Perfect hair with the Braun Satin-Hair 7

Sometimes I think the blogging Gods look down on me with good luck. Last week while I was drying my hair I realised my 5 year old hair-dryer was starting to smell a bit like burning toffee when I was using it. And we all know what that smell means....! An email popped up last week asking me would I like a hair-dryer from the Braun range and of course I jumped at the chance- good timing or what?! 

I was sent the Braun Satin-Hair 7. This is my first venture into the world of ionic hairdryers which are supposed to cause less heat damage to the hair or as the box says "100% damage free styling". Ionic hairdryers are designed to make the hair dry faster and also make the hair look shiny. The help seal in moisture rather than dry the moisture out. 

I was really impressed on opening my hairdryer as it comes with both a standard nozzle and a diffuser. As a curly haired girl, I'm ashamed to say I didn't own a diffuser! But I'm really excited to put this to the test. I've heard great reports with diffusers on ionic hairdryers as they completely eliminate frizz.

The hairdryer itself is light and easy to manage. It has two speed and two heat settings. The ionic feature can also be turned on or off- the ionic feature makes the top of the hairdryer light up in a green colour. There is also a removable filter to clean the hairdryer (a minor factor but music to my ears as I think this is why my previous hairdryer was on its road out!). It also comes with the unique Satin-Hair technology which can be turned on or off. This caps the temperature and distributes the air evenly to prevent breakage. This hair-dryer retails for just under £50, which in comparison to other hairdryers with similar features on the market, is very good value. 

I chose to do my usual Saturday at home blow-dry and test out the hairdryer. I use a GHD Size 2 brush and spritz my hair with VO5 Plump It Up Blowdry Lotion. This is a great bargain product which gives great heat protection and a bit of root lift. I turned on the IONTEC and Satin-Hair features and timed how long it took to blow-dry my hair. I usually take about 25 minutes as I section my hair off and I try to get my hair as salon perfect as possible. With my new hair-dryer, my hair took 13 minutes! I was amazed...and my hair felt and looked so smooth.

I'm excited to continue to use this hair-dryer- especially to dry my naturally curly locks.

Thank you to the Braun PR Team for my pressie!

That Belfast Girl 

Getting Glam for the CIPR Media Awards 2014

I always get a vision in my head of what I want to look like for a certain occasion. Call me odd, but it is what helps me get excited for events. Dear bless us all if I ever make it up the aisle....!

I was so honoured to make the shortlist for "Digital Journalist of the Year" at the CIPR Media Awards. I was in a category with the Belfast Telegraph, which for a little blogger like me felt like a big deal! I whipped out my graduation dress from last year. I had only worn it the once and the dress code was "business/casual" so I felt it was appropriate. I had bought it in the M&S in the Outlet Banbridge. It was a huge bargain as it's a a linen Autograph dress. 

I had a picture from Nigella Lawson many years ago on the cover of the Radio Times and I loved her hair. It was in a really big faux bob and she looked a bit like Sophia Loren. So, with this in mind, I headed to Peter Mark in Arthur Street to have my hair done. Peter Mark kindly offered to do my hair for the event which I am so grateful for. Peter Mark have recently launched a new campaign entitled "Masters of Hair" which highlights some of the great talent within their company. One of the Masters, Alanda, did my hair. Alanda is usually based in the Forestside salon but also works on a lot of their fashion shows and shoots. She was really lovely and great craic. Often salon visits can drag in but she put me at ease. After my Kertain Lisse Treatment (which is still holding out great!), my colour had lifted a few shades. I also had some root growth (all grey... why me!?) which needed patched in. Alanda opted to fill my roots in with colour which has a gorgeous red sheen off it. She then toned down my bayalage with a complementing colour. I am so happy with how the colour turned out. When washing my hair, she used a Nioxin shampoo. This is a brand I haven't used before but it renown for its ability to give people hair thickness. The shampoo contains peppermint and felt amazing on the scalp. She then gave me a big blow-dry using lots of amazing Redken products (which all smell divine!). 

