DIY Geometric Feature Wall

So after sharing pictures of the wall we painted in our guest bedroom on Twitter I had an influx of people asking about how we did it, so here it is!

The fabulous thing about this geometric paint style is that it looks so cool but its actually surprisingly quick and simple to do, its just a case of knowing what you need, and what you need to do, and hopefully I’ll cover all that in this post.

So the things you’ll need:

  • Frog Tape – this is an absolute must, and this is the only thing where I feel really strongly about not cheaping out on. Regular masking tape will not give you completely clean lines as often paint will creep underneath the edges of the tape, but Frog Tape is treated with something that stops this from happening – I swear this post is not sponsored so please take my advice on this. You need the green tape (it also comes in yellow and orange, but its the green that you need for this), and for our wall we used the widest of the three sizes that B&Q keep in stock.
  • Your paint choices – we opted for 3 colours and got 1L of each, but obviously you can have as many or few colours as you like – I’ve seen similar things on Pinterest where people just paint one colour and have the lines as the statement!
  • Rollers/paint brushes, trays, dust sheets etc – y’know, the usual painting kit

Because our house is a new build, it already had a lovely fresh white wall for us to paint over, but if you’re not in the same position then make sure you paint your wall and let it dry properly before getting started on the pattern. Also don’t feel as though you have to have a white backdrop, you could do this with any colour, but if you’re going to use a darker background, you’ll want to do a coat of primer over your pattern before you start on the colours to make sure your background doesn’t show through.

So we started off by taping around the whole edge of the wall to create an outside border. This is totally optional but it gives it a nice edge and saves painful hours of cutting in so I do recommend it. Be sure to also tape around any sockets or switches.

Now the actual pattern we completely improvised. If you want to plan it before you start taping then that’s fine, but we actually were happier making it up as we went along, and the beauty of tape meant that if we did change our mind on a certain line, you just rip it back off and do it again. With a triangle pattern, the one thing I would say to keep an eye out for is that no three triangles have the same border line if you’re using three colours as we did, otherwise you’d end up with two triangles of the same colour touching, so just watch out.

Once we were happy with the pattern, we took a little bit of tape and wrote the colours on them so we could mark out which triangle was going to be which colour, again just to be sure that we didn’t end up with the same colour touching, and also just to make sure we had a good balance of the colours. Before you start to paint just double check that all of the tape is well stuck to the wall by smoothing over it all again.

Working one colour at a time, its just a case of filling in the gaps! When you’re only painting a few little shapes its amazing how much quicker it seems to take compared to painting a whole wall one single colour. Don’t worry about going over the edge of the tape a little bit with the paint, in fact you’re better off doing that to make sure you’ve filled right up to the edge of the shape.

Wait until you’ve painted in all of the colours, but be sure to peel the tape off before the paint has completely dried as this will prevent you pulling up any paint by accident with your tape. Start by peeling the pattern, and leave the outside border to last to peel, and most importantly take your time with the peeling. You don’t want to rush and end up flicking paint into the wrong section or getting tape stuck on wet paint.

Once you’ve peeled everything back off, you’re pretty much set, just allow plenty of time for the paint to dry fully before you do anything else to the wall!

 

So just to recap on the key points that I think are crucial to making this as perfect and painfree as possible:

  • Frog Tape is a must, do not risk using regular masking tape
  • You don’t have to overplan the pattern, in fact improvising can be easier
  • Peel the tape off before the paint dries completely
  • Having a border around the edge of the design saves a lot of time

For anyone wondering, we used Valspar paint in You’re Blushing, Angel’s Sigh and Petite Pirouette, as shown below:

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Our First Weekend In Our New House and What We Got Done

So even though it feels like we’ve waited forever, in reality its only been 2 1/2 months since we saw our house for the first time, and on Thursday we officially completed and its now ours! We picked up the keys on Friday and the weekend has been the first phase of our moving process – I don’t actually leave my job until July 6th, so until then we’ll only be able to visit on weekends, but that hopefully means by the time we’re up there permanently, it will be mostly finished in terms of unpacking and decorating! (This is a bit of an unedited photo dump so apologies that some pictures are a bit dark)

We went up with my parents in a one car, one van convoy, both packed to bursting with the stuff we already have, and then once we’d unloaded that all into the garage, it was on to Ikea for the big furniture shop. I won’t bore you with the details, but 5 trolleys and one delivery coming on Tuesday, and we’re actually still not completely done as we realised we’ve picked up a few things in the wrong sizes and forgot a few little but key things like hinges and legs for cupboards.. As that was a fairly manual labour filled day, we didn’t build anything that night, and Matthew and I had what I believe is a traditional ‘first night in new house’ evening of takeaway pizza on the floor because we don’t have a dining table/chairs or even a sofa, and slept on our mattress on the floor because its our bed being delivered on Tuesday..

Our current living room set up

Saturday morning my parents brought round some food for breakfast; we got to use our toaster and kettle for the first time with toast for Dad and a cup of tea for my mum. Matthew and I then headed off to do a bit more shopping with Mum while we left my dad to start building some of the Ikea stuff. We hit Costco (for mainly cleaning supplies at this point), B&Q for paint and decorating bits and then went to DFS to order our sofa, which was a pretty easy job as we’ve had it picked our for ages! On our way back to the house we decided to try out our first local chippy to see how it was (a solid 7/10) and then after we’d eaten, again on the kitchen floor, Matthew and I set to work painting the feature wall in our guest bedroom. (I’ll be doing a full post on how we did this later on this week!)

Once the wall was painted, we could then build the bed in there and position all the furniture, and then my parents headed home. Matthew and I drove into Crewe for another B&Q trip, this time for paint for my office, plus some screws and wall plugs and a few other bits and bobs, and I spent the evening painting the feature wall in my office.

Sunday morning was another coat of paint in my office, then we headed back into Crewe and hit Home Bargains and Dunelm for some things for the bathroom, grabbed lunch in Nandos and headed back to the house where the Sky man had just arrived to set up our Sky box. I built all the bathroom bits, then while Matthew screwed them into the walls, I built the desk for my office and got that all set up.

The rest of the afternoon was spent doing some finishing touches in the guest bedroom, which is now pretty much finished apart from a mirror needing to be put on a wall and a few other little decor additions, then tidied up all the mess into the garage.

So one weekend in, we have pretty much finished the guest bedroom and the bathroom, bar a few little details, and made a start to pretty much every other room. We still haven’t decided how we want to decorate our bedroom or the living room, but as neither have that much furniture in them right now we’ve got plenty of time to decide! If you want to see how some of these rooms looked before, check out the first look at our home here.

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Sixty Seconds of Self Care

With mental health awareness increasing by the day, self care is becoming an ever increasingly more important part of day to day life. Quite simply, self care is any act in which you do something to look after yourself, either physically or mentally.

Too often though, we think of self care as a bit of a big deal, and I know that I for one am guilty of ignoring self care with the excuse that I don’t have enough time, when in fact we should always be finding the time to make sure that we are happy. Self care doesn’t have to mean spending 2 hours in a bath with £20 worth of Lush products, it can be as simple as a minute here and there, and sometimes the smallest things can make a big difference to your day.

