Staying Onsite as a Disney Vacation Club Member

After joining Disney Vacation Club back in November, our recent trip to Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii was our first experience of staying in a Disney resort as members, and it would be an understatement to say that I was pretty excited for that.

DVC members get a slightly difference experience when staying on site to other guests, whether that’s in Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani or Disney’s Vero Beach or Hilton Head Island resorts, and although there can be further variations in this treatment depending on where you are, there are some things that DVC guests do and don’t get.

Welcome Home

You know when you arrive in a Disney park and feel as though you’re finally back where you belong, as you technically own a teeny tiny part of the magic, DVC members are greeted by cast members by a signature ‘welcome home’. This might seem totally insignificant to many, but I think its a really nice way of acknowledging membership without too much fuss.

There are a few different ways that cast members can identify you as a DVC member: in Walt Disney World, when tapping your Magic Band against the scanner, after the initial green light, the scanner will flash with purple, and in Aulani guests are given a special shiny version of the daily pool wristband, and of course your room reservation will also show as DVC to cast members at the front desk.

Mousekeeping

So part of the deal with being a DVC member is that you sorta have to sacrifice some of the perks of staying in a hotel. That means no daily room clean, and in fact in some resorts your rubbish won’t even be collected, and no clean towels until the 4th day of your stay – only recently has this been updated to daily trash and towels in WDW resorts only. Personally, I didn’t really mind this, especially staying in Aulani where we were popping back to the room so often that I doubt there would have been time for anyone to clean it, but also if you’re staying in a 1 bedroom villa or larger, you’ve got a washer and dryer right there in your room if you do want to clean your towels/sheets more often, and even if you’re not, laundry facilities are in every Disney resort.

Oh, and say goodbye to calling mousekeeping for a bunch of extra free tiny Disney toiletries – you can do it, but they now come with a price tag if you request more!

Comforts of home

In any DVC room, whether its a studio or a 3 bedroom grand villa, you’ll have some sort of kitchen facilities. Studios have a sink, fridge, microwave, coffee maker and toaster, along with disposable plates and bowls, cutlery and glasses all as standard, and you also have the opportunity to request additional items such as a blender should you want one. In larger rooms, you’ve got a full kitchen with all of these things, plus fridge-freezer, rice cooker, oven and hob, and all the relevant cooking tools. This means that you can make one quick supermarket trip (or even get groceries delivered to the resort), stock up on as much – or little – food and drinks as you want and know that you can avoid steep park prices by doing a lot of the catering yourself.

Most rooms also come equipped with a DVD or Blu-ray player, and if they don’t you can request one, and you can even borrow films too, although we (and several DVC members I know) actually good our Amazon Fire TV stick which meant we could watch Netflix, Prime Video and everything else – not that on a Disney trip you spend too much time in front of the tv!

Parking

Disney’s decision to start charging resort guests for overnight parking was quite a controversial change, but DVC members are in the clear, not having to pay for parking at resorts or at the parks.

Pool access

Although pool-hopping can be done by most Disney resort guests, there are a few resorts, such as Beach and Yacht Club and Boardwalk, where the pools can only be accessed by guests of that particular resort.. oh and DVC members! We can hang out at any pool on site, unless said pool is already at capacity.

I’m really excited for our first DVC stay in WDW in January, we’ll be staying at the Polynesian, which is also our home resort!

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48 Hours in San Francisco

San Francisco is one of my favourite cities in the world, and has been since the first time I set eyes on it 8 years ago. Its the sort of city where even the graffiti is beautiful and despite swearing the whole time you trek up those super steep hills, you still can’t quite hate them because there’s always something pretty to see along the way.

On our trip to Hawaii, we had a two day stopover in San Francisco, and as it was Matthew’s first time in the Golden Gate City, I wanted to make sure he got to see and do everything that you should do when in San Fran, and although we didn’t quite manage everything we thought we would (thanks jet lag), I thought I’d share my sorta ‘ultimate guide’ for doing San Francisco in 48 hours!

Before you visit

There are a few things that you should definitely book in advance in order to not only make your trip smoother while you’re there, but also save yourself a bit of money. Firstly, you should book Alcatraz in advance, and I’d really recommend trying to get on the earliest sailing of the day to beat the crowds and get a jump start on the day. The other thing I would recommend purchasing in advance is the San Francisco Explorer Pass, which gives you access to a number of SF’s biggest tourist attractions. You can choose either a 3, 4 or 5 attraction pass, which of course you can decide on for yourself, but don’t worry, if you need to do more attractions than you have a pass for, the pass also gives you discounted entry to most of the attractions as well.

Be sure to wear some comfortable shoes, because this plan will keep you busy busy busy!

Day one

Utilise the inevitable jet lag and start the day off with your early morning trip to Alcatraz – trust me, the view is worth the early morning. There’s no set time limit that you have on the island, but if you follow the provided audioguide then you’ll probably spent a good 2 hours or thereabouts, and boats depart every 30 mins so you never have to wait too long for the next ride back. From Alcatraz Landing, walk along the Embarcadero to Pier 39 where you can visit the Aquarium of the Bay (an Explorer Pass option), explore the shops and pier activities and watch the sea-lions in the bay – they can keep you entertained for hours, trust me!

Continuing along the Embarcadero, walk down past Fisherman’s Wharf to the main Boudin Sourdough factory, where you can do a free factory tour (it only takes about 10 mins but there’s free bread so y’know) and then get lunch from the cafe downstairs, preferably something that comes in a bread bowl because that’s so San Francisco, but all of the food there is amazing. While you’re at the waterfront, you’ve got some other tourist attractions at your doorstep, including Madame Tussauds, the San Francisco Dungeons and Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which are also included on the SF Explorer Pass. If you’re into chocolate, I would definitely recommend you walk along to Ghirardelli Square, and then head back to the Powell/Mason Cable Car Turnaround for a true San Francisco experience.

The Powell/Mason car runs all the way to Union Square, and its $7 one way (you’ll need this in cash), or you can buy a day pass, but once you’ve only really gotta do it one time. You can ride this cable car all the way up to Union Square, putting you right in the hustle and bustle of the main shopping district. In the square you’ve got Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, and the streets surrounding have everything from the high fashion of Chanel and Hermes, as well as Westfield Shopping Centre, Sephora, Disney Store and a whole tonne of other stores, so you can shop until you drop.

Call it cliche, but if you’re in Union Square around dinner time, you’ve got to have dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Yes, there’s probably one of these in every city in America, but this one is located on the top floor of Macy’s, and there’s a roof terrace where you can sit out and eat dinner while watching the world go by in Union Square below! Psst! If you can make a reservation in advance, do it!

Day two

Save yourself one attraction on your Explorer Pass, and spend the day getting around the city and seeing the big sights on the hop on/hop off bus. Depending on where you’re staying, there are a whole bunch of stops you can start your journey, but some major places are Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf.

The bus will take you around the whole city, with stops including Pier 39, Coit Tower, Chinatown and most importantly, it will take you over the Golden Gate Bridge to Vista Point, where you can get off and take as many photos of the incredible landmark as you like while you wait for the next bus, and believe me, the views are stunning. You can obviously get off wherever you like, but I highly recommend exploring Chinatown, and if you’re not too allergic to stairs, the views from Coit Tower are also amazing. There are also stops near the Asian Art Museum, California Academy of Sciences and the SF Museum of Modern Art, so this is the best way to get to all the attractions you might want to visit. The buses run all the way up until 5pm, so you can spend all day seeing the beauty of the city, and the live tour guides give you so much information and fun facts.

So obviously you don’t have to follow my advice one bit, but hopefully this has given you a little bit of inspiration, and if you do visit I hope you love the place as much as I do!

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My Beach Makeup and What Stayed Put

Its the classic dilemma for girls. Summer poses a whole new problem when it comes to makeup, because gone are the days of winter drying out everyone’s skin like there’s no tomorrow, and instead its the challenge of finding products that won’t melt off your face during the warmer summer days, but can also stand up to a bit of water, whether that’s from swimming in the sea on a beach day, or just the Great British summer showers (read: heavy rain that shows up right when we think its finally getting good).

This year, I was faced with this issue a little earlier as going to Hawaii in April meant I had a little less time to perfect my product choices, but it also meant that I could test run some products before the little summer that hits the UK – which seems to be happening right now – actually kicked in. Some of what I took with me were items that are regulars from my makeup stash, and others I took on recommendation from the Twittersphere, and they all went through a somewhat rigorous test in the 27C heat of Hawaii. But would they all make the cut for future wear?

Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray

I bought this on recommendation from a number of people – I actually bought the travel sized one, y’know in case it wasn’t any good and I didn’t get stuck with a big bottle that I’d spent a lot of money on, but actually the travel sized one is still pretty sizeable which made it seem like pretty good value for money! This product is an absolute trooper. I sprayed it over products that I know aren’t waterproof and knew would probably wash off within minutes and amazingly they held up so well, leaving me bronzed and highlighted even after a whole day on the beach.

NYX Proof It! Waterproof Eyeshadow Primer

I took this with me because I know how well it works. This is the eyeshadow primer that I use every day and I actually believe it to be a miracle product – it turns any eyeshadow waterproof and I’ve even tried running swatches under a tap before and saw absolutely no shadow movement with this badboy, plus at £6 a tube its a steal.

Makeup Forever Aqua XL Waterproof Eyeliner

Call me crazy, but blue eyeliner is my jam, and I’ve always been a Barry M girl but have never been able to find a suitable replacement for my now discontinued favourite shade of pencil, but I stumbled across this one in Sephora last year, and when it claimed to be waterproof as well it was like killing two birds with one stone. The pencil itself is surprisingly soft, so very little pressure is needed on application, and it also blends well which can be fab, but I worried seeing how soft it was that it wouldn’t survive in the water, but was thankfully proven very wrong – in fact, when I swatched it in Sephora before buying, it was several days before that blue line faded from the back of my hand even with daily showering and handwashing.

Too Faced Better Than Sex Waterproof Mascara

So this was another recommendation, and having never tried the cult favourite in its non-waterproof form either, I thought now was a great chance to see what all the fuss was about. Again, I bought this in the travel size tube to save a bit of money until I decided whether or not I liked it. The mascara itself surprised me as I’ve religiously stuck to Eyeko Black Magic for a number of years now and had never found another mascara that gave my lashes the same natural but wow look that Black Magic does for me, but despite being a very different shaped brush, I really liked how this product made my lashes look, so I was buzzed to test it out in the water. Unfortunately, that’s were it fell flat on its face. I felt like just looking at water had it running, and although I wasn’t crying black or anything like that, on more than one occasion I left the poolside looking a bit panda-ish. I’d probably buy the mascara again in its normal formula, but I felt a little let down by this one..

Benefit Gimme Brow

Gimme Brow is not my every day eyebrow product, but I do use it from time to time, and as I feared a little that my usual dipbrow wouldn’t hold up, I took this out with me as well. Now my Gimme Brow was pre product recall, so I don’t know how it differs from the new formula that was re-released recently, and I don’t think either claim any sort of waterproof capabilities, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well this did. I still used my regular dipbrow, but then went over it with this, and I still had decent looking eyebrows at the end of each day, even after being in the sea and the pool, and what more could I ask for?

Other shoutouts go to my current favourite foundation, The Ordinary Serum Foundation, for being SPF 15 so keeping my face a little more protected, and Benefit’s Dandelion Shy Beam and Sun Beam liquid highlighters for giving me a subtle shimmer and glow which held up well thanks to the UD setting spray!

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Flying Long Haul with Norwegian Airlines

Its no secret that I travel a lot, and one of the reasons that I’m able to do this is because I’m always looking for ways to cut the cost of my trips so that I can see the world without seeing negative figures in my bank account, so when we started to look at our flights to San Francisco for our recent visit, we were all about finding the bargain.

I’d been hearing a lot about Norwegian Airlines, so when they came out top on our searches in terms of the best price, they were the obvious choice for us, and both Matthew and I were pretty excited to fly with an airline neither of us had travelled with before. So what was it like?

Well, the reason that Norwegian can offer such amazing prices is because pretty much everything is an add-on if you go for the basic fare – checked baggage, inflight meals, choosing your seat in advance of check-in, even earphones or a blanket for the flight costs you a little bit more! Now if these options don’t really bother you all that much, this is a great way to save. I, for example, cannot stand plane food, and I never eat the hot meals that I’m given on long haul flights, so not paying for a hot meal during our flight was no issue at all for me, and saved the awkwardness of turning down the chicken or beef options and having to explain to the cabin crew that seriously I’m fine without any food.

That said, however, if you do not book a meal in advance, you have to be prepared for the fact that there is no trolley service on the flights. That’s right, even the drinks trolley is privy only to those receiving hot meals, and there’s none of those little bags of teeny tiny pretzels. What is on offer, however, is the Snack Bar. The Snack Bar is accessed through your in-flight entertainment screen, and you choose what you want, swipe your card through a little slot in the screen, and in a short amount of time, a member of the cabin crew appears with your purchases! Through this system, you can also order drinks, duty free and those earphones and blankets I mentioned earlier. Sure, this takes away face to face time with the staff, but like with everything else, if you’re not fussed with all the bells and whistles, its not particularly detrimental to your flight experience.

The in-flight entertainment didn’t have a huge number of options, but they did have a good selection of recent movies as well as those movies that you’re always happy to watch over and over, plus tv shows and kids options, so something for everyone.

Something Norwegian really has on its side is being the new kid on the block. According to my plane-geek father, the aircraft that we flew to San Francisco on had only been in service for a month, and you could really tell – it felt so much fresher than planes I’ve flown on with Virgin Atlantic or British Airways. Their long-haul fleet is made up of Boeing 787 aka Dreamliners, which are packed with fancy tech like windows that dim rather than having blinds, amongst many other things, but are also better for the environment.

Honestly, I had no real complaints at all about these flights, in fact, I found the concept refreshing; simple, efficient and cost effective. We paid £325 each for return flights to San Francisco which was a steal, and although we did pay on top of that for baggage, it still worked out so much cheaper than flying with anyone else. I would absolutely fly Norwegian again!

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My Aulani Haul

I swear the only things that I actually unpack when I get back from a Disney trip is the stuff that I bought, and I leave the rest as long as I possibly can before I finally tip it out of my suitcase.

Now I was pretty impressed with Aulani merchandise. I’d read somewhere while I was planning for this trip that about 90% of the merchandise sold there is Aulani exclusive, but I sorta didn’t believe that, thinking that as its still in the USA there would be a lot of the stuff that you see in most of the parks, but I was proven totally wrong. Aside from a tiny handful of products – classic Minnie ears, some keychains and a few kids things – the stores were stocked with totally unique stuff, or if the product itself wasn’t unique, it would have a little variation such as an Aulani print fabric.

