Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Swap Shop '14

Last year, I was lucky enough to be taken along to the Voucher Codes Swap Shop as the lovely Sarah's 'plus one'. It was awesome fun, and a great example how wardrobe switching can sometimes to be the solution to a slump. I wrote about it HERE.

I was super excited to receive my very own shiny invite to the event this year, and set about shuffling through the wardrobe for things that I wasn't really feeling, and that might just be special for someone else, and last night made my way to The Gallery Soho for a frenzy of bloggers all itching to get a look at what they could pick up in place of their own selections, customise tights, have balloon animal fascinators made for them and drink a few vodka cocktails to go with the rather awesome chicken.

Lots of fun at the #vcswapshop14
A corner of calm sweetie goodness....

Lots of gorgeous bloggers at the #vcswapshop14
Blogger frenzy- checking goodies in and collecting stamps to spend

So the basic premise of the concept- bring your clothes that are still in lovely condition but that you no longer want, you earn stamps on your card for them, you then rifle the rails of what everyone else brought with them, and spend your stamps on a wardrobe update. Sounds good right? It is.

I went with a Pied a Terre dress I hadn't been able to exchange that looked horrendous on, some Mel shoes and a worn once but now too big Vila dress amongst other things, and I came away with a River Island jacket, Topshop shirt and TFNC tunic, amongst other things...

#vcswapshop14

Unblemished rails... before us bloggers were let loose to ravish them!

#vcswapshop14
Before......

And.....

#vcswapshop14
The mayhem

Somewhat frenzied, but definitely fun! There appeared to be a few more faces around at this event compared to last year, but it meant all the more choice when it came to the rails, so definitely a good thing- and as ever, a chance to spot a few familiar faces.

I'm purposefully not showing off what I picked up from the Swap Shop yet, I have a couple of outfit posts planned for the next few days to show  off styling up my new bits and pieces, I'd hate to ruin the surprise.....

So huge thanks to the lovely people at VoucherCodes.co.uk for having me, especially the very lovely Fleur who has been as ever the most fantastic host.





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Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Week on 2 Wheels

Actually it's been 2 weeks, but we'll gloss nicely over that, and one way or another it's been an eventful couple of weeks both on and off my bike.

After some trauma, the tenancy agreement for our flat was finally signed off on Valentines day. A mere 2 working days before the deadline and I think I can single handedly thank cycling for keeping some of sanity- providing me with an all important decompression zone and getting me out of the building at zero cost and lots of benefit to my health and fitness.

The City as shot from deepest Essex this afternoon.
Sunny but chilly Essex- read about my ride HERE

I reviewed 2 different sports bras on the blog earlier this week 2- a compression bra and a more traditional fit sports bra. If you fancy a bit of a look at how they worked out for me, you can read about it HERE

American Apparel ActiveWear

The other development is pretty exciting for me- bear in mind that I started cycling this time last year after buying a second hand hybrid on eBay, not having gotten on a bike since my age was still in single figures. Fast forward 12 months, and I've exchanged my trial by 18kg haul up the stairs hybrid for my not always shiny single-speed 9.5kg dream whose only issue is with inclines.

I purchased my new bike via Cyclescheme.co.uk at work, which is pretty handy and tax efficient, and recently they started their hunt for 12 Super Commuters representing 12 regions of the UK as cyclists keen to promote the several zillion benefits of cycling your commute. This was my entry:

Cream bike problems ...
Cream Bike Problems

Welllllllllllll.....

I'm going to be representing the South East as a Super Commuter in London! I can't tell you how exciting it is to have a platform for encouraging cycling, having found so much joy in it and it looks as though there's going to be some pretty awesome challenges on the go. I'm hoping that I'll be able to document some of my Super Commuter antics via MWO2W and I have some pretty awesome new kit coming to me along with this opportunity.

And so concludes My (2) Weeks on 2 Wheels, and an exciting fortnight it's been 2. I'm now settled on the sofa with a slight less exciting mound of emails to plough through after a weekend away at my parents and before my work week madness kicks back in again.
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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Battle of the Bras

Yeah, I went there.

