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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

Exploring ahead of ABC Style Week















*In association with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council*

I'm so excited to be a part of ABC Style Week! I will be holding a workshop in Portadown Town Hall on Wednesday 11th October at 7pm. My workshop is called 'Get Styled, Get Body Confident'. Tickets are only£5 and can be purchased from: https://getstyledgetbodyconfident.eventbrite.co.uk/ 

Ahead of my workshop, I visited Lurgan and Portadown to check out what they had to offer in terms of fashion. I knew Lurgan quite well after a visit many years ago & numerous return visits to Alana Interiors (it's seriously worth the drive!).

We started out in Lurgan at Perfect Day - a bridal store. My mum recently got engaged so I am going to a bridesmaid next year. I tried on some styles to see what she might like - I absolutely loved the fit of the navy style I tried on. They have lots of great formal wear as well as bridal choices. We headed on up the town to The Curiosity Tea Room - they also sell cute scarves and bags. I loved the designer inspired fringe number! We also called into new beauty salon Pin Up - I spotted someone getting their nails done and they looked great. Their wall murals are perfect for selfies! Elegance Boutique also had amazing items - I wanted to bring the green sparkly bomber jacket home with me! We of course had to pop up to my favourite, Alana Interiors for a Mars Bar scone and a nosey around their clothes & gift section. I adore the brand Kate Loxton - they have gorgeous candles and clutch bags with cute sayings, making them perfect for presents! We also nipped to the gorgeous Chantilly Lace for more bridal goodness - I spotted the sweetest little flower girl dress. We also went to Jack in the Box which was so nostalgic for me as my grandmother was an avid knitter when I was a little girl. 

We then drove over to Portadown. I love the girls from The Bottom Drawer - a lovely sister duo with a great eye for gorgeous things. They sell great brands in terms of clothes and have lovely gift options. In the same street as them, Sitara Morgan has stunning shoes from brands such as Moda in Pelle and Marian (a fab Spanish brand). I took a shine to a pair of pony skin leopard heels! Not leaving out the men in our lives, Statement Menswear has fab gift options for the Christmas season as well as some of the nicest suits I've ever seen - definitely one to consider if you are getting married!

I cannot wait for my event in Portadown - I hope to see some of you there!

Why the Aviva Community Fund 2017 can make a difference






In association with Aviva Community Fund 2017

I love the ethos of community. It one of the very reasons I stared my blog - I love the people of Belfast and how we support one and another. Given this, I was delighted to go and see a group that benefited from the Aviva Community Fund last year. I visited the team at Girl Guiding Ulster at their home in Lorne Estate in County Down. The estate is magnificent - with walking trails, archery, abseiling and accommodation, it’s a little hidden gem just off the main Belfast to Bangor carriageway. I met their managing executive, Claire at the estate to hear why Girl Guiding Ulster decided to submit for funding and hear how small things can make a big difference to local community groups.


The team at Girl Guiding Ulster benefited hugely from receiving £5,000 in funding which enabled them to buy Resusci Anne dolls  dolls to teach both adults and children much needed CPR skills. This is an investment that not only will help the girls to reach their first aid badge but give them skills for life that could save someone when they are extremely poorly. 

I am delighted to be partnering with the Aviva Community Fund to encourage local groups here in Northern Ireland to apply for funding. Whether you are a local football team, mental health charity or a school that needs a new library, the Aviva Fund is open to all sorts of projects to. 

Aviva is offering four funding levels, from up to £1,000 to up to £25,000 To apply for funding, just tell Aviva how your project will make a positive change in one of these categories: 
• Health and wellbeing 
• Skills for life 
• Community support 
• Inclusivity 

You need votes to get your project to the finals, so start rallying friends, family and neighbours now! 

However, Aviva knows how much work it can take for volunteers in smaller projects to pull their entries together and rally voters. 

Most smaller projects ask for funding up to £1,000, so to recognise all their hard work, Aviva will automatically give the first 200 projects to reach 1,000 votes in this funding level the funding they ask for. If you’re one of the lucky 200 projects, Aviva will let you know. If you’re not one of those 200 projects, you’re still in with a chance of winning your funding. See terms and conditions to find out more. 

To get involved, submit a project or vote visit http://www.aviva.co.uk/community-fund. Entries opened on 12th September, closing dates for entries on 10th October 2017.