Here are a few self care practices that I’ve been doing lately that take no time at all:

  • Taking a little more time brushing my hair after washing it, rather than just enough to get any knots out
  • Instead of gulping down my hot chocolate while I’m trying to get work done, I’ve been stopping to sit back and enjoy it
  • At the end of each day, taking just a small amount of time to write down, or just think about all the good things that have happened that day
  • Sitting to eat breakfast, rather than standing
  • Using an in-shower moisturiser to keep my skin happy with minimal effort
  • Drinking at least one glass of water every two hours
  • Deciding what to wear to work the night before so I don’t have to rush around in the morning and feel cuter
  • Taking a little bit of time each morning to comment on Instagram posts instead of just liking, and also replying to comments on my own posts
  • Using my Fitbit’s ‘relax’ feature for breathing exercises before bed
  • Applying BioOil to my stretch marks after showering
  • Reminding myself why I love what I do when I’m feeling stressed about it
  • Retweeting cute animal videos to brighten up my (and others) timelines

These might seem like insignificant little acts, but just by doing them and knowing that I’m making a little effort towards looking after myself, they have been making a big difference!

Do you take time to look after yourself?

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Travelling with Revolut

When you’re a regular, or even a non-regular traveller, there’s nothing more annoying than either having to get all your travel money exchanged into cash, or risking foreign transaction charges on most of your cards if you have to use them while you’re away, and even if you have a card that doesn’t charge, there’s that nagging worry about losing or having cards stolen while abroad, and if this sounds familiar to you, you need a Revolut card.

Revolut is, in fact, a mobile app, and the only way you can get a card is through the app itself. Essentially, its a pre-paid credit card: you simply link a debit or credit card to the app and use that to top it up by whatever amount you need, and if the card doesn’t have enough on it, the transaction will simply fail, so you’ve always got the added security of knowing that if there’s nothing there, nothing can be spent.

But what makes Revolut different to any other pre-paid card is what makes it ideal for travelling – you can exchange money right there on the app, and get the best rates as it uses the central bank exchange rates, rather than those that retailers use to make money out of your holiday money needs. For example, as I’m writing this, Post Office are currently offering 1.2961 on USD, whereas Revolut has 1.3401! Once you’ve topped up your card with cash, you can hit the exchange button, select your desired currency and watch what the exchange rate is doing as it updates every few seconds, so you can wait until it goes up a few 0.01s to get a little bit more for your money, and once your money has been converted to whatever currency you want, that means you’re using the correct currency for the country you’re in, so no foreign transaction charges! Plus, any leftover currency can be converted back just as easily as you switched it in the first place, so you don’t have to worry about selling your money back to a bureau de change or hiding it away until your next trip.

Another great thing about the app is that it notifies you as soon as you’ve made a payment, so you can see what you’ve spent straight away, with a clear description of where you spent it and don’t have to guess from ‘pending transactions’ where your money has gone. Its also got nifty features like being able to split your bill with another Revolut user, and also a selection of other things on offer, so its a really handy thing to have!

Apart from the cost of the card, which is £5 plus £3 delivery, Revolut is completely free (unless you choose to go Premium), so compared to so many other credit cards that have annual fees etc, its a steal, but don’t just take my word for it, download the app for free for all the information!

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NYX Tame and Frame VS Benefit Ka-Brow!

Even when I’ve run out of time/can’t be bothered to do my makeup for the day, my eyebrows are normally a must. I don’t have bad eyebrows, in fact I think I’m pretty lucky that I don’t really have to do much to them at all, but I just feel so much better with everything nicely filled in and looking a whole lot more together.

For the last couple of years, my go-to product has been Benefit’s Ka-Brow (shade 01, if anyone’s interested) and its never really let me down, but I’m trying to make an effort to switch out my remaining non-cruelty-free products for more animal friendly alternatives, and also trying to cut down what I spend on some makeup, and a friend of mine suggested I tried the NYX Tame and Frame pomade, so I’ve been comparing the two.

The reason I’ve always used Ka-Brow is because its really convenient. It has a brush built right into the packaging, meaning that I can throw it in my bag, or take it in my hand luggage when I travel, and never have to worry about whether or not I’ve remembered a brush. I’ve also always used it because its never failed me. The formula is more cream than gel, so its not at all sticky feeling and applies smoothly and its buildable – my one annoyance is that sometimes if I apply it too heavy at first, it doesn’t blend out particularly well, and often by the time I’m coming to the bottom of the product, it starts to dry out and get a little bitty.

I knew that my NYX shade would be Blonde as I have a NYX pencil in that shade, so I didn’t have to worry too much about knowing which one would match for me, although its possibly slightly lighter than its Benefit counterpart, not that it bothers me. As with many other NYX products, the packaging it pretty simple but its nice and does the job – I particularly like the fact that its a frosted glass effect rather than being clear. The formula is more gel-like than Ka-Brow, but is also soft and creamy and not at all sticky. It glides on like a dream and builds up nicely, blending better than Ka-Brow – because its a bit lighter in shade I do have to build it up a little more, but its not like its hard work!

Obviously there’s no brush built into this little jar, but the product holds all day with no problem at all, so its not like I need to be reapplying throughout the day, and its the same with Ka-Brow – all day brows, no fuss. The big difference between the two, however, is of course the price tag: for a Benefit product you’ll be paying Benefit prices of £18-20, compared to NYX’s £6 a pot. For that price, plus the bonus of being cruelty free, Tame and Frame is getting my vote on this one!

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A First Look at Our First Home

So after what feels like forever and also no time at all simultaneously, yesterday, for the first time ever, Matthew and I got to step foot into our first house.

Its been just over 2 months since we fell in love with this plot and put down our reservation fee, and ever since then its been a whirlwind of mortgage applications, legal documents and everything else that comes with house-buying, but its all coming together in time for us to get the keys next week.

Us being in Bournemouth (my home town) and the house being in Winsford has been an obvious logistical nightmare, so while most buyers would be able to check up on their new build as and when, we’ve only been up to see it a handful of times, all of which up til now have been while work was being carried out, so we’ve never been able to see the inside of the place that we’ll be making our home.

Well its safe to say I’m in love. I fell in love with the house from the first time we visited a showhome, but this one just seems so much shinier and more beautiful because its ours. Because we bought so late in the build of the house, we didn’t get to make many choices – the kitchen and the bathroom tiles had already been picked – but we did get to pick the carpet and the flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms, and while it was pretty hard when you’re just looking at samples, we managed to nail it and everything goes perfectly!


I can’t wait to get in next week and start the slow process of transforming this empty (but beautiful) shell of our house into our home, and I’m planning on doing before/after posts for each room as and when we finish them, plus everything else along the way, so be prepared for a whole bunch of house posts in the coming months!

Oh, and on top of having a beautiful house, we have the most amazing back garden! I’m feeling really super blessed that we managed to get this house, and even though I’ll probably never have savings again, it seems absolutely worth it.

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The Danger of Influencers

This is a post that I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time now, but so many things have happened recently that I just can’t keep my mouth shut.

This week, Kim Kardashian has set the internet on fire with her Instagram post promoting ‘appetite suppressant’ lollipops. Now you don’t have to be a genius to read those three words and think wow what a joke, right?

Well, the problem is not everyone will think that. Celebrities and influencers all over the world have been promoting nonsense like skinny teas, waist trainers and now, it would seem, these ridiculous sweets for years now, and as much as I had to say this, they wouldn’t still be doing this if these companies weren’t doing pretty well for themselves out of it.

Unfortunately, these influencers have absolutely no regard for the danger caused by what they post. Their loyal fans, especially when the person has a particularly young fan base, will support anything they do, and often believe a lot of what they say, or at least want to give it a try themselves, and all that leaves is a whole bunch of people sat on the toilet regretting how much ‘skinny’ tea they bought once they realise that everything they consume is just making a speedy route through them.

