Top 5 Summer Beauty Essentials

Summer is my favourite of the seasons and it can be really easy to look good in summer - the sun gives out free tans and skin clearing help, you get more fresh air and look bright eyed (unless you have hayfever in which case you probs look like this - I feel ya)... HOWEVER side effects include dry skin, the requirement to bare a lot of your previously covered body and frizzy, frizzy hair. Monica in Barbados is me, and will be next week in Rhodes so stay tuned to lol at me.

1. Coconut oil

I have literally been living and breathing coconut oil recently. Having tried EVERYTHING to bring my combination, spot prone skin to clear, glowing beautifulness and spending $$$'s on products from Clarins, The Body Shop, Liz Earle, Lush, I have stumbled upon the incredible effects of a £3 tub of coconut oil and have been looking no further for weeks.

When my skin was super duper dry and my sample of Clinique's skin oil had diminished, I looked to home remedies as I couldn't afford to replace it. I ended up covering my face in this and waking up with it feeling so much smoother, fresher and clearer (although I did have my doubts that oil would make my spots worth, it seems to be doing the opposite!).

For summer when the sun dries your skin, I'd say coconut oil is a must, mix a bit up with your current evening moisturiser, cover your hair in it overnight, or even wear it during the day if you're an addict like me.

Coconut oil, £3 Tesco

2. Dove Summer Glow
Fancy some tanned, glowing and mega healthy looking skin? Look no further! This is a godsend. I have used it for years, simply popping it on morning and night a few days before I wanna look great. Be warned, it improves confidence by 98%.

Dove Summer Glow, £3.50 Amazon

3. Bondi Sands
For when you have left it too late for a build-up moisturiser and need a flawless, natural-looking Australian tan in minutes. Last minute nights out do not need to be tainted with pale leg sadness when you have this lil gem. Just make sure you have a fake tan glove - I keep forgetting to bring mine to my parents' to the dismay of my mum who has chucked around 3 tan-stained Primark socks. Soorrryy Andrea.

Bondi Sands Summer Bronze Wash Off, £9.99 Asos

4. Rock Rose by Clive Christian
I was kindly sent some samples of luxury interiors and perfume brand, Clive Christian's brand new range Noble VII, and as a result, inadvertently have a new summer perfume choice (or maybe life perfume choice if someone can afford to splash out £350 for me).

The range consists of two perfumes and the packaging reads 'The Richness of Rock Rose and deep sensuality of the Cosmos Flower unravel in these exotic yet unapologetically British perfumes'. My favourite is Rock Rose, which weirdly is the masculine scent of the pair with citrus, neroli and cocoa notes. Anyone else prefer masculine fragrances?

I'll definitely run Rock Rose down first, but Cosmos Flower won't last much longer. Both are beautifully crafted and, whereas with some perfumes you get a harsh strength, these are smooth and quite clearly very well crafted. The packaging is bloody beautiful too so if you're looking for perfume gift sets (I'm thinking a his and her wedding gift), they're the perfect luxury choice.

Rock Rose by Clive Christian, £350

5. John Freida's Frizz Ease Serum
It's a classic, I was even considering not including it as it's too obvious. If you don't have it go and buy it now!

My hair is unfortunately prone to flyaways and frizz because (according to an expert) I have 'thin hair' but 'a lot of it', which I assume is what leads to strands snapping and sticking up on end. This serum has saved me for years, especially in the heat and I literally couldn't live without it. I've tried multiple others including oils and gels and bladibla but I ALWAYS come back to this. No grease, just smooth, silkiness. Invest.

John Freida's Frizz Ease Serum £6.99, Superdrug

OOTD: Summer Layers

North East Fashion Blogger Photoshoot at Wynyard Hall
North East Fashion Blogger Photoshoot at Wynyard Hall
North East Fashion Blogger Photoshoot at Wynyard Hall
North East Fashion Blogger Photoshoot at Wynyard Hall
Dress: Topshop
Tights: Tesco
Boots: Topshop
Jacket: All Saints
Top: Urban Outfitters
Rings: Dixi & Rock 'n Rose
Sunglasses: Asos

I absolutely love this midi dress, while I usually avoid midi dresses because they tend to drown me, this Topshop one is a delight. The fit is body-skimming yet not too tight so very flattering, and the leg slit is perfect for showing off your fishnets and making it a bit more casual.

It's also so so versatile. I've worn it with a band tee over the top too, and got complimented on my 'skirt', and while this is a bit more of a relaxed look with the top underneath, I'm also excited to wear it as a normal dress with heels for an occasion (not sure which occasion yet, but it will happen!)