My beauty philosophy


Photo by Emer Davidson 

2017 is the year I've really learned to like myself. It's probably the most time I've spent on my own as an adult, trying to figure out what makes me happy and what I appreciate in myself. My blog focuses a lot on products you put on your face but also the beauty inside you. I've written my new beauty philosophy rules below. I hope these will be things I remember as I grow older (and hopefully wiser!).

1. Skincare is key
I will sound like a broken record but skin care is everything. If you are a fan of my live streams, you'll know I invest a lot of time in my skincare routine - from cleansers to masques, I love everything skin! I find my skin has started to improve the more I look after it - especially when I take my fish oil tablets every day (they make a huge difference - such a good investment!). I am also a fan of regular treatments - whether that be a facial or a peel. Take care of your skin - you only get one face!

2. Water baby
Like skincare, this is the oldest trick in the book. I find it takes 2-3 litres of water a day to keep my skin looking its best. Water combined with skin is my best combo to have me feeling my prettiest. 

3. Less is more but more is fun too
As I've grown up, I find myself wearing less makeup. At the weekend I love a bare face with loads of moisturiser. I have even been known to turn up to work minus my face after a facial or a peel. I think as I've learned to accept myself, I don't want to hide my face away behind very heavy makeup. That said, I do now really appreciate doing my makeup for a night out. I love a glitter eye and over-lined lip but to me, this makeup is fun & a bit theatrical. If I wore it everyday, I don't think I'd enjoy doing it so much. 

4. Your heart is your beauty
As a teenager, I was so insecure and thought I wasn't pretty. I was bullied in school and defined my worth off what I was physically judged on. I have realised my worth is actually my goodness and my patience - not my face or my makeup style. This has been the thing that has changed my beauty philosophy forever - if you can appreciate that your beauty comes from within, you're already a little bit winning at life.

What's your beauty philosophy? Tweet me at @GemmaLEBond to let me know!

Flower power




Photos by Emer Davidson

It might almost be autumn but I am clinging on the summer with vengeance (Did we even get a summer this year!?). I've noticed that this autumn that bright colours are really popular - bright reds, pinks and oranges. H&M's knitwear is my absolute favourite this season - this pink jumper can easily take you from day with jeans to night with a little leather skirt. 

The real focus of this outfit is the shoes - a recent find from Peacocks! I recently met with the Peacocks team and you will be so WOWed by their stuff for Autumn/Winter. From amazing coats to a velvet suit I can't wait to get my hands on, they are truly upping their game in terms of fashion. 

Is it time to buy my winter coat yet? Autumn my favourite time of year so I can't wait to buy more knits and boots! 

Rediscovering Dermalogica with Urban Beauty & Skincare Centre


Dermalogica is one of those brands I tried as a teen, had a bad experience and it put me off - until now. One of my big beauty aims of 2017 was to try and discover (or rediscover) brands I either didn't know much about or had fallen out of love with. It's really easy to be put off a brand if you are misinformed about it. In my case, as a teen I had been given a product from Dermalogica that was not suited to my skin type. I felt I needed re-educated in the brand as it has so many products that are super active and effective for different concerns. 

With this in mind, I was delighted to be invited by Helen, the owner of Urban Beauty and Skincare Centre in Dundonald to try out a BioSurface Peel. This was in celebration of her winning Belfast's Beauty Salon of the Year at the Northern Ireland Hair & Beauty Awards - what an accolade! Urban Beauty & Skincare Centre do both Dermalogica and Elemis treatments (I'm a HUGE Elemis fan and as a brand they are extremely particular about the salons & spas they go into so the fact Urban had it was a big draw for me).

The salon itself is unimposing - it's a little beauty haven set amongst an ordinary shop row at your drive into Dundonald. I was lucky enough to have Helen do my treatment - it provided a great opportunity to discuss her salon and skincare ethos with me. It turns out she's probably one of the most lovely businesswomen I've ever met - friendly, caring and great craic. She opened the salon when she was 20 and almost a decade & a half on, she remains hugely passionate about her craft. Her huge passion is skin and she has devoted her upstairs rooms for this purpose. The treatment room was so big, peaceful & calm - I felt like I was at a spa!