But it’s also about more than just the products they promote. Last week a photo emerged on the internet of a ‘behind the scenes’ view of Charlotte Crosby’s Instagram post, in which she’s wearing a tight yellow leather skirt, and in the post she says this is from her new collection at InTheStyle, but the reality of said photo is that the skirt isn’t even zipped up at the back because it won’t.

So tell me how this is from her new collection if it doesn’t even fit her? Now I don’t have a problem with the fact that she can’t fit into whatever size she’s wearing – we’ve all been there – but what I do have an issue with is that you just know that website is gonna say something like ‘Charlotte wears a size X’ and women are gonna not only be believing that, but ordering based on that assumption, and as someone who has spent a lot of time lately crying over clothes that don’t fit, I hate to think about the number of people this could affect.

I get the whole making a living out of being an influencer thing, but I just wish that some people would have more sense to reject offers of promoting products that can be harmful to their followers. It’s not like Kim K has the body she has just purely thanks to lollipops and an overpriced neoprene corset..

A Pledge to Myself, Right Now

The last few months for me have been a bit of a rollercoaster. Hell, the whole of 2018 has been a total blur. To say I’ve been overwhelmed would probably be an understatement, and the probably with that is the good old saying: something’s gotta give.

So I’ve been letting things slip. I’m not proud of it, but I know that its true, and the problem hasn’t so much been that I’ve been dropping a few little things from my schedule, its that I’ve been dropping some things that are actually pretty damn important, not necessarily for other people, but for myself.

My skincare routine has diminished to me just barely washing my face in the shower, and there are days where I don’t even fill in my eyebrows. My face has hardly seen any makeup in the last few months, with the exception of when I was on holiday, and when I went to a wedding a few weeks ago, and while I have no problem with not wearing makeup, I really enjoy doing my makeup, and not doing things that I enjoy has really been affecting me.

More recently, I’ve realised that I’m not even wearing the clothes that I love to wear. I’ve gone from wearing outfits that make me feel cute to wearing whatever I can throw together that morning and avoiding looking in mirrors. Suddenly I’m finding things like posting on Instagram feel like the biggest chore on some days, and my blog has been suffering massively because feeling under pressure really hinders my ability to write. I’ve also been neglecting my body; not eating well, avoiding exercise some days and feeling totally sluggish as a result. I’m not ok with this.

So here it is, a promise to myself:

I must remember to take time out for my own happiness. If something’s gotta give, then that’s ok, but don’t let the things I love disappear.

I will look after my body, from getting back on track with eating a balanced diet and remembering to stay active, even if that just means taking a walk at lunchtime. I will drink more water. I will take those extra few minutes each day to look after my skin.

I will not let myself get caught up in negativity, and spend more time reflecting on positive, happy moments in my life, and looking forward to the amazing upcoming events that the rest of this year has to come.

I will try to always be better than the person I was yesterday, because lots of small steps are just as effective as one big one.

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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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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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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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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?

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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!

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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!

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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My Thoughts on Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

I have tried to keep this post spoiler free, but there may be a few minor leaks.

Ok so I am SO late to the party, but yesterday I finally saw the play that everyone’s been talking about for almost two years now: Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.

When the play first opened, I was so sure that I’d never get the opportunity to see it that I did let myself read the book, but given that it was over a year ago, I had only a rough idea of what was going to happen and had forgotten a lot of the detail, so I went in with a fairly clear mind.

We did parts one and two in the same day, and living two hours drive from London, that meant that our whole day was taken up with the show, once you factor in travelling and getting around London and over 5 hours of being in the theatre over the two sittings.

Its safe to say that the show was incredibly impressive. The staging and the special effects were second to none, from curses flying through the air, beautiful patronus charms, terrifying dementors and objects (and people!) flying left right and centre. But aside from the special effects, even just the regular movement of cast and props on the stage was brilliantly thought out, to Hogwarts famous moving staircases to things disappearing with a swoosh of a cape, and I also loved the talking portraits.

The cast also did a fab job, although it took me a little while to get used to all of them – I thought some characters were a little over-acted, but once we got into the second part I’d either gotten used to it or it had been toned down a touch. Scorpius and Albus really were the stars of the show, and what I thought was great was how hilariously funny some bits of the story were, which was something that didn’t seem apparent in the book of the play; the whole audience was in stitches at times.

Personally, my only real negative is that I really felt like it could have easily been condensed into one play, and given how easily I think that could have been done, I think that its a little unfair to make people fork out for two tickets to be able to see the complete story. There were quite a few scenes that felt a little stretched out, some parts that probably weren’t strictly necessary at all and didn’t add much to the play as a whole, and I just thought that you could nip and tuck a few places without losing any of the main story at all, and get it down to a normal, if not slightly longer, single show, rather than 5+ hours that the two parts make altogether. Its my only gripe.

Did I cry though? If you know me even only slightly well, the gauge of how good something is in whether or not I cry. I think I expected to cry in quite a few places, but I didn’t, and that’s not because I wasn’t loving it, its because I was so busy being swept up in whatever emotion the play was making me feel. I did have a little sob though, right near the end, as the cast stood together on the stage and ‘watched’ something that the audience couldn’t see, but we could hear – I’m trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but if you’ve seen the play I hope you know which bit I mean. The same part made me cry when I read the book of the play, but hearing it rather than reading it just hit all sorts of emotions and the tears came streaming down. It was the only part that I cried at, but it was probably the most important; it was so well done and I didn’t know how they would portray it on stage, but the way they did it was just right.

I’m so glad that I can finally say that I’ve seen it, and now I know that the book doesn’t do the story much justice at all, so if you have read the book and felt a little meh about it, trust me, watching it is SO much better. On stage it was, well, magic.

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Six Month Fluff Update

Today marks exactly 6 months since our two little rescue kitties, Ozzy and Ronnie, came home to live with us. Back then, Ozzy looked like this:

Now, he looks like this:

A lot has happened since the last kitten update that I posted, with the biggest development being that they are now also outdoor explorers!

Due to their size, and being black cats in dark winter days, we were maybe a little over cautious in waiting as long as we did to let them outside, starting off with a few short, supervised excursions to the garden, and then once we finally got round to getting their pet insurance sorted and getting the cat flap fitted, Boxing Day was when we let them have free reign over the garden.

It was fairly terrifying at first – more for me than the kittens! – but eventually they learned their way around not only our garden but some of the neighbouring ones, and more importantly, how to get back again. The cat flap, on the other hand, was a slightly more difficult thing to teach.. It took a lot of pushing them through, leaving it propped open so they could actually get back in again, and handfuls of treats, but they finally got the hang out not only going out (which they worked out first) but also getting back in again! We have been locking the cat flap at night to stop them going out in the dark, but they’ve actually got so used to their evening routine of dinner followed by sofa time that they don’t actually seem to have any interest in the outside world past sunset!

Obviously they’ve grown a lot. Ozzy is now the size of most normal cats, but that’s helped by all his fluff, while Ronnie remains the smaller of the two, as he always has been. Personality wise, there’s also been a lot of change; Ozzy has become very confident in terms of exploring outside (including being seen following the local fox around the garden), while Ronnie often sits at the back door and meows for people to come outside and play with him, especially if Ozzy has gone off without him! Ronnie is super needy and loves being around humans, and while Ozzy is still the more timid of the two when it comes to interaction with people, he’s come such a long way, and I pick him up for cuddles every day.