As I was going to the CIPRs, we opted to put my hair up in the Nigella faux bob. Alanda copied the look to perfection. I revealed at the end that I knew the Radio Times cover was a wig- and I had real hair which was a direct copy! My hair fitted in so well with the 50s theme of my dress. I would highly recommend Alanda for her amazing creative ability. I know I will have her tortured in the future!

Following my visit to Peter Mark, I visited Claire at Laura Mercier House of Fraser to have my makeup done. With my hair already done, I think she was clear on the 50s vibe! I am a huge Laura Mercier advocate, particularly of their Silk Creme Foundation. Claire created a really flawless base. I loved my eye-makeup. Claire used the Laura Mercier Cream Eye Liner in Noir to create a cat-eye flick over a simple champagne eye base. I also loved the Laura Mercier Candlelight Powder which she used to highlight my face. It was a great way to get to know my favourite brand even more.

The CIPR Media Awards were an amazing experience. Although I didn't win, it was an honour to be in a category with other well respected journalists and be representing the growing blogging community here in Northern Ireland.

Thanks to Alanda at Peter Mark,  Mark Kelly and Claire at House of Fraser, Danielle at Smarts and all at CIPR for a great evening!

That Belfast Girl

The mini-buffing brush

I'm a sucker for anything in miniature form. Often, the things are cute and serve no major purpose but I've found a mini-brush that I can't live without. On my recent New York trip, a frantic 20 minute dash around Sephora left me throwing things into my basket that I hadn't intended on buying (This seemed to happen a lot on the trip.....). I love Sephora own brand brushes and I took a notion for this little buffing brush. I thought it would be a great brush to throw in my handbag for touch-ups. However, it has fast become one of my favourite brushes for foundation and concealer. Whether I am looking very tired and need serious concealer on my eyes or I'm buffing in a light sweep of foundation, this brush has been great. The brush is soft and the size allows for great precision and an air-brushed flawless finish.

A great value for money brush. Sephora now ships to the UK so you too can have your fill of tiny cute brushes. 

That Belfast Girl

Party in Style with M&S's Summer of Flavour Range

It's the season for parties, BBQ's and generally just enjoying this good spell of weather we seem to be having. I am a life-long Marks and Spencer fan and this summer, they have produced an amazing range of treats which would be perfect for the up-coming graduation season. Firstly, canapĂ© and hot snack wise, there are a wide range of Mediterranean inspired tapas which are on offer for 3 for £6. I tried out three varieties but the Spiced Chicken Pastries were my favourite. They all cooked evenly in the oven in under 10 minutes.

For drinks options, there are a wide array of new juices. The very trendy Coconut Water is now at M&S along with Pineapple Juice which has a kick of chilli and lemon-grass. The pineapple juice has been going down a treat in my house for breakfast time- it certainly wakes you up! If you want something a bit more grown up, try the Caipirinha Fizz. Inspired by the classic cocktail, the white wine, rum and lime cooler provides a delicious and refreshing alternative to champagne. 

To go along with the drinks, the crisps and nuts selection is fantastic. To be honest, if I had to pick only one thing from this whole selection I would pick the crisps! The offerings include Lime and Chickpea Tortilla Scoops (perfect for homemade guacamole) to coconut & chilli cashew nuts or my favourite, Soy & Balsamic Sweet Potato Crisps (whole bag, 1 sitting- no regrets!), all which make a perfect accompaniment to the aforementioned drinks. 

For sweet-treats there are a selection of fresh flavours on the menu including passion-fruit and citrus fruits. As an alternative to the class (addictive) jaffa cake, there are Passion Fruit and Peach Jaffa Cakes. These are a fun and fruity- a surefire hit with kids! For added cuteness there are an array of "mini cakes" which are small cupcakes with a creamy centre. We opted to try the Passion Fruit variety and these were just the right amount of sweet and citrus. 

All of the Summer of Flavour range is at Marks and Spencer food halls now. 

