Kinky Boots… (A Hotter Shoes Review)

“These boots are made for walking…”

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No, they really are.

They’re not just great looking, but they’re soooooo comfy!

My feet don’t know what’s hit them…well, actually, they do. A squishy cushion of comfort is what’s hit them!

 The other night, I was invited to a blogger event with Hotter Shoes, Guildford, to learn more about their shoes, how they are made, what sets them apart from competitors and to also, so exciting, get a pair of shoes or boots of my choice. Seriously, it was more exciting than Christmas!

I have a couple of pairs of their shoes already (thanks to my Mum being a HUGE fan of them already – she now has more pairs of shoes than Imelda Marcos…) so I knew how comfortable they were, but I wasn’t entirely sure on the companies history/unique selling point. I think some people have an impression that Hotter shoes may be for the ‘older’ market but that completely isn’t true. They’ve worked really hard on their more fashion forward approach and I am pretty certain there is a pair of shoes for everyone in the store, from Goretex lined (waterproof) boots to loafers and brogues. They also do shoes for Gents.

I went along to find out more…


Hotter shoes started out in 1959. They’ve been designing and making footwear now for 50 years.
They first began with making slippers and then, in the early 1990’s,they had a ‘eureka moment’. They identified a niche in the market for stylish shoes with comfort built in. I’ve tried some pairs on, and I can vouch for the comfort! Since then, product innovation, world class production facilities and continual reinvestment in their business has seen their shoe collections expand beyond all recognition. They now have a ‘classic’ range of shoes that are always available and then they have a more fashion focused range of shoes, heels and boots that change each season, but still with that same Hotter shoe comfort.
They’re 100% passionate about comfortable shoes…and so am I as a mum who walks A LOT of steps each day.
At their factory in Lancashire, they have invested millions of pounds to create one of the most advanced shoe making facilities in the world. They have full command of production in their factory, making more shoes per year than any other shoe maker in the UK, and that gives them great flexibility and 100% control over the quality of their products. Every single pair of shoes is millimetre perfect when they make it and they are hand polished before being wrapped in tissue and then placed in their box – left shoe first, side down, followed by right shoe, side up so when you open the shoe box the first thing you see is the colour and detail of your shoe! They have really thought about it all haven’t they!
Each style of shoe is meticulously tested and checked before being approved for production by them. The soles are so hard wearing, it is almost a certainty that the uppers will wear before the soles. The lady in the shop said the soles would probably last for 13 years before they wear out due to the special way they are made.

There are currently 70 Hotter stores and more than 200 independent retailers (many inside Garden Centres!) nationwide.

Anatomy Of A Shoe - From Hotter Shoes

Image from hotter.com


 We were given a little presentation by a member of staff (she did ever so well) about how the shoes are made, the companies history and the styles of shoes they have and then, we were unleashed into the shop and told we could try on any pair of shoes we wished. It was like a fairy godmother had made a wish come true!

I knew instantly, given the time of year, I would like some new boots so that’s what I tried on. I tried a couple of different styles but I had already fallen in love with a pair of ‘on trend’ dark Brown ones that look fab over the top of skinny jeans, or tucked under a pair of Bootcut ones. Decision made within 5 minutes I think!

They fit like a glove (I am a size 4 and these were spot on) and they were super light on my feet, despite the fact they’re boots. They’ll be perfect for all those school runs.

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(Side note: They also do some lovely bags. I may have bought one home. In fairness, some of the other bloggers also fell in love with the same bag and did the same…)

Almost all Hotter shoes come in a wider fit and a few pairs even come in a triple wide fit.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Hotter shoes to anyone. They’re well made (British too which is a bonus!), comfortable, practical without compromising on aesthetics and they also have excellent customer service.

You can buy their shoes online, and learn more about Hotter Shoes, by visiting their website.

Thank you Hotter shoes for inviting me along!