I explained to Helen my experience with the brand before and she ensured me that I would be wowed by the results of a BioActive Peel. This is one of the most interesting treatments in the Dermalogica family and is delivered by only experts like Helen as the peel can be customised to suit your skin needs. Mine were hydration and my little hormonal break outs on my chin area. The 5 step peel was unlike peels I had before. Peels can often be quite warm on the skin but I found this was not painful or uncomfortable like others I had tried. It's important to note that this is a skin treatment to ensure you looking your most radiant - it's not a relaxing facial. It's practical skincare that really works and the results were something else! Helen finished my treatment with extractions of my blackheads (something I had never hd before!) and application of mosituriser and SPF. The only real redness was from my extractions. I headed for lunch afterwards with my friends who commented I looked really fresh. 

As part of this treatment you receive an After Care Kit which is fantastic - it's a great way to try the products. I have fallen in love with the Multivitamin Theramafoliant - such a simple product to use twice weekly to give you the perfect glow as it buffs away any dead skin. 

My skin has been fantastic since this treatment. I feel my overall appearance is much more even & that it helped some scars I had that bothered me. This treatment is recommended as a course and I know I will certainly return to get another treatment. My face felt so clean after and in a way, I feel like I had the type of glow you get when you come home from holidays. I'm really happy to say this treatment certainly changed my perception of the Dermalogica brand and I want to learn more about it moving forward.

The biggest recommendation I can give you when I try out companies to review is that I would certainly return here as a paying customer - specifically to Helen as I just loved her personality and attitude. Urban Beauty & Skin Care gets a huge thumbs up from me - as does Dermalogica! 

Book with Urban Beauty & Skincare by calling 028 90 484202 or by visiting www.urbanskincare.co.uk

*My treatment was provided for free by Urban Skincare. All views are my own. 

My Autumn Beauty Essentials






Autumn means new beauty drops! It also means my skin gets a little bit drier as the temperatures start to drop. My autumn beauty products are hydrating and refreshing to make me look the brightest and best before the serious cold of winter comes!

I have long been a fan of sheet masks and I find the best value packets of masks are from TK Maxx. I have been loving these Vitamin C sheet masks - I think they were £4.99 for 5! I usually do a sheet mask every Sunday night to add some hydration before a long week of 9-6 work makeup! If you fancy a sheet mask, look for versions with vitamin c to add glow to the skin!

Wet n Wild Megaglo Highlighter in Precious Petals
Like the rest of the beauty world, I'm obsessed with highlighters. I like the highlight to be really golden and natural - I'm not into the ones that look really metallic and wet. This highlighter is less than £5 and far out-performs many of its high end counterparts. The colour is great on cheeks and eyes. I love it so much that I'm going to stock up! 
(I buy Wet n Wild in Medicare Nortcott Tesco. It is also available in Medicare, Kings Square in East Belfast)

I've been a fan of drug store brand Sleek for a while & the Au Natural palette has amazing shades for autumn. Full of browns and neutrals (with a little bit of sparkle in some!), the buttery shadows apply like a dream. Plus the palette is only £8.99!

I have recently been trying some of the Urban Decay skincare range which has been a surprising delight. My favourite so far has been Lip Love, designed to give your lips a hug from wearing lots of matte and liquid lipsticks! With coconut, shea butter and mint as ingredients, I use this both at night before bed and when doing my makeup to ensure my pout is lipstick ready. 

This is hands down the best primer I have tried in my life. I've reviewed Laura Geller before but as the brands gets more distribution, I seem to find more and more products that are fantastic. At £25, this product is definitely an investment but a worthwhile one. It makes my makeup apply like a dream but more than that, the hydrating ingredients have definitely made my skin look better than ever. 

I always keep a perfume in my handbag & this is my go to at the moment. This is an extremely different scent for DKNY and a stark contrast from their Be Delicious apples. The bottle is super cute and scent is full of mandarin, grapefruit, vanilla, musk and (unsurprisingly!), nectarine! It's a little task of summer that's still autumn friendly enough with the musk and vanilla notes. Fans of sweet scents will adore this. 

I love vintage makeup and the Joan Collins Timeless Beauty range is true Hollywood glamour. The products are sold in M&S and come in some of the most beautiful packaging ever. If you are a fan of brands like Chanel and Charlotte Tilbury, you need to try this brand, This lipstick & powder compact is so cute and perfect for a night out. The lipstick is creamy and the powder is good for an oily t-zone. It also makes a wonderful gift for a glam lady of any age plus it only costs £16!

Let me know your autumn beauty essentials by tweeting me @GemmaLEBond.