That Belfast Girl 

It comes down to reality and it's fine with me

Exhibit Denim Jacket, H&M Trousers, H&M Top, Primark sandals, necklace as a gift from Avril

Okay, it's official. I fell deeply in love with New York on my third visit. I thought I would share a few snaps that I usually would keep private but I just love looking at them. It's amazing that in such a big city that the serenity of Central Park can take you to another world. Singing aside, I got to see parts of New York I never imagined I would. I walked five miles around Central Park and honestly, never felt as at home anywhere in my life. I don't often get "personal" on my blog but I was having some issues with big things in my life that I knew I needed to come to terms with. From the minute we got on the plane I was able to talk and cry.... to the point where I think I probably did cry everyday on our 6 day trip. I feel like I sorted out a lot of stuff that had been bothering me for sometime while I was away and finding out that people in your life have gone through the same experiences is you is absolutely eye-opening. I left a lot of my feelings in New York, allowed myself to grieve and came home refreshed, contented and ready for the next chapter in my life.

That Belfast Girl is going to keep evolving with me as I grow as a person. The next year is about to get VERY interesting!

That Belfast Girl 

Lisse Design Keratin Therapy Treatment at Jason Shankey

My natural curly hair when I was in America

I have been blessed with a good head of thick hair. It must be in the genes as my mum and granny both have hair which needs cut every 3 weeks! Over the past year I've been growing my hair and lately it seems to have shot down. When I was in America, I left my hair curly as it was too warm to spend the time blow-drying it straight. 

I met Brenda Shankey (the amazingly smart business woman and wife to Jason) a few months ago and she suggested I try the Alfaparf Lisse Design Keratin Therapy. There are so many Brazilian Blowdry/12 Week Blow-Dry type products on the market and I know people who have had mixed success with different brands. Alfaparf is a luxury brand used in great salons so I knew that their version would be something different. The Lisse Design Keratin Therapy aims to eliminate frizz and it is paraben free. The treatment contains lots of keratin and babassu oil to keep the hair sleek for up to 3 months. I must emphasise that this is NOT chemical straightening. It is a treatment which helps to keep your hair in great condition and make it easier to manage. If you have curly hair like me, over-processed colour treated hair or want to banish your frizz, this treatment is perfect for you. Instead of me explaining every step, I have included the official video of how it is done. The treatment took just under 2 hours for me which is very fast considering some other brands take up to 4 to 5 hours. 

I had my treatment done at the Jason Shankey Salon in the House of Fraser. The salon is so handy- I parked downstairs in Victoria Square and ran up the stairs! Jason Shankey is a brand which people tend to associate more with men but they have expanded into a women's brand and offer all the usual hair treats you would expect along with the addition of tape in hair extensions and the LA Blowdry (2 people blow-dry your hair at once!). I was anxious to see the results of the treatment but I am pleased to say I was beyond thrilled. Like most people with curly hair, at times it can feel a little dry or coarse. The treatment left my hair ultra-sleek, shiny and smooth. My friends have all commented saying that it looks like I have a new head of hair!

As part of the treatment you receive the maintenance shampoo and conditioner which will help the hair stay sleek for up to 12 weeks. I try to wash my hair every 4-5 days so hopefully it will last the entire time. I washed my hair today and I'm still amazed at the results, My hair dried much faster and I didn't need to run the straighteners through it- it looks salon blow-dried!

The treatment costs £150 but as someone who prides themselves on their "crowning glory" it feels very much worth the money. I will be sure to update you all on the progress and lasting power of the treatment over the coming weeks.

For more information or appointments contact the Jason Shankey Salon House of Fraser on: 028 9027 8272

That Belfast Girl

*Disclaimer- I was gifted the treatment to review but this in no way influenced my thoughts or feelings on the product*

World Cup Widow's Afternoon Tea with Hastings Hotels

Time for tea! Top by Mary Portas
The new Miss Northern Ireland Rebekah Shirley with last year's winner Meagan Green

Well the World Cup has started. I must admit that I love to watch the odd match but all the talk about it 24/7 can wear a little thin! I was invited to a fabulous event in the Europa Hotel which is part of the Hastings Hotel Group. The clever people behind this had the idea to get a group of different media girls together to have a "World Cup Widow's" Afternoon Tea in the iconic Europa Piano Bar. I have frequented the Europa many times but to sit with a huge group of women to chat and eat for an afternoon was an absolute joy. The afternoon tea was of course very tasty but the thing which made it outstanding for me were the excellent staff. The staff were so attentive and friendly. 