As I've become steadily more active lately, I've become steadily more attached to my sports bra, and although one was decent to start with, some months of daily wash and wear that one is beyond salvation and my not so great ones are in an even worse state.

Cue two really good deals, and two reviews. First up to the floor- American Apparel.

American Apparel ActiveWear
American Apparel Compression Sports Bra. £30

American Apparel Compression Sports Bra Activewear
I've never used a compression sports bra before but since cycling on the road should usually be a medium to low impact sport, I thought it was worth a try. Especially since I got a pretty sweet deal on Groupon- £15 for £30 to spend, happy days. All of about 30 mins later, I'd checked out on this delight, and it was en route. My thoughts....?

It's pretty heavy weight- the fabric is quite thick, a jersey feel and not *that* much stretch to it. It definitely has the feel of a crop top rather than a traditional bra at first, and definitely not the gymnastic experience I expected in getting it on- or back off again. All this reads like I don't rate this bra, but actually, once on my bike and on the move I felt well supported and the *girls* did not experience any unnecessary jiggling or general discomfort.

The racer back is super comfy and the arm holes are low enough cut to not chafe or rub, without feeling like I'm going to fall out and the elastic (seamed in, not exposed) at the base didn't dig in or pinch. My biggest criticism of this bra is heat. Although the fabric does draw moisture away from my skin, it certainly made me warmer than other bras- this may be because it's just got more fabric volume than other bras, but for the summer, I feel it may be more challenging if I need to wring it out regularly. In all- not bad. I'm impressed with the fit since the sizing is generic (although kudos for good size guiding on the AA website) and the job it does, a good piece of winter kit, but perhaps not quite technical enough for my needs, and I'm not sure I'd have paid the full £30 for it- even in a funkier colour than black.

So.... next contender please.

Marks and Spencer Sports Bra Leopard Grey Pink Black
High Impact Push Up Sports Bra, Marks & Spencer £19.50

I couldn't actually find a link to this bra on the M&S website, just a couple of similar ones- but currently, they have a promotion on for £5 off a £30 spend on lingerie with the code LINGERIE30 online.

So... This is high impact, mostly because I didn't like the look of anything that was lesser. I hadn't intended to go with a 'push up' feature either, but I really liked the look of this bra for several reasons, not least the print, and decided it wasn't going to do any harm.

This is a more traditional sports bra, but compared to my older models, anything but traditional. My mother's first remark was shock that it was a sports specific bra. I saw and loved the print the second I hit the the lingerie floor, and it only got better. One of my favourite features of this bra are the mesh panels and padded straps. The mesh at the top of the cup, the centre of the bra and part of the back really help to keep me a little cooler than my AA purchase. This is partly important because I use a rucksack to/from work, and partly important because I tend to get quite warm in my core pretty quick. The fabric of the rest of the bra resembles swimwear more than clothing, and I love it- it pulls all moisture away from my skin and if wet/laundered dries quickly itself.

Marks and Spencer Sports bra activewear print

This bra sizes more specifically by backsize/cup, and I have to say my usual size is just perfect. Everything stays firmly put, where it's told to, all the time. A joy, this is perfect for a journey outside my usual relatively flat and even one, although the straps look quite narrow, they are largest in the centre where they sit on my shoulder, and there's a small amount of padding in them, making sure they don't cut or dig into me.

Overall- I love this bra, at £19.50, I think it represents really good value as a high quality product that can be washed, worn and is not bad to look at. My only real problem? The straps are detachable at the back, for reasons unknown to me, and the little plastic hooks seem a little loose meaning every time I take the bra on and off, the straps come loose. M&S- please stitch your products closed!

Kit is a real focus for me with my sporting pursuits at the moment. After years of avoiding exercise or making do with bad, busted or inappropriate kit for other forays into activity, I've finally caved to the understanding that not only does semi-technical/performance kit assist in my performance and therefore my enjoyment, but also in commuting by bike every day, I need things that are better quality to wash and wear.