Another great thing about Aulani is that quite a high percentage of guests are Japanese, so they’ve tailored their merch to be a little more in keeping with some of the wonderful things you can find in Tokyo Disneyland.

So what did I get?

Well, I couldn’t go all the way to Aulani and not get the spirit jersey to prove it, right? They had two styles of spirit jersey, this one and a green-y patterned design, but I liked the font on this one better and I’ve never suited green anyway!

My smaller purchases were the Aulani ear hat and exclusive tsum tsums, plus this adorable Shellie May pin and the most used buy of my trip, the amazing Gelatoni passholder which stayed firmly round my neck pretty much any time I wasn’t in water.

I also couldn’t resist this beautiful sundress, the fabric is so pretty and even though its got the Aulani logo all over it, the untrained eye would never spot it, or the hidden Mickeys for that matter!

The last purchase of the trip was the Shellie May backpack. I ummed and ahhed over it for the whole trip, and then on our last day I was filled with a serious feeling of merchandise FOMO and had to rearrange my whole suitcase to make it work, but I’m so glad I got it! This also has a unique Aulani fabric for the bow and the lining, and its so soft and I just love it!

One other purchase from my trip, although not from Aulani, was this cute little patch from the Walt Disney Family Museum. They didn’t have that much in the way of museum specific merchandise there, and as I’m not the biggest pin person I was about to leave empty handed until I spotted a couple of patches at the checkout so I treated myself to this one.

Not bad going for a non-Disney park trip, right?

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How A Beach Holiday Actually Boosted My Body Confidence

I’ve not kept it entirely secret that I’ve been struggling a lot this year with negative thoughts about my body, and while they lapsed in February/March time, when I broke my ankle at the start of April and was unable to walk without pain, let alone go to the gym or continue my marathon training, I started to gain weight and the negative feelings came back worse than ever, as the time when I really wanted to be ramping up my training before my trip to Aulani, was now time I had to spent with my foot elevated and iced.

The hardest part in all of this was that I’ve always been a firm believer in body confidence, and if anyone I knew was feeling the same way I felt, I’d be heartbroken, so part of the reason I’ve not talked all that much about it is because I didn’t want to seem like a fraud, or make it seem like I think gaining weight is an awful thing, because it isn’t. I just couldn’t listen to the reasonable voice in my head.

So there I was, with my dream beach holiday getting ever closer, swimsuits and outfits planned, becoming equally more excited and more upset every time I caught a glimpse of my stretch marks in the mirror, and I was starting to worry that this perfect holiday was going to turn into one big panic attack.

Well, I was wrong. The first day of our stay, I put on the bikini that I was most worried about wearing, and we headed to the beach. I was nervous to take off my cover-up, but it was so hot that we had to get into the sea asap, so I whipped it off and ran across the hot sand into the water. No one stared, no one whispered, hell, little old me was probably the last thing that all these people enjoying their holidays probably cared about.

The next day, I put on my favourite bikinis. I hadn’t wore it in about 8 months and I was nervous that I’d look like I’d been stuffed into sausage casing. Sure, it didn’t fit as well as it has done in the past, but I’ve also looked worse in it, and I was actually pretty happy with how I felt in it, and I held my head a little higher than the day before as I walked around the pool area.

Besides my own body bringing me a little more confidence, I also started feeling super empowered seeing other people out in their bathing suits. People of all shapes, sizes and colours out loving life on their holidays, who are too busy having the best time to stop and worry about whether they’ve got any wobbly bits. I took this energy and rolled with it.

And the confidence grew exponentially. Each day I felt the worry subside and the sass build, and by the end of the third full day of our stay, I posted a photo of myself in my swimsuit on Instagram, which is something that I’ve only ever done once before in my life. The response? Incredible. The nice comments from people made me feel amazing, but what made me feel even better was the people who were relating with the message, because unfortunately the way I feel is a way that a lot of women feel. My caption said that all women’s bodies are amazing, and the number of people who thanked me for telling them that made it all worth while, and to be honest, I just felt like a million bucks in that photo.

So all that worry about how I would look in a swimsuit? I guess you could say I’m over it.

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See ya real soon, Aulani

Well it’s that bittersweet time where I’m sat at an airport gate wishing I wasn’t about to board a plane, but here we are.

This morning we woke up with the sunrise through the balcony doors, went for a walk around the lagoon and then sat out eating pop tarts for breakfast in our dressing gowns for the last time. Once we packed up and dropped our bags at bell services, we headed down to the adult only pool to nab good sun loungers, then went for a loop round the lazy river.

After one circle, we took our tube up the mini volcano in the centre of the resort to try out the slide, which was actually really fun but man did we mess up the landing! We somehow managed to flip ourselves out of the double ring as we hit the water and both ended up with so much chlorine up our noses.. We recovered quickly with another loop round the resort, then got out and grabbed some lunch.

The rest of the afternoon was spent poolside, getting as much vitamin D as we could while it lasted, and then we went to the Luana Lounge, which is an area where guests who have had to check out of their rooms earlier in the day but don’t leave until later can go to shower, change etc, then we just went to sit on the big comfy outdoor armchairs situated on the big balcony overlooking the resort from outside the main reception area until it was time to catch our shuttle to the airport.

Aulani, you have been wonderful. It has been a dream of mine to visit here for so long, and I cannot tell you just how perfect it has been, and how much the photos don’t even do justice to this stunning place. There will be lots more Aulani content to come, but now we head back to San Francisco for a 12 hour layover until we fly home, so stay tuned to see what we get up to!

Ocean View

So there wasn’t a blog post yesterday as Matthew and I were both a little unwell, so all we really did all day was hang out and relax, which was pretty nice because it meant I spent most of the day drawing and designing, it just wasn’t really enough to write about!

This morning, we got up and packed up the room in preparation for changing rooms for our last night. There wasn’t a full week available in the standard view studios when we booked, but there was a night in an ocean view room which we wanted to see anyway so it was sorta win-win!

I left Matthew to finish packing and I headed down to the resort’s Laniwai Spa as I had booked myself a massage as a little treat from me to me. I got to the spa an hour before my time as they have a relaxation garden, which is an area of outdoor hot pools, loungers and other wonderful relaxing things which is only accessible to those having spa treatments, so I got to hang out there before I was called for my massage.

Now I have to admit, this was my first ever massage, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but wow has that set the bar.. I was made to feel so at ease by all of the staff, and the massage itself was incredible.

After I was done, Matthew and I took our bags to bell services to hold until our new room was ready, and we went to Ko Olina to get some pizza for lunch. When we got back, our room was ready so we collected our bags again and went up to the room.

Unfortunately, a lot of the afternoon has been spent dealing with a bit of an issue with our room charges, so that’s made things a little stressful this today and they’re not yet resolved, but hopefully we should get them sorted tomorrow, and we’re still here for most of the day tomorrow so we can fit in the things that we didn’t have time for today.

Our evening was spent enjoying the ocean view room and watching the sun set from the balcony. I don’t think I’m going to be ok leaving this place..

Hawaiian Rain

Today was the first day that we actually managed a lie in. Cue hallelujah chorus.

When we did get up, I went straight down to the pool, while Matthew had a bath. I got us two sunloungers by the resort’s infinity pool, and took in as much sunshine as I could until my heat rash started flaring up again, then had to cover it up with a towel – bah humbug – but we stayed there pretty much all day, so I don’t really have too much to report!

What we did experience for the first time, however, was Hawaiian rain. This hit us just after lunch, and much like Florida rain it just bombed it down nice and heavy for a bit, and then cleared up again, and then a few hours later did the same again. Being British, we were totally unfazed by the matter, especially as we were under an umbrella that was keeping all but the end of our loungers nice and dry, but other guests were grabbing all their stuff and running indoors! I mean, it was still pretty warm, so I don’t really get this reaction, but it did make the pool nice and quiet for us.

At about 5pm we went back to the room to shower and change then made a quick visit to the resort’s Laniwai Spa so that I could book myself in for a massage on Saturday, then we went over to Ko Olina Center for some dinner and ice cream. As the sun started setting, we walked back to the resort and took up a spot by the large fire pit to watch it disappear behind the palm trees.

At the fire pit we listened to Uncle Ophi tell a traditional Hawaiian story, then we went for a quick walk down to the now dark beach to look at the stars – there’s no light pollution here which is so nice. And that was pretty much it for our evening!

Feeling Hot Hot Hot

What can I say, it’s been another day in paradise!

This morning was the latest I’ve woken up all week, thank goodness, and I started off my day with a trip to the gym. Call me crazy but I love visiting gyms in Disney resorts, so this was another tick off the bucket list, although surprisingly I wasn’t overly impressed by this one as I thought it lacked some equipment that other gyms have had. The great thing about Aulani, however, is that they have a whole bunch of fitness classes, a lot of which take place on the beach, and while I won’t be able to take part in all the ones I had hoped to thanks to the recovering broken ankle, I plan on doing a few before we leave.

We had breakfast on the terrace again, and then headed down to the beach where we set up camp for the morning. The typical blogger in me spent a good amount of time utilising the beautiful scenery to get photos for some upcoming blog posts, much to the confusion of onlookers who were probably thinking ‘why is that girl arranging makeup in the sand?’ but hey ho.

Our plan for lunch was to eat the leftover pizza from yesterday, but on the way back to the room I had to stop for a Mickey snow cone! I mean, it’s shaved ice with some flavouring so it hardly spoiled my appetite for the pizza and it was so cute!

I accidentally had a little nap after lunch, although I’m starting to realise that this sort of thing is totally acceptable on a beach holiday. For the afternoon, we headed down to the pool, and it was so warm I could practically see my skin tanning by the second. We spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening by the pool, just hanging out, drawing and doing a little planning, then finally headed back inside, via the shop, of course..

As well as my tan, I seem to have developed a kinda nasty heat rash down the side of my left leg, so I’m hoping that subsides by the morning!

Lazy Days

This morning started off with eating blueberry pop tarts for breakfast on our little balcony/terrace in the sunshine and it was wonderful.

After breakfast, we went for a walk around the lagoon to see the resort from a whole new angle, and wandered back slowly around the pool area before going to the market in Ko Olina again as we’d already run out of sun cream.. The market also has a huge range of hot food available to order, so we picked up a pizza to share, which we took back to the room to eat.

Considering I was up at 2.30am this morning, and then again at 5.30am, I thought that after lunch would be nap time, but I actually felt pretty awake, so I left Matthew to nap and I went to explore the resort with my camera. As soon as I stepped out of the building, there was Shellie May hanging out in the garden, so I stopped for a photo with her – my first time meeting one of the bears!

I spent a good amount of time exploring the resort taking photos, and also walked back around the lagoon and took a peek at the neighbouring lagoon, which was just as beautiful. I missed out on meeting Goofy at the pool on the way back, but there’s always another day for that! Of course I stopped by the shop on the way back to the room, y’know, just in case the stock had changed from yesterday..

When I got back to the room, Matthew was up and we packed a bag to take to the pools. We snagged some sunloungers in the adult only section of the resort, but then headed to the lazy river for a bob around in rubber rings to stay cool, and then got out and went to the adult only hot tub, a two tiered infinity pool looking out over the lagoon – bliss..

Back to the sunloungers to chill out, and after an hour or so of relaxing in the quiet over the 18+ zone, we got some dinner from Mama’s Snack Stop, sharing some coconut shrimp by the pool. We also decided to invest in a refillable resort mug to share because it seemed like a lot to get one each considering we don’t really drink many fizzy drinks, but the stations have iced tea options too so we figured it would one would be worth it.

I headed down to the beach for a little bit just before sunset – most of the families had left by then and there was only a small handful of people left in the water! As it got darker, we headed back to the room as finally my crazy early start was getting to me!

Discovering Paradise

You guys, Aulani is so beautiful. I keep pinching myself.

Jet lag had me up before 5am, despite trying to force myself to keep sleeping. We started the day with the only activity we had booked in advance, which was the character breakfast at the Makahiki restaurant. After checking in for our meal, we were sent to line up for a photo with the main mouse himself, then taken through into the restaurant. We were seated right next to a huge koi pond at the edge of the outdoor seating area and the view was just stunning.

Breakfast was a buffet, with everything from Mickey waffles to fried breakfast items, even pre-stacked little eggs Benedicts, but there were also more traditional Hawaiian dishes available too. Needless to say it was all delicious. While eating we were visited by Minnie and Pluto, and there was also live entertainment from a lady who sang and did some audience participation with the kids and families in the restaurant.

After breakfast we left the resort to head to the shops. The area we’re staying in is called Ko Olina, and it’s basically just resorts, a golf course and a few holiday homes, but there’s a little ‘town center’ of a few shops and restaurants, and we just wanted to go to the market to stock up on some food for our stay. In our room we have a fridge, microwave and toaster, so we bought all our breakfast items for the week, plus a few snacks.

Once back at the resort, we had a couple of annoying back home things to sort out – we exchange on our house this week so we had to get home insurance sorted. I left Matthew to read the fine print and headed to the gift shop for a bit of shopping, then when we were both done we finally headed down to the beach.

Now the beach at Aulani is actually open to the public, but unless you’re staying at one of the nearby resorts it’s not really easy to get to, and you’d never know from how quiet it was. I mean, Bournemouth beach back home is probably busier on a sunny day in April! We got some sunloungers then headed straight for the water as it was pretty hot out, so much so that the sand was burning out feet!

The water was fairly still, being more of a lagoon than an open beach, so the waves crashed on the reefs in the distance but there was hardly any rippling where we were. We spent the next few hours alternating between our loungers and the water, then got a little peckish so headed back inside for some snacks and a cool down.

I’m finding the concept of a relaxing holiday quite difficult to get my head around as I’ve pretty much never done the whole ‘go somewhere warm and just lay out in the sun’ sorta holidays, so I keep feeling like I should be doing more, but at the same time I’m loving it. I had a little nap as my early start was getting to me late afternoon, but when I woke up I wasn’t feeling very well (probably heat, tiredness and dehydration all hitting me at once) so I ended up going to bed at about 9pm, but I have to keep telling myself that that’s ok, I’ve still got a week of this paradise.

Aloha Aulani

This morning we were up super early once again to get to San Francisco airport for our flight to Hawaii which was at 9am. We boarded our United Airlines plane, got ourselves settled for the 6 hour flight, and then the captain announced that there was a problem with one of the engines of the plane, and while it was still legally acceptable to fly with this minor problem, he was refusing the aircraft and we all had to disembark.