The afternoon tea consisted of lots of the good old classics- delicious crustless sandwiches, dinky scones and sweet treats along with the addition of the cutest round sausage rolls! The tea which the Hastings Group use in their hotels is all brewed by Thompsons for them. I opted for the Florida Fruit Tea. This was very sweet and refreshing- and bright PINK! I adored the glass teapots which aided in making the tea look so beautiful.

I did not finish my massive stand of treats so I was able to bring the rest home in a a cute little pink box. It made me feel like I'd gone on an amazing picnic when I was walking to my car with it!

The Europa Afternoon Tea is a brilliant experience and I would recommend it for big birthdays, hen parties and special occasions.

Many thanks to Bronagh & Fiona for the invite and many thanks to the staff of the Europa for a lovely afternoon.

That Belfast Girl 

I left my heart in New York City

I've been to New York before. Actually, this was my 3rd visit. But nothing could have prepared me for the trip I have just come home from. I travelled to New York to tour with my choir, Belfast Community Gospel Choir. We went on the invitation of the Lord Mayor of Belfast to sing at the New York New Belfast conference in Fordham University. We also managed to fit in a few church concerts including one in Kirkpatrick Chapel, Rutgers University. I am so pleased that my blogging BFF Avril from School Gate Style is also in choir (and had to share a room with me and 4 other hilarious women for a week!) It was great to be able to share this with her as I know when we are old and grey, we will still be talking about it. I easily could have made 20 different posts about New York and all my hopes of vlogging went out the window because we were so busy, but I hope you enjoy me talking through some of my pictures and videos of us singing from my time there. Get a cuppa tea.... it's going to be one LONG post!

Aeroplane selfies, same trainers and aeroplane outfit
We headed to Dublin airport to get our flight. 70 of us including our sound guy and musicians came with us so it was loud! An early start meant comfy travel outfits. Hilariously, Avril and I ended up in almost the exact same outfit which included identical stylish trainers from H&M. I wore NO makeup until I reached New York. I had my HD Brows and LVL lashes done by Studio D the night before we left so I felt flight ready. 

On the way there we sang on the plane (I was awake at 4.30am with 3 hours sleep....adrenaline definitely took over!) It was absolutely hilarious! The pilot and cabin crew loved it. We were really lucky to have someone to film all our special moments with us. 

Cupcakes from the hostel, Times Square, Sunglasses I liked in Michael Kors and an amazing sun dial compass mosaic at the Top of the Rock.
We stayed in the Hostelling International on Amsterdam Avenue. I am a HUGE hotel snob so I was a little anxious about staying there. However, I had the best 5 roomies from choir and the room was fantastic! The hostel is so clean and the bathrooms were big and tidy. I definitely would stay here again- the subway is just down the street making everything easily accessible. The little cafe in the hostel was really delicious and provided great quick food for the 70 of us who were constantly on the go! On the Wednesday night we visited Times Square and the Rockefeller Centre. I had never been to the Top of the Rock so up we went to see the city from this amazing location. I also managed to pick up a jumper in J Crew's sale for $30 while we were at Rockefeller Centre. I'm sure it will be in an OOTD soon!

On the way to the Rockefeller Centre, we threw ourselves down on the steps in Times Square for a song. Sure why not!? I really had a "Mariah moment" during this! I was doing all sorts of mental ad-libs!