I'd love to hear about performance sports kit you might have found that's in a reasonable price bracket- I have a review coming for a recent online product I've found for sourcing sales and deals, but any recommendations for brands or kit I'd love to hear.
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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What I Wore: Jeffrey Campbell and Jeans


Chloe wears Topshop burgundy jeans, white shirt, black jumper, Jeffrey Campbell Flat shoes

Pictures. Of my face. In daylight.

I'm still a bit in love with these Jeffrey Campbell shoes, although they seem to be getting less comfortable as time goes on- a little tight across the top of the foot, I just can't leave them be though. LOOK AT THEM.

Jeffrey Campbell Spiked flat shoes leopard print and gold

Otherwise, this is the off duty uniform of choice lately- super lightweight layers to stave off the tube heat and the minor chill in the air. Nothing ground breaking, but not bad for a Sunday.

With flooding and the rest, T has been (unscheduled-ly) away a lot this last couple of weeks, so it was not just a relief as I took these pictures to see the sun poking through, and to air some washing dry, but also to hear of improvement in conditions across the country.

There's a forthcoming review this week on Chloe Likes To Talk- let battle of the bras commence. And yes, you will have to come back to find out more. There may be a lack of a Chloe Likes To Eat though... cooking for one is just so..... dull?

I hope you're all having a good start to the week, it's already shaping up to be a busy one for me, although not quite as sunny. I will leave you with an out-take.... ahem

Chloe Likes To Talk Jeffrey Campbell Shoes

Gotta love a floppy haired moment.


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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Chloe Likes To Eat

I'm quite regimented about what I eat and when during the week. I have porridge or homemade (peanut butter) Granola for breakfast when I arrive at work each morning at 0800, I tend to snack on fruit, carrots, almonds, crackers and the contents of a graze box intermittently from 1100 to 1600, and T & I usually eat a main meal that I make at around 2000. All sounds very dull I'm sure, but it works for us. The weekends though, slightly different. No leaping out of bed, no timetable dictated by meetings or my ringing phone and often, no cycle at either end of my day to factor in. This often means the Saturday Sandwich comes into play.

The Saturday Sandwich is usually concocted at around 1500, for me it usually contains something meat, something warm, and I'll be honest here- it's not necessarily designed with health benefits in mind. 


Chloe Likes To Eat Saturday Sandwich
 Read it and weep.

They're not always photogenic food, but when I squidged down the top on this, I took a step back to admire my work before shoving it into my face. So what's in my work of wonder?!

Bread- my very own a mix of 5:1 wholemeal:white flour, super filling but not too weighty. Warmed up, naturally.
Salsa- another of my very own, smoked paprika, fine diced red pepper, a half teaspoon of super strength chilli jam, tomato purée and tomato ketchup- just the right balance of sweet, smoke and spice.
Fried Egg- Shake of pepper, half pinch of salt, what else can I say, just look a that yolk.
Gammon- Slow cooked in apple juice with whole peppercorns, juniper berries and cloves. 'Nuff said I suppose.
Cream cheese- I didn't it needed butter and a little smear of sharpness is just right to cut through it all.

So c'mon- hit me up with your weekend food? Do you have an equivalent to my Saturday Sandwich, or can you beat it?

Sandwich Salsa Fried Egg Gammon homemade Bread
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Monday, February 10, 2014

My Week on 2 Wheels

I always new the week was going to be a bit of a write off last week as I had to go straight from work to other places and I had my contraceptive implant replaced- cue bruising. I did manage a Monday commute though, and I got lucky when a VeloVixen ride popped up for Sunday.

Womens Cycling Kit American Apparel sports bra, Nike Free Trainers, Nike Dry Fit
My current winning kit combo-
American Apparel sports bra - Nike Free trainers - Nike Dry Fit top - Nike Dry Fit leggings

I bought the AA sports bra with a Groupon £15 for £30 to spend voucher last week. I'm a fan of AA in any case, and was in need of a new sports bra, so thought it was a good opportunity. Now it's had a proper test, would anyone be interested in a review?


Although the weekend weather wasn't scheduled *amazing* I was determined to get out and make up for a slow week, and it's true what they say about running/workouts/cycles- you only regret the one you didn't do.