Now United have had a lot of bad press lately, but I would just like to say how incredibly impressed I was with how everything went from that moment onwards. Within minutes of us all getting off the plane, trolleys of bottled water and snacks appeared at the gate for passengers to help themselves to while awaiting further information. As there was no immediate update, we asked to be transferred onto a flight scheduled for later in the day, but the lady we spoke to was kind enough to not only book us onto that later flight, but also keep our booking for this flight open so that when an update came out, if our original flight would take off earlier than the new flight, we could still get on it, which was amazing.

Luckily, a new aircraft arrived for us in just over an hour, and despite taking off 3 hours later than planned, we arrived in Honolulu only 2 hours after our original arrival time, so we didn’t miss out much at all. As we came in to land, we actually flew over Aulani, so my first sight of the resort was from the air and it was stunning!

We got an Uber to the resort, where we were greeted with fresh flower leis and cool citrus infused water and checked in by some lovely cast members who made sure we got buttons. For the first six nights of our stay, were in a standard view studio, then our last night is in an ocean view studio, so from this room we don’t have much of a view besides some greenery and a little water feature, but we do still have a little balcony type patio.

After checking out our room, we realised how starving hungry we were, so went off to explore and find somewhere for some dinner, opting for the Off The Hook Bar And Grill and some Disney classic chicken tenders which we ate in the shade with a view of the pool. The resort is so stunning, I can’t believe I’m actually here and I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it.

After eating we did a quick scope of two of the gift shops, and I’ve already spotted a few things that I want.. Then we headed back to chill in the comfort of our room with the sun still shining in, relax in the softest dressing gowns ever provided by a hotel and get an early night to recover from the long, slightly stressful day of travelling.

I can’t wait to update you with what we get up to tomorrow!

Hopping On and Off San Francisco

This morning was not such an early start, although I still woke up before 7am. I took the opportunity to eat the cheesecake that I’d taken away from the Cheesecake Factory the night before, because if you can’t eat cheesecake for breakfast in bed on holiday, when can you?

Once ready for the day, Matthew and I started to walk to Sarah’s hotel, but along the way managed to pick up two scooters which made the trip to Union Square a lot faster! The plan for today was to make use of the hop on/hop off bus that we had tickets for, and see as much of the city as we could with the ease of not having to navigate to many places ourselves. We rode the bus from Union Square and around the route through the city til we reached the Golden Gate Bridge. Being on the top deck of an open top bus made the ride across the bridge crazy windy but wow do you get a feel for how impressive that thing is. We got off at the Vista Point viewing stop for some photos, and then got on the next bus to continue the tour.

Undecided on the exact plan for the rest of the day stopwise, we went all the way back round the city til we hit Pier 39, grabbed some lunch in one of the restaurants there and with some food in us it was a lot easier to settle on a plan. We managed to nab a scooter each from around the area, and rode ourselves to Lombard Street (although we had to push the scooters up the ridiculous hill that is Lombard) to see the famous zig-zag road, then scooted back to Fisherman’s Wharf where we bought a quick drink and hopped back on another bus, completing a full loop back to Union Square but then continuing back round a few more stops as we had another adventure planned.

Sarah and I had really wanted to find two things in San Francisco: the rainbow crossing and the rainbow house, and it took some walking but we managed to do both. The rainbow crossing was pretty easy to find, but the house involved many many super steep hills and I still can’t believe we made it up there alive – it was a long walk!

Absolutely knackered, we got an Uber back to the Embarcadero and got dinner at In And Out Burger, then had a true San Francisco experience of riding the cable cars from nearby all the way back to Union Square, where we finished up the day visiting the Disney Store before saying goodbye to Sarah for the rest of our trip and heading back to the hotel.

We fly to Aulani first thing tomorrow morning!

A Proper San Francisco Day

Today has been a pretty great day. Our jet lag actually helped us out quite a lot, as we had stupidly not remembered to book Alcatraz in advance, but as we were up at 5.30am, we could get to the ticket office for 7.30am (courtesy of a very chatty Uber driver) as they release some on-the-day tickets and we got onto the first tour of the day with no problem at all, grabbing breakfast between buying tickets and boarding the boat.

Alcatraz was really interesting – I admit I didn’t know all that much about it before today other than the basics, but there’s a lot to learn even if you do know a bit about it! We started off watching a mini documentary about the history of the island, then walked up to the cell building where audio guides are provided to guide your whole way round and through the building and sharing a tonne of interesting info along the way.

Once we’d seen everything we wanted to see, we got the boat back to the city and walked along to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, stopping for a bit of time to watch the sea-lions, then continued along the waterfront to the Boudin sourdough bakery to walk around the mini factory tour and then grab lunch in the cafe there. SO GOOD.

Next on the agenda was the Walt Disney Family Museum, which we got an Uber to. The museum is in a really pretty area just outside the main city, and we spent a good amount of time learning even more about the wonder that is Walt Disney. As the museum was quite close to the Golden Gate Bridge, we decided to walk from there along to a grassy park area near the bridge, which gave us stunning views of the landmark, although it was quite a walk there and back to a place where an Uber would pick us up from again, but along the way we did discover something pretty cool..

So the night before and during the day today, we’d seen a number of people riding this electric scooters, but also they could be found just lying around the streets, so while we were walking I decided to google them to find out what the deal was. Well they’re kinda like Boris bikes crossed with Uber – you find a scooter, activate it with your phone and pay for the time you use it. Well, we also happened to come across one, so there was some scooter riding involved, but I digress.

We Ubered back to Sarah’s hotel, where she and I disembarked for a trip to the Sephora round the corner, and Matthew left us to it and met us in Union Square to go for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Macy’s.

We were all so knackered from the early morning and busy day that we could hardly keep our eyes open at dinner, let alone tackle those enormous portions so we picked at what we could and I took my cheesecake to go and we got back to the hotel as quick as possible so I could finally get my feet up!

Hello San Francisco

Well gang, another adventure has begun, but as most of today was spent travelling, this is really just a check in to say that we’ve arrived in San Francisco, which is one of my favourite cities in the world and I’m so happy to be here.

We flew with Norwegian for the first time (full scoop on what it was like when I’m back!), it was a 10 hour flight but it flew by pretty quickly as it was essentially a 10 hour catch up with Sarah and my god can we talk for England..

We landed at Oakland airport and got a train into San Fran, checked into our respective hotels and then Matthew and I walked to Sarah’s and we grabbed Panda Express for dinner (another favourite of mine) and headed back for bed as our bodies were feeling the fact it was 4.30am in the UK!

Stay tuned for two more days of jam packed San Francisco fun before Matthew and I head off to Aulani!

What I’m Packing for Aulani

Its holiday weeeekk!

On Thursday we jet off on the start of our adventure and off course that means my suitcase is already pretty much full, and as I haven’t really shared all that much in the way of outfits, I thought I’d show you some of the things that are filling up my case.

This trip will be the debut of the amazing Donald Duck suitcase that Matthew bought me for Christmas. Its the first four-wheeled suitcase I’ve had, and while this might not seem like anything particularly strange, its meant a completely different packing experience for me!

Outfit planning has also been a different experience for me as I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I’ve been really enjoying picking swimsuit/cover-up combos, including this Sleeping Beauty inspired look featuring a pom-pom edged cover-up of my own making!

Outfit wise, I’ve mainly kept things subtle on the Disney front, but I’ve got accessories from a few of my favourite Disney small businesses, including my new favourite headbands from Closet Geek

I’ve got so many swimsuits packed, ranging from one-pieces to bikinis, and I have a feeling I’ll be spending most of my time in them!

And these are just a handful of the extra bits and pieces I’ve got on my packing list! I’m trying to pack fairly light to allow space to bring back lots of goodies, but I do still have to get a few things and pack shoes and such, and I haven’t even starting on my hand luggage yet!

Don’t forget that I’ll be daily blogging the whole trip, so you can keep up with my adventures on here, but Instagram will also be the main place I’ll post updates while I’m out there, so be sure to follow along!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

What Selling Platform is Right For Your Art

If you create things that you love, and hope you make something out of what you do, then there are a number of options that you have in order to do so, and the more options you have, the harder it can be to make a decision, so I’m dishing the dirt on the pros and cons of some of the most popular options that are available based on my own personal experience! This post is primarily directed at art, but some parts can be applied to a lot of areas of small business.

Redbubble

These platforms are the ideal place to sell your artwork absolutely hassle free on a huge variety of different products from tshirts and sweatshirts to canvasses, mugs and stationery. It’s as simple as uploading your work, adding a few tags and a description then sitting back and waiting for sales to come in. Redbubble do all the manufacturing, deal with shipping and returns, and you just get a few emails to let you know how things are going, and a payment into your PayPal account. Simples.

The downside of this, however, is that you’re looking at relatively small margins. You get to pick what percentage markup your designs have on Redbubble’s base price, and that’s how much you pocket – mine are all at the standard 15-20%, which means that the most I ever make out of a sale is a few pounds on a tshirt, but as a lot of my designs sell as stickers, I get maybe like 20p.

Because of this, it makes Redbubble the perfect place to sell if you just create your art as a hobby and are looking to maybe make a little bit out of it. This is where I upload all my odds and sods drawings that I think would look cute on a shirt but aren’t in keeping with my Happiest Fitness Co brand, and as I just draw these designs for fun, I don’t mind if I’m not really making money from them, and whenever I do make a sale, I get a little buzz.

Similar platforms to Redbubble include Teepublic and Society6

Etsy

Etsy has very quickly become the place to go when you’re looking to buy something that’s a little different. Its the handmade, one-of-a-kind and small business haven, and because this is the place that people go when they’re looking, you have a decent chance of being found.

Sure, all the work is on you. You have to make your products, ship the products (although if digital art is your thing and you don’t want to be printing everything, you can create listing for digital download), deal with the queries, maintain the listings etc, but the payoff is that apart from listing fees ($0.20 per listing) and the little cut that Etsy take on your sales, you pocket the rest, so as long as you factor those costs into your pricing you’re all good.

I use Etsy for my Lottie-Bounds store, where I make handmade clothing items and accessories, and this works perfectly for that because Etsy tends to be the first place people go for these sorts of things.

Shopify/Big Cartel

Platforms like Shopify and Big Cartel offer afforable online store options for businesses big and small alike. Like with Etsy, all the work is on you, but you also have the added work of maintaining a store-front and theme, but this give the professional look and it also gives the opportunity to add in other features like mailing lists and the ability to have your own domain.

The downside of these stores is that as well as doing all the normal work, driving traffic is also down to you, so you’ve gotta do the marketing and SEO work too. That said, however, they are super user friendly, even if you’re not a tech boff. I use Shopify for The Happiest Fitness Co’s online store, and its simple and it works well and it looks good.

Just Because

I can’t imagine that there’s anyone who hasn’t been told at least once in their life, and most likely by their mother, that ‘just because *this person* did that, doesn’t mean you have to. If they jumped of a cliff, would you follow?’ while you rolled your eyes because it really wasn’t a big deal.

These were always things that we wanted to do; places we wanted to go or styles we wanted to copy, not things that we felt obliged to do, but as you get older, everything suddenly becomes more about what you feel like you should be doing, rather than what you actually want to do. Sure, some of these things are things that we think we should be doing for good reasons, but then there’s also a good number of things that might not always be good for us, and these are the things that we should maybe give a miss, at least every now and then.

Just because other people stay late at work, it doesn’t mean you have to

When I started my new job, I thought that just because the guy who sat next to me came in an hour before me, and often stayed past when I left, it meant that I wasn’t doing my job well enough, and frankly that’s just not true. So long as I come into work, do the hours I’m contracted to do and complete all the work that needs to be done, that’s good enough. If others want to come in early, stay late or take on extra work, that’s on them, but I did enough of that in my previous jobs and now I like that I’m able to walk away when 5 o’clock hits and not have a care in the world.

Just because you’ve made plans, it doesn’t mean you can’t cancel them if you’re not feeling it

If you’re tired, having a bad mental health day or for whatever reason you don’t feel up to it, you shouldn’t feel bad about cancelling plans. People might not always understand it, but that doesn’t matter. Put yourself first.

But as well as the things you shouldn’t be doing just because you thin you should, there are also things that you can do even though you didn’t do what other people did..

Just because you didn’t go to university, it doesn’t mean you can’t get to the same place as someone who did

I’ve actually just started working with a girl I went to school with. She went to university, and got her job through a graduate scheme. I went straight into work after sixth form, and after gaining skills and working hard, I am just one level below her, and with another year of experience and study support through work, I could move up into the same position she works in with a university degree. Sometimes there’s more than one path.

Just because you haven’t got a huge following, it doesn’t mean you don’t a good following

You could have a million followers, but if one a few hundred actually bother to support you, then you might just be better off having a few hundred followers who cheer you on at every possible moment. I mean, the Instagram algorithm is screwing us all over anyway..

There are however many billion people in the world and every single one of us is unique, so just because one or two people make you stop and think you’re missing out on something or doing something wrong, do you think that’s right?

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Disney Fan Theories – The Best and The Worst

As with every major fandom, the Disney world is filled with theories and fan fiction, and they range from surprisingly plausible to utterly ridiculous, fuelled mostly by the internet.

Now I haven’t come up with any of these theories myself, they’re all ones I’ve seen online or heard from others, and because they are so spread over the goo ol’ world wide web, I can’t credit the original person because I simply have no idea who that might be, but here are a few of my favourites, and some of the theories that really grind my gears.

The Best

Riley has gender identity conflicts (Inside Out)

During the 2015 Pixar movie, we get to see inside the heads of two characters other than Riley herself, and that’s Riley’s parents. Both parents have the same 5 emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust – that Riley does, but in Riley’s mum’s head, all of her emotions have female personas, and Riley’s dad’s emotions all have male personas. Nothing unusual about that, right? Well no, except Riley’s emotions take on both male and female personas, and the theory behind this is that Riley doesn’t identify as one specific gender, and this is Pixar’s little nod to all those people in the world who feel the same. I personally really hope that this is true.

Emily from Toy Story 2 is Andy’s mum

In TS2, we hear the sad tale of how Jessie is abandoned by her kid, Emily, but some fans believe that Emily grew up into our favourite cowboy-loving kid’s mum. You see, the cowboy hat that Andy wear as he plays with Woody is the same style as that sported by cowgirl star of the second film, and its possible that this hat belonged to his mum, or was at least bought by her in a nostalgic moment. I just love thinking that not only did Jessie find a loving home after Emily, but that she did actually make it back into Emily’s life.