I don’t think any of us could imagine them not being in our lives anymore. They snuggle with us on the sofa, Ronnie sometimes sleeps on the bed and Ozzy frequently naps underneath our bed. Even though they love it outside they do still spend a lot of their days asleep inside, probably because its been quite chilly, but also due to the fact that they just seem to like being with us, and we just love that.

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Kayla’s Bikini Body Motivation & Habits Guide

Now I’ve never believed in the term ‘bikini body’ or ‘bikini body ready’ – for me, a bikini body is any body in a bikini, simples. I’ve also never really trusted these fitness influencers or Instagrammers as I’m very wary of some of the products and diets that they endorse, so when it comes to Kayla Itsines I’ve generally not paid much attention.

However, I saw this book in the supermarket the other week; Matthew pointed it out as we’re trying to keep healthy and active in preparation for our trip to Hawaii in April, and at first I kinda scoffed, but then I had a little flick through and noticed that despite the title suggesting otherwise, at least half of the book is recipes, and I’m a sucker for a good recipe book, so it ended up in our basket.

Spoiler alert, I’m now treating this book like my bible.

The book is actually so insightful. The first part talks about habits and motivation, and some of the psychology that goes behind it, and how you can combat the set-backs and hurdles that many of us face day in day out. I must admit that I haven’t read all of this as I’ve got a lot of other books and journals that I use for habit tracking, so I didn’t feel this was particularly relevant to me, but after this bit, the book gets really good.

The next section of the book is all about nutrition and meal-planning. I went into this with a pinch of salt ready to read things suggesting certain foods are really bad for you, or you should cut down on this or that, but there wasn’t any of that and I did a little happy dance. Everything written is informative, well researched and completely balanced, and the nutrition part covers everything from your basic food groups to micronutrients to non-dairy, vegetarianism and veganism, so it covers a pretty good range of dietary needs, but what I love the most about this book is the meal planning.

Now the book itself has a 4 week food plan, including 3 meals and 2 snacks every day over the 28 day period, so if you like to follow something by the letter, this is absolutely great – it even includes your weekly shopping list! However, if like me you struggle to stick to an exact plan day in day out, Kayla also includes an example meal plan, that is a guide of how many portions of what food groups you should be eating each day, and how you can mix and match these to suit. Did I mention how much I love this?

Also included is a big glossary of example foods for every food groups, and portion sizes, so if for example your meal is going to be 2 grains, 2 veg, 1/2 dairy/alternative and 1 meat/alternative, you can simply flick to the back of the book, have a look at what these could includes and make up a meal from there. This makes everything so flexible and easy, and there’s absolutely no calorie counting, or cutting out certain foods – its all about getting the portions and proportions right. Its a meal plan, not a diet.

The recipes offer so many options, and not only have you got every recipe for the 28 day meal plan, there’s also extra recipes that you can substitute in if whatever’s on the menu doesn’t take your fancy! All the recipes are quick, easy, and based on a single portion, which is great because I hate having a recipe designed for 2 or 4 people and having to go through and scale all the ingredients down. Oh, and there’s also a section at the back for desserts!

I have been following the meal plan, in my own way, for two weeks now and I’m already noticing a difference (along side my regular gym workouts and running). Some meals I haven’t changed at all from what I was eating before, but I’ve just got a better balance in what I should be eating and the size portions I should be having. Its so easy to break down every meal into groups, so all I count is the number of portions of each group I’ve had – absolutely no stressing over calories or not eating this or that. Most importantly, I feel so good within myself because I’m eating well.

The final section of the book is workouts, and you get a little 28 day workout guide poster that you can follow along with your meal plan – again, given that I go to the gym 4-5 times a week as it is and know my stuff quite well, I wasn’t so bothered by this, but it is a good little plan.

So while the title of the book didn’t endear me to it in any way, I guess its just proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover!

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Ways I Want to Help The Planet in 2018

In the last few years, saving the planet in an environmental sense seems to have slipped from the minds of a lot of people. Sure, we have a tonne more recycling bins now than we ever did, and you’ve gotta pay for a plastic carrier bag now, but I think most people just think of that as a bit of a hassle, rather than remembering the reasons behind it all.

Then Blue Planet 2 hit our screens, and thanks to David Attenborough and his ability to capture an entire nation through the TV screen, suddenly the impact that the human race is having on Planet Earth suddenly started to really hit home again. I was blown away by the number of celebrities, bloggers and influencers discussing such an important topic, and using their platforms to get other people talking. Not only that, I was seeing ideas; what we can do to help this place we, and millions of other creatures, call home.

Its a subject I’ve always been passionate about, but like many others I’ve slipped back into bad habits, but in 2018 I’m determined to bring it back to the forefront of everything that I do, and here are a few specific plans I’m making:

Buying more responsibly

Local produce, UK based companies, more sustainable products etc. This beautiful top from Monki is made from 100% recycled fibres and I had no idea something so pretty could be made from recycled materials!

Donating and recycling my old clothes

On Christmas Eve I took two huge sacks of old clothes to a local recycling centre that actually sends the decent items to Africa for people living in poverty to sell in order to make money, creating industry and supporting those who need it, and the stuff that isn’t good enough they recycle, plus, you can take down old sheets and towels which they donate to the RSPCA. I still have another bag of clothes that I want to take to local charity shops to give them a new home.

No more disposable coffee cups

I’m not a tea or coffee drinker, but I do love a Costa hot chocolate, especially from a winter menu. From here on out though, I’m going to be carrying my own travel cup so that I can benefit from the discount that a lot of coffee places give to people who bring their own cups, and also save on unnecessary use of paper cups and plastic lids. No mug, no drink!

Making my small businesses more eco-friendly

Over the next few months, I’m going to try and source more sustainable packaging for all my products, as well as making more of an effort to raise awareness with my customers.

Eco-blogging

I have the gift of this platform, and I’m going to use it. Stay tuned this year for more eco-friendly content, from recycling to upcycling and so much more!

Here’s to a responsible 2018!

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5 Things I Do To Stay Sane At Work

In case I haven’t harped on about it enough, its not been two solid months since I properly started my new job, and its safe to say that I am so much happier since then. But while I love being the person who doesn’t dread going to work every day, I’m still normal in the sense that there are places I’d rather be, and sometimes I do feel that little ‘is it 5pm/Friday yet?’ twinge every now and then.

I found it very strange transitioning from a retail environment to a call centre around 18 months ago, but having now transitioned away from a customer facing role into a standard office-y type job, again I’ve been thrown a little out of my comfort zone and having to adapt to a different working style, but I’ve come to learn that there are a few little tricks and tips that I do at work to keep me a little more sane, and many of these can translate to most work environments.

Don’t eat lunch at your desk

I used to spend at least half of my lunch break sitting at my desk, and even though I wasn’t working and my screen was locked, I still always found that there was a little niggle in the back of my head reminding me of whatever work needed doing, and so I’d spend my time thinking or stressing about getting back to work. Now, even if its just going down the corridor to our little vending machine area to sit with my lunch, I won’t spend my lunch time at my desk.

Stay active and step away from your screen

If you work in an office, you probably spend at least 90% of your working day sat down and staring at a screen – I don’t need to tell you that its not great for your posture or your eyes. As a Fitbit user, I have a little goal set on my Charge 2 to get in at least 250 steps every hour, so I always make sure that I’m moving around a bit, whether that’s going to the printer on the other side of the office instead of the closest one, going to fill up my mug with water, or taking a trip to a different floor to go to the toilet. I also like to get out of the office completely on my lunch break, even if its just to walk to the shops across the road or go and sit on the grass outside in the summer.