The City as shot from deepest Essex this afternoon.

If you ignored the super cold wind the ride back through Walthamstow had a feel of summer looking at the sun going down and the glow touching the buildings.

As well as the stunning view, we had what turned out to be a little..... adventure. Aside from a normal amount of route checking and some killer inclines, we also had the start of a bad joke- how many female cyclists does it take to fix a punctured road bike tyre when the only spare tube we have is for a 28 tyre? Answer- 1 blonde, 2 brunettes and lots of star jumps! And the repair patch STILL DIDN'T FIX THE PROBLEM!

But you have to laugh, or we'd all be miserable. Even those who hate tea (QOTD: I hate tea!). A heated drink- not tea for my fellow rider who professed her dislike so strongly, and a spell in front of a gas fire to get warm, and we hit the road.

This was a much smaller ride- just 3 of us prepared to get out into the breeze, and it was nice to get to know and chat to the people I rode out with, but even better, as with my last longer ride, it's another boost. I feel I'm gaining confidence in my cycling, and these longer rides seem to spur me on through my week commute.

Getting out on a 'proper' ride also inspires me to get out more myself, not just with the VeloVixen rides. T & I are already discussing possible rides and routes for next weekend to get us out and about and cycling a bit further and for more of a challenge. Much as I love cycling to work each day, I know that because I do the same route each day and that it's flat, on the road, that I plateau with my fitness and also don't push myself to gain confidence or to try new things like inclines and descents.
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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Indulgence

I worked with some rather nice people at Neäl & Wølf last year in the summer (you can read all about it HERE). I reviewed their intensive conditioner and shine spray, I loved them so much that I promptly purchased more of both when I finished the products they had sent to me.

It was a pretty instant and simple yes when I was asked to review their Indulgence candle in time for Valentines based on my experience with them so far, so here's what you need to know....  (it would be a good time to start jabbing at your partner right now, and putting this in front of them if they're not good with hints....)

Neal & Wolf Indulgence Candle Packaging

Neal & Wolf Indulgence Candle
 Neäl & Wølf Indulgence Candle, RRP £17.95

It's a pretty classy candle as you can see- the purple glass surround houses a scented candle- the scent being the bespoke perfume of mandarin, orange blossom and lily that features in the hair products I love so much. It's a sweet but sultry floral fragrance and it's also not weak- I opened the package at work, and we could smell what it as through the bubble wrap and envelope!

It makes a pretty lovely gift, seeing as all this comes package in a rather swish cream box, perfect presentation for a gift to someone and true to it's name, the Indulgence candle has up to 45 hours of burn time- I'd say that's pretty good myself.

Neal & Wold Candle

With Valentines just around the corner, lots of people will be thinking of gifts for loved ones. Personally, I don't really do Valentines, not least because T often isn't here, and this year may be no exception with his unit being tasked to assist with flood defences. That said, if he rocked up next weekend with one of these, I most certainly wouldn't say no!

Pst... there's also free delivery on the Neäl & Wølf website.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chloe Likes To Eat

I'm a big lover of lots of traditional food. Some of that stems from growing up around fine dining- don't get me wrong, guinea fowl for tea at 9 years old might sound fun, but I can recall may occasions where a baked potato with cheese and beans would have been epic.

Oddly, one thing I'd never gotten round to cooking, for no particular reason is shepherd's pie, so when I ended up with some lamb mince (thank *you* reduced to clear section), I thought it would make good Sunday food.

Shepherds Pie Sunday Comfort Food

I kept my pie pretty simple-

Soften onions and carrots in a large heave base frying pan.
Shove in your lamb mince
Whilst that's a browning add- loads of Worcester sauce, a generous helping of tomato puree and if you're so incline, a half glass of red wine
Cover, simmer for 20-30 mins and make some mashed potato

The main event. Shepherds Pie.

Mmmmmmmmhm

Shove you lamb mix into an oven-proof dish, smother with creamy mash- I rather like mine with a hefty seasoning of pepper and a tiny bit of dijon mustard.

