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Words from a big girl

Picture by Photography by Astrid
I'm a self professed big girl. I'd be the first to call myself a 'big girl' - I'd rather get in there before someone else had a chance. I've always been bigger than my peers growing up. In primary school I was always much taller than everyone else and now at almost 5 foot 10, I tend to tower over many of my petite friends. 

Being a big girl has never bothered me. Along with physically being a big girl, I also have a big girl attitude. This is the greatest part of being Northern Irish in my eyes. A big girl attitude is a sense of 'I can do anything' and confidence that makes people think you're doing alright in life.

The fact of the matter is, I struggle with my weight and I struggle with my confidence. I feel at a crossroads in my life. Do I go flat out at the gym, eat really clean and get down to a size 10 because I think it will give me more confidence? In reality, I think my confidence crossroads has been spurned on by men who do or don't find me attractive. I've questioned so often lately do boys like a big girl? I really don't know. I've heard men, even male friends of mine, make some horrendous comments about women & their weight. This is especially rich when it comes from a man who isn't exactly Mr World himself. 

Why is our society obsessed with weight? I've been bigger all my life and I've never felt it was a problem until others pointed it out. My confidence has rocked more because of comments across a lunch table or passing remarks from men intended as a joke. Women's magazines at this time of year particularly drive me nutty with their features on getting 'your beach body for the summer'. How about a feature on feeling fabulous in the body you are in?

Whether I'm a size 8 or size 18, I think confidence is constant variable. I have been much thinner and much more miserable. Even at a size 10, I was still a big girl. There's no right or wrong answer but as women, we need to stop tearing strips off each other. I hate nothing more than a woman calling another woman fat. It breaks my heart. You might just look at someone at see their weight but they might be super confident & feel gorgeous. My mind has been so changed over the past number of years as I've started to meet friends who struggle to both put on & loose weight. There's people I look at and I think they have the perfect figure - and they are still miserable. 

There's no right or wrong size but there is a hugely wrong, destructive attitude that is making weight a bigger problem than it needs to be. My goal for 2017 is to be so happy AND healthy. Health and thinness aren't always on the same spectrum. This big girl is trying to change her attitude to believe I'm fabulous at whatever size - just like the version of me in the picture above who doesn't give two hoots. 

24 Hours in Glasgow with Stena Line
















*This post was sponsored by Stena Line. All views are my own.

When Stena Line contacted me & asked would I like to do a whirlwind trip to Glasgow, I jumped at the chance. I had never been to Glasgow nor had I ever driven my car on to a boat! I was partnered with Glasgow based blogger Charlotte from Colours & Carousels - she came to Belfast for 24 hours and I went to her hometown! She gave me lots of recommendations of things to see & do when I was in the city.

Myself and my friend Jayne boarded the lunchtime sailing from Belfast to Cairyan. I am lucky as my house is only about 10 minutes away from the docks! I was a bit nervous about driving on to the boat but it was so simple & all of the Stena Line check in staff were so lovely. We boarded the boat and made our way to the luxurious Stena Plus lounge. This area is quieter than the main boat plus has free magazines, papers, drinks & snacks. They also have table service so you can relax on your journey with a delicious breakfast or lunch! We also had a Superfast Suite & access to the Nordic Spa on our journey. The Superfast Suites are a fantastic idea - they essentially a little hotel room on the water! I highly suggest trying one out especially if you are travelling with little ones or have a big forward journey on the other side. The spa is located next to the Superfast Suites - we managed to fit in a little dip in the jacuzzi followed by a mini snooze in our suite! The spa also offers treatments from manicures to back massages.

The drive from Cairyan to Glasgow takes just under two hours. I'm used to driving long distances so this was a pleasant drive - the first hour is nearly almost coast road (we had to stop on the way back to enjoy the view!). Once we arrived in Glasgow I was glad to have Jayne with me for navigation purposes! Glasgow is a big city with lots of cool buildings and history. The city is much more hilly than I imagined so be sure to pack your trainers! 