The Worst

Tarzan is Anna and Elsa’s younger brother

Personally I find the whole ‘Anna and Elsa’s parents were going to Rapunzel’s wedding when their ship sunk’ thing a little bit overplayed, but when I read an addition to this theory that suggested that they did, in fact, survive the shipwreck, and washed up on the island as per the opening scene of Tarzan, making him their younger brother, I just thought that this was too much. For starters, the Tarzan ship went down in flames, on relatively still water, rather than the crazy storm shown in the movie dragging the ship under, but also Tarzan was a baby at the time of the crash, and unless the queen gave birth onboard the ship, in which case we would have seen that she was pregnant as she left, they would have had the baby before leaving, which they did not. Sorry, I’m not buying it.

Carl died at the start of Up

So some people believe that Carl actually passes away before the big adventure of the movie takes place, and that from the balloons going up, we’re actually following Carl’s adventure into the afterlife. I’m sorry, but that’s a big ol’ nope from me, this film is already sad enough.

Hit me up with your favourite (or least favourite) fan theories!

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Are Instagram Pods Really The Answer?

Just to prefix this post, I have absolutely no qualms with Instagram pods or people who use them, these are just my musings!

The humble Instagram pod; a supposed way of boosting engagement on the platform that we all want to love and love to hate at the same time.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with the term, an Instagram pod is simply a group chat within Instagram DMs, where friends/fellow bloggers/like-minded people chat and share their latest posts, with the idea being that other members of the group will then head on over to the post to like and comment to give the image a better engagement than it might of done otherwise, for example if thanks to Instagram’s notorious algorithm meant that it wouldn’t have otherwise shown up on their feed. Sometimes people in these pods will also do shout-outs for the other accounts in the group on their Stories in order to help each other out with followers.

When it first became a thing, there wasn’t a day when I didn’t scroll through Twitter without seeing a good few weeks of people asking if anyone wanted to join their pod, or people asking if anyone had room in their pod for them, and of course naturally it led to a little bit of drama as well, with some people being told they couldn’t join certain pods, or people complaining about pods etc. Twitter loves a bit of drama.

I myself have never been part of an Instagram pod, so I can’t really vouch for their effectiveness, but as an outside-grammer, it can become quite easy to spot a pod if you pay attention. Sure, you’ll always see friends supporting each other as much as they can, but you start to notice the same people cropping up in the comment section of every post by the same group of people. Now I love my friends and will always try to like every single one of their posts, but I wouldn’t comment on everything and I certainly wouldn’t expect them to do the same for me.

Yes, statistically the posts seem to have a higher engagement, but as a person who likes to look a little beyond just the photo, it all looks a little inorganic, especially when the comments just say things like ‘oh this is a great photo’ or ‘you look fab’. The same goes for story shout-outs. Sure, I do shout-outs for my favourite accounts, and often I might feature the same people, but I do try to mix it up every time, however when the same group of people only seem to share each other on a weekly basis, it just screams pod to me and I can’t help but feel like its a bit forced, plus if I didn’t follow those accounts the first 10 times you mentioned them, chances are I won’t follow them after the next 10..

Now these are just my own observations, and I really don’t mean any shade to anyone who does use pods, especially if they’ve worked really well for you (if they have, I’d love to hear your experiences so do drop me a comment!), I’m just curious to know if anyone else feels similarly, and given that they seem to be talked about a whole lot less than they used to, are Instagram pods fading out again?

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

My Aulani Must Dos

Credit: disneyvacationclub.disney.go.com

So I can officially say that I go to Aulani THIS MONTH now, and its actually only like two weeks away which is crazy and I feel somewhat unprepared, but mainly just so stupidly excited that I spend a lot of time squealing. I’ve wanted to go to Aulani for so many years now and I honestly never thought it would happen, or that it would be a once in a lifetime trip, but now Matthew and I are DVC members, I’m so happy that I can actually visit this paradise on earth without selling a major organ.

Planning wise, we’ve kept it fairly low-key. Although it wasn’t originally intended to be, this trip is our pre-moving-house relax and refresh before everything goes completely mad, so I don’t want to have every second planned to a tee, but in the last few weeks we’ve been doing a bit more research on what the resort and surrounding areas have to offer, and I’ve compiled a list of a few things that I want to make sure we do while we’re living it up in Disney paradise.

Mickey shaped snow cones

The most iconic food in Aulani will get in my belly (you know, once I’ve got the perfect Instagram shot)

Go to the spa

So I have never actually been to a spa or had an actual massage, and I feel like I’m seriously missing out on this experience, so where better to do it for the first time than in Aulani’s full service spa? I feel more relaxed just thinking about it..

Sunrise and ocean yoga

I’m that super weird person that loves to check our gyms and fitness options wherever I go on holiday, and I cannot stay away from a Disney resort gym, but Aulani not only offer yoga classes held on the beach at sunrise (which I’ll definitely be doing), they also have a yoga class held on the lagoon floating on surfboards! I mean, I’ll probably fall off, but I’ll be giving it my best shot.

Exclusive merch

Y’all know I’m a sucker for some good Disney merch, and apparently about 90% of the merchandise sold in Aulani is exclusive to the resort, so I can’t wait to buy some unique beauties. PS. I’ll be doing a giveaway or two after my trip, so stay tuned!

All the water activities

Matthew and I have already scouted some amazing looking activities to fill our days with, including nearby Wet’n’Wild waterpark and Maunalua Bay for parasailing, banana boating, jet skiing and more, so while we’ll be chilling big time, there’s also gonna be a lot of fun going on!

Photos galore

I always take so many photos when I’m in a new place, and I can’t wait to explore the resort and document it in photos, not to mention the fact that Matthew is going to have to put up with being my personal photographer so that I can also appear in a bunch of these photos – I mean, Insta needs and all

I’m just so buzzing to get out there and get some sunshine and warmth and Disney magic!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

Things I’ve Learned While Trying To Beat The Algorithm

Instagram; it makes us all sigh just a little bit, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram. It was the first social media platform I used to promote my blog, and you know what they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words, so its an amazing place to express yourself, but since the introduction of the infamous ‘algorithm’, interaction and growth has been pretty sucky, and everyone and their mums have been theorising various ways in which to take back the platform for the greater good.

I am, of course, one of these people. Having failed to reach my end of the year goal for 2017, I’m determined to do it this year, and I’ve already written about my plan to make this my year on Instagram, now we’re a few months in, I’ve already learned a few things along the way.

People actually like seeing me in photos

I used to avoid photos of myself like the plague – they never seemed to get even a fraction of the likes that any of my other photos did – opting instead for photos of clothes hanging up or as flatlays, but it turns out that people actually like little old me in photos! My outfit photos lately have been super popular, so I guess you’ll be seeing more of me on the ‘gram.

Timing isn’t always everything

I use UNUM to plan my Instagram feed, and even on the free version of the app you do get some insights, one of which being you’re supposed best time to post based on previous likes and comments. Well, I gave it a go, and I can quite safely say that its totally hit and miss. Sure, certain times of day are always going to be better than others – I tend to post on my lunch break at work, and that seems to work for me, probably cos that’s when most people are checking their phone anyway, but even when I followed what the stats told me to a tee, it didn’t guarantee the post would be super successful.

Posting what I love makes me so much happier with my feed

Since the new year kicked off, I’ve been concentrating more on making my feed something that I love to look at, even if no one else did. Yellow is my favourite colour, and integrating it into my feed has made me super happy. I’ve also been using a cute textured throw blanket as a backdrop for product photos to mix things up a little and not shying away from my Disney side so that every aspect of my personality and life shine through in my photos.

Support and shoutouts are super important

If I’m being totally honest, I think the biggest factor in the growth of my following so far this year is thanks to supporting other accounts and other people doing shoutouts for me. I did a Twitter request for people to send me their Instagram links so I could go on a follow spree, and I followed about 100 accounts, most of which returned the favour (although I didn’t expect or ask them to), and I’ve also gained a lot of followers when other bloggers and accounts have included me in shoutouts on their stories, which I am so grateful for. Asking for help, especially when you’re about to hit a milestone, is nothing to be frightened of, and people who support you are always happy to help!

Quality over quantity

I’ve been working so hard on improving the quality of my photos this year. Rather than just taking photos on my phone, I’ve been utilising the 50mm macro lens on my Sony a5000 to take most of my photos and I’ve been so happy with the photos I’ve been taking, and I think I’ve definitely been seeing an increase in likes on *most* of my photos since then. I say most because, y’know, the algorithm is still against us all..

So I’m quite proud to say I’ve gained about 300 followers this year, give or take a bunch of follow/unfollowers (ugh), and I’m really hoping I’ll reach my 2018 goal fairly soon, but we’ll see! If you want to join me over on the gram, you can follow me @lottiedoesdisney!

Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram

Why I’m Struggling to be a Fitness Blogger Right Now

Fitness is a big part of my life, and I’ve always tried to include that side of my life in this blog, but the keen-eyed regular readers would know that its been quite some time since I posted anything properly fitness related. I mean, I’ve done a few reviews, and a handful of retrospective posts over the last couple of months, but that’s been about it, and while I miss writing about a subject that plays such a big part in my life, I’m struggling for a few pretty good reasons.

I personally feel like the fitness industry itself is so massively flawed. We’re forever having ideas pushed upon us like fad diets, ‘skinny’ products, how we need to look like this celebrity or why those extra pound we’re carrying are the worst thing in the world, and I don’t believe in any of this.

I’m a firm believer that fitness and healthy living is for everyone, no matter how old you are or how much you weigh. I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t be creating negative associations with certain foods because carbs are super important and some fats are healthy and the world is trying to convince you that the only thing you should eat is kale but you can absolutely have that pizza and enjoy it and not feel like you need to spend the entire next day in the gym hating yourself for it. I hate the terms ‘cheat’ and ‘treat’ and anything that suggests that enjoying life is unhealthy. I believe in body positivity and I cannot stand for ‘fat shaming’ or ‘skinny shaming’.

I don’t believe that the sole purpose of fitness is about losing weight or changing the way your body looks. I think that just wanting to get a bit more active, or become a little bit stronger is absolutely enough if that’s what you want to do. You can run that 10K and have the takeaway without having to justify it as something that you ‘earned’.

Its because I believe in all this that I’m finding the words so difficult to get out, because I would hate for anything I write to sound like anything I don’t stand for. I would never want anyone to think that I believed in or encouraged any of the damaging things that the fitness industry preaches, and I’d rather not say anything than say the wrong thing.

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Quality over Quantity

I’ll always befriend a cat

I was in primary school when I first realised that I didn’t have to be friends with everyone to be happy. Year 6, to be precise. Despite going to a tiny little school with small classes, it was already subject to a bit of cliqueyness, and I decided that rather than making myself miserable by clinging onto a group of girls who I had convinced myself didn’t really like me, I could sit by myself, or with people in lower years who I got on with better, and while that didn’t make me particularly ‘cool’, it did make me happy.

Even before then, I knew what it was like to have distant friends. My closest friends while I was in primary school were either in the year above me, so left for secondary school, or had moved to other schools a few years previously, and I got to see them on weekends or at mutual after school activities, so not seeing my best friends every day was quite a normal thing for me.

As I went into secondary school, as is fairly normal with an all girls school, I learned more about how fast-moving friendship groups could be. I started off in the ‘popular’ group in year 7, but quickly learned that I wasn’t actually happy there and moved on, and that pattern continued through my school life – when I wasn’t happy anymore, I found myself drifting away and I moved on. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t skipping from friend to friend by the day or week or even year, I was just quick to pick up when things weren’t working anymore, and I was ok with not having hundreds of best friends at the same time. I picked up some great friends over this time though, many of whom I would still consider as friends today. You see, the good ones stick.

I’ve just never felt the need for fake friends. You know, the ones you see at parties every now and then who pretend to be super interested in your life, when you know they don’t really care about you, or the ones who are only there when they need something from you, but god forbid you should ever go to them with a problem. I’d rather have 10 really good, real friends, than 100 people who couldn’t tell you anything about what’s going on in my life. It might make it seem like I’m a real loner when I say that I have no friends in my hometown anymore, but its the truth and I really don’t mind. I have wonderful friends scattered across the country, and even some across the world. I might not see them every day, or even every year, but they’re there and they’re there for me through whatever.

They matter to me.

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Creme Egg Croissants

Happy Easter everyone!

Whether you celebrate today for religious reasons, celebrate it as a chocoholic or just use the 4 day weekend as a chance to catch up with life a little bit, this recipe is absolutely for you (sorry non-dairy folk, this isn’t for you!)

The best part about this recipe is that it is super quick and easy, and even if it comes out looking like a total mess, it definitely won’t taste like one, so you can’t really lose, and you don’t even have to make anything from scratch. You just need:

  • a roll of croissant dough – y’know, the kind that comes in a cardboard tube that makes that little *poof* noise when you open it
  • one Creme Egg (or Caramel Egg) per croissant – I don’t wanna tell you to suck eggs or anything, but remove all the foil..

Preheat your oven to 180C. Unroll your croissant dough, and if yours is the kind that has the ideal little perforations, just tear it into the marked pieces, and if not, cut triangles from your dough. Don’t worry if you rip the dough a little while tearing it up, it won’t show too much once its rolled!

Place your triangles onto a baking tray – either a non-stick tray or give it a little spray of cooking oil first – and at the wider end of your triangles, place your unwrapped egg.

The trickiest part is rolling the croissant, but this isn’t even that difficult, it just looks a little bulky. Start at the wider end where you placed the egg, and roll up the egg, squishing the dough down a little bit round each side, until you end up looking a bit like this:

You can coat your croissant in a bit of whisked egg or milk, but personally I prefer not to because I like my croissants super crumbly, then pop them in the oven for 10-12 mins. PS. This will feel like the longest 10-12 mins of your life.

Once they’re done, serve immediately while the gooeyness is at its best!

Oh, and here’s one I did with a Caramel Egg, which was super delicious too!

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We’re Too Easily Offended, Huh?

We are almost one fifth of the way through the 21st century, crazy right? We live in a world that’s more advanced than even our own grandparents could have ever imagined, yet the advances that we’ve made, especially over just the last few years have been about a lot more than just technology.

You see, we now live in a world where acceptance is becoming more important and more common than ever before, and while unfortunately this still needs to see some improvement, it is now more ok than ever to be different.

I say unfortunately, because there are still more than just a handful of people who refuse to be accepting. These are the people you see on social media saying things like ‘this is political correctness gone mad’ or my personal irritant ‘people are too easily offended these days’, you know the kind. More extremely, these are the sick people who are behind shootings in gay clubs, acid attacks on members of the trans community and the people who blame the rape victims, but I’m not going to even give those people the time of day in this post.