I'm loving the floral midi look so much now that I am tempted to get this too - and wear it with the feminist top because I feel like I'd be letting the female side down if I didn't jump on that bandwagon.

Anyway, in case you're wondering where this beautiful backdrop is, it's Wynyard Hall in Teesside - so pretty isn't it?! And the photos are by Charlie Müller, a photographer also based in the North East, this was our first shoot and I've got to say I am so pleased with the results! Check him out on Instagram, he does amaazing landscapes also.

We're looking for some other great places to shoot, so if you know of anywhere I'd love to hear!

Review: Blossoms

I first discovered Blossoms thanks to Apple Music's recommended for you algorithm and I gotta say I love their 80s pop-cum-indie rock inspired tunes - well done Apple Inc.

Not only do I personally really enjoy their music but when I saw them at Leeds Festival last year I really got the feeling they were on the cusp of something quite big (as cliche as it sounds). You know how you can sometimes see up-and-comers and think hmm, decent but I'm not 100% convinced of your long-term success... Just me? Anyway, Blossoms was not at all like this, the atmosphere in the (largely younger than me) crowd was so full of excitement. This may be due to the build up from the 8,920,433 festivals they seemed to play last year, or their backing by Radio 1 but personally, I think their talent and cool/creative vibe that Manchester bands tend to exude makes for exactly what we need in music right now.

Fast forward a few months and I went to see them again at Newcastle's o2 Academy. The set was preeetty similar with similar banter in between songs (points for actually having banter - its so disappointing when bands just play song after song as if they just want to get it over with) and similar crowd-pleasing covers thrown in (Oasis etc).

I went with my friend Jenny who hadn't heard of them but recognised a few songs, and even she really, really enjoyed it. While some bands and songs you see live without having previously listened can just sound like noise (sorry music aficionados, maybe this is just me), Blossoms, with their upbeat melodies are always enjoyable I feel - on first hear and 500,889th.

PS anyone else gone through the trauma of taking a break from Apple Music for a while (or like me, gone to the dark side with Spotify) then returned to find ALL YOUR MUSIC AND PLAYLISTS HAVE GONE. And not only this but the recommendations have gone from Blossoms to country music?! I'm struggling to find good, new music now so recommendations from humans are welcome!

OOTD: Dungaree Dress

Dungaree dress: Glamorous (similar here, but I love this one too... and this)
Breton striped top: H&M (similar here)
Boots: Topshop
Sunglasses: Asos (similar here, but these are goals)

As someone who tends to be mistaken for an under 18 as standard, I never know where to draw the line with youthful sartorial choices. I usually draw it around 'something fierce and edgy which hopefully indicates I am at least my real age'. And when I say fierce and edgy, I literally mean I wear a lot of black, leather and chunky boots (especially the above which I have become addicted too - I 100% promise I have outfit posts coming which do not feature these chunky dreamboats - dreamboots?)

However this outfit (which I know isn't very original in its styling - it's one of those turn up to work and find at least one colleague looking like your twin ensembles - this actually happened btw) makes me feel like a shorter and less cool Alexa Chung. I think I took this comparison so far that in photo no.1 I am channeling her presenter pose - don't I look like I'm just about to welcome guest no.1 to It's On with Sophie Spaldin? Or talk s*** on Freshly Squeezed (lol remember that gem?!)

Wanderlust: top 5 destinations

Summer is fast approaching and I keep finding my mind wandering to travel. I've had some amaazing holidays over the last couple of years, last year I went to Budapest for a week, which included a spa party, a trip to the baths, and the incredible Sziget Festival, as well as a more relaxing, all inclusive week in Rhodes, and the year before I went to Split in Croatia where we visited the beautiful waterfalls and the island of Hvar which is filled with beautiful yachts, hotels and restaurants.

This year I have nothing booked. Please feel sorry for me. A couple of my friends are moving to Australia for a while in September, so the plan among my friends is to save and head there for New Year, and I will be booking somewhere with my parents and maybe my cousin too so it's not the end of the world but I would prefer to have something in place by April.

The difficulty comes in deciding where to go. The options with my parents are so far shaping up to be either a Greek island or Las Vegas (so similar, right?). Of course, I'm pro either of these but I also really want to go to A LOT of other places so I thought it would be fun to compile a top 5 - let me know yours too! I always find these things so interesting!