 Disclosure: I was invited to a blogging event to learn more about the shoes and boots Hotter make. I was gifted a pair of shoes or boots for the purpose of this review but all words, thoughts and opinions are my own.



They’re laughter lines, not wrinkles (A Skinn Cosmetics Review)

Someone once said, “wrinkles are just telling the story of where smiles have been”.

It’s a nice quote isn’t it.

But I think in my case, mine are definitely caused by a good few years of no sleep, anger issues due to small people not doing what the chuff they’ve been told to do and weather beaten from years playing hockey in all weathers. Hail stones and heavy rain to the face are, it’s safe to say, in no way exfoliating.

Back in July, I was sent some face creams and serums to try by the lovely people at Ideal World.

The brand is called Skinn and it’s creator is a chap called Dimitri James.

Here is the reason he started his cosmetics company;

“Before starting Skinn Cosmetics, I worked for twenty years with the largest cosmetic houses in the world. I found myself constantly frustrated with the way they did business. Unfortunately, the big cosmetic companies never seem to care about making quality products that actually help the consumer. Their “formula” was always the same: make a cheap product, put it in a fancy jar with a nice box and charge as much as possible. After learning that I was never going to change how those big companies do business from within, I realized I needed to change the nature of the very industry in which they operate.”
Dimitri James

As an industry veteran, Dimitri learned that the majority of the money at the big cosmetics houses is not spent on the product. In fact, it seems to go everywhere but the product: ad campaigns, department store counter space, Park Avenue offices, and most of all, packaging. Believe it or not, most companies spend more money on the container and fancy boxes than on the formulations inside. At Skinn, we focus on what goes into the jar and how it will make you look, not how the jar looks. Skinn Cosmetics incorporates the time-honored methods of mothers and grandmothers who made their own soaps, creams and masks at home using pure, natural ingredients. These classic traditions combined with the most advanced technology and delivery systems available differentiate Skinn from all other cosmetic brands. Skinn treatments and color cosmetics are famously full of actives, yet devoid of unnecessary water, fillers, or excess packaging. To ensure the highest quality possible, Skinn built its own production facility at the company’s Southern California headquarters.

 (Information from Skinn’s website – www.skinn.com)

I loved the sound of this companies ethos and, as a mum to 3 boys, my priorities don’t lie with myself anymore. I’m sure many of you can relate to that. Gone are the days I would spend £40 on some face cream or £50 on a top because, to be quite honest, the money goes on the kids and things they need. I end up settling for a cheap and cheerful pot cream by a big brand or a new jumper from Primani (or Primark if you will). So, for me, trying some lovely face creams like this was a real treat.

I have funny skin. My husband would probably say that suits my personality…

It gets very dry in the winter, but very shiny in the summer. It’s also different depending on the area of my face. My forehead and cheeks get dry, but my chin and nose are the opposite so I often find it tricky finding a face cream that isn’t too heavy, but that will also moisturise my dryer spots.

When I opened the package up, I was delighted to see I had been sent 3 different products to try.

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There was an Age Delay Facial Serum, an eye serum and a 24 hour youth preservation cream.

Snazzy sounding eh?! Basically, one is a serum to put on your face, one is a serum for your eye area and one is a face cream you put on one you have put the serum on.

Upon testing the products, I was pleasantly surprised by the smell of them. A hint of rose about the face serum, the eye serum had no scent whatsoever and the face cream was also scentless. I think it is reassuring when you can’t smell anything in a face product unless its identifiable as something natural, like the rose smell I mentioned. So many creams and lotions have all sorts of chemicals and additives in these days, many of which irritate my skin, so this was a really refreshing thing to notice.

The face cream is very thick, and almost springy to the touch. I found you only need a small amount of it as a result. The same can be said for the face and eye serums actually.

Less is more as they say.