View across Central Park, Bethesda Fountain, The Met
On Thursday we sang in Central Park at Bethesda Fountain. I had always wanted to go there because of the TV series Angels in America. We walked to Bethesda Fountain from our hostel which took about an hour but it provided some amazing views. After this, we headed down to Madison Avenue to grab some lunch. 
Sephora, New Balance 501s, Whole Foods munch, Soul Food
Friday and Saturday were very busy concert days so I made a pit stop to Sephora and bought all I wanted in 1 swoop! I think Sephora has lost part of its allure now that we can get it delivered to the UK and because so many of the brands are available here. I did however purchase a few things that aren't released here yet.... all to be revealed soon! We seemed to make daily visits to Whole Foods around the corner and I became obsessed with the number drinks on offer. I think I've just about tried every Vitamin Water on offer! Shopping came in really sporadic bursts so when Avril and I had a free hour after singing at Lincoln Centre, we called into Century 21 which is a store very like TK Maxx. I picked up New Balance 501's for £27! I wanted a pair at home but they often can be really expensive and I was always concerned I would not wear them much. Needless to say, they are SO comfortable! They were probably my best purchase.

Lots of the churches we sang in gave us food. A church in Brooklyn made us soul food to eat on the bus home. Fried chicken, drool!

Balthazar, Duane Reade haulin', singing in New Jersey, NY Blowdry!
The tour provided me with so many opportunities to visit places I would never get to go. From singing in Rutger's University in New Jersey to singing at an amazing baptist church in Harlem.... I feel like I had so many musical dreams come true! Outside of the music, I of course did a huge haul in the local Duane Reade pharmacy (5 minute teeth bleach all round!). I also went and had my hair blow-dried on Sunday afternoon as after a 5am start and two concerts, I could not lift my arms to blowdry it myself! Needless to say, it looked fabulous. The Americans know how to do big hair! On Monday, we celebrated Avril's birthday with a trip to Soho (which has the best shopping in my opinion!) and a lunch in Victoria Beckham's favourite restaurant Balthazar. We met Avril's blog friend Joanna from Poppy's Style and her friend Cali for lunch. It was lovely to spend time with them and I think Avril had the best birthday ever!

Overall, a life-changing trip which I can't put into words. I'm sure I will be featuring lots of new buys and products over the coming weeks so stay tuned!

That Belfast Girl

P.S. On the way home I found out I am nominated for Digital Journalist of the Year at the CIPR Media Awards 2014. I'm so happy to be representing the bloggers of this city! 

The little things

Sometimes it is the little things in life that brighten up your day. I've had lots of these lately so I thought I'd share three of my favourites with you.

I go through phone cases like water. I have always wanted a personalised case but couldn't track down a company in the UK... until now!! I was so impressed about how easy it was to make this case for my iPhone 5C. It has attracted so much attention since I've started using it. I opted to include pictures of all the important things and people in my life but you could as easily upload pictures of your favourite celebs, flowers or cars! The quality it also fantastic. Mr. Nutcase have kindly given me the code Thanku10 for 10% off any case for That Belfast Girl readers. 

I am beyond thrilled that a Michael Kors beauty counter has opened in House of Fraser Belfast. It is the second counter in the UK so Belfast should feel very lucky! Michael Kors is my favourite designer so it was a welcome progression for a small but unique collection of makeup to appear from the brand. The Sporty Sexy Glam range focuses on three key looks which will suit all sorts of women. The packaging is gold and glamorous meaning it looks amazing in your handbag! I have fallen in love with the Diva lipstick which is the perfect nude which will suit many skin-tones. Be sure to check out their bronzers too- absolutely huge! 

I notoriously despise fragranced body lotion. But I recently received a sample of the Elie Saab Body Lotion in a goodie bag and I fell in love. I have smelt the perfume before but I wasn't overly struck on it. However, the lotion is a whole different matter. It makes for the perfect post bath treat but more than that, it feels divine! It is fresh and clean with notes of orange blossom and jasmine (a personal favourite of mine!). I can see myself investing in the full size of this in the near future (Duty free, I see ya!).

Let me know what little things you have been loving lately below or by tweeting me @GemmaLEBond

That Belfast Girl 
*PR Sample