1. Miami
I just think Miami looks so pretty - like a little world of sun, pastel colours and palm trees. And the beach just looks AMAZING

2. Santorini
I mean, ideally I'd have a boyfriend for this one as it's supposedly full of couples what with being one of the most romantic destinations in the world (I think it's officially classed as this). My cousin and I were going to go but aren't sure it would be the best idea for two girls?! She wants me to find a boyfriend ASAP so we can do a double date hol... She may be waiting a while.

3. Atlantis
I'm not going to lie, I've wanted to stay here since seeing Mary-Kate & Ashley's Holiday in the Sun circa 2002. I am still waiting for my parents to take me, despite continuing to drop it into conversation continuously for 15 years.

4. Lake Garda
As my mum keeps reminding me when I mention my desire to go to LG, I have been there before. I'd like to point out that I was so young that I can't remember and also that it was a DAY TRIP. Do day trips even count?! Anyway, it just looks so beautiful and relaxing, it's probably perfect for a chilled getaway or a family holiday if you have kids, and although it sounds expensive - there are cheap options, Eurocamp do tents, lodges and holiday homes, which would solve the problem I have of going with my family but needing our own space.

5. San Francisco/Thailand
I couldn't stick to 5 lol. But both of the above I want to go to equally and actually couldn't decide between... I'd probably have to do a lot more research to sway one way or the other.

Thailand beach

Since I'm so indecisive, and a few of my destinations are on Route 66, I really want to include this Trek America trip as an option but I feel that may be cheating. It goes to Las Vegas, Miami, San Fran, LA, New York and Seattle - how amazing would this be?!

Review: Filmore & Union

Fishcakes  and bagel at Filmore & Union Low Petergate York
Filmore & Union Low Petergate York

I love day trips to York - it's such a pretty city! And the last two times I've visited, I've ate lunch at Filmore & Union. 

I only write reviews when I really, really love somewhere and I've got to say I really am a massive fan of this place! I love healthy food anyway (it always tastes better when it's good for you, doesn't it?!) and they do it so well. Plus the place itself is really chilled - it's located across two floors in one of the old buildings in Low Petergate and is filled with ornate mirrors and white tables. 

They also offer delicious teas, juices, infusions and vegan and gluten/dairy free desserts, which look amazing (you can kinda see them behind my head in the above photo)! Unfortunately I've been too full on both occasions to give them a go.

This time I went with my mum and she got the salmon bagel, while I opted for the slightly more expensive smoked haddock and sweet potato fishcakes, which come with a choice of two salads from the deli (the salads range from quinoa to lentils, broccoli & kale and courgetti), I chose the lentils and quinoa and the added extra of poached eggs. I thought I might as well go for it since I'd already ate here and knew how good it was! I'd highly recommend this dish, I got the salad plate last time (3 choices from the deli for £9) and it was good, but this was way more filling.

OOTD: Flares

uk blogger wearing blue flared jeans
uk blogger wearing blue flared jeans
Jeans: Asos (similar here & here)
Bodysuit: Zara
Coat: New Look (similar here)
Bag: Asos (similar here)

I know flares were fashionable about two years ago, but two years ago is actually when I got the above jeans. It has just taken me this length of time to get used to the idea of wearing jeans that are as wide at the bottom as they are at the top.

Yep, I'm of the skinny jean generation and I openly admit I have a fear of every other jean style. Just like Princess Anne battles ahead with the hair 'do of her hey day, I am making my way through life in variations on the same pair of jeans I wore when I was 18. HELP.

Admittedly I have upgraded from standard Joni/Jamie jeans to ones with rips in the knees and even frayed hems. I've also experimented with Mom jeans and boyfriend jeans on the very rare occasion, but always bounced back to my skinnies like they're a little flattering magnet.

I strongly believe in pushing myself out of my comfort zone though, so I am going to continue trying to resist the lure of the skinny. 

If you've had similar issues, or have found another jean style you're comfortable in, do let me know! I also really want some cropped flare jeans but finding petite, good fitting ones is a bloody nightmare! If you have done so please do share how/where. I will update my blog with the find ASAP if I ever do x

Free Fashion & Beauty Event

Eldon Square's Walk-in Wardrobe Experience 80s
Eldon Square Walk-in wardrobe fashion experience florals
Eldon Square Walk-in wardrobe fashion experience
Eldon Square Walk-in wardrobe fashion experience florals
Eldon Square Walk-in wardrobe fashion experience florals
Eldon Square Walk-in wardrobe fashion experience beauty Bobbi Brown

I was invited to intu Eldon Square for the launch of their exciting SS17 Walk-In Wardrobe Fashion Experience. The event basically involves having an (amazing, btw) stylist on site from now until the close of the event on 1 April.

