home shops and, once you’ve popped your bakes inside, you can make them really special with a festive ribbon or decoration and handmade gift tag. Like the crafty gift ideas, this one again can be extended to gift ideas for others and could be a great excuse to invite friends over for a Christmas cuppa.

Savvy Stocking Fillers

There are so many lovely stocking fillers out there, many for under £10. From mugs to candles, slipper socks or quirky snow globes, there are trinkets to suit every personality in the office. I recently saw some fab ones in TK Maxx that were reasonable and funky, but if you are thinking of purchasing some stocking fillers with your Secret Santa budget, consider how much you can buy. While a £5 limit may initially appear to be too little, you can find one or two appropriate gifts for that price quite easily if you know where to look.

For the sentimental colleague, a photo frame for their desk could go down well, or if they love stationery, then personalised notebooks such as these from Card Factory are a thoughtful gift too.

Stocking fillers are also ideal if you don’t know the recipient super well and where you can’t think of something you know they’ll like, you can always opt to buy something they’ll use. Pens and keyrings are a handy and cost-effective option for the co-workers we rarely speak to, or again why not bake in bulk for all the office? 

Are you stumped for Secret Santa inspiration this year? Will you be using any of these tips to make sure you have your present sorted?

 

*Collaborative Post 

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