Bash through high temperature oven for 30 mins. DEVOUR.

(with the bestest things ever...)

Dinner's beat friends. #iheartgreen

And sleep off....

Wine. Rugby. Slippers. Throw. #sorted
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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Spikes Not Heels

Today we need to talk about these shoes.

Burgundy jeans @topshop jeans, Jeffrey Campbell flats, white shirt and my steal of an @asos jumper (£6 in the sale) #todayimwearing

Jeans, Topshop Leigh jeans - jumper, ASOS sale steal £6 - shirt, from Primark many many moons ago, shoes, Jeffrey Campbell via Office on eBay, £30.

These beautiful shoes (and FYI this is my current favourite outfit) popped up on a wishlist, and I almost didn't buy them- JC shoes have been a bit 'done' by bloggers and although that doesn't usually put me off, it was a niggle. Then after Christmas, I decided to treat myself, and decided I liked them whatever anyone else has been obsessively buying.

The saga continues- I almost returned them because they're quite stiff, and I was worried about breaking them in. Then I realised I'd paid postage, would have to pay the return postage, and I really did like them. It was a good move. After a couple of wears they have eased right off, the leopard print upper of the shoe is actually a ponyskin type 'hairy' fabric and the tiny little studs aren't spikey at all. They soles have some cushioning in, which is cool, and for £30+ P&P I think they're a nice pair of shoes. They also go rather nicely with my current favourite bag....

Chloe Map Atlas Print Handbag
Pssssst- read about that HERE

Anyone else on a shoe trail at the moment? I just can't leave them alone- for a change!
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Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Week on 2 Wheels

Well, January is over and done with- can't say I'm too sorry to see the back of what has been a long and quite stressful month. Most importantly, Friday marked the deadline for my 300KM challenge in January.


#biteback #undoordinary I challenged myself 300km this January because on a good month it's normally 200-250km. I rode with a club for the first time even though it was one of the coldest days in jan and my duvet was warm. I set over 100 personal records

Yeah, I made it. I'm pretty pleased with myself, and it was an awesome challenge to have spurring me through some bloody awful weather over the last 2 weeks, which was one of the reasons for the challenge in the first place. I've seen some other great benefits as well- a huge kickstart after hitting  bit of a fitness plateau and smashing well over 60 personal records both on whole journey times and on segments of each journey.

This month I also rode with a club for the first time, and really enjoyed pushing myself further and faster, and I'm definitely looking forward to the next opportunity to join a VeloVixens ride. I feel like I've really found my stride in confidence with cycling.

Aside all these wonderful things, cycling this month has left me considering new challenges and bigger and better fitness goals. So- where do we go from here?

This month my aim is to get through 350km- hopefully a few more leisure rides which is something I've been making more of an effort to do, since both T & I enjoy taking the bikes out. Having had some free passes for the gym on campus where I work in January, my strength training is taking on a new importance, and whilst I'm not sold on being a girl who lifts, I have definitely enjoyed being a bit stronger and developing some better upper body strength too. The upshot is that whilst the work gym definitely isn't for me, I'm on the hunt for somewhere more local to join so I can keep the momentum going.

The other goal I'm setting for myself going through the year is to find something new to try each month. In March, that's going to be climbing- T bought me a session for a Christmas gift as it's something I'd like to try my hand to, but in February, I'm still on the hunt. I'm vaguely tempted to try Couch 2 5K and go back to running- once upon a time, I did used to do some, but only because it's a requirement for forces selection. I've never been a natural runner, but I wonder if it's time to shelve the loathing I have for pounding pavements and give it a second  millionth chance. Going through the year, other things that I've seen that I quite fancy trying, even just once....

  • Bouldering
  • Obstacle runs 
  • Women's Rugby or Tag Rugby
  • Mountain biking 
So we shall see how that tides me through the next few months and what else I stumble upon along the way. In the mean time, it's time to thaw out after a chilly but chilled 7KM around Victoria Park, relax with the rugby and look forward to shepherd's pie that's ready for the oven this evening. 
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