During the event we got an insight into what the workshops will be about, top fashion and styling tips for SS17 and beauty demonstrations from the lovely MUA's at Bobbi Brown. Afterwards we got to play with the Bobbi Brown products, and can I just say, I bloody love their Illuminating Moisture Balm - I definitely think I will be returning to purchase it.

The walk-in wardrobe itself is located just outside of New Look and hosts sections dedicated to the biggest SS17 trends including florals, pink, athleisure (the new sports luxe) and 80s, while stylist, Emma is on hand hosting workshops and dishing out advice on which pieces will suit you, your body shape and skin tone etc.

I didn't actually realise how much psychology/science went into styling, but when you think about it, it's really quite obvious - if you wear a dress with a large print, for example, this is gonna make you look smaller, while a ditsy print will make you look bigger. Other advice Emma can give is how to draw the eye to a specific focal point on your body (I'm still deciding which part of myself I would actually like people to notice) and what shades of the season's favourite colours will best suit you, so for example, pink is a massive colour this season, in any shade, but if you're pale and blonde, you should go for a pastel/blush tone, while if you're dark like me, you should opt for fuchsia.

It's also a great idea to pop along if you're going on holiday - Emma can teach you exactly which type of swimwear will give you the perfect beach bod.

In addition to the fashion masterclasses, there will be beauty experts from brands including Elemis, Liz Earle, NARS and Benefit providing workshops, demonstrations, free pamper sessions and advice on everything from how to create an all-day long-lasting makeup look to creating the perfect, on-trend day-to-night look.

Click here to find out more about the event, and the workshop dates/times!

Healthy Hair Hero

Mane 'n Tail Hair Strengthener review

Mane 'n Tail Hair Strengthener - £11.99

I have wanted to try Mane 'n Tail Hair Strengthener for years after stumbling upon it in Urban's very random beauty section. Unfortunately they stopped stocking if before I invested, but I found it in Fenwick again the other week and had to purchase.

In case you're wondering what it is and whether it is for your horse, it is not. Well you could probs use it on your horse tbf but I don't have a horse and am solely concerned for the health of my own hair*. Basically, it's a leave in conditioner which you can use daily on wet or dry hair - it's honestly the easiest product to use - just spritz on, brush through and prepare for frizz free locks.

My hair is always so frizzy with millions of flyaways because I have a lot of hair, but its also thin - if you know what I mean? When my hairdresser gave me this assessment of my hair I was also very confused. I believe it means the strands are thin but there are tons of them. Unfortunately this means easy breakage and frizz :(

The products I have previously used to combat this include John Freida's Frizz Ease serum which honestly I can't knock, it's amazing and the best of all the serums out there in my opinion, and Vo5's Smoothly Does It Frizz Free Creme, which is great but it does have to be applied when hair is soaking wet so if you forget, you're screwed.

Anyway, back to Mane 'n Tail. It smells AMAZING, you can use it on wet AND dry hair, it's super easy to apply and as well as acting like a relish hair perfume and frizz ease product it actually protects and moisturises your hair for improved hair health. What's not to love? 100% recommended by me!

If you're in Newcastle you can get it from Fenwick, if not check here for your local stockist :) you can also browse the rest of their products which I may well be investing in soon!

*On sourcing Mane 'n Tail's website link for this post I stumbled across this, so humans only then lols:
Mane 'n Tail hair products

The Style Rut

Seventies plunge floral jumpsuit by Glamorous

Jumpsuits are an incredible invention. Unlike a skirt or trousers, you don't have to go to the effort of pairing them with anything, they cover almost your entire body so are likely to be relatively warm and whereas with dresses you have to beware of the wind and potential Monroe style incidents, jumpsuits largely keep your knickers covered (not your bra in the case of the above, but boob tape can solve that one). Plus, they're usually really flattering, even on short people like me.

For these reasons I have far too many. I feel like I've become that person who gets stuck in a rut with their style and can no longer think outside the box, i.e. wear anything to an event other than a jumpsuit. So to get out of this rut I have tried on EVERY DRESS out there, or so it feels, in the hunt for an outfit for the races next week. Over the past month, this has culminated in the purchases of the below, as well as a lot of time spent in Topshop's changing rooms:

Sisters of the Tribe gypsy boho mini dress asos

This dress is from a brand called Sisters of the Tribe (which I can't find anywhere else online?!) at Asos, and while it's lovely and an actual petite item (it's hard for me to find dresses which look dece with my height of 5'3") it was only available in a 4, which makes the boob exposure a bit awkward, so as much as I love it, I am considering returning this.