All the products went on really easily, sunk into my skin well and didn’t leave it feeling sticky or irritated. As a side note however, my mum tried the eye serum because she suffers terribly with very dry skin in that area. Sadly, it irritated the skin around her eyes and stung a bit so she couldn’t use it. I however, was fine with it. I guess it’s like most things, what works for someone won’t work for someone else. I loved it though and, although it didn’t get rid of my ‘laughter lines’ (apparently I must smile sometimes, who knew?!) it did make putting eye makeup on easier and my skin felt very smooth.

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The face serum is pretty good on it’s own, I used this at night after I’d had a wash just as something light to stop it drying out. It did a great job and I didn’t wake up with my skin feeling greasy or oily.

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  The face cream, although heavy and thick in the pot, went on very easy and didn’t feel thick on my skin. It is quite luxurious and left my skin feeling supple and bright.

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After using them for just over a month, I have noticed no major improvements as yet over my old face cream, but my husband said that my skin looks brighter and I have actually not worn any form of foundation for over a month now because I don’t feel like I need it, so I suppose in that respect it has made an improvement.

My anger lines are still there, but I think they’re here to stay sadly unless I used Polyfiller…

 In conclusion, I would say that the Skinn cosmetics range is a worthwhile investment. It’s a high end range but without the high end price.

If you’re looking for a new skincare range to try, I would honestly recommend giving Skinn a try. It is available via Ideal World.

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Disclosure: I was sent some Skinn cosmetics products to try in return for an honest review by Ideal World. All thoughts, words, opinions and photos are my own.



Teachers end of year Gift Ideas – In association with Two Ducks, St Johns, Woking

“The future of the world is in my classroom today”.

Ivan Welton Fitzwater


I really cannot believe it is almost the end of another school year.

Where is the time going?!

My eldest shall be moving into year 4 and my middle one will be in year 2. The toddler is still home with me until 2018…not that I am counting down to when he starts school or anything 😉

It’s a cliche, I know, but it really does only seem like yesterday that they were starting in Reception. The fact that my eldest only has 3 years of Primary school left scares me half to death! It’s just zoomed past in the blink of an eye.

We are so lucky to have been allocated places at a fabulous school near us, which the boys are thriving at. The school is super, the parents and friendships some of us have made are sure to last a lifetime and the teaching is beyond brilliant.

Teachers have one of the most demanding, and variable, jobs in the world in my opinion. They are often responsible for the learning of 30 children and have to meet the huge demands and expectations of governments, parents and headteachers. It is a rewarding job, but also a tough one. I know many people joke that half of the year is holiday for teachers, but this truly isn’t the case. The amount of hours they put in out of school hours, prepping, planning and marking, is enormous and it is all done for the benefit of our children. They have to adapt what they are teaching to suit the different learning styles of each of the children in their class and they have to remember each child’s specific personality in order to ensure they are getting the most out of them, all whilst keeping it fun, entertaining and engaging. It’s no mean feat.

 So, as the school year draws to a close, and the teachers finally do get to have a little bit of down time, it is only right (in my opinion) that they are rewarded with a little something from the class to say thank you; a memento for the teacher to remember their class by.

We have always done this at our school in the form of a class collection and then the money collected is used to get the teacher a gift. I think it is a really lovely way of ending the year and of showing your appreciation of all the hard work they have done.


Two Ducks Logo

 If you are local to Surrey, there is a superb little shop in St Johns, Woking, which is the ideal place for you to head to in order to buy your teacher a unique, and thoughtful, gift that they are sure to appreciate.

The shop is called, Two Ducks, and it is owned by a lovely lady called Claire.

Photo of Claire, owner of Two Ducks

 Claire is local to the area and decided to start Two Ducks in November 2013 as a pop-up shop in Woking town centre. In May 2014, Claire took the plunge and found a premises in the little village of St Johns, Woking, and it is here that Two Ducks now thrives.

You can read more about the lovely Claire, and why she started her business, by clicking here.