I want to get you thinking about the comments made by the former. You see, I clearly don’t agree with them, but for very logical reasons. Take the ‘people are too easily offended these days’ comment, not only does it imply that it’s the fault of the upset person that they feel that way, but it’s also suggesting that we’ve not made any sort of advancement in the way we see things and feel about them. It’s not that people are ‘too easily offended’ by your racist/homophobic/sexist/whatever comment, it’s just that we finally live in a world where we’ve realised that it’s ok to voice our opinions and and stand up for what we believe in.

So many people throughout history have been oppressed, whether that’s been due to race, gender and identity, sexual preference, or quite frankly anything that hasn’t fit the so called ‘norm’ of a particular era, and we’re finally passed that oppression, or are at least getting there. So it’s not ‘political correctness gone mad’ when an establishment has toilets that aren’t gender specific, and women aren’t ‘too easily offended’ by the suggestion that what we wear is to blame when a man can’t control himself when he’s around them. It’s just that we now know that we can voice the fact that some things aren’t ok, and if that upsets you and your backwards way of thinking, that sounds a hell of a lot like your problem, and not ours.

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4 Shops for First Time Buyers – That Aren’t IKEA

Whether you’re buying your first home, or just moving/re-decorating, its no secret that it ain’t cheap. I mean, its a big enough purchase as it is, but all of a sudden you’ve gone from buying one thing to having a shopping list longer than your arm and a bank account that’s crying just a little bit.

For this, the world has learned to love the wonder that is IKEA. Its the answer to a whole bunch of your home needs and is pretty friendly to any budget, but despite my love for the big blue stores, there are a couple of things that you either can’t get, or I wouldn’t get there, and now I’m actually in the process of becoming a home-owner, I’ve suddenly realised that there’s a world of other stores out there that can also save me a pretty penny.

Home Sense

Sure, it can be hit and miss, but Home Sense is an absolute gem if you’re prepared to do a bit of digging. Stock is completely random, but its big brands for low prices, and you can grab yourself a real bargain – Matthew and I really wanted the pastel blue Smeg toaster and kettle for our kitchen, and would you believe that we randomly came across one tucked on a bottom shelf in our local store for £40 off the RRP! You can also find a lot of brands that are known to be a little pricey, such as Joseph Joseph and Le Crueset, for crazy good prices and there’s always a good range of Pyrex and Tefal. We’ve also picked up some amazing throw blankets and cushions for prices you won’t find in the likes of John Lewis or Next.

TK Maxx

TK Maxx actually own Home Sense, so a lot of the stock can be found in the home section of your local TK Maxx if you don’t have a Home Sense nearby, and unlike Home Sense, TK Maxx have an online store, so you can shop the deals without even leaving the house!

Supermarkets

Do not underestimate the home section of your local supermarket. Both George by Asda and Sainsbury’s home have some really nice ranges of kitchenware, bedding and soft furnishings, and even if their styles don’t take your fancy, they’re also a great place to pick up your basics – white plates, drinking glasses etc – for a good price.

Home Bargains

So the actual home decor stuff can vary from super tacky to actually pretty good – we’ve just bought some decent nest tables for £20 – but even if the home stuff doesn’t take your fancy, Home Bargains is an amazing place to buy a bunch of the things that you probably buy from the supermarket all the time for even cheaper than your rolled-back, price-matched prices; cereal, biscuits, chocolate, ketchup, all branded stuff for lower than your own brand equivalents, so its a great place to do your shopping once you’ve spent all your money on furniture!

Do you have any favourite places to nab a good deal?

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My Ultimate Easter Rocky Road Recipe

I haven’t done a baking recipe in what feels like FOREVER (I will bombard you with them after we’ve moved into our new house so enjoy the relative rarity of them while it lasts) and with the Easter weekend upon us, I figured I’d throw as many Easter themed treats into one recipe, and that called for one of my favourite recipes: rocky road.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can add or remove anything you fancy once you’ve got the core mix, so you can totally make this your own and go a little crazy if you want, but here’s how mine turned out..

You will need:

  • 225g chocolate (I personally prefer to use milk, but if you want to do dark, go for it!)
  • 100g butter
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100g mini marshmallows
  • 100g chocolate chip cookies or digestive biscuits, broken up
  • 100g maltesers (I used slightly less for this recipe because I added mini eggs)
  • 75g Mini Eggs plus extra for decorating
  • 4-5 Creme Eggs

Line an 8-inch square tin with greaseproof paper.

To start off, melt down the chocolate and butter – I do this in a pan over hot water, but you can microwave it if you prefer. Mix in the cocoa powder, caster sugar and cocoa powder until completely smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the marshmallows, cookies/biscuits, Maltesers and Mini Eggs, then pour in the chocolate mix and stir well until everything has a good coating of the chocolate mix, then pour into the tin and squish it down a little bit, but not too much.

Using a sharp knife, cut your Creme Eggs length-ways (along the little join). I then cut them in half again to make them go a little further, but that’s completely up to you! Press the Creme Egg pieces into the top of the mix so that they make their own little indentations to sit in, and chuck a couple of extra Mini Eggs on for good measure, then get this into the fridge for 1-2 hours.

Once set, chop into chunks and be prepared for it all to disappear a lot quicker than you expected..

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How I Manage My Combination Skin

My skin is super weird. I mean, I’m quite lucky to have relatively few problems compared to some, but my face seems to take it to the extremes when it comes to having combination skin. Some days, I’m so dry and flaky I practically have scales, other days I’m more oily than a 3am kebab, and sometimes I flit between one and the other in a matter of hours, its fab.

That said, however, the more I’ve learned over the years about my skin and what works and doesn’t work, and the more products I’ve tried and tested, the more I’ve been able to manage the different phases I go through, which is great. It does, however, mean having pretty much two of every product, but I’ve got those nailed now.

Dry skin days

Most days tend to start as dry skin days, and so my mornings start with Nip+Fab’s Glycolic Cleansing Fix, which was an impulse purchase at the time but now I cannot imagine my life without it. For starters, it smells amazing, which is odd because they never mention the scent on the packaging but its SO GOOD, but even if it smelt like nothing at all, the product still speaks for itself. The formula seems a little strange, but you get used to it – its quite runny but also gel like, and it also foams up with a bit of a scrub, so I either squeeze a little bit onto wet hands and rub it onto my face, or I take it into the shower with my Magnitone, squeeze it onto the brush head and go to town. It leaves my skin feeling so refreshed but also smooth and moisturised and ready for the day.

My toner of choice most of the time is the wonderful Pixi Glow Tonic, and when my skin is dry this is no exception. I was a bit late to the Glow Tonic party, and worried when I finally got to try it that it would turn out to be over-hyped, but it does wonders for my skin and I noticed a change almost instantly after starting to use it regularly.

Of course it goes without saying that when my skin is dry, I need a good moisturiser and I’ve yet to find anything that works so well for my skin as Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturiser. I love that even the tiniest little dollop goes such a long way, which is handy because this stuff doesn’t come cheap, so the longer I can make a bottle last, the better, but despite the price tag I can’t flaw the product at all – it smells nice, it makes my skin super soft without being at all greasy and it absorbs quickly.

Oily moments

What’s weird about having oily skin now is that I didn’t really have oily skin that much as a teenager, but you know what they say about karma.. When my face is feeling oily, all I feel like doing is washing it, and even though I’m not a teenager, this is where I use Nip+Fab’s Teen Skin Poreblaster Wash, which is designed for exactly this situation. It comes in both a day and night version, I have both but tend to use the day one the more just down to preference. Sadly it doesn’t smell as glorious as the Glycolic Cleansing Fix, but its certainly not awful and it foams up well and leaves my skin feeling lovely and fresh.

My other cleanser for oily days is Lush’s Angels on Bare Skin, which is a solid sorta paste that I grab a chunk of, mix it up in my hand with some warm water to an easier to use consistency and rub it straight onto dry skin. Because its got some exfoliant ingredients it does a great job of picking up and washing away and dirt and grease, plus it smells great.

When it comes to a toner, I also go to Lush and my favourite toner from their collection, which is Breath of Fresh Air. Because it contains sea salt, it dries up oil with a simple spritz and wipe, and its got a calming fragrance to it which is part of the reason I love using it before bed because it puts me in a good mood for sleep!

It might be a pain going between two different skincare routines, but when the products are so great, its not so bad..

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March Small Business Buys and Ones To Watch

Given that the spending ban I put myself on was technically only for January and February (even though I broke it on more than one occasion), I figured this month I could not only treat myself to some fab new things, but in doing so I’d be supporting some of my favourite small businesses. I also tend to use my own small business earnings as my way of giving back to the small business community, and I’m so happy with everything that I’ve got!

Firstly, I couldn’t not get these adorable headbands from Closet Geek – Bel has really outdone herself with making these the cutest way to show my Disney love in an almost subtle way! I actually bought three, with the other one being a red version of the mint Mickey pattern, but that one’s already been used so many times that it basically lives in my handbag. As well as set designs, there’s also a custom option, and I chose the Lilo print especially for my trip to Aulani next month!

Now personally I think I’ve been pretty good in curbing my ear buying habit, but these wire ears from Ears by Erin just called out to me when I saw them! They’re part of the three way collaboration with Magical Thunder Press (who designed this incredible fabric) and Thrift Co and they’re just so perfect – the fabric has so many tiny details that I didn’t spot in the photos but now I have them I’m amazed to be finding little hidden Mickeys and Disney details, plus I love a big bow.

Because I ordered these ears from Thrift Co while she was running a special offer, Danielle also included a mystery pocket t-shirt, which turned out to be this Alice in Wonderland inspired design, and that’s not the only thing I’ve bought from Thrift Co this month..

I fell in love with this Moana fabric when it was first released, but waited too long to order and it sold out, so when Danielle announced a restock, I was on it so quickly and I’m so glad I did because its so cute! Her pocket tees are so well made and they’re always packaged up with a little surprise too which is always super exciting to uncover.

Now I’ve had to steal this photo from their website because mine hasn’t actually arrived yet, but how adorable is this little embroidered Wall-E?! I have a real thing for that film, and as soon as I saw that Teeq were releasing these shirts I knew I’d be buying one. I went for the baseball tee style, and I can’t wait for it to arrive because I’ve heard such good things about them, so I’m hoping it turns up this week!

Ones to Watch

I love seeing small businesses grow, and these are just a handful of stores that I see amazing things coming from, so go over and check them out right now (I mean it):

  • Quackers and Co – I’m a little bias because this is the brainchild of my amazing friend Sammy, but I’ve seen some of the things she’s got coming and I just know you’re gonna want to own them – I already love my San Fransokyo beanie and have got my eye on a few more!
  • Chasing Childhood – if you’re on the hunt for some ears that are unique and sparkly as anything, Karina is your girl! I guarantee you won’t find anything like her creations elsewhere and you’re gonna love them.
  • Disney Beanie – not only is Charlie such a lovely person but she makes the cutest little handmade pins, and I see things really taking off for her if she keeps doing what she’s doing!

If you’ve got a small business, or have any favourites feel free to drop me the details in a comment and I’ll check it out!

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What’s Been Distracting Me From Blogging

You may have noticed, or you may not have done, but over the last few weeks my mind has been far from blogging, and I’ve certainly noticed. I’ve always prided myself on consistently posting at least 4-5 times a week, and that just hasn’t been happening, simply due to the fact that my time and my brain power has been used up elsewhere.

Now its definitely not to say that it hasn’t all been bad, there’s been plenty of good stuff too, but some things have just taken over a little bit more than I had expected, and you know what they say, something’s gotta give..

House stuff

If you caught my week of daily blogging, you’ll know that a few weeks ago Matthew and I put down a holding fee on a new build house that’s due to be finished at the end of May, and from that moment onwards, there’s been a lot of excitement but also a lot of stress.. We’ve been having to do a lot of the boring stuff – sorting out the solicitors, going through mortgage and Help to Buy applications (which involved a 3 hour meeting with a financial adviser on a Friday night which was a little painful) and thinking a lot about money, but there’s also been a lot of decisions and planning which has been a mixture of stress and excitement.

Because we’re not moving locally, we want the move to be as smooth as possible so that we don’t have to make a whole bunch of trips back to Bournemouth, so we’ve probably spent at least a little bit of time every single day working out details. We’ve decided on most of our furniture (spoiler alert: my office is going to be the cutest thing ever), Matthew has already started sourcing things like internet and tv so we have an idea of budgeting as well, and I’m trying to start packing some things up that I won’t need in the next few months.

Creations

While blogging has always been my main creative outlet, my Etsy work has taken over recently and I’ve also got a bunch of custom orders on the go, so evenings and weekends have been dedicated to whizzing up anything from skirts and dresses to matching top and shorts sets. I’ve been making so many new things which has been really great, but it also means that I’ve been having to put a little bit more time into unfamiliar designs. You can see some of my latest makes here!

Migraines and more

I’m a fairly regular sufferer of migraines, and these last few weeks have been full of them. They’ve not been my worst, but I feel like I’ve basically had a continuous one for the last two weeks. Combine that with that time of the month and all the various stresses of life lately, I’ve been quite run down and have been struggling to motivate myself to do anything after getting home from work other than wanting to get into bed.

And its not just been my blog..

Sure, I think my blog has faced the brunt of this little slump, but I’ve been slacking in other aspects of my life too. I’ve not been keeping up with social media, especially Instagram and I’ve been forgetting to schedule tweets, not to mention my skincare routine going out the window and I haven’t put any makeup on in at least a week, if not two, and there was a whole week that I didn’t go to the gym once, but this is just a phase..

These kind of slumps happen, and its ok. I mean, they suck at the time, but they never last forever, and I’m hoping that I’m coming out of the other side of it now. The hardest part of the house buying process is almost over, and everything else is practically planned to a tee, I’m working my way through my Etsy orders nicely and I’m feeling my writers brain kicking back in, so I hope you guys haven’t been enjoying my somewhat silence too much, cos I’m coming back!

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What I’ve Made Lately

So back at the start of the year (can you believe that was almost 3 months ago now?!) I announced my plan to have a Creative-18. Well, the concept has been a little fluid since then, and while I may not have done something every day as I had planned, the last few months have been wonderful and I’ve never felt so confident with my creative abilities, while also throwing myself totally out of my comfort zone.

My Etsy has somewhat taken over my life in the last two months, and I’m certainly not complaining. January was my best month for sales ever, and I made over triple of what I set as my goal, but it wasn’t until February that things started to get interesting for me.