White long sleeved polka dot shift dress

This dress I absolutely love, I can never find shift dresses that suit me, they usually drown me completely, but this one, again is petite, and polka dot and it has frills - some of my favourite things combined in one item. The negatives are the price, £45, and the material - it's a lot thinner than I imagined and this makes it almost entirely see-through. So I'm still deciding on this one.

Oriental print maxi tea dress

And finally, the oriental style maxi tea dress of dreams. I don't think this is March races appropriate and I've no idea what else I would wear it for but it's a keeper. Just gotta book a hol or something.

Review: Meet & Treat

Meet & Treat Newcastle zoodle salad
Meet & Treat Newcastle chicken katsu curry
Meet & Treat Newcastle noodlesMeet & Treat Newcastle skinny minnie tea

After seeing the beautiful interior of this Newcastle cafe on Tor from That's Peachy's Instagram, I had to give it a try.

 Hidden away just by Chinatown, it's a quaint and very pretty little place filled with quirky decor, board games and lots of tea options. I went for the Skinny Minnie detox type tea and their zoodle (courgette noodles) dish because I was in the mood to be healthy. It came with a delicious peanut sauce and I am actually planning on trying to recreate it for a packed lunch option as it was so healthy yet so tasty too.

The other food also looked absolutely delish, as you can see in these snaps the chicken katsu curry is a bit more hearty and comes with a lot of sauce (always an aspect which I place a lot of value on) and the third meal is a noodle dish which looks kinda small here but the photo isn't doing it justice - it was a very, very decent size!

A funny sitch that occurred while here is - I took a snap of my food (the first image) as I had a feeling I was going to want to spread the word about it but almost didn't post it on Insta because it's such a small place and I thought, well, they're obviously going to see it and look over at me and know I did it - which admittedly shouldn't really be an embarrassing thing, but I just find this absence of anonymity kinda awkward - so I voiced this concern to my mum and said I'll refrain to which she said Sophie, don't be silly, they won't even notice. So alas I popped it on and five minutes later the lovely, I think owner, approached our table to ask if I was Sophie Spaldin. Turns out they definitely had noticed and they give Igers free hot drink flasks for spreading the word. And this people, is why we should not be shy - I have wanted a hot drink flask for approx six months. Thank you Meet & Treat, I will definitely be returning.

 Check out their Insta here: @mnt_ncl

Seeing Stars

velvet zara jacket blogger outfit
velvet zara jacket blogger outfit
velvet zara jacket blogger outfit
velvet zara jacket blogger outfit
 Jacket (or shacket?): Zara
Top: Topshop
Jeans: Topshop
Boots: Topshop
Hat: Asos

 This is potentially my favourite sales find ever. Weirdly, it reminds me of Harry Potter and this was one of the main reasons I was drawn to it. It's just so unique and detailed with the velvet and embroidery - I'm pretty sure Dumbledore would love it.

One of my main concerns was where I would end up wearing it/if I'd end up wearing it but I've already worn it a few times for chilled pub trips and meals out. Plus, I think it's one of those things that will still be wearable in a few years' time.

I can't see it on their website but it was reduced from about £70 to £20 so if you like it, it's worth checking your local shop!

Faux Real

UK style blogger in leopard fur coatUK style blogger in leopard fur coat
UK style blogger in leopard fur coat
UK style blogger in leopard fur coat
UK style blogger in leopard fur coat
 Coat: Asos (old but similar here)
Fishnets: F&F at Tesco
Hat: Asos (also old, but this one's similar and better)
Boots: Topshop
Choker: Primark
Other necklaces: Topshop & Asos (the gem one is from a collection from Topshop and the other choker which you can barely see is Asos)

Apologies for the amount of items in this post that are old, I didn't realise the extremity until I came to write it up. They're all pretty standard classics which you can probably source from anywhere though. 

This coat literally is years old, but I feel like fur coats are always going to be on trend, which is why when you find a good one you should just buy it. This one was from Asos and I'm sure I got it in the sale for something like £20, which was an absolute bargain - I would have bought it at £100 as I have a thing about the fur on fur coats not looking too fake and... I don't know... 'fluffy'? This one, however, is near-perfect to me in terms of its texture, colour and even the pattern - which is more cheetah than leopard really isn't it. Gonna keep calling it my leopard print coat because cheetah print just doesn't sound right.