Spread some positivity

So many people find their work a little dull or maybe a little stressful, and its easy for negativity to spread in a working environment, especially when everyone’s feeling under pressure, so I try to be a little extra sunny on those days. I’m the newest person in my department, so I probably don’t understand some of the strains that other people are under with deadlines and targets etc, so I like to use that motivation to cheer others up. I wish everyone a cheery ‘good morning’ when I come in or see them for the first time that day, I make little jokes with people and have a chat at the photocopier; its the little things that can brighten someone else’s day and I feel so much better for it too.

Wear something cute

This probably sounds like the silliest thing but whenever I need a little push to feel more better about the day ahead, I always find myself reaching into my wardrobe for something special. Sometimes this means I’ll wear something quirkier like my Mickey Mouse blouse or galaxy print Black Milk shorties, and other times I’ll go for something a bit fancy like a nicer-than-everyday dress or the blazer that makes me feel all kinds of girl-boss-like, and it sets me up for the day, plus every time I catch my reflection in the mirror or a window, I get a little boost.

Work the right number of hours

Its so easy when there’s a lot of work to do to end up staying late, or cutting lunch short, but whenever I do find myself putting in more hours than I’m getting paid for, I always make sure I give myself the time back when I can, and this is a lot easier now I don’t clock in and out on shifts! On two occasions last week I ended up staying 15-20 mins late to finish up a few things, so on Friday I pushed myself to get things done a little quicker and left 20 mins early to have a good start to my weekend. I appreciate this isn’t something that everyone can do, but its the first time I’ve ever been able to do this in my working life and I’m taking advantage of it.

Do you do anything in particular to keep your head above at work?

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‘Stop Being So Anti-Social’

The world we live in today is very different from the one I remember as a child, and that is for a number of reasons. I am, although I hate the connotations that have been linked to the term, a millennial; 90s born, 90s-00s child, and well on my way to adulthood when the 2010s came around. In my lifetime I saw cassette tapes replaced with CDs, CDs replaced with mp3s and now we just stream everything. If you showed my younger cousins a VHS tape or a floppy disc they probably couldn’t tell you what either of them were, yet I still remember the pain of waiting for my Disney films to rewind to the start before I could watch them, and my dad’s office being full of these weird little plastic and metal squares.

I remember my parent’s mobile phones going from big to small to tiny – all Nokias because that was basically the only phone company in those days. I remember my mum getting her first colour screen mobile, and then the first camera phone which took the grainiest photos you could imagine but it was still just the coolest thing. I remember when mobile data became a thing, and my sister accidentally racked up a big bill because we had no idea that this super cool new internet function cost the earth to run, even though it took 4 hours to load a page. Fast forward to today, and I’ve seen every cool new development in technology, and I just know that even the tech we use today will be old news before the next few decades are out.

Our phones have gone from being our life-lines to just being our lives. Its not just keeping important numbers saved, its how we do pretty much everything these days shopping to banking, but ultimately it does tend to always come back to communication, which is strange because its considered so ‘anti-social’ to be on your phone nowadays.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely not for people being glued to their phones 24/7, or kids preferring to play on their parents phones instead of going outside and playing, but there’s a real element of hypocrisy when people make those comments like ‘why don’t you get off your phone and have an actual conversation?’

Here’s the thing, the majority of the time that I am on my phone, I am probably talking to someone, or a group of people, or my Twitter followers, or someone on Instagram. The fact is, socialising is so much more than just having a conversation with someone these days. I mean, if someone was in the middle of a phone call, would you tell them to get off the phone and ‘be more sociable’? No, you wouldn’t, because talking to someone on the phone is being sociable and having a conversation, yet if I’m 20 mins into an hour long Twitter chat and haven’t put my phone down the entire time, its eye rolls and tutting.

What bothers me especially, and this is probably gonna sound super tragic, is that I don’t actually have any friends in my hometown. To be honest, this doesn’t bother me as much as it probably should because I have so many friends that I talk to all the time either through Whatsapp or Twitter or Instagram, and I’m totally blessed to have incredible online friends. I am closer to some of the people that I’ve only ever met once or twice than the people I grew up with and don’t talk to anymore, and my three closest friends are scattered across the country and I’m lucky if I see them every few months.

And all these amazing friends that I do have that are a mere text or tweet away? I met them online. I met them through blogging or through Disney trips or through following each other on Instagram. I would not have met these wonderful people without being online, and the only way I can keep up with them when they are not only all over the country but all over the world, is by, you guessed it, being on my phone a lot.

So the next time you see someone glued to their phone screen, maybe instead of jumping to judgement you should think about what they might actually be doing, who they might actually be speaking to. Just because there are words coming out of their mouths, doesn’t mean conversation isn’t flowing through their fingertips.

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‘Celebrity’ Books That I Loved

When it comes to books, I generally don’t gravitate to those with a ‘celebrity’ author, and by that I mean a TV personality, film star, sportsperson etc. I’ve never really been one for autobiographies, and I’m a bit stubborn when it comes to famous people writing about stuff that they’re not so famous for. (Yes, I know they probably know the subject very well and all that, I just can’t help but think they’ve had some other person do most of the research and even if that’s not the case, I’ll still think it). Basically, I’m probably most celebrity authors worst nightmare.

That said, there are three books that fit this category that I completely worship, and I personally think that every girl – hell, anyone in general – should read, and here’s why.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

I will fight anyone who doesn’t like Anna Kendrick. I think she just so genuine in her personality, I think she’s crazy talented and she’s ridiculously funny, but also loves a big helping of sarcasm. When she released her book, I knew I wanted to read it straight away, despite my previously mentioned dislike for autobiographies. Well I took it on a flight from Gatwick to Orlando, and I’d read it cover to cover before the plane landed. I loved learning more about her career as a child – she was on Broadway as a teenager and was the second youngest person EVER to be nominated for a Tony Award for her role in High Society – did you know that? I sure as hell didn’t before I read this. The whole book just reads as Anna, like she could just be sitting across from you telling these stories. I doesn’t sound like someone just trying to plug their successes and just overall it gave me so much more respect for her, not that I didn’t like her already. Lots of fun, lots of sarcasm but ultimately lots of reality.

Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso

I hate to be ‘that person’ but I actually read this book before it became the enormous hit that it is now, but I do think it deserves every accolade. As well as being an autobiography, this book made me feel like I could take on the world. Sophia’s story is so impressive and its the true underdog story of Subway sandwich artist to CEO. Again, the writing just felt so genuine and not at all edited or scripted in any way, and also quite incredibly humble for someone who achieved so much. And while the book itself and the story that it told was a fabulous read, its the culture that it has inspired that makes it truly amazing. #Girlboss

Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson

Kate Hudson is another celebrity that I admire hugely, but I definitely think even more so since reading this book. This isn’t an autobiography but I also struggle to categorise it as its combination of health, lifestyle and positivity. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t focus in any way on one particular method to be healthier. It teaches the thing that I find most important when it comes to health and fitness and that is that every body is different and its all about learning how to understand your own body and what it wants and needs and using that mindfulness and understanding to learn what to do to become healthier. I think that this is something that anyone can read, not just people who are trying to become fitter or healthier. Kate really nailed it with this one.

I’d love to hear any recommendations you might have for similar books, so please drop me a comment if there’s any books you really love!

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How I Upped My Disney Style

You don’t even have to know me particularly well to know that when it comes to planning Disney trips, one of my top priorities is outfits, which I guess is a little bizarre considering I don’t really think of myself as a fashion blogger as such, but honestly nothing gives me more of a buzz than putting together the perfect park look, and the comments that I get when I’m wearing it.