I was contacted by the wonderful Natasha from EarsEverAfter, who commissioned a custom order unlike anything I’ve ever made before, but what came out of it was something that I am so incredibly proud of, and has sparked further orders for similar items. That’s right, I’ve been making a bunch of little co-ord sets..

Upon finishing Natasha’s set, I instantly decided that I was going to need one to wear to Aulani next month, but rather than a Disney print I found this gorgeous lightweight cherry blossom fabric in my local fabric store and without wanting to blow my own horn too much, I just threw this together one evening! In fact, I wore the top to work with a pair of jeans yesterday I love it that much.

I’ve also had another Disney set commissioned, this time an adorable Winnie the Pooh print! I’m having so much fun being totally out of my comfort zone, and I have a load more custom work in the pipeline so stay tuned for those designs when I finish them!

Another out-of-the-comfort-zone creation was this adorable little girls dress which I made last weekend. I haven’t made kids stuff since my cousins were quite a bit smaller than they are now, so maybe 3-4 years ago, so it was quite strange working on a much smaller scale to what I’m used to, and also going back to using a pattern – for my own designs I make my own patterns or work off the cuff, so a proper pattern is a rare thing for me. HOW CUTE THOUGH? The fabric was chosen by the customer and I decided to do the sash in a single colour as a contrast and I just love it so much! I’ll be making this style of dress available to buy on my Etsy store this weekend if anyone’s interested!

Now right back into my comfort zone – skirts.

This is a custom order and how stunning is the fabric that they chose?!

I fell in love with this holographic silver fabric that I found in my local store and within an hour of getting home it was already a skirt – although I’ve yet to have an excuse to wear it! This is available for custom order on my Etsy too.

And finally, a little different from my usual skater style skirts, I’ve fallen for chiffon a little bit because its so lovely and flowy! This skirt is also available on my Etsy now in both mini and midi length.

It may be taking a lot of my time, and I’m probably annoying all my social media followers with constant photos but being creative makes me so damn happy and I can’t wait to see what else I’ve got in me and what else I can do.

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Little Ways to Make Your Money Go Further

I can’t be the only person who cringes a little bit each time I check my bank statement, especially when I’m waiting for payday to come, am I right? And even if you don’t spend the last week of each month living off beans on toast, I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t wish they could make their money go a little bit further, or who doesn’t search for the infamously difficult concept of getting something for nothing.

Well d’you know what? Its not impossible. I’m a religious saver, and I love finding tricks and loopholes that mean I can save a little bit here and there, and because I’m not much of a secret keeper, here are some of the ways I do it!

Cashback sites

If you’re shopping online, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be using a cashback site – its essentially free money back on your spend! I’m a Top Cashback person myself, but there are other sites out there, and all you have to do is go to the site, find your retailer and follow their link through to the retailers website, then shop as normal. Job done.

The best thing about Top Cashback is that you have the option to withdraw your cashback in loads of different ways. You can either take a normal payout by BACS or Paypal, or you can opt for gift cards for retailers and restaurants such as Primark, Costa, Debenhams and many more, and when you get your payout this way, you get a bonus percentage of your earnings, so you get more on your gift card than your cashback balance – win!

Zeek

Zeek is a site that I’ve only recently discovered, but its concept is pretty brilliant. You know when you get a gift card for somewhere you don’t shop, and you don’t know what to do with it? Well, you can sell it here – you won’t get the full value of the gift card, but its better than nothing, and the best deal is actually when you BUY gift cards here. Percentage savings vary depending on the retailer, but you can search for your favourite retailers and buy the gift cards that other people have sold, and you’ll pay less than the value – eg a £20 gift card for £18, and that’s £2 that you’ve got for nothing right there!

PS. The best deal right now is combining Top Cashback and Zeek – you can get your cashback payout as Zeek credit with a 15% bonus – so £20 cashback would actually get you £23 Zeek credit, and then you could use that credit to get a gift card worth more say £25, for example, and you’ve got £5 more to spend at your chosen retailer!

Penny savings

Do you ever stop and think about where the little penny amounts go when you buy something that’s not a round pound value? Those copper coins in the bottom of your handbag all add up. If you bank with Lloyds, as I do, you have an option called ‘Save the Pennies’, where each transaction you make gets rounded up to the next £ figure, and the pennies get automatically transferred into a savings account, and it’ll surprise you how the numbers tick up and you won’t notice!

You can also do this with your copper coins – as a family we have a mug that small change goes into, and every few months we empty out the coins, divvy up equal shares and go on a day trip to Swanage where we spend it in the penny arcade. Sure, we spend it, but we get a day out and have some fun doing it!

Shop for rewards

Call me crazy, but I rarely shop in places where I don’t get something back. My purse is stuff with loyalty cards and rewards cards and boy do I use them – Tesco Clubcard when I fill up with petrol, Nectar card on the food shop, and I have almost £20 worth of points on my Boots card. I mean, if you’re gonna be buying anyway, you might as well earn something that will get you something back later on!

Do you have any tricks for stretching your cash?

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Matthew’s Pin Collection

For pretty much as long as I’ve known Matthew, he’s talked about the pins he collected on his Disney World trips as a kid. I say talked, because in all the time we’ve been together, neither of us have actually seen said pins.. You see, they were somewhere in a box in his mum’s loft, and despite searching on more than one occasion while visiting, he’s never managed to find them, and it was only when she moved house a few weeks ago that the pins were finally found.

He wasn’t kidding when he said he had quite a few. All of his pins are from 2008 or further back – you know, back when the exchange rate was much better and pins didn’t cost more than about $6-7..

There’s a bit of a running them with the pins. Its either single characters..

Or park pins..

These three are all a little spinners which are super cute and I’ve never seen ones like them before – although not being much of a pin person myself I may just miss them on the racks! He has three packets of the four park pins, one of which actually has an MGM Studios pin instead of Hollywood Studios!

But my favourite out of the whole collection is this amazing Sorcerer Mickey hat pin, and despite not being a pin person, I actually love so many of them!

Who knew I had such a pin-head of a boyfriend?!

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A Little Lush Easter Haul

I feel like its been a while since I’ve done a Lush haul post, because believe it or not, despite buying a good number of products from the Christmas collection, I never actually blogged about them, even though I think it was the best Lush Christmas to date! But enough about Christmas (psst! 287 days..).

I don’t know if I’ve ever actually bought anything from a Lush Easter collection before – I normally grab a few Valentines Day bits, but seem to miss Easter entirely, so when I went into the Trafford Centre store over the weekend and saw the multicoloured goodness of this year’s offerings, I knew I had to get a couple of things to try, and having had a good Etsy payout earlier in the week, I felt the spend was justified.

So I picked up four things for myself on this occasion, but I think they’re all so stinkin’ cute and I cannot wait to try them out!

My first buy felt like a bit of a two for one deal, and this adorable little chick actually splits into two separate halfs. I noticed in store that they had these Free Rangers in a few different colours, and I don’t know if there’s actually any difference between them, but I liked this little orange chappy so he was the one who came home!

My next choice was the Cream Egg bubbleroon because just LOOK AT IT!! Its like Lush went inside my head and picked out the best colour scheme and turned it into a cute little sandwich of a bubble bar and it smells AMAZING. I imagine I’ll stock up on a few of these before the collection leaves stores because its so pretty and I think I’ll be sad to use this up!

Which Came First? This bathbomb is actually pretty huge, and a dreamy pastel design.

This final buy was a total impulse purchase – I’d gone to pick up my usual shampoo bar (Seanik), but as soon as I saw this little fluffy tail and ears on a yellow shampoo bar all sensible-ness went out the window and whether or not this bar turns out to be any good for my hair or not I don’t really care – its so cute!

I can’t wait to give all these goodies a try in the coming weeks! Have you used any of these before?

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Fitbit Flex 2 Review

So a couple of months ago I decided to expand my little Fitbit family by purchasing the Flex 2, in addition to the Charge 2 I’ve had for almost 18 months now. Yep, I’m that crazy, but I had my reasons.

I love my Charge 2, it does everything that I need it to, but the only occasional both is that its a little on the large side, and as it can only be worn on the wrist, its not always the most stylish option, even though I have multiple different coloured straps to colour co-ordinate it! This is where the Flex 2 comes in.

The Flex 2 is the smallest of all Fitbit’s trackers – its even smaller than the Zip, which is the cheapest tracker option, and the first device I owned. It comes with a wrist strap that you can just pop the device into, or alternatively you can get a clip for it (not official Fitbit merch but super cheap on Amazon), and if these options aren’t pretty enough for you, Fitbit also offer a bracelet and pendant that the device slots into, and no-one would be the wiser that you were wearing a fitness tracker! I bought the bracelet, although I bought an unofficial version from Amazon because the official ones will set you back £79..

But how does it stack up as a device?

Being one of Fitbit’s cheaper devices, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles; I think had I not owned a Charge 2, I’d have been more impressed by it. Of course it counts your steps, and it does auto-track some activities quite well, and unlike any other charger (minus the new Iconic) the Flex 2 is swim-proof, so if you want to be able to track your swimming, this is the only device you can get, and this was another one of the reasons I chose it as recently I have been swimming a lot more. Other features of the device are sleep tracking, and you can set it up for reminders to move and also call and text notifications.

The main difference, however, between the Flex 2 and its family of devices is the display – its the only tracker that doesn’t have a proper digital display, instead just having a little row of LED lights that light up according the your goals; if you have your main goal as being steps, for every 2,500 steps you do, an LED lights up, so when you hit your 10,000 steps for the day, all the lights will be lit. This means that you can only keep track of one particular focus, and you can’t use your Flex to check the time, like I keep trying to do.. Now of course if you’re wearing it in a pendant or bracelet, or even clipped away somewhere, this isn’t going to bother you all that much, but for me I find this a little annoying.

The other features that the Flex 2 doesn’t include which my Charge 2 does is heart rate monitoring, stairs climbed and it doesn’t have any sort of GPS, so when it comes to running, my Flex stays in the gym bag.

Personally, I think its a good little device if you’re just wanting to keep an eye on your steps and activity, and it works great in the water if you’re a swimmer, but as I’ve mentioned previously, I think if I didn’t have a Charge 2, I would have been much more impressed by the Flex 2. I do use it, of course, but I tend to wear it on days where I want to make sure my steps are counted, but I’m not doing any other sort of workout, apart from swimming, obviously! I also sometimes interchange my trackers during the day, so I’ll get up and go to the gym in the morning with my Charge 2, and then switch it for the Flex to wear to work – and if you’re wondering, this all works fine in terms of syncing with the Fitbit app as it combines the data from the two trackers!

The RRP of the Flex 2 is £69.99, but you can find it as low as £40-50 if you shop around!

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A Week in the Life of Lottie – Saturday and Sunday

So Saturday was a pretty crazy day and due to my phone dying on the drive home from up north, and being too tired when I got in, I decided to combine the two days into one blog post!

Saturday was not in any way a normal day in my life, but I guess it might just be the biggest day in my life to date. You see, the real reason Matthew and I drove up to Cheshire on Friday night wasn’t just to visit his mum after her house move, but actually so that we could put down a reservation fee on a new build that we fell in love with a few weeks before. That’s right you guys.. WE’RE BUYING A HOUSE!

The house itself, being a new build, isn’t finished of course, but we’ve visited so many showhomes of the same property that we know that this is the one, and whilst we were at the development we did get to poke around a completed one that someone else has bought, just so that we could take some measurements and get some ideas for when our house is finished, and then we had to go through a lot of paperwork and sign a number of documents, but I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty because I foresee a lot of house-buying blog posts coming in the future! I am just so happy and excited, I can’t tell you..

Well after all that we were pretty hungry, so we went to the Chill Factor to have a Nando’s for lunch, because we figured the Trafford Centre one would be pretty busy – I’ve never been to Chill Factor before but it is SO COOL. After lunch, we did actually go to the Trafford Centre to pick up Mothers Day cards, I treated myself to some Lush goodies because I got a big Etsy payout this week, and then we went to DFS to look at sofas, although we got caught up in some post-match traffic around Old Trafford so that took a little bit of time to get to. We’ve actually had our sofa picked out for quite some time in the hope that we would be getting a house soon, but now we can actually say we have one, and had all the measurements we needed, it was working out the logistics of what style of the sofa would fit the space and where etc, but I think we’ve got it sorted now.

We then stopped off back at Matthew’s mum’s, where Matthew finally found his childhood Disney pin collection which he’s been looking for for ages, watched a little bit of Crufts and then drove back to Bournemouth!

Today, despite being super tired from Saturday’s antics, we were both awake just before 7am, but I didn’t get out of bed for at least 45 mins, then went and had a shower before my mum woke up and I gave her her Mothers Day present. As the sun was out, I took the opportunity to get some blog and Instagram photos taken, which I’m happy I did because the sun quickly disappeared behind a lot of cloud..

This morning I had a family friend coming round for a wedding cake consultation (oh yeah, do you guys know I’m a cake decorator sometimes too?), so I spent a bit of time playing around with some sketches and getting some inspiration from Pinterest before she arrived, and she was here for about 2 hours chatting cake stuff, wedding stuff and just having a general catch up because I haven’t seen her in about a year or so.

After she left, I spent some time doing general admin type stuff – writing up the weekly newsletter for the #HappiestFitbitClub, editing blog photos, doing some Etsy bits and packing up orders etc, before having some lunch and watching last night’s Saturday Night Takeaway.

My sister brought our cousins round early afternoon to help put together the Mothers Day afternoon tea we had planned – my job was to make the cupcakes – and the rest of the family came to ours at 4pm. Big family dinners are quite a common thing for us, and they tend to be fairly loud affairs with 13 of us round one dinner table! Once the extended family had left, we watched the only tv show that we still watch as a family since my sister moved out, Only Connect, and then my sister left too and Matthew and I watched Sherlock Holmes while I did a bit more Etsy work and some writing and we’re just gonna chill for the evening now.

This week has been pretty busy, but I hope you’ve enjoyed tagging along with me! Normal blog posts will resume from tomorrow!

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A Week in the Life of Lottie – Friday

It’s Friday guys, we made it! Last 5.30 alarm of the week, which was torture as I actually went to bed pretty late last night and I was super tempted to just reset it for 7am and skip the gym, but I knew how much I’d regret that if I did it, and as per usual as soon as I stepped out of the front door I found my motivation.

I was really feeling the effects of a good week of solid workouts, so I kept it relatively easy at the gym, hopping on a bike for a bit, then spending some time on the resistance machines and TRX and focused on chest and back. In a week I try and make sure I’ve hit every area at least once during my various gym sessions, and this week I definitely feel like I’ve done that.

