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Exploring Belfast for Small Business Saturday

Sponsored post in association with American Express®

This Saturday is Small Business Saturday - a day to support amazing local businesses owned by the wonderful people our country! I've teamed up with American Express - the founder of the Small Business Saturday initiative to show you my favourite small businesses to shop at all year around. 


Envoy is a treasure trove for fashionistas. Located a stone's throw away from City Hall, they are the only Northern Ireland stockists of cutting edge brands such as Acne, Comme des Garcons and Marni. Owner Ruth has a fantastic eye for selecting pieces that really stand out for both their fit and quality. I loved their special collaboration with Japanese brand 'orSlow', the chic 'orSlow x Envoy jumper' is a must have.  They also stock Mansur Gavriel - their bucket bag has been on my wish list forever! 

Sawers is the oldest deli in Belfast. Established in 1897, the store is filled with delicious preserves and deli goods sourced from far and wide. Whether you need a new coffee blend to try out (they have hundreds of choices!) or simply something for a dinner party, they have everything you could imagine. I highly recommend their homemade pizzas - they make the best lunch if you want to chill with friends on a sunny day! If you are searching for ingredients to recreate a dish you have seen on TV, you are likely to find it here! My mother has always bought pasta from Sawers as they have so many amazing unique varieties. 

Lauren May is a jewellery shop located in the stunning Queen's Arcade. Queen's Arcade is one of my favourite places in Belfast - it has really sweet shops and it feels like a little bit of old Belfast that has been preserved. From traditional Irish pieces like the Claddagh Ring which represents love, loyalty and friendship, to really unique items made from fiery coloured Amber, Lauren May is a great place to pick up a special gift for someone (or something lovely for yourself)!


Owned by Northern Irish makeup legend Paddy McGurgan, Make Up Pro Store is a makeup lover's dream. I've known Paddy since I started blogging and his knowledge and skills are amazing. The half shop/ half workshop space allows you to browse products from some of the best professional brands on the market including Make Up Forever and Make Up Studio. You can also go into the store for a makeup lesson, application or workshop. Lessons are a great way to learn from experts like Paddy to pick up the best tips and tricks. I dare you to enter this store without leaving with something - I usually walk away with a fabulous new eye glitter! Before heading to Maven, I dander back to the City Hall to jump on a bus to the Lisburn Road. 

Maven is one of the best interiors shops in Belfast. Run by passionate sister duo Catherine & Patricia, the girls search the globe for the best brands to bring to their Lisburn Road store. From every colour of Hay sofa, to Irish prints to hang on your walls, to locally made ceramics by Derek Wilson and their own hand poured Maven candles, Maven has loads of pieces to make your home look and feel a little bit cooler. They host lots of great design events with local music too! 


Take in the beautiful Botanical Gardens just off Botanic Avenue before enjoying at delicious lunch at Sakura, an Asian restaurant that serves a full range of dishes from miso soup to Sake! I adore their sushi - in fact, I didn't really like sushi until I tried it at Sakura! The staff are absolutely lovely and they do a great lunch deal. The sushi train is addictive - I never know when to stop lifting plates! They do the best dragon rolls I've ever had and their service is fantastic. 

Across the street from Sakura is No Alibis - one of Belfast's most loved little bookshop. It's handily down the street from Queen's University Belfast and I spent my university years buying both my Politics textbooks and poetry books from these amazing Irish creatives. The store also hosts lots of book launches and readings from the authors themselves. If you are stuck for reading inspiration, the store owners are great at recommending something to suit your tastes. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of my favourite small shops in Belfast. If this has inspired you, visit amexshopsmall.co.uk to find out where you can support small businesses in your area throughout the year and get some further ideas for your Christmas shopping.

What’s more, if you’re an American Express Cardmember you will be rewarded for supporting your local high street with the Shop Small offer. When you spend £10 or more in a single transaction using your American Express Card at a participating small business during the campaign period (2-17 December 2017) you will receive a £5 statement credit. There is no limit to the number of participating businesses you can receive your £5 statement credit from – however, you can only claim it once at each small business. Terms apply.

But the Shop Small offer is just one way that American Express can make every day more rewarding. The range of Cards from American Express is packed with ways to reward you for your purchases*; from Membership Rewards® points that can be used to treat yourself to virtually anything (and that never expire) to discounts at top restaurants and hotels, money back on everyday purchases, or collecting frequent flyer miles* – check out the American Express website for more information

*Selected Cards only. Terms and conditions apply. Subject to availability.

Promoter: American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9AX, United Kingdom. It is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.


The £24.99 coat you need in your life


When Heidi Klum announced a collab with supermarket giant Lidl (home to my favourite soup and peanut butter), I was intrigued. The last collection had tones of blue and leopard. I picked up a great wrap that I've been wearing lots.

Her new collection, launching in stores on 4th December, is inspired by the season's sparkle. I was sent through the press release a few weeks ago and my eyes were automatically turned to a navy fluffy coat. I had been looking for a teddy bear style coat all winter and to see on in my favourite hue was a surprise. What was an even bigger surprise, was the price tag - a bargain a £24,99! It also comes in a warm maroon shade - both very wearable. It's so warm and cosy. The sizing runs a little small so size up one size for a better fit. 

The collection also features some fantastic sparkly pieces - perfect for any Christmas parties coming up. There is an amazing rose gold dress for £14.99 will be my go to when the collection drops in store!