As with anything in life, my Disney style is something that has progressed and developed with time, and I was totally honoured by the number of people who mentioned me in a recent #disneybloggerschat as someone who’s style they really admired/loved, because ultimately its something that I love, and its so nice that other people appreciate it too.

Let’s go back 2-3 years *reminiscent harp sounds*

The funny thing is, I still look back on some of these photos and think ‘wow, this is a LOOK’, but at the same time, I feel like I’ve come so much further since then, and here are a few of the ways I’ve upped my Disney style.

Finding inspiration

I plan all my looks around the day, whether its the park I’ll be in, the characters I want to meet, the walls I want photos in front etc – I even take it as far as thinking about the poses and photos I’ll want. This might sound silly to lots of people but its a big part of what makes me happy and its driven me to want to improve my looks so much more.

It doesn’t have to be all Mickey ears

Sure, I’m the girl who in the past has been known to take 6 pairs of ears on a 2-3 day trip, but more recently I’ve been enjoying mixing up my headwear with some cute baseball caps, hair clips and bows, and even just different hairstyles. My head feels a little bare without, but it opens up so many more options!

Think outside the box

This Sorcerer Mickey Disneybound from November is probably one of my favourite looks of all time. The whole look was born out of a skirt design that I’d had in my head for maybe 2 years, which when I finally got round to making I fell in love with. This high-low chiffon midi drapes just like Mickey’s red robe and its got a dramatic element to it too, but its also super comfy, kept me nice and cool in the Florida heat and its just something a little different from my normal style.

There’s more to park style than just Disneybounding

I often get caught up in the idea of Disneybounding, but not every outfit has to be a Disneybound. I generally go about 60:40 Disneybound to non-Disneybound, but it all depends on how I’m feeling and what my plans are. For me personally, I’m not much of a t-shirt person, so that’s why I tend to lean towards bounding, but I do like to balance things out.

Don’t be afraid to make your look (or get someone to do it for you!)

For my Disneyland trio back in May, I took inspiraton from my childhood Minnie Mouse dress, and made myself the perfect Minnie skirt!

A few years back, everything that I wore in Disney would have been something that I’d bought, but now probably 1 in 3 of my outfits features something that I made myself, whether its the ears, the skirt, or a t-shirt I designed, and the main reason I started making things for myself was because I had ideas in my head that I couldn’t buy in reality, so I turned into my own fairy godmother.

Just being yourself

I can be in tulle skirts one day and denim shorts the next, I’ll probably always be in Converses regardless. That’s just who I am as a person. I have an incredibly varied personal style, and I never wear anything in the parks that I don’t feel completely comfortable in, which means you’ll see me in all sorts!

Growing in confidence

As cheesy as it sounds, one of the biggest boosts in my style is the boost in my confidence. Even two or three years ago I would not have been the girl who could stand in front of hundreds of passers by and go through a range of poses while having my photo taken. My style and my confidence have grown side by side, and while to many people I’m sure planning Disney outfits and photoshoots seems ridiculous, its 100% helped me grow as a person.

I can’t wait to share more looks over more trips!

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On Why Finally Putting Myself First

One of my main New Year’s resolutions for this year was to put myself first more often, and while I did put that into practice a little bit in January, now I’m really ready to commit to this, and myself.

I’ve always been the person that picked up the extra shifts that needed covering because someone else was sick, or that stayed late dealing with a customer while others ran for the door. You see, I have this awful affliction where I find it almost impossible to say the word ‘no’, and the thought of letting someone down just seemed impossible to me. Now there’s nothing wrong with being a good, reliable person, but the problem for me is that after years and years of doing it, its starting to take its toll.

Despite having started my new job, which I absolutely love, over 2 months ago now, I’ve still been doing overtime in my old position to try and earn a few extra pennies to put towards various things this year. It always seems like a good idea at the time, but in reality I end up getting super stressed out and over the last few months this stress has actually led to me being fairly unwell – in fact, I’ve been off work twice already this year due to illness which is just so unlike me. So on Saturday, I finally finished the last of the overtime I’ve pledged, and while I’ll no doubt miss the extra cash landing in my bank account each month, I think this is going to be so much better for me. I went from working 12 hour days in my old job, to going back to normal 9-5 hours in my new job but still doing overtime in between, and now I’m ready to just work normal hours, in a job that I actually like getting up for.

Ultimately, I know that I need to work on my health and my happiness. The migraines that I suffer with have been becoming more frequent over the last month or so, I keep getting coldsores, and I’ve also been battling somewhat silently with some body image issues that have been really getting to me as well. Now I have more time on my hands, I can not only get myself feeling better physically but also mentally and I think this is going to be so good for me.

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A Lazy Girl’s Guide to Skincare

Skincare is a bit like Marmite, you generally either love it or hate it, and can do both simultaneously. Its also kinda like eating your 5 a day, in that you know you should be doing it but sometimes you just really can’t be bothered. You feel me?

I am both a lover and hater of skincare. Some days I enjoy nothing more than taking the time to properly remove my makeup, then cleanse, tone, moisturise and get my face feeling like a babies bum, and there are other days when I just crawl into bed with a makeup wipe and scrub off whatever I can before going to sleep. Some weeks I’ll be the good person every day, sometimes I can go days on just makeup wipes and trying to get the rest of the dried up mascara off my eyelashes in the shower the next morning. Its not always a pretty sight.

I have, however, picked up a few hacks along the way, so that even when I’m short on time – or short on bother – I don’t have to live with the consequences of a face that makes me want to peel my own skin off. Enter my lazy skincare guide..

Wash your face mask off in the shower

With the exception of sheet masks, obviously, I find there’s nothing more annoying than having to wash off a face mask after its done its business. I tend to use clay masks and Lush’s fresh face masks, which are generally super thick and I can spend ages with my face over a sink winding myself back up having just unwound courtesy of said mask. So I’ve started using face masks before showering, so that I can just hop into the shower when I’m finished and wash it all off in one fell swoop! This is also handy if you’re in a rush, as well as if you’re just lazy like me.

In fact, do everything in the shower

If I’m in a hurry in the morning, especially if I’ve been to the gym and am dealing with the aftermath of a sweat-fest on my face, I grab my cleanser and my Magnitone and do my face in the shower as well as the rest of my body. Like with face masks, being under a constant supply of running water makes everything super easy to wash away and also means there’s no mess to clear up round the sink!

Put everything within arms reach of your bed

I have a little basket on my bedside table that’s complete with micellar water, cotton pads, toner, facial moisturiser and body moisturiser – as well as the dreaded face wipes – so even if I do get straight into bed after coming home from work, there’s no excuse for why I can’t at least have a little bit of a skincare routine.

Guzzle water

If nothing else, drinking lots of water is never going to be bad for your skin. When it comes to dry lips, I actually reach for my water bottle before I reach for my lip balm, which is saying something cos I do love my lip balm. Dry lips especially are a sign of dehydration, so I at least make sure I’ve had at least 250ml of water before going for the balm.

Bare all

I know that going barefaced isn’t everyone’s scene, but its really important to let your skin breath. I do at least 2 days a week without any makeup, normally the weekends but often when I’m at work too and I feel so much better for it, plus it saves me time in the morning and I don’t have anything to take off in the evening! However I do know that a lot of people can’t face leaving the house without any makeup on for a lot of different reasons, but if that’s the case then just trying to go a few hours every evening before bed is also a way of getting a bit more free-skin time!