This morning was a little grey so I decided to wear my new yellow jumper from Tu Clothing at Sainsbury’s, and I got a bunch of compliments on it during the day so I figured it was a hit! Work was a totally regular day, although at one point there was a very heated debate among my team about fried breakfasts – I don’t even know how it started but it got quite loud..

While I waited for Matthew to finish, which today was only half an hour after I did, I nipped to M&S and grabbed us a pizza to cook for dinner as we were in and out as quick as we could when we got home.

I’m coming to you from the drive up to visit Matthew’s mum who’s just moved into a new house in Middlewich, and because Matthew and I also have some business to attend to in the area (this is very exciting and I will tell all tomorrow!). The weather is absolute poo so the drive will probably be slow and we’ll arrive quite late, but the last time we saw the house it wasn’t completely finished so it’ll be nice to see how it is now – although it was only today that they moved in so it certainly won’t be in a completely normal state!

Hello weekend!

A Week in the Life of Lottie – Thursday

Happy Thursday gang! Now in theory, today should have started with another 5.30am alarm, but I was actually so tired last night that I forgot to set an alarm.. Luckily for me, I can be quite a restless sleeper, waking up quite a few times most nights, and it just so happened that I had a little wake-up moment and remembered that I hadn’t set an alarm, and this was actually at 5.37, so my day wasn’t actually affected!

This morning I had another session with Steph at the gym, but today’s session was a strength session – lots of heavy weights and pushing myself which I love because I’ve discovered just how strong I can really be when I put my mind to it. I was lucky that my legs weren’t as bad this morning as I thought they would be after last night’s run, so the squatting wasn’t complete torture!

Sassing up Thursday in my favourite pink ASOS trousers

After the usual walk home, shower, change malarkey, it was a pretty bog-standard day at work for me, although part of my brain was busy thinking about my San Francisco/Aulani trip which is now only six weeks away! I hadn’t packed a lunch, so I popped out to get some soup from the M&S Simply Food across the road from the office – butternut squash, for those who were wondering – and spent the rest of my lunch break in the little kitchenette area on my floor, which is where I normally spend my lunch, and today that meant scrolling Instagram and Pinterest!

After work I headed home and spent some time working on an Etsy order that I have for my famous* (*ok, its not so famous) Chip Disneybound skirt, and I did this with Wonder Woman on in the background, cos it is International Women’s Day after all! After an hour of working, I had to go and pick Matthew up, and we headed to B&Q to have a look at a few things, then went home and cooked a chilli for dinner, which is a favourite of ours because its quick and easy but also super flavourful and filling, and I made proper tortilla chips to go with it.

Thursday night I would normally be busy with the #disneybloggerschat, but unfortunately the shopping and cooking of dinner took a little longer than I thought so I missed out tonight, but there’s always another week!

Who’s ready for Friday?

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A Week in the Life of Lottie – Wednesday

Despite it being a running theme for the last two days, this morning did not start with a 5.30am alarm, yippee! I mean, it was 6.45 instead but that’s practically a lie-in in my books and I didn’t actually get out of bed until about 7.15, meaning I had to rush around a little to be ready and leaving the house on time to get into work for 8am – I don’t always start this early but I like having the flexibility to be able to finish at 4pm, which I needed to do today, plus it means the first hour is nice and quiet!

Today was a much more normal day at work for me, and that meant I could finally get caught up on all the work that’s been a little overdue with snow days and yesterday’s outing. Although it was Matthew’s day off, he came to meet me for lunch, and we used our 3 Wuntu offer to get a burger and fries from Cafe Rouge for £1 – Cafe Rouge is about a 2 minute walk from the office, so whenever these offers come up we always take advantage! I also had to make a quick trip to the post office to send off some Happiest Fitness Co orders, and then back to work where the majority of my afternoon was spent tackling my team’s enormous filing cupboard which has needed a good clear out for way too long.

The reason I wanted to finish at 4pm today was so I could get over to a fabric store in Ferndown that closed at 5 so that I could pick up some Disney fabric I’d pre-ordered for some custom work, but of course I ended up also buying a few extra little bits and pieces because they have such an amazing collection of Disney cotton which is notoriously hard to find from UK sellers online, let alone independent stores, so having someone nearby selling it is an absolute godsend! Traffic meant getting back home took AGES, but there was no way I was gonna talk myself out of a run tonight after not being able to go out all of last week.

It was a slow run (and I mean really slow) but today was just about getting out and doing the distance no matter how slow I ran or how long it took, and although my legs are gonna hate me in the morning and I’m pretty pooped right now, it felt good to be back out on the roads. Matthew had ordered Dominos for dinner, but as I’ve given up takeaways and fast food for Lent, I stuck to my guns and had a jacket sweet potato with beans and cheese.

Being a little worn out from my run, I’m not doing any custom work tonight, instead I’m already tucked up in bed and I’m gonna get some writing done, get some tweet scheduled and do some Pinterest scrollin’!

Happy hump day!

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A Week in the Life of Lottie – Tuesday

Ok so I don’t think I’ve actually stopped today and I am exhausted. It started with another 5:30 alarm and walk to the gym, today for a session with my PT Steph which was a circuit of cardio and power work; battle ropes, 40kg farmers walk, slams and various other methods of torture.. I love working with Steph – we have such a great relationship and although I don’t need to be training with her twice a week as I do, I do it because I want to. On the walk back I stopped off at my local delivery office to pick up a package I’d missed yesterday, which was some fabric for a custom order I’m working on at the moment, then home for a quick shower, dress and out the door again. I’d done 10,000 steps before I even got into work today..

Work was totally mad today. I got in early and instead of easing myself into my workload as I normally do – y’know, logging on, flicking through some emails, making a drink etc – I was straight into a mad rush to get some morning tasks done as we had a big presentation to go to which was going to take up the rest of the morning. Because of the number of people attending, the presentation couldn’t actually be held in the office, so we were bussed into Bournemouth town centre and it was held in a screen in the Odeon cinema complex – they even gave us popcorn! Part of the meeting was the presentation of some annual awards that are held within the department, and my team was actually voted 3rd in the Team of the Year category, but unfortunately that meant no prizes for us!

I didn’t get back into the office until past 1pm, so I had to try and cram a whole day’s worth of work into a few hours. I worked through my lunch break with just a packet of lentil crisps and an apple at my desk for fuel and just powered through everything as quickly as I could, but I had a real nasty headache come on and was definitely feeling the energy draining out of me so eventually at 4.30, having started at 8.30 that morning and not taken a break at all, I figured it was time to go home and just about managed to drag my feet back to my car.

Despite being desperate for a nap when I got home, I forced myself to stay awake and got started on cutting up the fabric that I had picked up in the morning ready to piece together later in the evening. I had everything cut out and ready before having to go and pick Matthew up from work, and set to work constructing the skirt when I got back, while Matthew cooked us a chicken curry for dinner. The rest of the evening was spent working on the skirt with Aladdin on tv in the background, and when today’s extreme tiredness really kicked in, I decided it was time to step away from the sewing machine, get into bed and write this post!

Is it Friday yet?

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A Week in the Life of Lottie – Monday

Howdy folks! Its been almost exactly a year since the last time I did a week of daily blogging, so I figured this was due (plus I had no other post inspiration for this week..). So each day I’ll be sharing what I’ve been up to, and I hope to keep it interesting enough that you’ll still be reading by Sunday!

This morning started with a 5:30am alarm, up and out the house by 6am and making my way to the gym on foot – its a mile and a half, so about 25-30 mins to walk each way. I did a 30 mins of mainly leg focused cardio with a bit of weight training in there too, then walked home, which is a workout in itself as its mainly uphill! On the walk home I tend to get some conversation going with the #HappiestFitbitClub as Monday is always the start of a new challenge and motivation is nice and high.

When I got home I spent some time commenting on Instagram posts while having breakfast, then washed and got dressed for work. I went barefaced today, apart from filling in my eyebrows – I’m a Benefit Ka-Brow kinda gal, in case you were wondering. Grey smock dress, tights and black chelsea boots later, I was good to go!

Work was a little mad today. We were all sent home early on Thursday and the office was closed on Friday due to the crazy snow, so there was a lot of catching up to do, plus the regular month-end panic that comes with the territory of financial accounting, so there’s always a little bit of tension in the air for the first few days of a new month. I’ve been in this job for about 4 months now and although there are some things that I am very comfortable doing, there’s a few month-end jobs that I’m not so confident with because I don’t do them as much, but I was pretty happy that I managed one of the most complicated things today without needing anyone to check it over, so that was a win, but I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of my job, don’t worry!

Whenever we can, Matthew and I take our lunch break together, and as is fairly normal for me, the first part of my lunch hour was taken up by walking from the office to the high street in order to take any orders Happiest Fitness Co or Etsy orders to the Post Office, then back to the office to eat lunch and catch up on social media. Lunch is normally the time that I’ll post on Instagram, but it varies between whether I think it will be a good time or not – some days seem to be better than others.

When there’s only about an hour or so between my finish time and his, I’ll normally go for a run to the beach from the office and back in time for him to leave, but the weather was a bit poo today so I just went home, hung out with the cats for a bit and did a little bit of writing before going back to pick him up.

Dinner consisted mainly of fish fingers (yes I am a child) and we ate while watching Friends re-runs on Comedy Central, then I spent some time working on yet another new skirt design that I’m hoping to bring to my Etsy this weekend (although its been a semi-torturous process!) so stay tuned for that. I generally work with some sort of movie on in the background, and today was back to back Miss Congeniality 1 and 2 on NOW TV.

And that’s pretty much been my day! My evenings are pretty much always spent either sewing or writing or packing up orders, or a combination of all three, as today was. Sorry there haven’t been many photos today, its been pretty grey for most of today and I only really like taking photos when its nice and bright, but here’s a photo of Ronnie looking particularly adorable instead!

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Time Is Money

Its an age-old saying. Sure, its got some pretty cliche connotations now, but cheese aside its 100% true. I mean, would you sit 9-5 in an office if you weren’t getting paid for it? You probably wouldn’t, right?

Well, its the same for small businesses. You see, creatives don’t like working all day and not getting paid for it – the only difference is, we’re doing something that’s maybe a little less traditional. Graphic designers, hand-makers of all different and wonderful things, cake decorators, bloggers – you name it, there are people trying to make money from all kinds of ventures, but the one thing they have in common is that time goes into everything. Hell, I’d love to know of a way of making money that doesn’t take a second of my time.

I LOVE my Etsy store. I love designing and making things and I love the fact that there are people out there that are actually prepared to buy the things I make. I say ‘prepared to buy’ for a very particular reason. You see, day in, day out, I get messages from people asking me about custom designs, or they’ve seen me wearing something on Instagram and want to know how much it would cost to order it from me, and you’d think that I would love getting these messages, right? Sure, I get a little buzz from someone loving my stuff, but I just know that that is the last message I’ll receive from them, because as soon as I let them know the price, they’re gone.

You know, 9 times out of 10, I actually respond to these messages with a price that is lower than I should charge, just on the off-chance that they might go for it. Spoiler alert, they rarely do, even though I’ve already dropped the price. Why do I do it? Well because while its not the best business sense, I hate asking people for money. Worse than that, business sense-wise, it leads me to under-value my time – I mean, there is a skirt for sale on my Etsy store right now where the fabric itself actually costs me more than the price I have the skirt for sale at! I make a loss on that straight away, and then I spend 1-2 hours making said skirt from said fabric.

I blame what I refer to as ‘Primark prices’, even though its the high street in general. You can buy a dress in New Look for £10, so when you see a skirt on Etsy for £30 you feel like its priced a little steep, right? Well ignoring whatever the fabric costs the maker, when you combine the amount of time it takes to design the skirt, cut the fabric, sew it all together, hem it, fit a zip/button/elastic/whatever, you’re maybe looking at a couple of hours of work. So lets put some random numbers to that – say supplies cost £10 and designing and making took 2 hours – and you don’t want to pay more than £20 for it cos ‘that’s what you’d pay on the high street’, well that’s your non-direct way of saying that you think its ok for that maker to get paid circa £5/hour. That sound like a decent wage to you?

You see, I don’t think it does, yet I’ve been under-pricing my creations so as not to seem too steep. Well, I’m done with that. If people don’t want to value my time, then that’s fine, but I’m going to. My time is worth money, and so is everyone else’s.

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My Top 8 Most Underrated WDW Dining Locations

Cheeseburger Bao Bun from Satu’li Canteen

When it comes to planning a trip to the most magical place on earth, choosing where to eat is a big decision, and one that has to be made quite far in advance if you want to snag all the right places.

I love planning for advanced dining reservations (ADRs), and I’m always on the hunt for somewhere new and different to try; I like to believe that one day I’ll have eaten in every restaurant on Disney property, but I’ll always end up going back to my favourite spots, plus I doubt I’ll ever keep up with the expansion and addition of new eateries, but I can dream, hey?

And you don’t even need to be a total Disney buff to know of some of the most talked about dining locations of WDW; places like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table are so iconic that I defy anyone who wouldn’t want to take a trip to these magical places. But are they the best?

These are some of my favourite lesser-known dining options that you may want to visit on your next trip:

Table Service

Grand Floridian Cafe – over 1900 Park Fare

I must admit, when I used to think of a good place to eat in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, my mind always used to jump to 1900 Park Fare. I’ve never eaten there before myself, but I see lots of people going there all the time, although I have heard some mixed reviews. Instead, I’ve always opted for GFC, and I’ve had both breakfast and dinner there, both of which have blown me away.

Sure, you don’t have the character element that 1900 Park Fare gives, but the menu is absolutely flawless in my opinion, and if you’re not on the dining plan, its actually one of the most reasonably priced table service meals I’ve ever seen – our dinner there should have cost around $65 plus gratuity for the two of us (main and dessert), and when I had breakfast there it would have been only $41 for two of us.

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ – over Hoop de Doo Revue

Again, I’ve never actually done Hoop de Doo, but having had the BEST time at Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, I’m in no rush to switch. Both cost the same both in cash and dining credits, both are unlimited buffets which included beer and wine for over 21s, and both have musical entertainment but Mickey’s Backyard has the added bonus of character meets and the opportunity to get up and get involved in the dancing with Mickey and the gang, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a night of more fun on Disney property. I’ve got a full review here.

Skipper Canteen

I was actually really surprised by the lunch we had here back in November – I had booked it because I wanted to try somewhere new, and then when we looked at the menu both Matthew and I felt a little meh about the offerings, but when the food actually arrived it was amazing! Yes, its a Jungle Cruise themed restaurant so there’s puns flying everywhere, but its also got a real Joe Rohde vibe to the place and the cast members were all really lovey, plus it was pretty quiet when we went!