Make sure to visit your local store on 4th December for the latest drop and trust me - this coat is an absolute winner so make sure to grab it! 

*Many thanks to Lidl for sending the coat over to me. All views my own.

Since when was it ok to be a bitch?


We've all done it. Sat in a coffee shop with your mum. Having cocktails with the girls. Chatting over lunch with your office bestie.

'Did you see so and so? She's put on so much weight. And did you hear so and so spilt up with her boyfriend?'

We all love to gossip. In fact, I feel like it is often what the female race talk about when men are busy chatting about football, golf and whatever men talk about when they go to the pub for a pint. There's a huge difference between gossip - something very surface level, and being a bitch. 

To me, bitching is when a person won't shut up about something or someone. It's a continual whining in my ear. Whether you are annoyed about someone or something, jealous, upset... think about your words. It's so easy to spill someone else's things they've confided in you or say something in bad temper - but does this say more of you than the person you are bitching about? 

It's something I have felt so strongly about this year. I was sick of listening to people around me bitch about situations or people that I started calling them out. 'That's mean"... I've said it so many times this year. But more than that, I have tried to be a reminder to people that they can solve their own problems. I have a saying - 'Only moan about things you don't have the ability to change'. My own mother quotes it back to me when I get annoyed about trivial things. And this is true of bitching - where is it getting you? The other person will either not know you are annoyed or be upset that you've broken their confidence. 

I've really made a stand to call bitching out moving forward. It's not nice and it's not mature. Part of it makes me so uncomfortable as someone who was bullied at school - the playground tones of bitching always take be back there.

It's hard to confront someone who is a serial bitcher. But if you are realising that their negative words are affecting you, maybe it's time you thought about standing up. You'll either fall into their trap and repeat their negative words or you can speak up & tell them you don't appreciate their comments. It's hard to trust someone who constantly speaks ill of others and often, it's not that they is a bad person but rather that they have become so engrossed in the circle of bitching that they can't get out. Use your own influence to be a positive voice to help them resolve their issues or to see that their bitching actually won't make them feel any better about the situation.

What's your thoughts? Let me know at @GemmaLEBond

26



Photo by Brendan Gallagher. Makeup by Jack Thompson. 

I don't know where the past year has gone to. As I write this post, I'm almost at my 26th birthday. I love my birthday - it's the one chance I get to have everyone I love around me and I totally milk it. I'll forever be a 4 day birthday sort of person!

I always love to reflect on the last year before I move into a new one. I don't measure my life in calendar years but rather the years of my life. Every year on  my birthday I make a new album on Facebook with whatever I got up to. So as I close the book on 25, I wanted to think about some big life lessons I've learned this year.

Start saving earlier
I just purchased my first house. Admittedly, at 25 it's still young but I know in my heart I could have been a home owner sooner if I stopped lunchtime trips to Zara! Saving is a hard concept to get round to especially if you work really hard to make your money - you feel entitled to treats. However, get into the habit of doing it when you start working. It pays off to see the 'SOLD' sign go up on your first home!

Don't give up
I feel like 25 was a challenging year in a different way. My relationships have certainly changed with people around me. I think in our society we often place emphasis on the fact we as 'young independent women' are able to walk away from things and not have to put up with bad behaviour. However, sometimes you know in your heart in someone or something is worth fighting for. I have a new appreciation and admiration of my own patience after this year. 

Laugher heals everything
Any picture that I like of myself from this year is of me laughing - double chin and all! I look my best I feel when I am laughing and learned this year, that though very sad times, there's very little that laughing can't fix. Laugh loud and laugh often.

I am so excited to be 26 and on the wrong side of my 20s. Your 20s are hard - it's all about navigating your life and making big decisions that will impact those around you as much as yourself. Who knows what I will be writing this time next year. 

3 beauty hacks that have changed my life


There's a few beauty treatments that I've fallen in love with in 2017. In fact, they are things I wish I had been doing for the last decade as they are so life changing! I highly recommend these time saving beauty hacks that have made my beauty routine a little bit easier!

1. Olaplex is life
I used to be an avid fan of keratin blowdries that would last 8 - 12 weeks. That was until I met Olaplex. The treatment can be added to your colour or as a bolt on to your blow dry. It helps to heal broken bonds making your hair smoother and softer. I find that getting an Olaplex blow-dry once a month keeps my hair in great condition. It makes my hair more manageable and easier to dry at home. I've had my recent Olaplex blow-dry at Peter Maud on the Old Holywood Road. Ask for Tyler - he's a hoot! 

2. Laser hair removal
I've talked at length about my laser hair removal with Beyond Skin here. I wish I would have done it years ago. I started getting my bikini done and now have moved on to under arm. Although bikini has been amazing (especially for going on holiday!), under arm has been a game changer. Not having to think about it if you are wearing a sleeveless top has been incredible! Plus, no little bumps or lumps from shaving! 

3. Double exfoliation
By double exfoliation I mean both exfoliating with two products but also doing this 2-3 times a week. I've always exfoliated my skin but usually only once a week. After a chat with a skincare expert, I realised I could get better results by using the products more. Not all products are suitable for using a few times a week but my much loved The Body Shop Vitamin C microdermabrasion is perfect for this. I also like to acid tone with Alpha H Liquid Gold. I've tried others but always come back to my beloved Alpha H! It is the only thing that helps me to get rid of spots and reduce scars. 

Tell me your beauty hacks over on Twitter @GemmaLEBond