Do you have any skincare hacks that you use to save a bit of time?

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Things I Broke My Spending Ban For

After having a bit of fun in the January sales, I put myself on a rather strict spending ban a few weeks ago in an attempt to pay off what’s left of Christmas, January birthdays and stuff for my holiday in April. I mentioned in Wednesday’s post that it’s inevitable that whenever I go on a spending ban, I always end up spotting things that I want more than when I’m free to spend what I like, so of course in the last month there have been a few little exceptions to the ban.

Disney Store picked the most unfortunate time (for me) to release the first month of their limited edition Mickey Memories collection, and it was just my luck that January’s release was the one I wanted to get my hands on the most. I thought maybe I could wait to buy this adorable little Steamboat Willie Mickey, but FOMO got the better of me and I was there on the website at 7:55am waiting for the launch to drop online, and I’m so glad I did because I know a lot of people who missed out on this limited edition cutie, and I’ve already seen some going on eBay for £50-60, when he was only £25. What I am happy about, however, is that I paid for him using some of my Etsy earnings from January, so my bank account didn’t actually see the effects of this spend at all!

My friend Rachel makes the sweetest fandom inspired coffee cozies, and having bought my first one back in December and loved it, I was keen for more. Then she brought out a Porg cozy and I was absolutely sold, plus I bought it when she was running a buy one, get a surprise one free offer, so I also got another design that is also been eyeing up, this little Mickey glove. I love supporting small businesses, so this was well worth breaking the ban. You can buy her darling creations here!

I actually popped into Clintons looking for the next item, not knowing it hadn’t actually been released in stores yet, but while I was nosing around the store I found this amazing vintage Disney poster patterned notebook and I couldn’t not get it.. But the bonus was when I got to the checkout, it actually scanned up cheaper than the label – winner!

Last, but certainly not least, I have been waiting to get this amazing Winnie the Pooh dish for months. Clintons dropped spoilers for this collection back in November and I’ve patiently waited since then to buy it, but as soon as it released on the website it sold out, and I just knew how unlikely it was that my local stores would stock it. Luckily, the lovely Clintons Twitter team were nice enough to notify me when it came back in stock online, and I snapped it up within minutes! This was also paid for with Etsy earnings, so another little victory!

Worth breaking the ban? I think so..

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Hello February

Well if it wasn’t enough that we’re in 2018 now, we’re already into month 2, wowzers.. I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter saying how January felt like it went on forever, and I felt that a little bit but I also have no idea where the time has gone.

It wasn’t the totally stellar beginning to the year that I hoped for; I’ve been ill quite a lot and my mental health has been quite up and down, especially in the last few weeks, plus my family got some bad news this month, so I’ve dropped off the high of the new year buzz a little, but now I’m ready for the fresh start that a new month brings. That said, January wasn’t all blue – we celebrated Matthew’s birthday, had a weekend away in Bath and I’ve been so happy with blogging and my small businesses this month, so I can’t complain about that!

I always think that February is such a funny little month, I mean, its only 2-3 days shorter than any other month but it seems that way. It just seems more manageable, y’know?

Well I plan on filling February with fun and positivity, and here are a few things I’m looking forward to..

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

I am FINALLY seeing The Cursed Child in London in a few weeks time, eek! I did read the book, so I know how the story goes down, but even that seems like so long ago now that I can’t remember every little detail, and I’m not going to refresh myself so I can experience it all on the stage.

Meat free days

With it being a little bit shorter, I thought this would be the perfect month to put myself to the challenge of doing at least one completely meat free day each week and expand my food repertoire with some more veggie options and dishes.

No more overtime

This Saturday is the last day of overtime I will be working for the foreseeable future, yay! This is despite having said the same thing every few weeks for the last 8-9 months, but this time I mean it because technically I left the job that I’ve been doing the overtime for two months ago, and its been causing me so much stress in the last few weeks that I’m just gonna put myself first and work normal days and normal hours from here on out.

More creations

I’ve launched a brand new product on my Etsy store today, and there are some fab deals and other new products that will also be appearing in the coming week or so, so stay tuned! January was an incredible month for sales and I’m so proud of that, so bring on another month!

Another Instagram milestone, maybe?

After what feels like the longest time trying to get there, I finally hit 2,000 followers on Instagram just under a week ago, and by some miracle I’m already up another 50 from there! I set myself a fairly modest, although still potentially unreachable goal of 2,500 for 2018, but if I keep going like this then maybe February will at least see me at 2,100..

Booking another Disney trip

I have no Disney park trips on the cards for 2018, but January 2019 is gonna be a good’un! DVC home resort rules means that we can book our stay at Disney’s Polynesian resort 11 months in advance, so hello booking time!

A big push for fundraising

On said 2019 Disney trip, I’ll be running my first full marathon, and I’ve decided that I might as well do something good with this madness, so I’ve set up a Just Giving page where you can sponsor me, with the money going to Cystic Fibrosis Trust, a charity very near and dear to me – even if you donate just £1 you can help me make a difference, and if you fancy it, click here.

Here’s to a great month!

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My Aulani Wardrobe Wishlist

Aulani

 

So as of Monday, its officially less than 8o days until our trip to Aulani!!!! (I normally hate more than one exclamation mark but one just isn’t enough to show my excitement)

Even when we first booked the trip, we only had about 100 days, which is pretty short notice by my standards, so of course I was immediately struck with the thought that I’d need to start planning outfits asap. Well, I’ve been a little sidetracked with other life stuff going on, and the fact is, I really haven’t put that much thought into it yet, not helped by the fact that I have put myself on a pretty strict spending ban for the whole of January and February while I continue to worry about paying off Christmas, various birthdays and booking everything else involved in this trip.

Problem is, whenever I put myself on a spending ban, I instantly start to window shop, and find more things that I want when I can’t spend than I do when I can, which is typical me, and of course I’ve started to think about my Aulani wardrobe. Cue wishlist..

So despite already having a bunch of cute swimwear, I’ve got my eye on more! I’m having a little dip in body confidence post-Christmas, so I’ve mainly been looking at one pieces, but just because its not a bikini sure as hell doesn’t mean swimsuits can’t be cute! I love the waterfall cut of the blue halterneck from Glamorous and I can definitely see myself lazy around on the beach in that, and I love how fun this cut-out striped piece from River Island is – its definitely got some island vibes to it! And finally, I’m a sucker for pastel and candy stripe, and while I don’t have a chest quite like the model in this swimsuit (I mean, wow!), this Missguided design has my face looking like a heart-eyes emoji.

There’s something about going somewhere warm and beachy that always make me think maxi-dress. I really love this one from Dancing Leopard, and also love the style of this red starry-print mini dress too, I think they’ll both be perfect for wearing to dinner at the resort.

And of course, I’ve gotta have my accessories! How stinkin’ cute is this coconut cocktail bag from Skinnydip?! I feel like that was made for this trip. I also figure that seeing as its technically a Disney resort, I’ve gotta bring some ears with me, right? I was searching Etsy for some more floral crown style ears, and came across this pair from MadMadamMimCo which I think are so perfect for a island look, without being too in-your-face Disney – not that that’s ever a problem for me!

I’m also hoping that I’ll be able to throw a few things together myself for this trip, but as I’m still in the early stages of planning (just without much time to go!), there’s still lots of thinking to do!

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Urbanista Seattle Wireless Headphones Review

I’ve always thought of myself as being a strictly earphones kinda gal, but d’you know I think these headphones might have changed that for good.