Tusker House

I feel like I rarely hear people talking about restaurants in Animal Kingdom, so this may not be as underrated as I think it is, but absolutely rate this place. Now I haven’t been since 2014, so there may have been some changes but my whole family were blown away by the food, which not only catered for my picky-eating cousins (who at the time went as young as 5) but also for the adventurous adults in the group. Its a buffet – bonus – and although we had no idea when we booked it, its also a character meal!

Quick Service

Flame Tree Barbecue

If you ever need to make your dining credits go further, or need good value for money on your meals while in Animal Kingdom, this is the place you need to go – one meal could easily feed 2-3 people with the portion sizes you get! Also, if you want a decent view of Rivers of Light without queuing or paying for the dinner packages, grab your food from here early on and head down to the seating area on the edge of the water. Sure, you’re a little further away from the main seats, but you still get a great view!

Satu’li Canteen

This may not be underrated exactly, but if you’ve heard that its good, then that’s wrong because its AMAZING. Hands down, this is probably the best quick service meal I have ever had.

Yak and Yeti Local Food Cafes

Last Animal Kingdom place, I promise! If you’re a fan of the table service restaurant, but maybe you aren’t on the dining plan, I’m gonna share a secret with you: the honey chicken that you get in the restaurant for $18.99 is identical to the quick service alternative at $10.99, its just in a plastic container rather than served on a proper plate. This is also a good place to grab breakfast if you’ve run to Expedition Everest at park opening rather than joining the 3 hour queue for Flights of Passage..

Pinocchio Village Haus

Now this may be out of date as I’ve heard rumours that PVH is changing/has changed its offering, but this was always one of my favourite places to grab lunch when in Magic Kingdom. The flatbreads make a wonderful alternative to the normal doughy pizza bases you get in most quick service places and there’s always a tonne of seating available, plus I like waving to the Its a Small World boats as they pass below the window!

What restaurants do you think don’t get enough attention?

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Proud Moments in February

And just like that, this weird baby month is coming to a close, but its actually been a pretty great one. Its been a while since I did a monthly reflections sort of post, mainly because I prefer to look forward at what’s to come, but February has brought me so many wonderful moments this year that I figured why not look back at some of the things that I’ve been so incredibly proud of this month, and celebrate myself for a change.

Approaching a brand and getting a response

For the first time in my 4+ years of blogging, I took the plunge and contacted a brand that I really wanted to work with. I had no expectations, other than assuming that I’d probably be ignored or shot down, but just sending the email gave me a little boost of confidence because I felt I’d written a great pitch. Well that boost was then completely skyrocketed as I not only got a response, but it came back to me the very next day, and it was the loveliest response I think I could have been sent. Despite not meeting their usual requirements for sponsored work, they said they thought my email was so personal and thought my blog was so bright and colourful that they wanted to send me something anyway, and I’ve been squealing ever since!

Launching the #HappiestFitbitClub

I’ve been sitting on the idea for this for over a year now, but a few weeks ago I put out some feelers on Twitter and Instagram and I got the most amazing response! Now I have over 30 lovely club members who participate every week in my challenges, and I’m blown away by how well everyone is doing. And not only has it been a good motivation for my members, its really challenging and motivating me, and I’m feeling so good because of it! Wanna join? Sign up here!

Getting out of my comfort zone with custom orders

One of my New Years resolutions was to push my sewing skills a bit more this year and get away from just making skirts and accessories. Well, I’ve had some pretty cool custom order requests this month and I’ve got to make some amazing things that have really challenged me, but I’ve had the most fun creating them and I think they’ve turned out so well! Here’s just one of my makes from this month:

Managing at least one meat free day every week

I didn’t doubt my ability to go meat free one day a week, but I did think I would very easily slip up accidentally, but nope! I’ve been enjoying all sorts of different meal options and doing my little bit to help.

Defeating the negative thoughts

I’ve mentioned a couple of times now that I’ve been struggling a lot recently with some pretty strong negative body thoughts, but I bought myself some new swimsuits for my upcoming Aulani trip and when trying them on I actually felt pretty good. Its slow progress, I still have some not-so-good days, but I’m getting my brain and body back to where it should be.

Insta-growing!

Call it luck, call it progress, call it completely random, but I’ve finally been seeing my follower count on Instagram steadily climbing – I’ve gained over 100 followers this month and the number doesn’t seem to be dropping back like it normally does, yay!

Have you had a lovely February, or are you ready for another month to start?

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Oh Mickey, You’re So Fine

I swear every year I say I want to do more outfit posts, and then either I don’t have someone to take the photos, or I’m not feeling confident enough to do it, or whatever excuse I tell myself at the time, and then my good intentions go downhill a little and I get to the end of the year realising that I’ve done only maybe 2 and I end up wishing things had been different, then the cycle repeats..

Confidence has been a big thing for me lately. I seem to either have an abundance of it, or none at all, and it can go from one to the other in half a second with no real reason. This shoot, for example, took two attempts; Matthew and I had wandered over to Barton Square from the main part of the Trafford Centre, when I decided that this was going to be the perfect location to shoot the outfit I was wearing, but for some reason as soon as it came to standing in front of the pretty stone pillars and posing for the camera, I just couldn’t do it. I blamed the sun, saying that the lighting just wasn’t right, and there were quite a few people around and as I always do when this sort of thing happened, I talked myself out of it and walked away disappointed.

Matthew, on the other hand, is becoming quite used to me having these little wobbles, and suggested that we came back in the morning when it was nice and quiet, and bright, and although I hate admitting these things, he was right. Although it was VERY cold (I mean, it was 2C and I stripped down to a t-shirt for some photos), when we went back the next morning I was in the right mood, and felt totally comfortable posing in my entirely Mickey themed outfit despite early shoppers appearing behind me every now and then!

So pretty much this entire outfit is H&M, with the exception of my well-loved Converses, trusty coat (Pretty Little Thing but years ago) and the adorable Alex and Ani Mickey bangle from Walt Disney World. The beanie I actually picked up a few years ago now but I keep seeing it pop back up in stores and I’m pretty sure its around the £7.99 mark price-wise! The t-shirt was one I saw several people on Twitter and Instagram share, and I knew straight away I had to have it – I don’t think you can tell from the photos but the rainbow part is actually glittery too! – its a size S, but has quite a lot of room in it so if you prefer a tighter fit then you may want to size down from what you would normally go for. The jeans are a different story.. These are the jeans that I’ve been ranting about both on Twitter and in Saturday’s blog post – having ordered a size 12 originally (a size larger than I am), I went to exchange them in store and could actually only fit into a size 16 (well, I could just manage the 14 but only if I had no plans to eat or breathe whilst wearing them), so if you do fall in love with them like I did, I suggest going to try them on in a store, and just prepare yourself for not fitting into your usual size, and maybe not even the next size up. They are, however, my first pair of mom jeans, and I do love feeling a bit 90s in them!

Oh, and the hoodie is from the kids section, I’m wearing a 14+ years but its still got plenty of room in it!

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Let’s Talk About High Street Sizes

So yesterday I was super excited when I got notification to say my H&M parcel had been delivered. Well no, that’s not exactly true because the email came from Hermes and I knew that there was a strong possibility that my parcel would be closer to the moon than my letter box, but that’s not what this is about.

I had ordered three items from H&M: a ladies t-shirt, size ‘S’, a pair of mom jeans, size 12 – because I’m a 10-12 and I figured I’d size up because jeans can be notoriously tricky to get right – and a hoodie from the kids section, aged ’14+’ – because I loved it, I’m quite petite so there was a possibility it would fit me, and I figured worst case scenario I’d just return it. Quite a mixed bag, right? Well, I figured I had a pretty good chance with everything fitting.

The first thing I thought I should try on was the kids hoodie, and I was super pumped to find that it fit me perfectly, yay! From the photo on the website, it was supposed to be a loose-fit style for kids, and it was a little more fitted on me, but it definitely didn’t look like I’d squeezed myself into a kids shirt. Win. I had no worries about the t-shirt fitting, but if anything it was a little looser than I expected, and then there were the jeans..

Remember how I said that I sized up? From the moment I stepped into them, I just knew that they weren’t going to fit. Despite being ‘mom jeans’, they just barely made it over my thighs, and there was absolutely no chance of them doing up. So tell me, why can I fit into a kids size item, and then not an adult size from the same store?

But this isn’t just about me complaining about my H&M order, this is about what high street stores are doing to girls and women every day. The industry is typically infamous for producing unrealistic body expectations with the use of tiny models, photoshop and various other things that make the average woman feel like a slug, but even if you take away all of these things, you’re still left with something that can be potentially so harmful, and that is the massive discrepancy between the supposed same sizes, not just between different brands, but even within the same store.

Let me put it this way: I bought those jeans a size bigger than what I am, and the size bigger than what I am did not fit me. Some of the thoughts that instantly go through my head are ‘oh my gosh, is it me?’, ‘have I gained weight without noticing?’, ‘could I actually be 2 or even 3 sizes bigger than I think I am?’. After this flood of negative thoughts about my own body, I talk myself down and remember that H&M is particularly infamous for big sizing issues, but before I could get to that explanation, I spent a few minutes feeling like absolute crap.

One time, I bought two pairs of skinny jeans from New Look – both size 10. One pair was a good fit, although actually a little looser in some places. I still have those jeans to this day. The other pair wouldn’t even go up my calf. My arm barely fit into them. Same number on the label, same shop, two completely different actual sizes.

I mean, I get that it might be completely possible to have a totally unified system, for whatever stupid reason the stores always give when challenged on this, but its not the fact that I can vary from a size 8-14 depending on where I’m shopping – I can live with that – its what this does to my confidence. Even Asos now has a ‘size recommendation’ feature, which is designed to give you a better idea of what you should order based on your personal details and previous purchases, and when I first saw it, I thought ‘hey, what a great idea!’ Well, that was until one time I saw something that I liked, selected my size, and the little message popped up saying, and I paraphrase, ‘um, you’re probably not gonna fit into that, why don’t you get the next size up?’ – yes I exaggerated what was actually said, but it actually made me feel so bad about myself that I just stopped shopping and closed the window.

In case I haven’t made my point clear enough – this is damaging. Brands can use all the curvy, un-edited models in the world, but if the size of their products doesn’t reflect some sort of consistency, girls and women everywhere are still going to be subject to the effects that the fashion industry has on body image.

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What I’ve Watched Lately

Since going back to a 9-5 job, rather than the 8-8 shifts I was working before, I’ve definitely found that I’ve had more time to enjoy some of the simpler things in life, like just spending an evening watching TV, taking advantage of my Odeon Limitless card, or binge watching things over a weekend; its been great.

Over the last few weeks especially, I feel like I’ve watched a lot of pretty great things, and so I figured I’d share some of them with you!

TV

Hunted

I know it was the third season this year, but up until now I had never seen any of the Channel 4 programme. Well, my parents started watching it and were hooked, so Matthew and I decided to give it a spin too – although Matthew had seen some of a previous series. Well, we also ended up pretty obsessed too. Not only did we catch up to my parents in the current series, but I also went back and watched the entire first season in a few sittings, and am now getting started on season 2 – its just so more-ish! I really thought that I wouldn’t get sucked into it but wow..

Death in Paradise

I love a good murder mystery, and despite having watched Death in Paradise on BBC since the show first started, they’ve just released the earlier series on Netflix, so now I’m going back and rewatching it from the start as well as waiting for each new episode on Thursday evenings. Its so unrealistic in terms of the number of murders occurring on a small Caribbean island, but also just so entertaining, and what’s great about re-watching it is I can’t remember who did it from the first time round!

Movies

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

If I didn’t have Odeon Limitless, this would not have been a film that I would have bothered paying for as I wasn’t massively interested in it at first, but I actually thought it was brilliant! The storyline was always going to be just a little far-fetched, but the cast were amazing – I mean, The Rock, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, it was never not going to be funny. If you’re on the fence, just watch it, I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

The Circle

This is a Netflix original movie, and one that I have scrolled past time and time again while looking for things to watch, but Matthew actually bothered to read its little synopsis and so we decided to try it out because let’s face it, Tom Hanks is great in everything, right? Well its another one that really surprised me. From the first 15 minutes or so it doesn’t feel like its going to be much, but from then onwards I was pretty glued to the screen. For a fairly low budget film, its got a cracking cast, an interesting story and I was actually pretty upset when it was finished because I wanted more.

Black Panther

This movie was all the reviews had it cracked up to be and then some. I’m not going to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it yet but Marvel are gonna find it hard to beat. The casting, the costumes, the cinematography, the underlying message of the film, it was all completely spot on and I think it deserves every accolade coming its way.

Have you watched anything good lately?

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Tokyo Kawaii Club Magic Mailer Haul

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Tokyo Disney has the best merchandise. I’m sorry, but you just can’t compete with the Japanese on this sort of thing.

When I visited Tokyo Disney in 2015 (wow, was my trip almost 3 years ago now?), I wanted to bring home absolutely everything, and if you’ve read my haul post from that trip, you’ll know that I did bring back a lot, but not a day goes by that I don’t see something new and adorable on Instagram and have to fight the urge to jump on a plane to Japan and blow my credit card balance in that happy place.

So when I discovered that Tokyo Kawaii Club make amazing little packages of magical merchandise and ship them to all over the world, I couldn’t resist treating myself to a little taster to tide me over until I can get out there again. I ordered the Magic Mailer back in early January, and my package arrived last weekend, although I did have to collect it from the sorting office because I had to pay a customs charge on it, and I was so excited that I ripped it open as soon as I got home. So what did it contain?

Firstly, I got this AMAZING Donald Duck diary. I love Donald and I’m a sucker for a cute notebook and this is just perfect for me. Its got a double-page calendar spread for each month, and then pages at the back for notes and doodles, and each page has a little Donald sketch in the corner.

I also got a cute little Pluto keyring, which having just had Lunar New Year and bringing in the Year of the Dog, which is also my year of the Chinese zodiac, it was perfect timing, plus I got this sweet little heart-shaped Donald and Daisy button.

Speaking of heart-shaped, how sweet is this little tin? Its full of individually wrapped chocolates with a little Mickey imprint. I also got a set of Tiana notelets which fold up into little paper princesses!

Finally, the biggest item in the mailer was this Belle tsum tsum. I’m not sure what its official size is called because its much bigger than a mini tsum tsum but about half the size of the medium tsums that I have, but its still super cute!

Tokyo Kawaii Club offers a few different mailer options, and you can even set up a repeat order and have it as a monthly subscription! Michael did a really great job of personalising my mailer with my favourite characters, so I’d love to see what he would conjure up another time for me!

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