We stayed in a hotel at the bottom of the city that provided easy access to all areas of the city. On our arrival we got changed & headed out. It was a Friday night and much like our own good city, it was busy. Glasgow has a huge food culture- in fact when I asked for recommendations of things to do in the city, most of these were food themed! We headed to Pizza Punks for some prosecco & pizza - my chocolate pulled pork pizza was a delight, as was my Salted Caramel & Banana Pudding ice-cream! After dinner we took a little wander around the city & stumbled upon The Corinthian Club. This old bank (much like our own Merchant Hotel!) is now a beautiful restaurant, bar and casino. We enjoyed some cocktails and the atmosphere.

The next day we got up bright & early and headed to the much recommended Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery. I've never been to a museum like this before - the exhibits ranged from shoes to elephants and Salvador Dali artwork. I could have spent all day here - it's worth a visit just for the iconic floating heads!

After working up an appetite wandering around the museum, we headed to The Willow Team Rooms for afternoon tea. This Renee Macintosh inspired experience was a delight! Full of sugar & tea, we proceed to head for some shopping. The shopping in Glasgow is fantastic - in particular Princes Square (where I went a little bit wild in COS!) and the original House of Fraser which is in the most amazing building. 

Our whirlwind tour of Glasgow was short but sweet. My advice? Jump on the Stena with a group of friends and go for a long weekend. The food, nightlife and shops are fantastic - I only wish we had an extra night! 

For more information on travelling with Stena Line please visit: www.stenaline.co.uk 

The surprising spa






If you told me 10 years ago that public leisure centre would have a spa in it, I would have laughed in your face. I spent my childhood at our local leisure centre - bowling, swimming and going to summer camp for the entire months of July & August. 

The newly rebranded Belfast City Council gyms are now owned by the GLL Group under the brand 'Better'. When the newly refurbished Olympia Better Leisure Centre on the Boucher Road invited me to try their 'Spa Experience', I jumped at the chance. I was totally intrigued. 

The bright lights and turnstiles of the leisure centre are foreign once you step through the doors of the spa. The tranquil, dimly lit environment is welcoming and calming.

I visited one evening post work (the spa is opened until 8pm during the week!) to try one of their many treatments. They offer standard beauty treatments such as manicures, pedicures and waxing along with massages & facials from top brands such as Elemis and Murad. On checking into the spa you are handed a tote bag with your dressing gown, slippers and towel. 

I opted for the Elemis Dynamic Resurfacing Peel. Elemis is a brand I love and the treatment sounded right up my street as my skin loves acids & peels! The treatment was really interesting - different layers of masks and deep cleansing that left my skin super smooth and bright looking. It took almost an hour - I'm pretty sure I almost fell asleep at one point!

Following my facial I headed to the thermal experience and I had the place to myself. From the jacuzzi to the steam room, I totally forgot I was in a leisure centre in the middle of the Boucher Road!

Overall I had a lovely time at Spa Experience Olympia. It provided a the perfect spa fix without having to drive to a resort further away from the centre. It's a great option for busy mums or young professional girls like me - it means post gym or whilst the kids are at a sports lesson, you can pop in for a treatment!

Spa Experience are offering a great opening offer for a bargain £30 - make sure to check it out here. 

Little winter essentials



I feel like winter has only truly arrived this week. Bitter winds and cold temperatures play havoc with my skin & hair so I need a little bit of extra help. 

FACE
On my face I have been using Yon-Ka Hydralia*. This is described as a hydrating concentrate - it's somewhere between a serum and an oil. I have frequently featured Yon-Ka skincare on my blog over the years and it never fails to impress me. This product is perfect to increase hydration, plumpness and general dullness. They suggest mixing it with your favourite moisturiser but if my skin is super dry I do a mini facial on myself and use this sparingly as the final step. It also smells amazing (all Yon-Ka skincare does!) as it's packed with lots of raspberry, blackberry and good acids for your skin. 

HANDS
In the cold weather my hands also get super dry. I have used the same hand cream for years but I heard someone on Instagram rave about Hand Chemistry Triple Function Hydrator. My skin loves hyaluronic acid and the geniuses behind this product have packed it into a hand cream. It's unlike any other hand cream I've ever tried - you feel a difference plus it's not oily or sticky. They also make a hyaluronic anti-bac hand gel that I can't wait to try! 