Claire’s shop ethos is that all her produce is British made, which I love. There is nothing nicer than turning over a beautiful mug to see the name of the town in which it was made imprinted on the bottom of it, or to find some Jam that has been lovingly made in a small British village. The best of British, right on our doorstep. A small, local business, supporting other small local businesses.


Teacher’s end of year gift ideas

The shop itself is a treasure trove of loveliness. It is a quirky building, full of character, and is actually much larger once you’re inside, a bit like stepping into a Tardis! You can take a virtual tour of the shop here.

Full of super gift ideas to suit every personality, you are sure to find something at Two Ducks.

Here are a few to whet your appetite!

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1. Perfect for clubbing together..

These beautiful boards, hand-painted by St.John’s artist Victoria Page, can be personalised with the teacher and children’s names. The pictures can be made with the class emblem (e.g. fox) or just with a plain heart  (£25)

NB: These take a week to make, come in a variety of colours & require all the children’s names with upfront payment

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2. Perfect for hanging on teacher’s door

Teacher’s choice are these stunning hand-painted door/classroom signs (£14.95, you can also put the class name on the reverse)

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3. Perfect For teacher’s house

These pretty porcelain hand thrown tea-lights are a fab reminder of the class & can be paired with gorgeous scented tea lights (Tea-light £15)

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4.Perfect for a token pressie

They have a range of sweet little gifts from £2.50 to £8 including ‘best teacher’ soaps, chocolates, votive candles, pen pots, hand creams & glass earring dishes/coasters- perfect for when you need to buy for lots of people!

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5. Perfect for a boxed gift

Why don’t you make up a boxed gift with from items of your own choice? You could mix and match normal gifts with foodie gifts (chocolates, popcorn, scarves, etc)  (Prices range from £10 up)

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6. Perfect for a simple thank-you

They have a wide range of lovely cards to say ‘thank-you teacher/teaching assistant’, ‘Good luck on your 1st day at school’, ‘Congrats on your results’, ‘Good luck at University (from £2.50)

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If there are too many lovely things to choose from, or you’re not sure what your child’s teacher would like, why not let them choose something themselves by giving them the gift of a Two Ducks Gift Voucher?

You can buy Gift Vouchers for Two Ducks, online, by clicking here.


 I hope this has given you a few ideas for end of year gifts and I am sure Claire would love to see some new faces in her shop! She is lovely so do swing on by if you’re passing and say hi to her whilst having a look around (and if you happen to have paid her a visit by finding her because of this post, do let her know!).

It really is an Aladdin’s cave of gorgeous gifts!

(Directions to Two Ducks)


If you live too far away from Surrey, and sadly can’t make it in to her stunning little shop, Claire can do her utmost to send things to you in the post. Feel free to phone her at the shop or email her using this online contact form and she will get back to you ASAP.

 …and lastly, good luck with the Summer Holidays Parents! Once more unto the breach comrades, we can do this! (Maybe with a little help from a few bottles of wine and a sip or two of a G&T! – Let’s hope the sun finally get’s it’s hat on!)

Gems.x

Two Ducks on Facebook

Two Ducks on Twitter




A Life is Knutts Review: Joe Browns – Holiday Shop, Summer Collection 2016

“Here comes the sun, doo, doo, doo, doo, here comes the sun, and I say…oh, and now it’s gone again”. Welcome to the Great British Summer!

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Living in the UK, we are used to getting every type of weather in the space of a few hours. Hail, Snow, Spring Sunshine, Strong winds, Searing heat…we get it all.

Despite this, we still manage to make the most of whatever weather we have, regardless of what we are doing. Keep Calm and Carry On as they say!

It’s been a while since we went abroad as a family, Sicily in 2010 to be precise (mainly due to the fact our middle one, who was 1.5 at the time of said holiday, had such an epic meltdown whilst trying to board the plane that we wanted the ground to open up and swallow us to save any further embarassment!)

We tend to do staycations now which, in my opinion, are just as fun. The kids couldn’t care less where they are, as long as they’re with the people they love, having fun, you could be on a beach in Bognor for all they care!