I can’t remember exactly how I came across Urbanista as a brand originally, but I discovered their website and had been eyeing up these headphones for a while now, but put off buying as I wasn’t sure whether to get the wired or wireless model. My lovely friend Hannah had bought the rose gold corded ones and said they were great, but as one of the main reasons I was starting to look for headphones rather than earphones was that I wanted something that wasn’t going to bug me while running, as cables tend to do. That said, the wireless pair does also come with a cable, should you prefer to be plugged in every now and then, or if the battery for the Bluetooth is dead, so I guess I got the best of both worlds!

So I decided on the wireless, and despite thinking that it would be the rose gold pair that I would get, I actually bought the white ‘Fluffy Cloud’ pair from a Dixons Travel at Manchester Airport because they were a crazy good price – only £65, rather than the RRP of £99, and given that the corded ones are £59, I thought this was a steal!

Now being totally honest, the first pair I got were unfortunately faulty, in that the Bluetooth would only connect while plugged into power, which isn’t ideal, so I exchanged them for a new pair, which work absolutely fine thankfully! This experience did teach me, however, to never buy this sort of tech from an airport, because the returns process was an total nightmare that has me all kinds of annoyed with Dixons and Currys/PC World, so I would recommend you buy them either direct from Urbanista, or they are also stocked on Amazon, ASOS and plenty of other online retailers.

But, as I said, the new pair are perfect. I love the style of them, and I’m actually really glad that I bought them in the white as I think they have a classic look to them. They’re adjustable and also foldable, and the headband has some cushioning in it too, making them super comfortable across the top of the head, as well as the ears being nicely cushioned by the pads. The inside of the ear pads are marked with left and right, if like me you struggle, and its the ears that have all the controls – not that you could tell from just looking at them!

So underneath the left ear you’ve got the hole for the headphone cable which I mentioned earlier. The included cable is a nice heavy cable, so it doesn’t tangle and it doesn’t flap around too much while you’re walking/running. Underneath the right ear is the switch that turns the Bluetooth on, as well as a little blue LED light that reflects whether its on or off, and also comes on as red when the headphones are charging, and you’ve also got the charging port on this ear too, which is a standard micro-USB.

What you don’t see, however, are the controls for the headphones themselves, and that’s because physically there aren’t any, but the right ear cup has built-in touch controls so you never have to get your phone out to change or control the music. Simply swipe your finger in an upwards or downwards direction over the cup to control the volume, forwards or backwards to change tracks, and tap the centre of the cup to pause and play, and what’s great is that this works even if you’re wearing gloves! The only thing I would say is that these controls have about a seconds delay, so at first I would find myself hitting pause, and then hitting it again straight away when it hadn’t stopped, only to start it right back up again, or skipping tracks by swiping twice thinking it hadn’t worked, but you get used to this pretty quickly.

Now onto the important stuff, do they work well? Put simply, yes. The sound quality is great – I’ve read a few other reviews that complain the bass isn’t great, but as I don’t like a heavy bass anyway that doesn’t bother me, not that I really noticed any problem with it – and the wireless connectivity is flawless – I’ve been able to leave my phone upstairs and walk downstairs with the headphones on, and only get an occasional skip, but I’ve never had a problem when my phone has been well within range, plus I love the fact that I can zip my phone into my bag and not need to get it out to change tracks or fiddle with the volume. The official play time of these is 12 hours, but I’ve been using this particular pair for over a month now and haven’t needed to charge them yet, and what’s handy is that the battery level is displayed on my phone when they’re connected anyway. Also, while they’re not sold as being ‘noise-cancelling’, I think they do a pretty good job of it anyway!

If I had to say something negative, it would just be that the little LED light flashes about every 5 seconds when connected, which seems a little unnecessary, but that said, when you’re wearing them you can’t actually tell unless its dark out, so I’m really not too bothered by it! They can also be quite warm on the ears after a while if being used during exercise, so I would probably only wear these while running in colder months, and switch to earphones in the summer.

What can I say? These have totally converted me to the wireless headphone world, and I would reach for these over earphones any day!

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Things You Need To Know About Tough Mudder

Its crazy to think that its been over two years since I took part in my first (and only, to date!) Tough Mudder event, and to say it was an experience is an absolute understatement!

I took part in a small team made up of a few people I knew from work and their friends, plus my dad, and had the craziest 12.5 miles of my entire life as I ran, waded, climbed and threw myself up, down and over the infamous obstacles that put the tough in Tough Mudder.

Its no easy feat, but its absolutely doable by anyone with determination and a bit of preparation, and if whether you’re already training, or thinking about taking on the course one day, here are a few words of wisdom for you..

Your team is much bigger than you think it is

Most people participate in the events in small groups and teams, but in reality, everyone on the course is on your side too. Total strangers will come to your aid if you need a leg up, hand over or just some moral support for anything that comes your way.

Label everything

If you want to run with a Go Pro, or a fitness tracker (only do this if its waterproof), or anything that could potentially fall off, label it. A friend of mine who regularly volunteers at the events says that after each race they scoop at least 10 Go Pros and more watches and sunglasses than you know what to do with out of the obstacles, and they do try and return them all, but that’s not easy if you can’t tell who’s from who’s.

You won’t be able to do it all alone, and that’s ok

I’m not being funny, but unless you can jump vertically 12ft in the air to get over some of the enormous obstacles in your path, you’re gonna need help every now and then, and people will be more than happy, as I’ve just said! Plus, its totally ok to fall/jump off everything!

You cannot prepare for Arctic Enema

Plunging into a container of ice water is like nothing I can describe. Its not like skinny-dipping in the English Channel on New Years Day, it will literally knock the breath from your lungs! Whenever I go out for a run in the rain, or complain about the cold I just think that I will never ever be as cold as I was in those moments.. But don’t worry, you warm up again pretty quick!

Cry Baby is not as bad as you think it will be

Crawling through an enclosure filled with what’s marketed as ‘tear gas’ is enough to fill anyone with a bit of dread – hell, I was so worried about doing this – but truth is, its actually laughing gas, and its not that far to crawl either!

But Electroshock Therapy really is

Probably the most infamous of all the torturous obstacles, and they love to save the best for last, running to the finish line through a structure with dangling electrical cables that are hooked up to car batteries is certainly an experience. Not all the cables will shock you, but when they do, oh my word.

You don’t have to do everything

All of the obstables can be bypassed, and there’s absolutely no pressure to participate, and no shame in saying no. I was prepared to skip quite a few, but I actually only missed one (which actually appeared in the course twice, so technically I did it once anyway!) which I was pretty impressed by.

It takes time

I did my event during the peak of my half marathon training, and I figured that 12.5 miles of obstacles wouldn’t take me much longer than just running the distance. Well it took us over 4 hours..

Bring a tonne of wet wipes and a big towel

After you’ve mudded up, you can wash off in a makeshift shower area, but this is outside (so unless you’re a bit of an exhibitionist, no stripping off), and the water is freezing (but warmer than Arctic Enema) and has no pressure. I showered fully dressed to get the mud off of as much as possible, then ducked into the women’s changing tent to put on as many warm clothes as I could, despite still being fairly muddy and wet, but all the veterans in there had wet wipes which seemed like a much easier way of doing things.

Enjoy the photos

I know that in many of the photos I look ridiculous, but seeing them makes me so damn proud of what I achieved. Never in a million years did I think I’d make it through that course, yet here I am, a Mud Legionnaire.

If you’re unsure about taking part, all I can say is just do it. You’ll amaze yourself.

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