HAIR
In the winter I weirdly seem to wash my hair more so it needs more than my usual twice a week. I have curly hair that I tend to blow-dry out but in the winter between the rain, wind, general dampness and hat hair, it needs more love! I've been testing out the Alfaparf Precious Nature range* for a few months. The range is salon exclusive & prescriptive to your hair type. As I have curly hair the range for me is the grape & lavender range. I enjoyed the shampoo and conditioner - as it's sulphate free it really helped me to get my curls in tip top condition. However it is the Precious Nature Grape & Lavender Hair Oil* that continues to impress me. Hair oils are often too heavy for my curls but no matter how much I use of this leave in oil, my hair looks so shiny & healthy. I use the hair oil after towel-drying my just washed hair. It makes blow-drying easier and has given my winter battered hair a little bit of a lift. 

HOME
If you are like me and spend the winter nights hiding in your bed or bath with a good book & a candle, you need to look into local brand Sass & Boho. The candles are made from soy and are hand poured in some of the most interesting scents I've come across. I am absolutely obsessed with the Sass & Boho Sweet Tart Candle* which is a mix of rhubarb and damson plum. It's an amazing mix of winter & spring and it has such a comforting smell that reminds me of my Grandma's house as a child. You can purchase Sass & Boho in Bedeck on the Lisburn Road.

*PR Sample. All opinions my own 

Growing up to be the woman you always wanted to be

The cute kid who wanted to be smart & fabulous
Something struck me yesterday I as I was getting dressed. I threw on my favourite jeans (a Nine by Savannah Millar pair if you must know), my staple Adidas Superstar trainers, a navy jumper, a coat that coat me about half a month's wages and a Mulberry scarf. I went to lift my Louis Vuitton bag and this thought just came over me - I grew up to be pretty fabulous.

When I was a little girl I used to love to gaze at fashionable ladies in Belfast city centre. I think I loved street style from an early age, particularly a very beautiful coat. I didn't come from money - my mother raised me on her own and often has told me of the times she would spend her money on buying me meat so I would would get iron & be healthy whilst she would go without. However, my grandmother and grandfather who were and still are, my heroes, always loved to dress me like a little doll in fur coats & shiny shoes. I was a little Shirley Temple to them and I wanted to grow up to be a fabulous grown up lady like the ones I saw buying bright red lipstick at the Chanel counter in Debenhams. 

Our lives continued to get better as my mum worked hard to climb the career ladder and with that came many treats in the form of fabulous holidays. Style was always a huge part of our holidays and even as an adult I really enjoy the thrill of buying new holiday clothes & laying out my outfits to wear each day. Again on holiday, I loved gazing at the holiday style of posh ladies in their one piece swimsuits and giant Elizabeth Taylor sun-hats.

The greatest of my style spotting moments was my first trip to Harrods as a child. My mother's friend worked in London and when I was about 7 or 8, we went to visit her close to Christmas time. I remember just being awe struck by the choice of brands and the rate at which people were buying things. I instantly fell in love with Louis Vuitton bags as I asked my mother about the bags & her response was that they were bags for 'rich ladies'. My trip to Harrods made me very determined to grow up to be those ladies I loved... and to afford a rich lady Louis V.

My whole life there have been glimpses of the woman I hoped to be one day. I have always had sheer determination. I used to tell my mother I would pass my 11+, go to my local grammar school then go to Queen's. And I did. I did everything I ever wanted. Don't get me wrong, it has been a bumpy road. Illness and operations really hindered some of my teenager years but this feeling of not getting to be the person I wanted to be really pushed me on. It's not that I was ever ashamed of where I came from or that I didn't value the lot I had been given, it's just that I knew in my heart that I was destined to have a good life after all of the pain my mother had endured. I think partly I wanted to be the woman I grew up to be for her so that one day she would know I could look after her like she looked after me. 

It's an extremely odd moment now realising I am that woman. I'm 25 so I'm no longer a child, in fact I'm now even older than my mum was when she had me. My journey is far from over - I still have a house to buy and I hope one day for a family of my own. But the girl of my dreams didn't have those things - the girl of my dreams was smart and wore fabulous coats & carried a Louis Vuitton bag.

And I am that girl.