A few weeks ago, a blogging opportunity arose which was being run by the lovely people at Joe Browns.

Joe Browns is a UK clothing company who specialise in ‘quirky’ and unique fashion. If you’re after quality fashion staples, but with a little something extra to set it apart from the crowd, you’ve found the right place! I have shopped with Joe Browns many times before so, when this opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance!

They asked for bloggers to choose an item of clothing from their Holiday Shop to review and to then take a colourful photo of it to post onto Instagram using the hastags #JBHolidayWardrobe and #JoeBrowns.

I chose the ‘Tremendous Tunic’ (priced at £34.99 – price correct at time of writing). It came in 3 different prints/fabrics and I chose the Denim Patchwork version.

I loved the look of this. I am not really a ‘girlie girl’ and I like my darker colours, so this tunic suited me down to the ground. Feminine, without the frills and ruffles.

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After waiting a few days, my parcel from them arrived.

The excitement of being sent some clothing, guilt free, was overwhelming. Being a mum of 3 boys means I rarely spend money on myself so being sent something free of charge was utterly brilliant!

I opened the package and had a look at the tunic. The first thing that struck me was how light the material was. It looks like denim but feels very soft and will be super on a hot day.

The straps are leather effect and the buckles on the straps are chrome plastic, another sensible style idea by Joe Browns so that they don’t get hot in the sun and burn you like metal ones would.

The buttons are super cute and are all different patterns/pictures. It’s little details like these which really set Joe Browns apart from their competitors.

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I’m very short (think Hobbit, minus the hairy feet…for now anyway) so finding dresses and things which suit me is quite difficult. As soon as I put this on however, I could tell it was a super fit for me both in length and width. I would opt to wear it over leggings or jeggings, something like that with some Vans or Sandals depending on how you want to dress it.

I vary in size from shop to shop, between a size 10 and an 8 (depending on how many milkshake cocktails I’ve tested that week!) so I plumped (no punn intended) for the size 10 as some previous reviewers had said that their clothes can come up a little small. The 10 fitted me perfectly so make of that what you will. Either I was having a fatter week (yes) or their clothes come up a little on the small side (possibly).

The Joe Browns Holiday Shop collection is really lovely and has something for everyone. Girlie summer dresses, sandals, casual shoes, tops, shorts, tunics, you name it, they have it. All made from high quality materials to a super standard so they’ll last for a few summers to come…as long as you don’t have a toddler like mine who is capable of destroying anything within minutes, including my sanity.

If you would like to check out Joe Browns Holiday Shop, you can do so by clicking this link!

Thank you Joe Browns for a guilt free shop and to all of you for reading!

Much love, Gem.x

Disclaimer: I was sent this item, free of charge by Joe Browns, for the purpose of this review. All opinions and words are my own.




Britmums Daily Photo Challenge: Day 9 – Food

Britmums Daily Photo Challenge – Day 9: Food

“Food, glorious food!” Sadly I love the stuff (so does my waistline and butt sadly but never mind…I digress)

I appear to have ‘accidentally’ bought these boxes of yumminess in my online food shop…I don’t remember adding them to my basket. 

Honest. 😉🙊
 

I bought them accidently on purpose…

 
They’re by The Grown up Chocolate Company and they’re absolutely AMAZING!!! 

I’ve had the peanut one before (and it was too yummy – and my hubby doesn’t like Peanuts so I ate it all to myself! #winning) but the Dark chocolate one is new to me so I’ll be giving that a go later along with a Gin and Tonic 😉 

All in the name of research I’ll have you know…

The packaging is super cool and the chocolate inside is to die for. 

Give them a go, you won’t be disappointed!

They’ve also released some rather brilliant sounding Easter eggs and I’ll be getting myself some this Easter for sure!

(I got mine from Ocado )

 

Have you ever seen anything so yummy?! (Ok, apart from David Beckham in his under crackers…)